THIS year’s Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) is far and wide a major event in terms of its scale and magnitude. Over the years, exhibitors from all over the world have converged to exhibit here, but the trade showcase has been gradually declining in tandem with economic deterioration.
Candid Comment,Admire Kudita
This year’s event is significant precisely because of the moment at which it is happening. It comes at a time Zimbabwe is in a re-engagement mode to end international and economic isolation which was triggered by Harare’s clashes with Western countries over policies, election results and diplomatic issues.
As ZITF board chair Ruth Ncube put it, the event offers an “engagement platform for dialogue and linkages”. In that aspect it is furthering Zimbabwe re-engagement and economic recovery agenda. Going forward, ZITF needs innovation and creativity to adopt new models and trends of doing business. It has been static and unimaginative in some cases for far too long.
This year’s event, though, has managed to pull a bumper harvest, especially for Bulawayo. As things stand, the local hospitality and tourism sector players are literally in a feeding frenzy with most, if not all, hotels and lodges fully booked despite hiking prices, twice or more. There are also spin-offs in that regard as those who own houses or properties have also joined the feeding trough.
At least 18 countries are participating in this year’s event. There are close to 500 direct exhibitors, 40% higher than the previous year with 356. The exhibition space has been taken up 100%. There are 25% first time local participants. The domino effect is being felt by the city which is awash with dollars, at least for this week.
It is indeed Christmas before Christmas; a windfall for Bulawayo, a city which has lost its former glory and glamour due to de-industrialisation and other issues. ZITF is located in Bulawayo, a hitherto industrial and cultural hub of Zimbabwe.
Government should embrace and facilitate the rebooting of this strategic city to restore its former glory as an investment destination or location of some Special Economic Zone. In times past, Bulawayo was the nexus of national and regional industry, as it was supported by viable rail and road networks linking it to the vital centres of the country and region. It was a strategic place for Rhodes’ Cape-to-Cairo dream. Zimbabwe’s railway system has three well-connected hubs; Bulawayo, Gweru, and Harare. It is also at the centre of shorter and cost-effective railroad links to the region.
The line from Zambia through Victoria Falls; from Botswana through Plumtree; from South Africa through Beitbridge; and to the central parts of Zimbabwe through Gweru all converge in Bulawayo.
Bulawayo is a part of Zimbabwe; as is Mutare, Masvingo or any other city for that matter with unique endowments that must be leveraged upon for local and national benefit. What is required at this juncture of our nation’s history are far-sighted visionaries who can rise above the mediocrity of corruption, regionalism and hegemonic politics to help Bulawayo recover in the context of national reconstruction. ZITF provides one of many platforms to help it recover.