By Farai Sibanda
Bulawayo, April 27, 2014 -The five- day Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) 2014
showcase in Bulawayo which ended Saturday was one of the worst in over a decade regardless
of all public pronouncements to the contrary.
Many big local corporations who rarely miss the annual show did not
participate. Bata Shoe Company, Art Corporation, Gwanda Town Council
among others snubbed this year’s exhibition which was mostly attended
by Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) popularly known as MaIndigenous.
Still reeling under de-industrialisation and ravages of economic
melt-down many renowned Bulawayo firms did not exhibit at this year’s
Hall 2 which is one of the largest halls at ZITF exhibition centre
was closed as a result.
Chinese SMEs also filled up Hall 5 and were even selling their wares,
a move that buttress the view that the exhibition was a selling point
instead of attracting long term investment.
The Chinese were displaying common products such as children’s toys, curtains,
cellphones, teaspoons and others at their stands. The United States was the
only major Western nation which was exhibiting at this year’s ZITF with its
Harare Embassy showcasing students’ scholarships and HIV prevention
programmes on offer.
“This year trade fair is not impressive, we have small companies
exhibiting, and this shows there is no money in the economy. Even
exhibitors from South Africa are just SMEs which add no real value to the
trade showcase,” said Moses Nyoni a Bulawayo based business executive
who attended the ZITF.
The 2014 trade fair edition was running under the theme, “New Ideas,
New Heights, and Progress through Innovation.”
President Robert Mugabe officially opened the fair Friday
after Congo-Brazzaville President Sasou Denis Nguesso pulled out at
the last minute. He complained about the absence of livestock yet the fair was being
held in Matabeleland, popularly known as the ‘cattle country’ due to the large herds
found in the provinces.
Mugabe also took time to condemn the state of the country’s roads.
“I was looking at our road as I left the airport, it’s as if it was
constructed in 1924 when I was born. We couldn’t even have beautified it,
just put a bit of cement on it, resurfaced it and also decorated
it,put a bit of shoulder on the road as others are doing,” said Mugabe.
“This year’s ZITF exhibition is a shame. It’s like a flea-market. We
cannot have a trade fair where only SMEs are exhibiting. It shows big
enterprises no longer have confidence in it,” said Harare based
economist who spoke to Radio VOP on condition of anonymity.
Addressing journalists at press conference at ZITF grounds on Saturday
Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha admitted that this
year’s trade showcase was not up to standard blaming the shortage of
cash as the main reason.
“The space occupancy level is approximately 4% lower than last year’s
94% and some of our exhibitors took slightly smaller stands because of
liquidity challenges. We had 599 exhibitors in total compared to 656
exhibitors last year,” said Bimha.
The Ministry of Information,Media and broadcasting stand profiled Mugabe under
the Gushungo Moments banner. Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo said the Gushungo Moment
exhibition was meant to inspire the youths to follow in Mugabe footsteps.
“This is not just an exhibition of the President. It is an exhibition
of iconic moments of the President which is why we are calling them
Gushungo Moments,”said Professor Moyo.