THE Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF), opens to the public today as President Robert Mugabe and his Togolese counterpart, Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé arrive in Bulawayo.
First Lady Grace Mugabe is also expected to accompany the President while Vice Presidents, Phelekezela Mphoko and Emmerson Mnangagwa, diplomats, Cabinet ministers and top government officials are already in the city awaiting the arrival of the top leadership.
President Gnassingbe, who arrived in Harare yesterday, will officially open the 57th edition of the ZITF this afternoon.
Today’s event is the pinnacle of the five-day trade deliberations that saw key economic figures, both local and international, engage in production, investment and trade talks since Tuesday.
Bulawayo, a strategic industrial hub in the country and a regional link, is host to the prestigious economic indaba that seeks to re-position the country as a favourable investment destination through strategic partnerships and market synergies between local and foreign players.
The annual event, being held under the theme “Innovate-Integrate-Industrialise” also exposes the local potential and its capacity to tap into the international market within the context of regional and global integration, which have become the buzzwords of modern economies.
Innovative industrialisation is at the heart of the Sadc industrialisation roadmap and the broader African Union vision that is anchored on leveraging natural resources for improved economies.
The drive was successfully pushed by President Mugabe during his tenure as chairman of the two regional bodies between 2014 and 2015.
The arrival of the two Presidents is expected to concretise on-going conversations on the re-industrialisation agenda in Bulawayo and the country as a whole while expanding markets for local firms, Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president and United Refineries CEO, Busisa Moyo said.
“We look forward to conversations that the President has embarked on focusing on the 10-point plan of which 60 to 70 percent of it is about industrialisation, employment creation and regaining competitiveness.
“With Togo coming from West Africa we look forward to expanding export market there and other investment partnership opportunities in a win-win arrangement,” Moyo said.
“A return to the industrialisation and mechanisation agenda is critical. This is in line with the value-addition proposition and we’re certainly upbeat about that focus as the manufacturing industry.”
Moyo said a lot of positive deals were being sealed at the ZITF as the country gains momentum to rejuvenating its economy.
Organisers said today’s programme would be packed with the two Presidents set to conduct a tour, soon after arrival, of the exhibition stands and interact with exhibitors.
President Gnassingbé is also expected to inspect a guard of honour ahead of the official opening speech at around 2PM. He will present prizes to outstanding exhibitors.
Meanwhile, a packed entertainment schedule has been lined up for the grand event by different groups who include the police and the military band, drum majorettes and several arts groups.
A total of 401 direct exhibitors who include 34 foreign direct exhibitors are participating in this year’s showcase and have expressed excitement with the ongoing engagements and quality of exhibitions.
According to the ZITF Company total bookings stand at 45,556 square metres reflecting 95,68 percent of space made available for sale.
Nineteen nations are participating, among them Botswana, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Germany, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.
Economic experts have stressed the need to innovate as the cornerstone of industrialisation. Regaining market footing is critical for Zimbabwean firms who seek competitive leverage on the back of an influx of cheap imports.
The ZITF is also critical in projecting a positive international investment image as it allows exhibitors to view the country from a different perspective.
The ZITF began on Tuesday with major highlights being the International Business Conference that was officially opened by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
A joint inaugural ZITF/Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries manufacturing breakfast meeting was also held yesterday linking industry players and original equipment manufacturers from abroad. The trade fair ends tomorrow. chronicle