Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone)

28 April 2006

Zimbabwe: Fewer Botswana Firms At Zimbabwe Fair

Bulawayo — The number of Botswana companies exhibiting at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) has gone down with only two companies making it to the fair compared to five the previous year. Binn Matengu, the Export Development Officer for the Botswana Export Development and Investment Authority said three Batswana firms wanted to participate and one, Shivani (Pty) failed to turn up. The fair started on Tuesday in Bulawayo but by the afternoon of the same day, representatives of Shivani had not arrived at the exhibition centre.

"There are only two Batswana companies here, Lobatse Tile and Master Joinery and Aluminium. If you count BEDIA then we are three from Botswana but BEDIA is not exhibiting per se, we are just here to give information about how investors can invest in our country," he said. "The number of exhibitors from Botswana is drastically down on the turnout last year when we had about five companies," Matengu said. He explained that the economic downturn in the neighbouring country may have influenced Batswana companies not to attend. "I think the economic problems here (in Zimbabwe) is the main reason why we have few Batswana companies this year. It is difficult for them to come.

"Yes business is there but the problem is how they can get payment from Zimbabwean customers in the event that they secure orders. "With the foreign currency shortages here, it is difficult for Zimbabwean companies to import. In some cases payment takes long to be processed and that is bad for business. So perh aps because of this, our companies saw no reason why they must take part," said Matengu. He said although he was unhappy with the turnout, the economic factors on the ground in Zimbabwe are not conducive to their participation.

Zimbabwe has over the past six years been facing a severe economic crisis that has seen scores of companies closing down and inflation rising to 913 percent, which is the highest in the world. A biting fuel shortage has grounded vehicles while foreign currency has made it almost impossible for Zimbabwe to finance imports. The ZITF, Zimbabwe's biggest trade showcase opened on Tuesday and it ends on Saturday. Tanzania's President, Jakaya Kikwete will officially open the five-day exposition on Friday afternoon. The exhibition, which has attracted about 430 companies, is being run under the theme 'Springboard for Economic Revival'. Apart from Botswana, other countries taking part include China, Malawi, Mozambique, Kenya, Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan and Zambi a. Keaboka Modise, the marketing and customer service manager of Gaborone-based Master Joinery and Aluminum said he expects to make good business contacts and orders.

"This is our first time to exhibit here and we expect to market our products and make good contacts here so that this market and other visitors from other participating countries know what Botswana has to offer," said Modise. Master Joinery and Aluminum supplies timber doors, window frames, kitchen cupboards and shop fitting products. The sales and marketing manager of Lobatse Tile, Thabo Seitshiro said his company was also making its debut at the Zimbabwe show. He said the ceramic tile manufacturer, which is already doing business with a Zimbabwean company, hopes to bolster its presence in the market by getting a distributor for its products.

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