INFRASTRUCTURE financing is expected to dominate debate during the upcoming second edition of the Infrastructure Building and Construction Exhibition and Conference (ZimBuild 2012) pencilled in for September 19-22. Zimbuild chairperson Engineer Martin Manuhwa told the Herald Business that the conference aspect of ZimBuild would focus on the key area of infrastructure financing.
"We expect an engagement between key players in the construction sector and our banking system and other critical stakeholders to explore solutions for infrastructure financing.
"Infrastructure is a stimulus for the economic growth process and access to funding will be critical in this respect, we believe," he said.
Consistent under-investment and lack of attention accorded to the country's infrastructure has meant that the cost of its refurbishment has increased exponentially over the years.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti recently said the country requires around US$20 billion for infrastructure.
Infrastructure investment in Zimbabwe, however, is a Catch-22 situation in which the country is failing to attract adequate foreign direct investment partly due to the poor state of economic infrastructure, while FDI is critically needed for infrastructure refurbishment and new projects.
Financing institutions expected to participate at the conference are the PTA Bank, the Development Bank of South Africa, Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe and Afreximbank, among others.
ZimBuild will be held at a new venue - the Old Hararians Sports Club - as opposed to Harare Civic Centre Grounds as previously indicated.
ZimBuild executive officer Ms Monica Kanyepi said the compactness and better facilities offered by the new venue influenced their decision to move.
The event is fast becoming the premier event for seeking out infrastructure and construction business opportunities in Zimbabwe.
Besides infrastructure financing, this year's edition of the event will also focus on transport, communication and mining infrastructure.
"The exhibition provides an opportunity to assess the state of the industry and its contribution to the goals we have set ourselves.
"The thematic ministry this year is the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Infrastructure Development which together with ZimBuild will highlight the central role the ministry plays in delivering infrastructure needs to the nation.
"Given the huge amount of current mining construction throughout the country, ZimBuild will also celebrate this thematic sector," said Ms Kanyepi.
Other highlights for ZimBuild 2012 include the exhibition on two trade days, the opening ceremony, a one-day conference and an awards ceremony to celebrate the sector's top achievers.
Ms Kanyepi said ZimBuild 2012 would build on the success of last year's event where more than 200 delegates, 15 sponsors and 58 exhibiting companies generated business close to US$1 million. An estimated 500 visitors attended last year's event.
The exhibition layout for the current edition has a number of new features and has been designed to maximise learning and networking experiences for the visitors. The major categories this year include infrastructure enablers, facilities trade, builders bar, construction exchange, professionals, innovation alley, construction exchange and the international mart.
"The 2012 edition has a strong focus on delivery of value added services, with the set platforms concentrating on facilitating solutions to three of an array of sector challenges the industry faces which including financing and capacity building, product marketing, increasing networking opportunities," said Ms Kanyepi.
Meanwhile, ZimBuild organisers have indicated that it will soon launch the country's first ever Built Environment Directory during the expo, whose first edition will be published in 2013, as well as a magazine .