The number of countries participating at this year's 55th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair has marginally increased to 19 with the United States of America returning after a long absence.
The country's biggest trade exhibition, being held under the theme "New Ideas to New Heights-Progress Through Innovations" started yesterday in Bulawayo and will close on Saturday.
President Mugabe is expected to officially launch the fair on Friday. Vice President Mujuru is also expected to be the guest speaker at this year's edition of the International Business Conference scheduled for today, an event likely to attract more than 350 delegates
ZITF chairman Mr Beki Nkomo told journalists yesterday that three more countries are participating compared to 16 that took part a year earlier, but could not disclose the actual number of exhibitors.
"Congo Brazzaville is making a maiden appearance at ZITF while Bangladesh, Nigeria and the US are returning after a long absence," said Mr Nkomo.
"We are confident that once again the exhibition will be fruitful. There is so much enthusiasm from both exhibitors and business visitors."
Other exhibitors have come from Iran, Brazil, Egypt, India, Botswana Mozambique, Namibia and Poland. But it is the return of the US that will capture the imagination of many observers.
The US has not been participating at the ZITF due to the frosty relations with Zimbabwe, which saw the US along with its European allies slapping the Southern Africa country with sanctions.
While the US has been away China came to the party and is consolidating its footprint as a major investor in Zimbabwe and many other emerging economies, last frontier markets, on the continent.
China has provided the biggest number of foreign exhibitors at this year's event, occupying over 1 000 square meters from 600 last year.
China has become one of Zimbabwe's biggest trading partners after Government adopted the "Look East Policy" at the turn of the millennium to counter the lull in bilateral relations between Zimbabwe and western countries opposed the country's land reform programme.
As such, in light of the growing economic ties the ZITF will tomorrow host a Zimbabwe-China Investment Conference, said Mr Nkomo. Trade between the two countries topped $1 billion last year.
Exhibitors from South Africa also increased their space from 600 square metres to 700 square metres.
"The exhibitor profile for the ZITF is a healthy mix of organisations from the ICT, carriers and training, manufacturing, agricultural equipment, engineering sectors and service," said Mr Nkomo.
There are also specialised exhibitions set to run concurrently with the main fair, among them A'sambeni Africa Business Tourism Expo.
Mr Nkomo said the expo has attracted local and international participants displaying a mix of business tourism related products and services.
"We welcomed the arrival of the elite group of 20 regional meetings, incentives, conventions and events buyers yesterday, eager to sample and promote the best of Zimbabwean MICE tourism," he said.
"Their mandate is to source new markets, link local players with international clients as well as to promote the country as a prime destinations for meeting and conventions."