The 59th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) kicks off in Bulawayo today with a highly-packed business programme of top-level engagement in what organisers describe as the "biggest" international trade showcase in decades.
Global focus is on Zimbabwe this week as the country, under the new political dispensation presents its renewed investment pitch to the international market, amid higher expectations of clinching lucrative deals by the diversity of the local business community.
A total of 18 countries are being represented this year, including first timer -- United Arab Emirates, while local participation has also increased.
According to organisers, close to 500 direct exhibitors are participating, about 40 percent higher than last year's closing total of 356 direct exhibitors, and 30 percent higher than the booking situation at the same time last year.
President Mnangagwa would officially open the oversubscribed grand annual trade event this Friday at the Zimbabwe International Exhibition Centre under the theme: "Sustainable Industrial Development -- Inclusive, Competitive and Collaborative".
This year's theme buttresses the new Government's resolve to pursue industrialisation as the cornerstone of the nation's economic growth and development, ZITF Company chair Mrs Ruth Ncube said.
The multi-sectorial exhibition cuts through a number of segments covering manufacturing, mining, aviation, transport, education, food, clothing and textile, packaging, agriculture, tourism, event management and cultural exchange programme among others.
"In terms of exhibitor numbers, we are currently sitting at 495 direct exhibitors which is 40 percent higher than last year's closing total of 356 direct exhibitors and 30 percent higher than the booking situation at the same time last year," said the ZITF Company general manager, Mrs Noma Ndlovu.
Exhibition space has this year surpassed 100 percent and additional space has been availed to cater for more public and privates sector traffic. The ZITF has also recorded an increase in the number of new local exhibitors with 25 percent of booked participants coming in for the first time as a confirmation of renewed economic confidence.
The positive trend is indicative of an improved trading environment and renewed impetus to compete in the global market place.
In keeping with industry expectations for a platform that delivers constructive engagements, this year's event seeks to attract value adding content through a one-stop business dialogue model.
Yesterday's inaugural Zimbabwe Urban Infrastructure Investment Summit set the tone for the week. The Bulawayo Agricultural Show is already underway while the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Zimbabwe will hold its conference today.
This evening the Bulawayo City Council will host the Mayor's reception, where the city will highlight investment opportunities and welcome exhibitors. The key event tomorrow is the annual International Business Conference in conjunction with the National Economic Consultative Forum, which will bring together high-level stakeholder dialogue on key economic issues and mapping strategies for growth.
On Thursday there will be a Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries' original Equipment Manufacturers' forum where participants will discuss retooling issues and how to access new technology.
On the same day there will be an "Innovators' Forum", a new addition on the diary as well as the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce Luncheon, which will tackle policy matters and modalities for free flow of business.
Economic analysts say local firms have a greater chance to maximise from the networking opportunities.
"This show will bring financiers, decision makers, policy makers and investors, this offers unprecedented chance to sell business in whatever capacity," said economic analyst, Mr Morris Mpala.
"So many economic actors under one geographical coordinate and that is cost effective networking opportunity. It's a chance of a life time and all you need to do is sell yourself and your products/services."
Outside the main ZITF programme, individual corporates and organisations have planned more dialogue sessions for further engagement. Among these is ZIMRA breakfast conference at a local hotel on Thursday.
On the same day Bureau Veritas would host a Consignment Based Conformity Assessment (CBCA) Programme Awareness Seminar. A separate Investment and Infrastructure Development Seminar is pencilled for tomorrow focusing on tourism specially. On the same day global vehicle manufacturer, Nissan, would unveil its new X-Trail model and engage with businesses.
Hoteliers have already reported that they are fully booked while more businesses downstream such as retailers and transport sector stand to reap huge dividend from the Trade Fair.