THE 60th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) opens in Bulawayo today, with record-breaking subscription at 532 direct local exhibitors and 16 countries participating.
The figure compares favourably with 491 direct local exhibitors recorded in last year's edition, showing growing positive business sentiment and a strong desire to increase trade.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is scheduled to officially open the five-day prime trade showcase on Friday, seen as the biggest ever after exhibition space, for the first time in years, was sold out.
The event runs under the theme, "Propagating Industrial Growth through Trade and Investment".
Briefing journalists in Bulawayo yesterday, ZITF Company board chairperson Ms Ruth Ncube said most exhibitors arrived over the long Easter holiday period and were putting final touches to their stands.
"Participation figures for the exhibition are quite pleasing. Our targeted 2019 available space was taken up at 100 percent.
"Further to that, we availed five percent additional space (2 648 square metres) to accommodate the overflow. Five-hundred-and-thirty-two direct local exhibitors have booked, compared with 491 last year," said Ms Ncube.
The space being made available for sale, she said, rose from a low of 47 612 square metres in 2016 to a high of 57 732 square metres this year.
She said of the 532 direct local exhibitors, 16 percent were first timers displaying a wide range of products and services.
In terms of geographical mix, 55 percent of confirmed local exhibitors were from Harare, 25 percent from Bulawayo, 15 percent (other towns) and five percent from the international sector. Foreign nations participating at this year's ZITF include Belarus, which will be participating at the trade showcase for the first time, the United States of America which is making a return after a three-year hiatus, Botswana, Ethiopia, Japan, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates among others.
Some of the major highlights of this year's trade fair include the ZITF International Business Conference tomorrow, the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI)/ZITF Buyer-Seller Platform Breakfast on Thursday as well as the Zimbabwe-Belarus Business Forum on the same day.
Ms Ncube said the ZITF International Business Conference is arguably the largest business meeting in the country with this year's high-level symposium that will run under the theme, "Industrial Growth as an Anchor for Achieving Vision 2030," expected to attract more than 800 delegates.
"They include the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Professor Mthuli Ncube, CZI president Mr Sifelani Jabangwe, ZimTrade chief executive officer Mr Allan Majuru as well as One-Stop Investment Services Centre chairman Dr Washington Mbizvo, among other prominent speakers," she said.
Vice President Retired General Constantino Chiwenga will deliver the key note address at the event. Ms Ncube said continuing the industrialisation focus of the business exhibition, the CZI/ZITF Buyer-Seller Platform Breakfast will also present an opportunity for business-to-business engagement between industrialists and suppliers of production equipment and technologies.
"Other speakers include Industry and Commerce Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu, Export Credit Guarantee Corporation head of operations Mr Andrew Mafukidze and the CZI Matabeleland chamber president Mr Joseph Gunda.
"A business delegation from Botswana will also be in attendance to discuss opportunities for the promotion of bilateral trade between Zimbabwe and Botswana. The event will be capped by business-to-business matchmaking meetings between local and international buyers and sellers of goods and services," said Ms Ncube.