Connect with us

Support The NewsHawks


ZITF must mean something



THE 2024 Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF), which ended on Saturday, was a mixed bag of the good and the bad, although the annual trade and investment exposition’s success or failure will ultimately depend on whether the authorities are genuinely willing to embrace new ways of doing business.

ZITF is no longer what it used to be, of course. There was a time when the Trade Fair was one of the most vibrant events on Africa’s expo calendar.

Big companies and respected investors would come in and clinch significant deals. Back in the day, even journalists and investment analysts could attempt to quantify the amount of business generated without making themselves appear like crude propagandists.

The ZITF’s strategic positioning has shifted over the years, but much of the change was not designed; it was the logical outcome of a floundering national economy.
For over two decades, the ZITF has become, in a sense, a painful reminder of the dramatic decline of Zimbabwe’s fortunes.

And nothing illustrates this more powerfully than the decaying parastatals. State-owned enterprises — which used to contribute up to 40% of gross domestic product — have largely crumbled as a result of corruption, mismanagement and cronyism.

But the grotesque irony is that when people visit the parastatal stands at ZITF, they would be forgiven for thinking that these companies are actually profitable, efficient and well-managed.

There is no shortage of shiny trinkets on display and company officials are all decked out in neat outfits, yet in reality the parastatals have been reduced to empty shells.
For a moment, you would not imagine that these are the same derelict entities whose employees are surviving on slave wages.  The local authorities’ displays are also very misleading — to the point of deception.

City councils that are failing to collect garbage or to supply potable water are suddenly active when it comes to finding the money for fancy ZITF pavilions.
Their senior officials enjoy fat perks during the week-long jamboree, pocketing scandalous sums of money while urban residents continue suffering in the face of dismal service delivery.

Senior parastatal and local council bigwigs must stop treating the annual fair as nothing more than a glorious paid holiday.

Make no mistake, the Trade Fair — as history has shown — can play a useful role in attracting foreign investment, promoting local businesses, enhancing international trade relationships, as well as showcasing Zimbabwean products and services to a global audience.

Additionally, it can boost tourism, create employment opportunities, and stimulate economic growth.

However, a trade fair can only make a difference in a country where the authorities take seriously the importance of improving the ease of doing business.

This is because without a conducive business environment, such as sensible regulations, good infrastructure and the due process of law, businesses may struggle to capitalise on the opportunities presented at a trade fair.

Inadequate support from the government in terms of policies, infrastructure development and corruption can hinder the successful implementation of the partnerships and deals made during the event.

To fully leverage the benefits of ZITF, the Zimbabwean authorities must address underlying issues related to the ease of doing business, including curbing policy inconsistencies, promoting transparency, reducing bureaucracy, improving infrastructure and enhancing the overall business climate.

It is interesting to note that the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair Company has announced plans to modernise the trade exhibition site that will see the construction of a 5 000-seater conference centre, a five-star hotel and a four-star hotel.
There is nothing wrong with such lofty ambitions.

However, what is more critical at this juncture in Zimbabwe’s troubled economic life is ensuring that the basics of trade and investment promotion are taken more seriously: the ease of doing business; respect for property rights; an independent and credible judiciary; upholding the rule of law; embracing good governance; and shrewdly deploying the instruments of economic diplomacy in the national interest. 

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *