Tinomuda Chakanyuka and Dumisani Nsingo
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra has got other countries and potential investors up on their feet dancing.
It’s a beautiful symphony, one that has not been heard in years. And the chorister, leading from the front, sings the mantra with bravado and sincerity. Only enemies of progress will shut their ears. Embassies and foreign companies that exhibited at the just ended 59th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) heard the mantra and are waltzing.
On Friday, President Mnangagwa reiterated the mantra as he officiated at the biggest ZITF in a decade. He said, “My administration will continue to ensure that Zimbabwe is a place where business feels safe and can grow and thrive. Let me equally reiterate the safety, security of investments and protection of private property rights.”
Earlier, President Mnangagwa had toured various stands including embassies of various countries that exhibited at the fair, where he interacted with Ambassadors and business executives. Japan, a global technology powerhouse, which exhibited at the Fair, welcomed the “open for business” thrust adopted by President Mnangagwa.
Japanese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Toshiyuki Iwado told Sunday News that the new theme being carried by the new administration was sweet music to every investor’s ears. Mr Iwado said he would spread the message to Japan and encourage
Japanese investors to take advantage of Zimbabwe’s openness to business.
“The message is very encouraging and we are watching the developments keenly to see what will materialise. It’s a message that we have to take and share with Japanese businesspeople. Our job is to try and encourage our business people to come to Zimbabwe to see for themselves which areas they can invest,” he said.
Mr Iwado added, “We now need to have business missions coming to Zimbabwe from Tokyo to understand what is happening and try to find investment opportunities. There are many areas where Zimbabwe and Japan can co-operate for economic development, areas such as agriculture, mining and tourism.”
Japan, which used to have over 30 companies based in Zimbabwe now has two and Mr Iwado expressed optimism that the confidence Japanese companies had in Zimbabwe would be restored.
Nigerian Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mrs Janet Bessong Odeka commended President Mnangagwa for opening Zimbabwe for business. Mrs Odeka said her country looked to strengthen economic ties with Zimbabwe in agriculture and mining.
She said activity at the ZITF, where her country was exhibiting for the first time showed that Zimbabwe was indeed open for business.
“You can see from the trade fair that Zimbabwe is indeed open for business. A number of foreign companies are exhibiting here, creating a window for investment. As Nigeria our economy was mono-cultural, anchored on oil and when the prices fell on the global market our foreign exchange earnings suffered a knock. That meant we had to look at other areas to expand our foreign currency earnings. We are working on coming into new areas that Zimbabwe is already pushing, areas such as mining and agriculture. Those are areas we can co-operate with Zimbabwe,” she said.
Mrs Odeka expressed optimism that Zimbabwe, after opening itself for business, will come out of the woods. The Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mining and Agriculture (Naccima) also exhibited at the just ended ZITF.
Indonesian deputy Ambassador to Zimbabwe Dr Partogi Samosir said the open for business call by Zimbabwe was welcome.
Dr Samosir said his country, which exhibited at ZITF for the first time this year, looks to boost trade volumes between them and Zimbabwe which stand at $800 000 annually.
“Indonesia welcomes the open for business call. We love Zimbabwe in deeds not just in saying. This is the first time that we are exhibiting here together with businesses from Indonesia and we hope this opens opportunities for co-operation and investment,” he said.
Added Dr Samosir, “Trade volumes between Indonesia and Zimbabwe are only $800 000 which is very low compared to the potential the two countries have. We really want to increase trade volume between the two countries, especially now that Zimbabwe is open for business.”
Indonesia’s economy is anchored on oil and the country also manufactures hospital equipment. A Germany-based company, Fairpros, Africa’s official representative of five leading Germany trade fairs which exhibited at the ZITF expressed delight at the attitude adopted by President Mnangagwa’s administration. Fairpros’ local representative Ms Rose Blair said, with the thrust Zimbabwe was poised to break into the global market.
Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) executive director-export Mrs Tranklinah Gabonthone said most of the companies that exhibited under its umbrella at the exhibition managed to obtain buyers for various products as well as numerous enquiries. BITC brought 13 companies which manufacture and supply various products across a number of economic sectors.
“A lot of the companies which we came with have indicated that they have met a lot of prospective buyers and some have already made deals here which upon doing follow-ups, they will close on those deals. As Botswana we have been coming here for more than 10 years and believe that ZITF is a great opportunity for our companies because we get to also interact with companies from other countries,” said Mrs Gabonthone. Hwange Colliery Company Limited (HCCL) corporate affairs manager Ms Rugare Dhobbie said this year’s trade showcase witnessed improved business networking compared to last year.
“I think this year there was a sense of renewed hope among most exhibitors and there was high level business networking and on our side our marketing team had a number of enquiries from various potential clients from a number of regional countries,” she said.
Addressing journalists at a Press conference to mark the end of this year’s edition yesterday, ZITF Company chairperson Ms Ruth Ncube said preliminary survey results showed that most of the exhibitors managed to obtain lucrative business and expressed their interest to make a comeback at next year’s showcase.
“Preliminary survey results show that most of our exhibitors achieved their business objectives set for ZITF 2018 and would likely be back again next year. Ninety-two percent of exhibitors met with their target customers while 85 percent received prospects for future sales. Exhibitors also indicated that they met the relevant target buyer groups and conducted a fair amount of business, even among themselves,” she said.
This year’s exhibition which ran from 24 to 28 April was held under the theme: “Sustainable Industrial Development — Inclusive, Competitive and Collaborative.”
The exhibition occupied 47 576 square metres which translates to 100 percent occupancy level with a total of 753 exhibitors of which 68 of these were foreign compared to 706 that participated at last year’s showcase.
“The exhibition recorded 274 new exhibitors (42 foreigners and 232 local). Of the new exhibitors figure, we recorded 108 direct exhibitors and 166 indirect exhibitors. With regards to local participation, 46 percent of exhibitors came from Harare while 29 percent came from Bulawayo and the remainder from other cities,” said Ms Ncube.
There were 18 countries represented at the exhibition compared to 13, which came last year. United Arab of the Emirates made its maiden appearance at ZITF with exhibits from producers of energy products and consumer goods. Ms Ncube attributed the increase in exhibitors to the renewed hope of the turnaround of the country’s economy brought about by the new political dispensation.