Dumisani Nsingo Bulawayo Bureau
For the first time since the inception of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair 60 years ago, organisers have been forced to pitch up tents to accommodate more exhibitors as all the available space has been taken up for this year’s showcase.
This makes this year’s event, which starts on Tuesday and ends on Saturday, as the biggest ever to be held in Bulawayo since 1959.
The exhibition is running under the theme “Propagating Industrial Growth through Trade and Investment.”
In an interview yesterday, ZITF company chairperson Ms Ruth Ncube said all the space has been taken and the company had to pitch extra tents to accommodate more than 100 exhibitors.
She said: “The show is the biggest ever. We sold all possible space and for the first time in the history of ZITF, we had to hire tents to accommodate 100 more exhibitors. This year we won’t be having VIP parking because we converted that space for extra exhibition space and the halls, which we haven’t been using for the last four to five years, have been refurbished and converted to exhibition space.”
The uptake of space at the exhibition centre has been rising over the last five years, from as low as 47 612 square metres in 2016 to a high of 57 732 square metres in 2019. Government has made arrangements for fuel into to facilitate the smooth running of the event.
As a result, fuel supplies in the city since last week have demonstrably improved.
Ms Ncube said: “We spoke to the Ministry of Energy (and Power Development) through our parent Ministry’s Minister (Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu) and he spoke to his counterpart that fuel supplies to Bulawayo should increase at least a week before ZITF to enable motorists to sufficiently refuel their vehicles and we are seeing tankers coming to Bulawayo in numbers. We want Bulawayo to be set abuzz. That’s how serious Bulawayo will be next week (this week).”
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is expected to officially open this year’s ZITF on Friday.
By yesterday, officials from different companies were making last-minute arrangements to ensure that they are ready for the event.
Among the first-time exhibitors will be Belarus, which is bringing in a number of companies as Zimbabwe and Minsk continue to improve their economic relations.
The United States of America is returning to ZITF after a three-year absence.
Other countries that have confirmed participation include Botswana, Ethiopia, Japan, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, United States of America and Zambia.
Although all the city’s hotels and lodges were fully booked as of the beginning of the month, alternative accommodation is still available in most plush suburbs.
“The accommodation, which is being offered by Bulawayo residents at their homes, is amazing. Of course people are complaining about the shortage of accommodation at hotels, but there is no shortage of alternative accommodation in the city. Our partner, Ecological Safaris and Travel, is assisting us to seek comfortable accommodation for visitors and we are looking forward to a number of home owners realising substantial revenue from letting out their rooms,” said Ms Ncube.