This week, the city of Bulawayo hosts one of the most important events on the corporate calendar – the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF). The annual fair, which is expected to officially open tomorrow, will run under the theme “Propagating Industrial Growth through Trade and Investment”. Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni will be the guest of honour.
The participation of the United States this year, after such a long hiatus, has attracted interest for some while others have taken a wait-and-see approach on what lies ahead. That relations between Washington and Harare are improving, albeit at a slow pace, is there for all to see.
But what is also interesting is that this fair comes at a time the US is expected to open its new embassy in Harare, a development which shows a firm commitment to growing diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe.
For those with institutional memory, ZITF is a reminder of how things used to be in the proverbial good old days. Bulawayo’s Belmont industrial area used to employ hundreds of thousands of locals contributing immensely to the manufacturing sector output. But due to several factors – such as the lack of capacity to retool, competition from regional peers, and unsustainable business models – several companies in Belmont folded sending hordes of people on the streets. Many have emigrated to neighbouring South Africa and Botswana, citing economic reasons.
After launching the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP) – a two-year economic blueprint to guide the country’s growth – soon after last year’s elections, the government should now vigorously pursue measures espoused in this policy paper to spur economic growth.
Some of the TSP’s targets include re-engagement with the international community, parastatal reforms and good governance. If pursued with a keen heart, Zimbabwe may become a force to reckon with in the region.
Moreso, debate on whether the country’s southern parts have been systematically marginalised may fail to hold water when Bulawayo and other surrounding areas are restored or rather surpass their past glory.
Already, other commendable initiatives such as devolution of regions are being pursued, signalling the government’s commitment to nationhood. The National Healing and Reconciliation process, which if done in earnest, is another window that the government can use to reach out to heal those who are yet too scarred by yesteryear’s transgressions.
When the red carpets are folded and dignitaries and delegates leave the City of Kings and Queens, this year’s chapter of the ZITF should not be seen as an annual talk show, but an event where Zimbabwe told its own people and those beyond her borders that it was ready to do business. After all, talk is cheap, but let’s walk the talk.