The 20th edition of Zim Expo, an annual event for business development, social empowerment, equity investments and networking opportunities for Zimbabweans living in various countries, kicks off Friday in Chicago, USA, amid an economic meltdown back home.
Organizers of the international showcase are optimistic that the event will be a big success.
The event’s co-founder Quite Ncube says he is hopeful they will record significant business deals, which is one of two objectives of the Expo, the other being entertainment and social issues.
"One branch of Zim Expo had to do with business entity, empowering the small businesses from Zimbabwe, those who are living here in the diaspora, and we would help the Zimbabwean business people by bringing the market to the Zim Expo venue, exposing their businesses to the market. That was the primary objective of the market and still is today.
Ncube says the event is the backbone of the non-profit organization held annually in different states, during the Memorial Holiday.
Ncube, a medical practitioner who has been living in the USA for more than 30 years, says although senior Zimbabwean authorities are unable to attend the event this year, the country’s representatives based in Washington DC will be issuing birth certificates and passports to Zimbabwean citizens.
He says Zimbabwean authorities do not run the event but play a critical role in creating links among potential investors.
One of the beneficiaries of the consular services provided by the Zimbabwe Embassy is Jealous Chiyambiro, a soccer enthusiast.
"Well, the passports, of course, definitely very beneficial because I've renewed my passport there," said Chiyambiro.
In addition to the consular services, which have proved very popular, other scheduled events include performances by Zimbabwean-based musicians – Cindy Munyavi and rising dance hall star Jah Signal, and also Miss Zimbabwe USA contest.
A regular visitor to Zim Expo, Musawenkosi Ndlovu, says this is her favorite part of Zim Expo.
"The Miss Zim USA Pageant, I know its more about what they are learning and part of the showcase of course includes the beauty part of it, that I think is a fun event. We in the past have had artists come from Zimbabwe and I think that's also part of the fun," said Ndlovu.
Some people like Handsome Sibanda visit the show to participate in the soccer tournament, which has in the past featured retired soccer stars like former Highlanders and Warriors captain Thulani Biya Ncube, and draws players from different parts of the U.S., Canada, Britain and elsewhere.
"Its a pretty organized and fun event, and basically you get to meet some former players from Zimbabwe, such as Thulani Biya Ncube, Vitalis (Takawira), and all those guys, and then you get to play against them, which is interesting and exciting," Ncube said.
Organizers of the event say while they are now in their 20th year, the annual event has been affected by lack of funding, and also a perception that the Expo is linked to Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party – a claim co-organizer Quite Ncube, refutes.
"We try not to mix politics and Zim Expo because we are pretty much non political, motivated," said Ncube.
Zim Expo co-founder, Anesu Manjengwa, says management is addressing some of these concerns with a view of making it one of the top-most events convened by Zimbabweans.
"We can always have suspicions on everything, but the bottom line is we are a non governmental organization, we are completely business minded. I am a business man and I will do business-like things. People are going to suspect that you are government related, but we are not," said Manjengwa, adding that, "we've been in this industry for 20-years because we are doing our politics right. We'll work with anybody who wants to work with us."
Others, however, like Chiyambiro say there is need to revamp the annual event to attract more participants.
A large number of participants say they have benefited a lot at the Zim Expo with some of them getting good business deals. At least 20 companies are expected to display their goods at the Zim Expo this year.