Zimbabwe’s premier trade showcase kicks off in Bulawayo on Tuesday with observers predicting yet another subdued edition due to unrelenting economic decline.
Once a major event on the country’s annual business calendar, some observers say, the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) has diminished to a pale shadow that’s only attracting small-scale businesses.
And nothing will change this year, said businessman Bulisani Ncube, who failed to showcase his enterprise because of the poor state of the economy.
“Most of the exhibitors are those that are in the services sector ... small micro-lenders banks and hotels will be there. But manufacturing is depressed,” Ncube added.
Zimbabwe’s isolation by the West over charges of human rights violations and electoral fraud have also played a role in precluding foreign investment.
And the contentious Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Act has not helped any matters.
But President Robert Mugabe said last week that his government had helped revive a lot of companies and claimed - controversially - the economy was on the rebound.
“We wonder which economy Mugabe was talking about,” said opposition MDC-T lawmaker, Abednico Bhebhe.
“The fact of the matter is that the economy is a mess and really the trade fair is a waste of time. There is nothing here that businesspeople from other countries are looking forward to."