The Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Stella Nkomo, has encouraged Bulawayo residents to work together in order to wholly benefit from the annual trade showcase, noting that despite general concerns that outsiders from Harare benefitted more, local businesses also had a chance to thrive.
Some members of the community have blatantly claimed that “ZITF is about Harare people coming to Bulawayo to discuss Harare business” while others lamented that the way the trade fair was set up was not beneficial to local budding businesses and entrepreneurs.
Reflecting on the recently ended 2021 edition on a WhatsApp platform with members of the public and how women in business benefitted Wednesday, Nkomo noted that although the showcase was held under Covid-19 circumstances its outcomes were satisfactory.
“I note that many people here are also acknowledging the effects of Covid19, we hope this phase will be over soon. In terms of women participation, we had Hall 2A which was occupied by women from various sectors through the Ministry of Women Affairs sponsorship. I am not sure if many of you saw that,” she said.
“We also had Zimtrade who sponsored some SMEs and some women participated under that Zimtrade global participation. It was also encouraging to see a lot of women participating as service providers, just to get a share of the cake.”
Nkomo also urged locals to work in groups to seize opportunities that were presented by the showcase.
Nkomo highlighted locals could benefit from the trade fair if they were enterprising, as the ZITF ecosystem was wide and varied.
She noted that for instance, entrepreneurs can share a stand to exhibit their products and services or make contact with organisations such as the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises to receive assistance.
“Some banks sponsor SMEs, visit Zimtrade and tell them you want to be assisted and see if they can’t assist. If not, then, visit the show and distribute your cards, exchange notes with others and network. We have conferences, workshops and dinners. I have never been approached by anyone from Bulawayo wanting a free business ticket and was not given. Please challenge me here and now!” Nkomo said in the group.
Nkomo said locals must seize even the smallest of jobs to target customers while the end of the day pocketing something.
“Be a service provider – accommodation, transport, flowers, stand builders, painters, etc, Good people you mean you and your friends can’t even think about anything you can sell to visitors? Even ama freezit? Airtime? I mean bumbani even icleaning service bomama, or phekani phela ukudla or something. You can’t even decorate stands? Competition is stiff but you have to fight, even in the jungle, it’s survival of the fittest. Challenge me kusasele skhathi about a business idea and see if I can’t assist,” she said.
Turning to concerns that a small cake of the ZITF was enjoyed by Bulawayo residents, compared to Harare, Nkomo said the company was working on that.
“My plea is that don’t give up on your show, let’s work together and see how we can benefit. Ever pondered on the following? Hotels, lodges and private homes that are full to capacity, don’t we have at least one person employed there? Buses, taxis, kombis that ferry people during Trade Fair, are they not our people? Restaurants that record brisk business from an upsurge in the number of visitors, are they all Harare based?” she suggested.
Nkomo noted that the trade fair provided temporary employment to locals and said ZITF alone employed over 500 contract staff.
“Are they not our people? Drum majorettes that perform and get sponsorship are they not Bulawayo kids? Cultural groups that performed at our main arena this year, are they all from Harare? The supermarkets that sell to visitors are they from Harare?” she questioned.
In her engagement with locals, Nkomo, noted she was not being “defensive,” but was trying to challenge people “to at least be positive.”
“And at least challenge us to do more rather than wanting to throw away the baby with the water. Find a way to be part of ZITF, I am here to assist you. Knock at my door, kusasele sikhathi and see if I can’t advise you on what to do. Bother me, ask for tickets, get our catalogue, and let’s work together to assist one another,” said the deputy CEO.
“I think at the end of the day, we just wanted to take advantage of the window of opportunity to slot it in. God willing and environment allowing, next year we are going back to our usual slot, with a Saturday for people work.”