Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO
THE 2018 Zambia International Trade Fair (ZITF) closed on Tuesday this week after seven days of marathon exhibition by local and international firms.The 54th ZITF officially opened its doors to the public last Thursday and was officially opened by Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi the following day. This year’s Trade Fair, whose theme was “Private sector key to industrialisation”, attracted over 550 companies.
The theme highlighted Government’s desire to make industrialisation the mainstay of the economy.
With the ZITF, the country’s marquee trade show, closed, some business houses will go to sleep and wake up next year for the 2019 edition.
Yet, others will be on the road, this time heading to the Zambia Agricultural and Commercial Show in Lusaka next month.
Instead of taking a back seat in the aftermath of the Trade Fair, Copperbelt University lecturer in marketing and entrepreneurship Moffat Chawala advises business houses to be proactive and convert all the business leads to actual business.
“They need to find new markets and new customers and ensure they satisfy them in order to stay in business. In marketing we say that ‘we create demand, you need to service it’,” Mr Chawala said.
Economist Chibamba Kanyama said a trade fair is simply a one-point exhibit platform where companies shop and market their products and services.
Mr Kanyama said while some companies strike lucrative deals and others form very profitable alliances and sell/ buy franchises, there are also various international companies which use the trade fair to assess the market potential for their products and services.
Mr Kanyama expects the following to happen at the Trade Fair:
1. Cement these partnerships. Remember that entrepreneurship is as young as 30 years in Zambia. Some of the companies that exhibit come from established capitalist regimes and embrace strong business instincts such as execution, drive and profitability.
“Zambians, on the other hand, are still learning how to strike profitable deals effectively and efficiently. Just one executed deal can transform an enterprise,” he said.
2. Zambians should equally exhibit in other countries. We know we have done so within the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa region with the support of the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA).
“Unfortunately the quantum of our products such as textiles, honey, emeralds have had very limited traction because we go there as isolated players and not as a collective group of suppliers. I see more value exhibiting as associations and not as individuals because regional markets want sustainability for supply and this can only be guaranteed by collective participation,” Mr Kanyama said.
3. Trade Fairs and shows have mainly attracted parastatals.
“There are many multinationals that see these events as costly. If you see them, they are not exhibiting but selling their products to show visitors. We have a huge opportunity to use these platforms by enticing the multinational corporations to showcase their business prowess because they remain the frontiers in the Zambian market,” Mr Kanyama said.
He said the multinationals control nearly 62 percent of the Zambian economy and yet remain in the minority.
“Is it possible they should consider Zambia as a home country where they seek to deepen the market by taking a leading role in these exhibits?” he asks
Multinational corporations already have regional and global traction, and remain the centre of attraction by many potential investors in Zambia.
“It is for those reasons I propose we have only one big annual show….collapse the Zambia Agricultural and Commercial Show as well as the Kitwe mining show into one trade fair. This way, the value of these platforms will be significant and hugely profitable,” Mr Kanyama said.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.