The just ended Zimbabwe International Trade Fair
Imagine you are in a food store in Switzerland and on an isle of peanut butter, jam and other spreads, all products are from Zimbabwe, grown in Honde Valley, processed and packed in Bulawayo, and transported through the Dry Port at Walvis Bay in Namibia.
Or imagine you in the United Kingdom and the fresh vegetable market is packed with organic horticultural produces grown in Bindura, processed in Mazoe and transported through Harare.
This dream to flood the world market with Zimbabwean products could become a reality if local businesses and exporters leverage on international trade exhibitions.
Trade exhibitions are organized events that allow companies to showcase and demonstrate their products and services, meet with industry partners and customers, study activities of competition, and examine recent market trends and opportunities.
Trade fairs can be specific to an industry, sector, product, trade or can be multisectoral encompassing all the sectors of the economy.
Participating in trade fairs in foreign markets presents an opportunity to get new leads, which can translate to increased export sales.
These events enable local companies to meet prospective buyers, generate business contacts, engage in business to business meetings and to learn market trends so that they develop competitive products and services.
As such, Zimbabwean businesses should take advantages of and participate in planned international trade fairs to increase their export market share.
However, identifying an ideal trade fair that could translate to actual business sales can be a tall-order if there is no proper planning.
Local enterprises can make use of services offered by ZimTrade, the national trade development and promotion organization, to identify prospective markets as well as capacity building to become viable export entities. The services also prepare local companies to successfully participate in international exhibitions.
ZimTrade facilitates local companies to participate in regional and international trade exhibitions where they showcase their products and generate new leads and markets.
In 2018, ZimTrade facilitated sixty-one companies to participate in five trade fairs held in the region, Europe and Asia.
One of the events is Fruit Logistica which took place in Berline in February in 2018. This is the world’s leading international trade fair for the fruit and vegetable industry and brings together producers, buyers, packagers, handling experts and other interested parties from across the globe.
Other international trade fairs where local companies participated last year as a result of ZimTrade’s intervention include Agritech Expo in Zambia (April), DRC Mining Week (June), Source Africa in South Africa (June), China International Import Expo (November), Intra African Trade Fair in Egypt (December).
An outward seller mission to Mozambique, during which local companies engaged in strategic business-to-business meetings was also held in October.
As a result of participating in these events, local companies received orders worth over US$13 million. Additional business orders of over US$8 million are still under negotiation with indications that international buyers are interested in Zimbabwean products.
This year, 49 local companies have been assisted to participate in trade fairs in Zambia, China and the Democratic Republic of Congo where business orders in excess of US$1 million were confirmed during the exhibitions, while US$3.1 million worth of orders are still under negotiation.
Given this positive record of trade fairs, there is potential for local companies to derive more value from participating in such events.
As a standard, it is determined that there is no substitute for adequate preparedness by the participants. In short, as the old saying goes, “If you do not prepare, you are preparing to fail. In this respect, ZimTrade assists companies to be fully prepared for trade fairs that they organise.
Firstly, companies should develop objectives for participating in the event as these will be used to measure the effectiveness of their participation.
Companies also need to develop appropriate promotional materials and graphics that will attract visitors to their stands.
Preparedness also means mobilizing potential visitors to the stand and setting up meetings, prior to the event.
Evaluation conducted by ZimTrade have shown that companies that mobilise potential buyers prior to participating at a trade exhibition have better chances of getting orders.
During the event itself, it is imperative that the booth is manned by trained staff who are competent in handling questions on all aspects of the products on show.
After the event, it is important for participants to follow up on all leads obtained from the trade show. Quick follow-ups increases on chances of sales as the first one to follow-up usually wins the sale.
In preparation for these trade fairs, ZimTrade has a number of programmes designed to assist companies to be competitive at trade exhibitions. For example, within the Marketing and Branding for International Competitiveness (MBIC) training programme offered by ZimTrade, there are two specific modules, which are Effective Trade Fair Participation and How to Gather Competititive Intelligence.
Additionally, companies can also benefit from other interventions by ZimTrade to improve enterprise competitiveness. Companies across all sectors have benefited from long-standing partnerships with experts from Netherlands-based PUM and SES of Germany.
To date, the experts have worked with businesses in areas such as lean manufacturing, production scheduling and product design, leading to improved factory efficiencies as a result of reduced production costs.