Industry and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube told The Standard on Friday that the decision to invite Ekra was in line with their objective to refocus the exhibition into a proper “trade show.”
This year’s exhibition will be held from May 3-7 in Bulawayo under the theme “Optimising Business Synergies — Now and Beyond.”
“This year we have invited a person who is not a head of state, the president of the Afreximbank as our guest because we realise that we need to mobilise lines of credit for the industrial sector .
“The bank has supported Zimbabwe more than any other with lines of credit and has a mandate to promote exports in Africa.
“In recognition of that, we have invited its president in the hope that he would appreciate what local industry is doing with the money they have advanced,” Ncube said.
But sources revealed that no foreign leader was willing to officiate at this year’s fair. In the past decade nearly all leaders of southern African countries have officiated at the fair.
Last year, controversial Iran leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had to be roped in at the last minute. Ncube expressed optimism that this year’s exhibition would be much better than recent ones.
“When the inclusive government was formed the trade fair was all but dead and we had to postpone it in 2009 from the usual dates because of the inability of local industries to participate.
“But as of last week 95% of the available space had been taken up and we have 10 more local companies participating than last year,” he said.
More than 400 local and international exhibitors are believed to have taken part at last year’s exhibition.