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HARARE-- Preparations for the 2018 Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) to be held in Bulawayo, about 440 kilometres southwest of here, from April 24 to 28 this year are moving ahead well with at least 168 foreign and local exhibitors having booked space so far, says ndustry and Commerce Minister Dr Mike Bimha.

The trade fair will be held nder the theme Sustainable Industrial Development-Inclusive, competitive, collaborative, which Bimha says is in line with the government's thrust to improve industrial productivity.

To date 34.034 square metres have been taken up by a total of 168 exhibitors. These statistics compare favourably with the booking situation at the same time last year, he said here Thursday.

Foreign interest in the exhibition has been high with confirmed foreign representation coming from Ethiopia, Japan, India and South Africa.

Last year, during the same period, 156 exhibitors had taken up 29,600 square meters of space.

Of the confirmed exhibitors for this year, Dr Bimha said 12 per cent were new participants and would be exhibiting automation equipment, energy products as well as building and construction materials.

He said the ZITF Company had since last year engaged at least 30 foreign heads of missions in Zimbabwe in a bid to lure companies from their countries to participate at the country's premier trade showcase. Local participation has also increased, with a notable case being the Association of Rural District Councils in Zimbabwe which has taken up space for 50 of its members.

Some of the highlights of the trade fair include three exclusive business days during which an international business conference, an original equipment manufacturers forum and an innovators forum would be held.

Several other expos will run concurrently with the ZITF including the A'sambeni Africa Business Tourism Expo and the Pakprint 2018 for the printing and packaging industries.