THE mining, engineering and transport (Mine Entra) 2019 expo begins today in Bulawayo, with more than 200 exhibitors occupying 5 670 square metres of the available space.
NewsDay (ND) business reporter Mthandazo Nyoni speaks to the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair company’s acting general manager, Nicholas Ndebele (NN), who reveals that this year’s fair is big and better. Below are excerpts from the interview:
ND: How are the preparations for the Mine Entra going?
NN: There is palpable excitement as exhibitors are arriving and putting final touches on their exhibition stands, getting ready for the show that begins from July 17-19, 2019. The ZITF Company once again welcomes local and international mining, engineering, transport, building and construction industries’ stakeholders to the 24th edition of the exhibition.
ND: How much exhibition space has been sold compared to last year?
NN: We have 202 local and foreign exhibitors occupying 5 670 square metres of space. This represents 80% of the space made available for sale, compared with last year’s closing total of 225 direct exhibitors occupying 7 750 square metres of space. Enquiries are still coming through, so we hope that we will close at par with last year.
In terms of local participation, 64% of the confirmed exhibitors are coming from Harare, while 29% will come from Bulawayo and the remainder from other cities.
We have six foreign exhibitors coming from China, Kenya, South Africa, South Korea and Zambia, compared with five countries last year.
ND: What is the main focus of this year’s show?
NN: Mine Entra 2019 runs under the theme Resourcing the future: Exploring and leveraging mining potential. The primary objective of this business, only specialised in mining expo, is to provide a forum for the interchange of ideas among high-level decision-making delegates as well as for firms to spotlight relevant products, including latest technologies to this fast-growing industry.
In addition to a very rich profile of exhibits, the show will feature several knowledge-sharing and networking platforms designed to inspire a diverse set of exhibitors, visitors – especially women and young professionals – to tap into the latent opportunities within the mining industry.
We have women attending the mining conference on July 17, 2019. Over 200 delegates are expected to take part as new industry players and seasoned veterans present studies and stories about how they opened doors, overcame challenges and created opportunities for themselves and others in the mining industry. On July 17, we have a young professionals forum.
Approximately 150 youths in mining also have an opportunity to be inspired, self-reflect and goal-set at the YPF. The forum will seek to highlight how others have progressed through their careers and/or business paths; the challenges, lessons learnt and highlights along the way.
Then Mine Entra conference will be held on July 18. The highlight of this year’s conferences in the inter-ministerial round table is aimed at prompting discussions on harnessing the country’s mining potential, identifying and kick-starting the catalytic actions necessary to open investment flows, and spur sector production. About 300 high-level delegates are expected to take part.
ND: What are some of the products that will be on display?
NN: The exhibiting companies have a varied product mix which includes engineering, equipment, fittings and accessories, building and construction, chemicals, education and training, hydraulic and lifting equipment, mining seismology, transport, signage and labelling equipment, insurance and banking services as well as protective wear, among others.
ND: What are your major expectations from this show?
NN: The show will offer a rich gamut of networking and engagement opportunities as well as face-to-face engagement with stakeholders in the entire value chain as, including learning opportunities provided by the high-level industry-driven conferences. Being a focused, business-only and sector specific expo, the show undoubtedly offers numerous benefits and opportunities to participants to identify and exploit their potential.
ND: Last year, many exhibitors were complaining about the high cost of exhibiting space. What have you done to address their concerns?
NN: I am not quite aware of last year’s complaints. Nonetheless, the issue of cost is an issue that has become quite topical, particularly during this time when the economy is going through a transition from a multi-currency regime to a mono-currency one.
Corporates are seized with the question: How do we price our products or services in the mono-currency regime? That having been said, our pricing really is benchmarked against the pricing in the region and is commensurate with our desire to maintain high international exhibition quality standards.
We find ourselves in an unenviable position of balancing those competing needs with our customers’ ability to pay. We, nevertheless, stay engaged with our customers on such matters.
ND: There were complaints about marathon conferences that were taking away their potential clients. As organisers of this event, what have you done to address this?
NN: As an ISO certified service provider that is a stickler for customer focus and quality service, we always seek to provide valuable networking platforms for our different segments of our exhibitors and business visitors.
Other than the Mine Entra conference on Thursday, the other two – Women in Mining and The Young Professional Forum — are specific to certain groups and we really target relevant groups to attend to those.
We, nevertheless, value the feedback from our customers to inform us on how we can better design our programmes in the future.
ND: What growth prospects do you see for Mine Entra in the short to medium term?
NN: Going into the future, we will always strive to uphold and leverage the solid reputation that the show has garnered over the last two decades. This confirms that the brand is still relevant and is serving its purpose to drive the mining industry.
Equally, we are aware that the mining sector continues to retain its space as one of the pillars of economic revival and growth towards Vision 2030. Thus, we will continue to position Mine Entra in a manner that it consistently serves the evolving marketing needs of its participants.
Consistent with the government’s re-engagement policy, Mine Entra will complement these efforts by striving to grow the show through attracting exhibitors and
business visitors from the region and beyond. We envisage a Mine Entra expo that is as big as the annual multi-sectoral ZITF exhibition.
Remember, mining has been identified as one of the lead sectors, alongside agriculture and tourism, that will spur economic growth towards Vision 2030.
However, a lot of the sector’s potential is still largely untapped, hence the need, as our theme for this year suggests, to explore and leverage mining potential. It is interesting to note that the mining industry contributes around 13% of the gross domestic product and 68% of Zimbabwe’s total export receipts and has set to achieve the objective of a US$12 billion industry by 2022.
That speaks to immense potential. Where then do we locate Mine Entra in tapping into that potential? A specialised exhibition like Mine Entra showcases and discusses topical issues in the sector and as these issues are interrogated, measurable steps can then be taken to accelerate exploitation of the mineral wealth to contribute to economic growth. Hence, we are undoubtedly excited about the future and our part in contributing to these conversations as an exhibitions organiser.
ND: There were plans to construct a 300-bed hotel and conventional centre in Bulawayo, in a bid to ease accommodation problems for exhibitors. How far have you gone in implementing this project?
NN: The cost of accommodation for our exhibitors and business visitors is a perennial challenge. This increases the cost of participating in our shows for both big and small potential exhibitors.
To that end, the issue of enhancing our capacity to effectively compete in the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions space is a vital strategic objective.
We also want to play hard in the business tourism space. We are, therefore, seized with the matter relating to the project and we are working with the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe to ensure that our processes are consistent with the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act.
Once that is settled, we will seek advice from experts on the best model that we can adopt to realise that objective.