By Daniel Chigundu
ORGANISERS of the SMEs International Expo say preparation for the 8th edition of the expo have gathered momentum and exhibition space is fast running out.
SMEs International Expo started in 2011 at the Harare Exhibition Park and has been growing since then and has never missed an edition.
This year the expo is running under the theme “Explore Innovate Implement A New Economic Order for Business in the Digital Era” and will take place from 17th to 20th of October at Harare International Conference Centre (HICC).
In Zimbabwe, SMEs have largely become the main economy and accounts for over 80 percent of employment in various sectors and is a major contributor to the gross domestic product (GDP).
According to former Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, only half a million people in the country are still employed in the formal sector while the rest are now engaged in the informal sector doing various jobs.
The 2012 FinScope MSME Zimbabwe Survey says there are about 3.5 million SMEs operating in the economy and most of them face challenges when it comes to finding markets for their products and wares.
SMEs International Expo is, therefore, that missing platform that brings together small to medium enterprises (SMEs) from all sectors of the economy and corporates to exhibit their products to a wider population.
In an interview Expo organiser and founder Blessing, Magenga who is also the chief executive officer of Twins Investments Group said they are overwhelmed by the amount of support they have received from both sponsors and exhibitors adding that it promises to be a bigger expo than previous editions.
“This year the response is amazing, we are overwhelmed and we think this is going to be big, the exhibitors have come in a big way, and the sponsors too.
“Space is fast running out and I can tell you that the place is going to be full. The exhibitors are both local and international and South Africa for example who are now traditional exhibitors are coming in a big way.
“We also have other countries coming we cannot give more details at the moment as we are still sorting out certain issues but we will announce soon,” she said.
According to Magenga, the idea to hold the expo was hatched after realizing that most SMEs have the skill to make good products but the lack of exposure has been affecting their progress and growth.
Magenga believes this initiative is what has been missing for a long time in-order for SMEs to start expanding their products and accessing other markets locally and internationally.
“The Expo is an annual exhibition specifically geared to afford SMEs and corporates a platform to showcase their products and services. The expo is a strategic marketing platform that affords SMEs a once in a lifetime opportunity to gain visibility nationally and internationally, and to create business synergies with other organizations globally,” she said.
Currently, most SMEs in the country sell their products to people in their locality because of the various logistical issues and challenges such as transport and shelter involved in the marketing of products.
The lack of markets and ideal working space has been identified by the FinScope Survey as some of the reasons SMEs are failing to expand their operations.
High rentals charged by property owners around town have forced SMEs to either work at undesignated places or in their own backyards because they have no capacity to pay.
The expo also provides an opportunity for SMEs to learn the best practice expected and required by corporates and foreign markets for their goods to be accepted.–