GOVERNMENT has postponed the 2020 Zambia International Trade Fair which was scheduled to take place in Ndola from 1st to 7th July due to COVID-19.

In a statement, Monday, Commerce, Trade and Industry Minister Christopher Yaluma stated that the decision was arrived at after consultations with the relevant stakeholders.

“The World is currently facing unprecedented public health emergencies arising from the COVID-19 and has adversely affected the global economy and our way of life in our communities. In order to mitigate the adverse impact of this unprecedented global health pandemic, most Governments in countries affected have resorted to imposing partial or complete lockdown measures whose immediate economic effects include reduced business performance. The lockdown measures imposed to control the spread and pace of COVID-19 pandemic has caused instantaneous stress on the Zambian economy and most sectors are affected in a varied way. Notably, the tourism, mining, manufacturing, construction as well as the wholesale and retail trade sectors are expected to record sluggish growth relative to the previous year owing to the impact of COVID-19 pandemic. Arising from the advent of the pandemic, the Zambian economy as reported by the Ministry of Finance is now projected to grow by 2.6% in 2020 as opposed to the earlier projection of 3.6 percent,” Yaluma said.

“In view of the above-mentioned, the government through the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry regrets to inform all partners, exhibitors, sponsors and both foreign and local visitors of the postponement of 2020 Zambia International Trade Fair, which was scheduled to take place from 1st to 7th July under the theme: ‘Promoting Value-Addition for Sustainable Growth’, in the City of Ndola on the Copperbelt Province. The decision was reached after consultations with the relevant stakeholders and taking into consideration that the outbreak of COVID- 19 pandemic has led to a rise in concerns from potential participating companies who have been negatively affected by the sudden slow-down of economic activities.”

He stated that the Trade Fair attracted a number of exhibitors and visitors, hence a challenge would arise on the adherence of social distancing and other guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health.

“Further, the Government of the Republic of Zambia is also alive to the fact that the ZITF attracts international delegates that includes a visiting Head of State as well as exhibitors from various foreign countries especially from the EAC, COMESA ECOWAS and SADC regions which have also been negatively affected by the pandemic. The ZITF usually attracts over 4,000 exhibitors and visitors. In this regard, it would be difficult to observe the social distancing and other guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health during the Fair,” he stated.

“As part of the global family of exhibition organisers, my Ministry through ZITF management stands in solidarity with all those around the world who have been adversely affected by COVID-19 directly or indirectly. More events have been either cancelled or postponed to future dates countrywide, as authorities are still monitoring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Notably, reports have indicated that more than 1,500 fairs and exhibitions globally have been either cancelled or postponed as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.”

Meanwhile, Yaluma called on the private sector to take part in the rapid business survey which would be conducted to ascertain how productivity and export trade had been affected by the advent of COVID-19.

“I wish to take this opportunity to notify and encourage the private sector to take part in a rapid business survey on both the industrial and trade sectors which includes Large, Small and Medium enterprises and Cooperatives that my Ministry is conducting to ascertain the extent of how productivity and general domestic and export trade is being affected following the advent of COVID-19 pandemic. Last but not the least, we must all take note that the time when the pandemic will disappear from this world is not yet known,” stated Yaluma.

“We are therefore urged to adhere to the prescribed public health guidelines for prevention against Covid-19 as doing so, the infection and mortality rates would certainly reduce and business would steadily return to normalcy. Let’s all strictly follow the guidelines so that we can protect one another for the benefit of our society we live in because the pandemic does not select and has demonstrated so far the ability to traverse all borders.”