The 36th edition of the Dar es Salaam International Trade Fair (DITF), Tanzania’s biggest trade and industrial promotional event, winds up business this weekend.
Over the years, this annual event has established itself as an invaluable shop window for Tanzanian products as well as those from eastern, central and southern African countries and beyond.
The fair is supported by the services of the country’s largest harbour, Dar es Salaam, which serves the region effectively.
The fair has clearly stood as a one-stop centre for reaching countries as varied as Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Botswana – not to mention markets much further afield.
Besides, the fair has enjoyed the patronage of members of the Tanzanian business community, who use it as an exhibition and business exchange forum.
With this year’s fair ending in a day or two, it is important that all concerned look back and make a candid evaluation of the headway it had made over the years.
Statistics show that the number of participants at the fair rose from a mere 100-plus firms in the late 1980s to over 1,041 in 1999 but has since be erratic and, admittedly, not very encouraging.
The number of exhibitors in 2006 stood at 1,526, including some from 18 foreign countries, according to a Bank of Tanzania economic survey.
In 2009 a total of 23 countries and 2,103 exhibitors were represented compared to 27 countries and 1,930 exhibitors the previous year. The decline was attributed to the world economic crisis.
It is indicated that 1,760 exhibitors were locals while 343 were foreigners compared to 1,602 local exhibitors and 328 foreigners in 2008. The increase in locals was attributed to a rise in the number of government institutions taking part.
Last year, the number of exhibitors was over 1,300 local and foreign companies from 17 countries. This year, though the number of exhibitors is close to 2,000, the number of countries taking part is only 11.
This wavering trend in terms of participating countries and firms or institutions, particularly the locals to foreigners ration, is an issue that ought to be seriously looked into.
DITF, or Sabasaba as it is popularly known as, is an event where countries and companies seek to market rather than merely sell their products or services.
In other words, this is an occasion where all innovations, discoveries and products that industrialists and traders have produced are showcased and therefore marketed.
It is not a place for participants to make outright purchases as such but one where they are introduced to more innovative ways of doing business.
The fair is not meant to be an international shopping mall or a dumping place for unmarketable goods and services. With the organisers having changed names from Board of External Trade to Tanzania Trade Development Authority (Tantrade), we should see real positive change.
We are sure it is the expectation of the Tanzanian public and foreign countries and firms that DITF will seriously consider ensuring that it helps promote Tanzanian business, including by fostering trade links and transfer of technology and skills between our country and the outside world.