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Shanghai here we come!

2010. 11 March

The World Exposition, scheduled for Shanghai China from May 1 to October 31, presents Zimbabwe with yet another opportunity to consolidate its global marketing campaign.

( This country needs to increase its visibility on the world map and this is a golden opportunity
for this southern African country.

With at least 200 countries participating and about 80 million visitors expected, the Expo, no doubt, presents this country with the best platform yet, to tell its true story.

Of course, in China they already know about "Jimbabwe" and the same could be said about the rest of the world, but I would not be far from the truth if I were to say that three in every five people have a negative perception about this country, stemming mainly from print and electronic reports by international news wires and broadcast stations that have tended to exaggerate or broadcast falsehoods about the state of affairs.

I remember a few years ago when I went to Switzerland as part of a group of journalists from this continent, I was mobbed by some guys in our group who wanted to know how I had managed to go to the airport to catch a flight to South Africa en route to Switzerland.

At that point they were under the impression that there was so much chaos one would not be able to navigate their way to the airport. That is the extent to which the world had been poisoned about Zimbabwe.

In another instance, a visitor coming to Zimbabwe for a conference had to ask if he could bring bath soap seeing as Zimbabwe could not have the "luxury" to produce or import soap. This was based on the information they were being fed by some sections of the international media.

This helps illustrate the fact that as we prepare for Shanghai, Zimbabwe should not take anything for granted.

Those that will be representing the country should be at their best.

It is going to take a lot of effort to undo the damage done to this country over the past decade in terms of negative media campaigns. The world exposition will be strategic in this instance.

The six-month showcase also provides Zimbabwe with a platform to learn from experiences of other countries economically, socially and even politically while the world will have a lesson or two to learn from Zimbabwe’s way of doing things.

This is an opportunity we must not allow to go to waste. Expos are held every five years.

The Expo theme is: "Better City Better Life" from which Zimbabwe has adapted its own theme "Transforming Our Communities for a Better Life".

So much has been achieved since independence in terms of rural and urban development in this country, but there is still a long way to go.

The standard of living in this country had somewhat receded, but we are slowly coming out of the quagmire.

Zimbabwe ranks among the best on the continent in terms of rural and urban development and provision of social amenities.

This is the story that the world needs to know. That unlike some misconceptions, we do not live in trees and we actually have bath soap in various brands and that life here is quite orderly and not as chaotic as believed elsewhere.

Of course, the advent of the inclusive Government has somewhat toned down the hate language about Zimbabwe but many still cling to their perceptions which they have nurtured and turned into facts.

Zimbabwe is one of the most blessed countries in the world with its rich endowment in mineral resources, fertile soils and other natural resources.

Its human resource base is also an envy to many. We are also endowed with rich tourist attractions which include the majestic Victoria Falls, the Great Zimbabwe and the Eastern Highlands which have always left visitors gasping for more. The world will need to be told of all these attributes come May 1.

There are enormous trade and investment opportunities that the world out there may not be aware of and the exposition is the right and probably the most effective platform to unleash this kind of information.

Zimbabwe will have a day, August 10, when the entire exposition will focus attention on this country. A trade and investment conference will be hosted by this country on that day. We expect stakeholders to maximise on this.

On this day, Zimbabwe will showcase its rich tourism, trade and investment potential to the outside world.

We expect the Business Council of Zimbabwe and all its affiliate members to take an active interest in the project and do the best they can to ensure Zimbabwe is well represented at the expo. Nothing beats adequate preparation, so we hope efforts in this regard are underway.

May is just a few weeks from now so we should be putting finishing touches on exhibits and other materials destined for Shanghai.

By the way, Zimbabwe will be competing with 200 other countries for attention so it’s not exactly a walk in a rose garden. A lot of energy will need to be directed towards the project.

This country will need to maximise on its unique attributes to get the world’s attention.

Zimbabwe is the second largest platinum producer in the world while having the largest chrome deposits, among her many attributes.

Trade and investment figures to Africa dwindled somewhat in 2008-09, but more is anticipated to come this way this year.

Zimbabwe will have to claim her fair share from investment inflows into Africa and the expo will lay the groundwork.

The host country has also taken a particular interest in Africa and has always extended a hand towards Zimbabwe hence the expo will grant local industry the opportunity to explore China’s economy even further.

Current behind-the-scenes preparations on the part of Government have moved a gear up and the atmosphere at the launch ceremony a fortnight ago was telling.

Excitement about the Shanghai Expo 2010 was evident at the launch.

I was impressed by the line-up and enthusiasm demonstrated by small businesses attending a training workshop on Monday this week pertaining to their participation in Shanghai.

The turnout was good and the interest high. Some had come from as far as Karoi and Mutoko in their quest for knowledge.

At least 60 SMEs specialising in a variety of arts and craft products from all provinces of Zimbabwe will take turns to market their wares at the Zimbabwe Pavilion Commercial Bazaar at the expo over the six months.

I attended the last expo held in Aichi, Japan, in 2005. My kid sister and colleague Daisy Zambuko, who was at ZBC then, and I could not help but gaze at the mammoth site of the expo. We had never imagined it would be that big.

The Shanghai Expo, I am told, is way bigger. You can imagine!

Zimbabwe benefited immensely from the Aichi Expo and our level of development at this stage should see the country reaping more rewards in terms of tourism arrivals and other trade and investment opportunities.

Below are some of the words that form the jingle that will be played endlessly on the Zimbabwean stand.

Zimbabwe will be in the African Pavilion with 43 other countries from this beautiful continent. It is how we will package ourselves that will make a difference at the end of the day!

Here goes the jingle . . .

"Like the Rock of Gibraltar

We are unshakeable and resilient, yet ever-smiling, warm and renowned for our hospitality.

We are carved from the finest and richest minerals on earth.

We glitter like Gold from the Great Dyke.

Dark as the Coals of Hwange, yet again shiny as the Black Granite of Mutoko

As rich as the Emeralds from Mberengwa.

As strong as the Diamonds from Chiadzwa and fields of Murowa.

The wealth beneath our earth is a narration of the world’s who is who. Platinum, Chrome, Coal and more.

What an amazing country we are."

We are blessed with one of the Africa’s richest lands and the BIG FIVE: Lion, Rhino, Elephant, Buffalo and Leopard. This heritage we so dearly treasure and protect with our sweat, tears, and blood.

Our mouths yearn for the sweet corn, which nourishes our nation and gives strength to our men and women.

Our hands bear scars that come from the sweet pain of cultivating the world’s best cotton, tendering the finest leaf of tobacco and the many crops that have made our country such an envy of many.

Like the Pharaohs of Egypt, we are proud builders of the majestic and formidable fortress The Great Zimbabwe, from which we derive our name and character as a hard-working, relentless and trailblazing African people.

On our land lie many wonders, by our count seven, from a unique people to the caves of the blue waters, Chinhoyi Caves, to beautiful weather to the famous, Mosi-oa-Tunya, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Shine on Zimbabwe!

In God I Trust.