UFI is organizing in cooperation with Manch Communications an Open Seminar and Expo Summit in South Africa on March 15-17. The opening speaker will be Dirk Elzinga, Chairperson of the Western Cape Branch and National Vice President of EXSA, the Exhibition Industry of South Africa. Until 2010 he was managing Director of the Cape Town International Convention Centre, and in that position he has had opportunities to interact with international players, many members of UFI, who have shown an increasing interest in Africa.
Barry: What are the key industries that show the biggest potential for exhibitions in South Africa?
Dirk: Africa is of course an interesting continent. Although economic growth figures are not comparable with the BRIC countries, South Africa is proud to be a member of that group now as well. In South Africa the economic growth last year was just above 3%, still very impressive if compared with the rest of the world. Our continent, with more than one billion inhabitants, is increasingly recognized as potentially an interesting trade partner. In order for countries like China and India to sustain their growth, there is a need for many raw materials – of which many African countries are the suppliers.
International and South African show organizers recognize these trade movements. Important economic sectors that are already or soon could be served with trade fairs and conferences are mining, IT and telecommunication, energy, food, fishing and agriculture, and also tourism.
Barry: Are organizers better advised to go it alone or to work with local partners?
Dirk: I think that in general when one starts doing business in a new market it is recommended to be supported by partners that are aware of the do’s and don’ts, the typical habits, the price and other sensitivities etc. Africa is for many international players a new territory. In many ways new players will be surprised with the level of sophistication of the exhibition industry. Countries like South Africa are absolutely on par with their best European or Asian colleagues, with excellent facilities and experienced suppliers. In other African countries one might however experience some surprises. To play on safe it is perhaps recommended to find some experienced local colleagues to jointly develop new events in this exciting continent.