LAGOS TRADE FAIR: Exhibitors Demand For Better Venue
THE Lagos international trade fair is the largest exhibition in West Africa. It is known for its usual fanfare, unique exposition and special discounts on exhibited items. It gives trade groups and professionals opportunity to exhibit new products and new innovations. It also provides foreign investors direct information about the potentials and opportunities available in Nigeria.
This year’s fair themed “Enhancing Value Addition In The Non-oil Economy”, focused on value addition from the non-oil economy, with special focus on Small and Medium Enterprises (SME).
For the first time since its inception, the fair held in three different venues. The Muson Centre hosted the corporate business-to-business networking; Freedom Park hosted the major creative industry fair, tagged “EKO Akete,” while Tafawa Balewa square, played host to general business of interest to customers. Last year, poor turn out and low sales marred its success. The outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease also contributed to it failure as international exhibitors did not turn up.
But the situation was better this year, despite the economic hardship. The turn out was impressive because exhibitors employed different strategies, including advertisement lure people to the fair.
Some pavilion had platform for dancers to advertise products, while others distributed fliers amidst the blare of music.
The President of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Remi Bello, said, “this year we had about 17 foreign participants, under the Chinese pavilion, we had 120 participants. Other countries that participated include Japan, Ghana, Ethiopia, and also about 1,700 major exhibitors, followed by the small companies and SMEs. The attendance doubled the figure for last year. At the 2014 exhibition, in terms of visitors, we had about 3, 000, while this year we have about 7,000, this shows a growing confidence in the economy,” he said.
Chairman, Trade Promotion Board of the Chamber, Dr Micheal Olawale-Cole, who also acknowledged that this years fair was better than last year, urged Nigerians to support government efforts aimed at exploiting the potentials in the non-oil sector.
“There are other resources God has given us, apart from oil. There are mineral resources that we must exploit, agriculture is key, and also manufacturing and tourism are areas we need to work on seriously. There are so many solid minerals that can bring us more money than we earn from oil. For agriculture, we have the land, climate, people and the power to tap from agriculture and make this country dependent on what we have, to eat and also export to other countries. We have all it takes. For tourism, we have a naturally beautiful environment, that people should come and see, but we must create the enabling environment for them to come; good infrastructure, good road network and constant power,” he said
Eme Ugwuegbu, who displayed Sahara Sunrise Shea butter products at the fair said, “ the volume of sales this year was better than last year, because the turn out was better. “
Mabel Gabriels displayed shape wears at the shell arena. She said, “it has been wonderful, I never believed that I could achieve so much. Sales were good, but for me it was more than sales. It was an opportunity to create awareness, and also make contact with prospective customers.”
The Freedom Park, one of the venue of this year’s fair, provided opportunity to exhibit great arts. It hosted musicians like Ras Kimono, Jimmy Akama and others.
Sales representative of Premier Musice, Solomon John, said a lot of people were not aware of the happenings at the venue, because people were supposed to move from the Tafawa Balewa Square to Freedom Park as the main Fair closes, which is why it was more alive at night than day.
The Fair ended with lots of challenges, as most exhibitors complained of power outage, to the extent that visitors had to use fliers to fan themselves. The three different venues for the Fair this year is an indication that in years to come, the Tafawa Balewa Square may be too small to host the Fair, as the number of visitors continued to increase.
Although the LCCI ensured that the exhibition was wonderful, amidst many challenges, the friendly weather and the use of marquee tents also left one to question what would have happened if it rained.
The Director General of LCCI, Muda Yusuf, said much was spent, by the chamber to ensure regular power supply throughout the period.
“We had to rent about seven 500kva generators to power the fair, which is additional cost, but what can we do if the necessary infrastructure is not there. This venue is not befitting. If you attend fairs abroad, they have standard facilities, and government has a role to make sure that facilities are good. We will continue to work with the government to have a permanent facility that is befitting. We are looking at the options of the trade fair complex. If the road is okay, and if the facilities are better developed, we can use that. Alternatively, the Lagos State government can work with private sector to develop an international standard facility for regular exhibition,” he said.
The governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, said the state would collaborate with Lagos State Chamber of Commerce and Industry, through the Lagos global new oranisation sector, for the accommodation problems during the future fairs.