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South African exhibitions offer springboard to Africa's growth

For a long time, first world countries have been the powerhouses of mega trade-fairs with the UK, Europe and the US producing enormous exhibitions that in some sectors have become the premier 'buying' exercises through the supply chain.
However, these first world economies continue to endure the pressures resulting from the global market crash of 2008 and the density of competition in these regions, opening opportunities for developing markets.

The BRICS economies could now produce future opportunities for the geo-cloning of major exhibition titles and organic growth due to the formalising of market sectors in these regions. Emerging markets in the African continent and BRICS puts South Africa on the global exhibition landscape and positions it to strengthen and grow, as it meets increasing demand.

Interest in South Africa is two-fold. Firstly; it encourages international exhibition organisers to consider investing in the region, and secondly it better positions already established local exhibitions to be used as a springboard into South Africa and Africa for international brands that may not as yet have a presence in the region.

Business-to-business (B2B) exhibitions and trade fairs have long been the preferred platform for engagement, hosting and promotion by some of the world's biggest brands. They are designed to promote face-to-face marketing while communicating a company's brand and service offering in a live environment- a successful formula.

Trade fairs deliver ROI

Trade fairs and exhibitions in South Africa are evolving in line with international expectations and trends and are playing a crucial role in the marketing campaigns of companies looking to promote product, initiate or close sales transactions, grow client bases, conduct market research, launch new products or services and even re-engage or demonstrate appreciation towards stakeholders.

Exhibitions accomplish a lot. They engage the five senses and get entire markets into one venue for a few days of the year - or some specific period. There is no other media option that can compete with this rich value proposition and we do not believe there are other platforms that can deliver such high levels of return on marketing investment (ROMI) when used properly.

Their economic impact is also significant. Although currently immeasurable, a large trade fair in South Africa has the potential to unlock in excess of R100 million in economic activity - and this does not take into account the degree of meaningful employment that comes as a result of it.

Exhibitions are under pressure as a media option, with more traditional channels such as print, out-of-home, TV and radio and to a growing extent, social media and online marketing, dominate the marketing budgets of major brands.

Exhibitions remain the unsung hero of below-the-line marketing. Exhibition media owners have to fight harder to win accounts and create value - and that is not necessarily a bad thing. We now have to compete on service, innovation and real value creation, but we can do it.

Innovation essential

Real value in service must be extracted and exhibition organisers must move towards a more holistic way of managing accounts across all functions of the business. Innovation too, is vital for the growing success of exhibitions. Already innovation in the form of automated client service features, the introduction of digital and social media, free to attend seminars and more, is a part of the services offered by exhibition organisers. It will grow, but all innovation must be relevant to the core function of exhibition organising, which is connecting buyers and sellers in a live environment.

The bottom line is that the exhibitions industry is honing its skills as it faces new challenges, heightened competition and increased opportunities both locally and globally and it is likely to rise to the occasion and offer world class options, services, products and facilities to companies across the spectrum of industry.

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