The Global Competiveness Report was recently issued at the World Economic Forum, and recovery from the economic crisis is tentatively coming through. The competiveness of South Africa has increased from 2011. The report ranks a country's overall competiveness on economic performance, business efficiency, government efficiency and infrastructure. Out of 142 countries, South Africa's ranking improved four places to 50. This also makes us the most competitive country in the sub-Saharan Africa region.
Results of the increased competitiveness can already be seen in the amount of foreign business that is coming through South Africa. Exhibitions are frequently being planned on our soil from international investors. UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, held their Open Seminar and Expo Summit in Africa in March at the CTICC. The IFES AGM and Convention (International Federation of Exhibition and Event Services) will be holding their first annual conference in Africa next year, which will be hosted by the CTICC.
Add to the increased amount of exhibitions that South Africa is seeing, there is the national growth in the amount of visitors and exhibitors. The potential that this alone means for South Africa is incredible. The exhibition industry has the potential to not only connect consumers and businesses; it also has far reaching effects into the economy of Southern Africa and our overall competitiveness. Growth in business requires increased training, higher employment and better infrastructure.
"There is a light at the end of the tunnel - and it is possibly not an on-coming train! I make this observation because it is possible that based upon circumstantial evidence that the events media presents to surmise that many recent exhibitions have experienced growth both in terms of the numbers of visitors, as well as exhibitors. The apparent increase in visitors is particularly pleasing to see, since visitors are the 'fuel' of the industry. If an upturn in our industry has already started, you had better be sure that you are already on the train, since the train is leaving the station", Nigel Walker, EXSA Chair, stated.
But South Africa has weaknesses that need to be addressed. The Labour market still needs to be rectified, with regards to employment and business practices. The biggest detriment to our society is education (both higher and lower) that is substandard. Security also remains an obstacle in doing business with regards to theft, crime and violence in the nation as a whole. The health of our workforce also decreases our competitiveness. The report also touched on the state of the infrastructure, and that while it is improving; it still has a way to go.
However, as the minister of Tourism, Mr van Schalkwyk recently stated at the Indaba Tourism, "The tough times are not yet over. The Euro-zone remains in crisis, and some traditional markets remain subdued. Shell-shocked consumers are more value-conscious than ever before. We must keep our eyes on ever-changing consumer preferences, diversify products, maintain excellent service, innovate distribution channels, and ensure we deliver value for money."
EXSA, being at the forefront of the industry, is looking at the challenges of the exhibition industry and South Africa and promoting not only astounding service and service delivery, but also in job creation, better security and helping increase the competitiveness of the country as it can only improve our society.
"We are delighted that the first half of this year is seemingly on an upward growth-path and that the future of our industry looks most positive" concludes Walker, "exhibitions should be seen as a strong marketing opportunity that not only increases the GDP of our country but strongly maintains that best of all form of communication - face-to-face marketing".