Suzette Scheepers, head of Messe München South Africa, explains how trade fairs can bring international business together with African players.
MM | How developed is the SA trade fair market?
Suzette Scheepers | Trade fairs are increasingly seen as the marketing platforms with the greatest impact in South Africa—particularly in niche sectors where solutions need to be demonstrated, and where one-on-one B2B meeting opportunities are available. However, trade fairs here typically draw smaller, market-focused crowds than their counterparts in North America and Europe. This is due to smaller populations and vast geographic areas for delegates to cover in order to attend.
What does Suzette Scheepers find most exciting? Being able to reach way beyond actual visitors with an extended media and social media campaign.
MM | Yes, Africa is huge!
Scheepers | That’s why trade fairs are effective. Travel across Africa can be costly, complex, and time consuming, and securing meetings with the right decision-makers, challenging. We bring together decision-makers from across Africa under one roof so foreign players can access them directly—in an environment conducive to business discussions. Don’t forget, networking and building relationships play a crucial role in business cultures in Africa.
MM | What do participation figures tell you about market growth?
Scheepers | We’ve seen an increase both in international exhibitors and pan-African visitors. This indicates growing international interest in expansion into the pan-African market; while at the same time, pan-African stakeholders are seeking out the most advanced solutions to address their challenges.
Advanced technologies can help Africa leapfrog into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.Suzette Scheepers, head of Messe München South Africa
MM | Lets look at those challenges. How do you address them?
Scheepers | All our trade fairs—Air Cargo Africa, analytica Lab Africa, food & drink technology Africa, IFAT Africa and bauma CONEXPO AFRICA—are in key growth areas. For example, with a fast-growing population of 1.2 billion expected to double by 2050, pan-Africa plans to invest heavily in infrastructure development. This includes urban development, communications infrastructure, industrial development parks, pan-African logistics corridors, water and waste management infrastructure and power infrastructure. The continent’s decision-makers often face budget constraints, however, therefore they are keen to explore advanced new solutions that can deliver results faster, more efficiently and more cost effectively.
MM | One major challenge is water management. How is IFAT Africa addressing this?
Scheepers | Experts have warned repeatedly of a looming water crisis in South Africa, where over three million people cannot access a clean water supply and 14.1 million do not have safe sanitation. In addition, 56 percent of all wastewater treatment works and 44 percent of water treatment works in South Africa have been categorized as in a poor or critical condition, while 11 percent are described as dysfunctional. Public and private sector stakeholders alike have expressed deep concern about this situation and are actively seeking solutions. Elsewhere in Africa, climate change is exacerbating water scarcity, making it increasingly important for countries to treat and manage the available water resources effectively. By bringing together the public and private-sector stakeholders for in-depth knowledge sharing, and by presenting advanced technologies from around the world, IFAT Africa serves to spark debate and help stakeholders find solutions. Many academics, government officials, and private-sector stakeholders attend IFAT with a view to finding solutions.
MM | You had an 83 percent increase in visitors to IFAT Africa 2019. What was behind that?
Scheepers | Our pre-event marketing and social media campaigns raised awareness by focusing on expert opinions around the challenges and solutions; and our conference offered compelling discussions on the water and waste issues. This saw 172 exhibitors from 19 nations and 3,302 visitors from South Africa, Botswana, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tunisia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe participate.
MM | A key focus in bauma CONEXPO AFRICA is exchanging information. Why is this so important?
Scheepers | Africa has a fast-growing and rapidly urbanizing population. A key challenge is the development of modern, high-density, and low-cost housing, and the infrastructure to support rapid urbanization. With no time to waste in addressing these challenges, stakeholders benefit from high-level knowledge sharing on a platform that allows them to learn from others who have overcome similar challenges, and to discover solutions from around the world.
“Networking and relationship building play a crucial role in business cultures across Africa” – Suzette Scheepers
MM | The bauma supporting program includes topics such as smart construction and 3-D-printed excavators. How applicable are such futuristic scenarios for Africa?
Scheepers | Africa is particularly interested in adopting advanced technologies that allow it to leapfrog directly into the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In banking and telecommunications, Africa has often led the world in terms of its digital innovations.
MM | This year, you held IFAT, food & drink technology Africa and analytica Lab Africa simultaneously. Why?
Scheepers | The water and waste, analytics, and food & drink sectors overlap in a number of areas: Analytics is harnessed in the food industry, waste and water management impacts food production, and analytics is crucial for the waste and water sectors. Post-event surveys at previous food & drink technology Africa and IFAT Africa events found that food & drink technology Africa participants wanted to see more about testing, water, pumps, waste treatment, and recycling, while analytica Lab Africa participants wanted access to new markets across all sectors. The co-location allowed for knowledge sharing and product discovery across the sectors, and proved beneficial to all three events. It also boosted all three events in terms of exhibitor and visitor numbers. Together, the events occupied 183,000 square feet spread over four halls and an outdoor exhibition area. In total, 385 exhibitors presented their solutions and products to 8,324 visitors across the three shows.
We are constantly seeking ways to innovate to deliver even more value.Suzette Scheepers
MM | So who is Suzette Scheepers? What drives you as a leader?
Scheepers | South Africans are typically deeply invested in our nation’s development and success. To inspire my team to deliver the best possible outcomes, which ultimately enable economic growth for our country and the continent as a whole, is very gratifying.
MM | What excites you about the trade fair industry?
Scheepers | This industry—as with all industries—is undergoing dramatic change, driven by digital progress. We are now able to add value for our exhibitors and visitors by using innovative new digital technologies to share information and enrich the exhibition experience. Staying abreast of new trends to constantly improve our exhibitor and visitor experience is an exciting challenge!
MM | And your secrets of success?
Scheepers | We believe every successful event can be improved upon next time, so we are constantly seeking ways to innovate to deliver even more value. With our extended media and social media campaign for each event, we are able to extend reach well beyond actual visitors. We have also accumulated valuable experience from Germany, China, and India in the organization and staging of trade fairs. Last, but not least, we are a small but efficient team! We work closely with a network of partners and specialists, and in our region, we are well known for our personal support and attention to detail.
By Vicki Sussens. The article was first published in our Messe München Magazine 02/2019.
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