By JOHNMARK UKOKO
In few weeks time, the country will host three major “international trade fairs”, in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kano to promote trade and commerce in the various cities, as well as to boost the business fortunes of the local and international businessmen/ women who will grace the events.
While trade fairs in Europe and the United States of America are avenues for businesses in those climes to exhibit their latest products, machineries and services, as well as opportunity for visitors to such fairs to order for goods, latest inventions, books, machineries and latest brands about to make their ways to the market.
However, the reverse seems to be the case in Nigeria, as “trade fairs” are opportunity for local and international businessmen/ women who attend them to sell their products or services to the public perhaps at a discount as distributors and middlemen are eliminated. Nigerian trade fairs are opportunities for traders, hawkers and pick pockets alike to make brisk business.
The local banks also show their presence in the fair by taking deposits from the traders and providing strong rooms for the exhibitors to safe-guard their precious properties for the duration of the fairs. Due to the huge volume of cash generated at the local fairs, nearly all the local banks usually have strong presence, which provide avenue to canvass for new customers.
While Kano 2017 trade fair is the 38th edition of its yearly ritual, the event would take place between 21st November and 3rd December; the fair has as it theme,“ Reinvigoration of industries, small and medium scale enterprises : a key for effective development of Nigeria economy”. The 51st Lagos international trade fair will be held between 3rd November and 12th November at Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), Lagos.
The Port Harcourt international trade fair would take place in the mid December 2017 at the popular “Bori Park, Port Harcourt, Rivers State. The date was selected to enable Rivers and the people in that environs to do their Christmas shopping at the week-long event.
Nigerian businesses see trade fairs as time to sell off their old stocks directly to the end users, thereby eliminating middlemen / women, and by so doing would reduce the prices of the goods offered for sales at those fairs. It’s also an occasions to introduce latest products and services to the market.
The forthcoming three fairs are coming few months after Nigeria existed recession, which some respondents to BusinessHallmark inquiry say would witness more participation and visitors than the last two previous fairs held when the country was in deep recession.
On the purpose fairs, a former president of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Dr. Herbert Ajayi, said trade fairs are opportunity for local and international businessmen/ women to meet and exchange business information with a view of striking business deals.
He stressed that fairs are not supposed to be an avenue for selling and buying as we have it in Nigeria, adding that it’s an aberration for us to turn our trade fairs as occasions for selling and buying.
A businessman Mr. Maxwell Chidi , of Global Services International in a chat with Business Hallmark noted that in advanced economies of Europe and United States of America, fairs are held all year round, adding that firms have their permanent stands in the complexes where trade fairs are held. He added that since the firms have their permanent stands it makes it easy for them to showcase their latest inventions, products or brands to the visitors who grace such events.
“In most parts of Europe, fairs are held all year round. Businessmen have their permanent stands; this enables them to showcase their latest inventions or products for visitors to see.
“You don’t go to trade fairs abroad with intention to go there and buy or sell your products. You can only book for your orders which the company showcasing the items will ship to you in a later date, that will be weeks after the fairs,” he explained.
Chidi opined that the buying and selling culture of Nigerians is majorly responsible for our trade fairs being turn to a big market where trading takes place.
On purpose of fairs, he disclosed that it is an opportunity for industrialists, businessmen and traders to introduce their latest wares to the public. He added that the makers of items like laptops, tablets, handsets, wrist watches, vehicles, information technology apparatus and a host of other items use trade fairs to introduce such items to the public.
A business analyst Mr. Ezekiel Abel told BusinessHallmark said that very little would be achieve from the forth coming three international trade fairs, because, according to him, the country just exited recession, which dealt a big blow on the economic fortunes of both corporate institutions and individuals.
Abel disclosed that many local businesses are yet to find their bearings as a result of almost two years of a depressed economy, which will prevent them from having the funds which firms would have used to attend the trade fairs as was the case in the past years.
“We’re just existing recession. How many people have money to buy the items they need now? Some companies will just attend to show their minimal presence, they wouldn’t be able to do much as there is no money in the economy.
“Those companies that formally attend with their retune of their officials, have their special days where they will splash their products on visitors that visit their stands, may not observe those tradition for this year or simply cut down on the budget they will use for the fairs. No doubt, the government institutions will attend the three fairs but will not be able to spend money like before.
“Many of us are just struggling to provide foods on our tables, so where is the money to use to buy the latest items foreign businessmen will bring to the various fairs. Some people will just go to the fairs to do the shopping for their children for the coming yuletide.
Business Hallmark efforts to speak with the Public Relations Manager of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Mr. Segun to ascertain the numbers of foreign countries, foreign firms, local firms and states who have confirmed participation was abortive, as he neither pick his calls nor respond to the Short Message (SMS), send to his mobile numbers. While SMS send to the Director General of Lagos Chamber of Commerce Mr. Muda Yusuf was not attended to before going to the press.
However, an official of the chamber said over 13 states and 29 various countries attended the 2016 edition, which attracted many local and foreign companies as well.
On when the chamber hopes to return to the permanent site at the Trade fair complex, he said the chamber is following the development concerning the issue of the government revocation of the complex to the former concessioner.
It would be recalled that apart from the above three fairs, Kaduna Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Enugu Chamber of Commerce and Industry also stage international fairs early in the year making it five international fairs held in the country with countless others domestic ones.
A respondent Mr. Adebola Anibaba in a chat with Business Hallmark disclosed that the organizers of Lagos International trade fair has not been able to address the issue of crowds, pick pockets, theft and loud noise at the fair complex. Also, the chamber has not been able to provide a stable electric power supply, forcing each exhibitor to provide their alternative private source of power, making the complex a huge noise arena.
Also the issue of public toilets, ticketing and entry and exit out of the trade fair grounds has become an issue every year, while the vehicles that visit the grounds yearly pose traffic menace to the officials of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA).