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Uganda: Reaping From Trade Shows

Friday, October 24, 2014 > 09:27:32

(All Africa)

Over the past week, thousands of people have thronged Lugogo in Kampala to take part in the annual Uganda International Trade Fair (UGITF), which is organized by the Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA). More than 20 years after the first show was held, UMA has continued to organize the event to enable technology transfer, offer business opportunities, and a platform for business networking for industrialists, manufacturers and the entire business community from Uganda and the East and Central African region and beyond.

Organizers are positive that the event avails opportunities to the business community, foreign manufacturers, Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), public/private sector organizations and institutions to showcase their products and services, innovations and to forge business partnerships.

Stemming from a humble background with 220 exhibitors in 1992, the fair has continued to grow both in popularity and participation. Sebaggala Kigozi, the executive director of UMA, says the show started as floats to spice up events to celebrate Uganda's Independence on October 9 every year. Back then, members would get two or more lorries that were well-decorated with various product logos and move them in a convoy to where Independence celebrations would be held. Of course the exhibition would sometimes go unnoticed by some members of the public while the few who noticed failed to understand the logic behind such a move.

However with the growing number of manufacturers and need to exhibit to a bigger audience, manufacturers sought to hold the show at Lugogo for at least seven days.

The rest, as they say, is now history as the exhibition has become an annual highlight; bringing together manufacturers and service providers from around the world. Sebaggala notes that the UGITF has no doubt advanced Uganda's economy in terms of improving competitiveness, product quality and brand recognition both locally and internationally.

"People continue to see value in Ugandan products, which paves way for brand building and it is through such trade opportunities that Africa gets most of its state of the art goods. Clearly, international trade flourishes when countries relate well with each other," says Sebaggala.

Growing interest:

In 2013, the show attracted 1,250 exhibitors of which 475 were foreign from 22 countries, while 178,623 visitors attended the show.

UMA Board Chairperson Amos Nzeyi told The Independent that over the years many of their members have come to appreciate the importance of the event and the number of both exhibitors and show goers is expected to grow even bigger this year.

"Trade shows and exhibitions can be an excellent way to promote your business and the products and services that business partners offer. With such a platform, we expect more than 2,000 exhibitors for the 2014 UGITF," said Nzeyi.

Statistics from UMA indicate that last year, 10 - 15% of the exhibitors were service providers in the fields of banking and finance, telecommunications, education and ICT, among others.

As a boost to the economy, Sebaggala says the event has in the last years provided a unique platform for marketing products and services and enabled participants from overseas to introduce new and improved technologies on the Ugandan and East African markets. Indeed, research has shown that it pays to get involved in a trade exhibition like UGITF.

Data from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) indicates that 88% of visitors at a trade show usually haven't been seen by a member of a company's sales staff in the past year, and 70% plan to buy one or more products. On average, 76% of attendees ask for quotes and 26% end up signing purchase orders. At least 72% of visitors say the show influences their buying decisions.

Indeed, Nice House of Plastics has used the fair as one of the vital arms that has kept the company a leader in the household plastics products category for the last 20 years. "People have continued to appreciate Ugandan products while others are triggered to start their own," an employee at the company's stall said.

The impacts of the trade show are unmistakable to members of Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Limited (UWEAL). Hope Kasimbazi, the publicity secretary, said business women who have been keen to exhibit at trade fairs such as UGITF have steadily moved to greater heights.

She said they are encouraging their 1,000 members of the association to take up such opportunities because the target is not only to sell at that particular time but to benchmark and get feedback from the consumers.

In his 2014 report on African Economic Outlook focusing on Uganda, Vera-Kintu Oling noted that Uganda has been relatively successful in tapping into a number of global value chains, such as floricultural and horticultural products. The growth prospects in these chains emanate from a number of sources including trade fairs like UGITF.

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