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Global financial meltdown dampaned business confidence, LCCI

Why are you here today?  
  Usually at this time in the year, we go round media houses to solicit support to help sensitise the society at large as to what we are doing with regards to the Annual Lagos International Trade Fare; We have started the same thing this year, after the launching of the prospectus which kick-started the trade fair event, we go round like we are here today.

If  I may take us back memory lane, the trade fair used to be organised by the Federal Ministry of Commerce and Industry until 1986 when it was formally handed over to the private sector by the Federal Government. As you may be aware, Lagos Chamber of  Commerce and Industry is the premier chamber not only in Nigeria but in the sub-region. We have been organising this fair since 1986 and to God be the glory, it has always been a successful fair. In order not to have a different story this time around, we said we should go round to let the different stakeholders know what we are trying to do.

What is new about the fair?
 This year, some things are being put in place that we need to draw public attention to, that you need to bring to the attention of the business community at large. This year’s fair has as its theme: Promoting Business Confidence to Enhance Economic Recovery. This theme came about when we considered the development in the economy both locally and internationally and we believe that with the global financial melt down, the business confidence in Nigeria is somehow at its lowest. We now thought the best way we can promote it or enhance it is through this trade fair which will be like an opportunity for business people to come round to see that after all there is light at the end of the tunnel. This year’s fair is going to be different when compared to the previous years’.
 
It is going to be substantially an indoor exhibition. When you look at the trade fair complex, we have facilities that we have not been using in the past which we want to put to full use this time around. That is, the halls. There are these halls that have been wasting away and if you will recollect, sometime ago, the Federal Government concessioned out this edifice to a private sector operator – Hulic Nigeria Limited – to ensure that these facilities are in top condition for a hitch-free exhibition. At this year’s fair, we are going to try to employ state-of-the-art technology for space allocation, because we realise in the past it was one of the challenges exhibition faced.

 What we are looking at is since it is going to be substantially an indoor exhibition, we are planning to upload the available space such  that exhibitors can pick their spaces on line and make payments which we believe as from 1st of July, exhibitors can easily log on to Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry website to make this booking. At the same time, we are looking at the security situation like we’ve had in the past, we have an arrangement with a private security outfit, with the Nigeria Police and the Military to provide us security for the exhibitors and visitors.

 We give thanks to God that since we’ve been having the fair, we have not had any incident in the past and we do not want this to be an exception, so that is why we are having this security arrangement .

    In addition to the normal human physical presence, we are looking at CCTV coverage for the exhibition ground at strategic locations, we’ve been having it for the past three, four years such that events at the fair can be well captured and recorded . We do not pray for anything but in case of any incidence, you can be very sure that we have somewhere to refer to the local channel what is happening. These are some of the things we are planing to do this year.

Why the involvement of  the army in security arrangement?
Well, the need for the army, you know where the fair is located is within the vicinity of the military cantonment, we normally have intrusion from some military personnel, so we make this arrangement to take care of such breaches from the military personnel.

Lagos international trade fair by definition has dropped in standard compared to when it started. What is responsible for this?  

  The number one question about the dwindling fortune of the fair. If I may capture it that way. That is, what we met during the first generation of the fair is not what it is right now. I want to believe it is the situation of Nigeria. Nigeria of 1986 is not the Nigeria of today. When it comes to standard in everything we do, we are trying to see how we can re-invent the fair. There is no doubt about the fact that it is the same in every thing we do in the country, that is the true situation. It is true  that the situation in Nigeria in 1986 is better than what we have today even in other things we do in Nigeria, no dispute about that but we are trying to see how we can get back to that glorious period.          
            
Parking space for exhibitors and visitors is usually a problem during the fair, how are you handling this?
    The issue of parking, we have always been having the challenge; when people get to that vicinity they do not get to the fair arena before they start looking for parking space.

But what we are planning to do this year is right from the gate, directional signs will be put in place to show you that you have not gotten to the location because if you look at the environment, you have so many activities going on there, you have the ASPAMDA traders, you have the Balogun business people. These are large concentration of people that merely seeing them you will think that the trade fair is where you have already gotten to. Even when you go there today, you will think that a trade fair is ongoing there. So what we are planning to do is have directional signs because our own parking area is within the trade fair arena itself not just the trade fair complex, the complex is a very large area.

Companies hold some kind of jamboree during the fair, is that with your consent?
    The evening Jamboree, the dancing by the breweries is a challenge we have been facing. We cannot say that the breweries should not participate in the fair, what we have managed to do is to take them on outside the main exhibition ground and create a separate arena for them. That is what we are planning to do. We attempted doing it last year, I think we were able to achieve some sanity.  I believe this year we are likely to improve on what we used to see. We really appreciate the concern observed about the fair ground itself, the kind of noise we have, some sort of noise pollution, environmental pollution, these are things we are worried about that we are working on as well.
          
After a major fair, some  other kind of fairs hold on the trade fair ground, is that part of your arrangement as most of them are usually not successful?
    You said immediately after the Lagos International Trade fair there used to be other fair or fairs. Yes, it was precisely what the complex was meant for to host not just one trade fair in a year. It is supposed to host an all year-round events, various ones but because of the situation in the country, that is why it appears as if it is only the International Trade fair that is taking place there. The one you referred to was the one put together by the Ministry of Commerce which was meant to be for the region, they called it ECOWAS trade exhibition. They attempted it twice or three times and it failed, that is why they had to withdraw and then they stopped. The concessioner himself has attempted organising several exhibitions since he took over, it has not been easy getting through. We are not in any way involved in any of those ones.

Your chamber is still organising general  fairs  while the trend now is specialised fairs, when are you going to key into this global trend?
    The issue of specialised fairs, yes we have it in our programme. We have a committee for that and one such specialised fairs is coming up in July – Food and Drink Exhibition -being organised by a committee within the  trade fair group. We have been attempting this and I think we have had about two or three in the recent past. The only difference is that its was not as large as the Lagos International Trade Fair and we do not normally go about it like we are going about this one, it’s in our programme. We do it but we call it solo exhibition.
  
Fairs these days are meant for display of new designs  for investors and importers to get a glimpse of new trends and make orders, but here we do sales at the fair. Why are we different?

    On the issue of whether at our trade fairs people should sell or buy and things of that nature, I beg to disagree with some respect. We have been organising trade fairs, we did not call it trade exhibition, it is a trade fair and check it up anywhere trade fairs are held, companies make sales.  We have attended several fairs outside the country. I have bought at a German trade fair, I have bought in a Chinese fair, I have bought in Italy at their trade fairs. When you are attending an exhibition, it is different from when you are attending a trade fair.


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