What lessons from the past 12 months will you bring with you into this role as UFI President?
The Johannesburg Expo Centre (JEC) hosted the Global Congress in 2017 and has benefitted from UFI membership since January 2010. It is a great honour to have been nominated as the first African UFI President and, from our region’s perspective, it is a huge step forward.
In my role as incoming UFI President over the last 12 months, I have understood that I will be representing not only the Middle East and Africa but also UFI on a global scale. Effective communication skills and diplomacy, together with high commitment to the UFI association and our strategy (Promote, Inform and Network) will be crucial in my role as the 2019 UFI President.
What does it mean to you personally to become the first African UFI President?
From talking to past UFI Presidents, I can see that chairing this wonderful association has been a highlight of their lives, and it most certainly is something very special for me. It really is an honour to have been selected and I intend to fulfil my presidential tasks, represent the association in all official activities, and be invested with full power to do so. And just as every president brings a special perspective from their nation’s heritage and culture, so will I with my own history and experiences. There is lots of room for Africa to grow in the exhibition industry, as we demonstrated with the Global Congress last November in Johannesburg.
Tell us a little bit about you as a person?
I’m a father of three, an outdoors person and I love to travel. I keep fit and enjoy running marathons when I get the chance. I love what I do and I get to meet interesting people all the time and work with a fantastic team. But spending time with friends and family is really what it’s all about.
When your appointment was announced last year, Dr Andreas Gruchow, who was UFI President at that time, described you as ‘a man of action’. What action can we expect during your presidency?
He’s right, but I’m also a ‘man of passion’. Because whatever you do, you must be passionate about it if you want to do it right. My first objective is to make sure that I represent the UFI association and its values entirely. I will also make sure that the Middle East and Africa, which represent great potential for any exhibitor, are involved in the exhibition industry on a global scale. In recent months, we have been able to bring in a new UFI Regional Manager for the Middle East and Africa, working out of the office in Dubai. We are planning to hold a regional conference next spring, and we have discussed and decided on an action plan for the region. I am excited to drive this region’s presence forward for UFI.
How would you describe Africa’s current standing in the global exhibition world? How will you build on this?
There is a lot of untapped market potential. Africa is rising, and many international organisers are doing great business there already. South Africa is the leading market. According to the latest UFI Barometer, around 70% of South African exhibition companies expect to significantly grow their revenues in the first half of 2019, and 40% expect their profits to increase by over 10% this year.
But Africa is not one single market – it’s 54 countries in three major areas. Apart from South Africa, in Sub-Saharan Africa, our industry is still in development. And in the Maghreb and Egypt, you have a number of destinations and cities with well-established exhibitions and business events.
I invite all organisers from the region to use UFI to connect with their international peers, and all international organisers to also look at other developing markets in Africa – there is a lot happening in Egypt and Nigeria, for example.