Foreign investors and local entrepreneurs defied the numerous challenges besetting the nation’s economy to grace the just concluded Lagos International Trade Fair (LITF), thereby helping to restore the economy to the path of growth.
This year’s fair, which started on Nov. 2 and ended on Nov.11, attracted foreign exhibitors from 16 countries namely; China, Japan, India, Indonesia, Ghana, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Turkey, Cameroon, Kenya, and Singapore. Other countries at the fair were: Jamaica, Republic of Benin, South Africa and the European Union.
A total of 1,815 exhibitors, comprising 1,570 local and 245 foreign exhibitors attended this year’s fair.
Mr Adetokunbo Agbede, General Manager, Erisco Foods, said the company was at the fair to promote its various products fortified with vitamins and minerals for a healthy and nutritious meals.
Agbede said visitors to the company’s pavilion at the fair purchased the products and other brands of the company at discounted prices. Also, Veana Nednyhaico-Ucer from Ukraine Chambers of Commerce, said she was a first time exhibitor and came for a feasibility study of the country in order to facilitate future business transactions with Nigerians.
According to her, Nigeria happens to be the biggest country in West Africa with people who had huge business acumen and hoped to give a report of proceedings at the fair to the Ukrainian Government.
“This is a place we can share business ideas. This is a place we can market Ukrainian products. We manufacture a lot of goods. We have so much electrical products, raw materials for further production and what we need is a market for them,” she said.
Nednyhaico-Ucer noted that the trade fair was a platform to boost economic ties between Nigeria and Ukraine, adding that many Nigerians studied in Ukraine and in 2018, no fewer than 4,000 Nigerians graduated from various Ukrainian tertiary institutions.
Mr Chris Igbokwe, General Manager, Grands Products, said there was need for the Federal Government to stimulate economic growth with positive policies and initiatives that would attract more exhibitors and investors to the fair.
“When we started attending the fair in the 90s, there is no European country that would not take a stand, you will see their flags and feel their presence all over the place, but now most of them do not come again,” he said.
He urged the chamber to collaborate more with chambers of Commerce in other West African countries to attract more attendees from there, and also improve its publicity strategy, especially for the business to business (B2B) meetings at subsequent fairs.
The Trade Commissioner, Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO), Shigeyo Nishizawa, noted that as the Nigerian economy continued to rebound, investors were keen to enter and expand their business in the biggest market on the African continent.
“Since 2014, JETRO has been organising Japan Pavilion at Lagos International Trade Fair. Within one of the biggest pavilions at the fair this year, Japanese firms and their local distributors have brought in more than 33 Japanese brands to fascinate Nigerians,” he said.
He stressed that JETRO would continue to promote trade and investment between Japan and Nigeria toward boosting mutual economic growth.
The annual 10-day exhibition has gradually become an avenue for unemployed youths, dancers, disc jockeys, clowns, comedians and mascots, to render quick services and get rewarded in cash.
However, the 2018 fair which is the 32nd edition holds mixed feelings for exhibitors and visitors due to the chamber’s ban on use of public address system and music gadgets at the fair to check noise pollution.
Some of them attributed the cause of low patronage to the ban of music on the fairground, others said music would likely attract more visitors, enliven the atmosphere and boost patronage.
Yet, others said the ban had greatly improved effective communication between exhibitors and would be clients, adding that it reflected its true meaning of an international fair and had positive impact on business promotion.
LITF has been held on the first Friday in November every year since 1981, until the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), took over the organisation of the fair in 1986.
In recognition of its importance and benefits as a platform for promoting businesses, especially Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) which constitutes the bedrock of economic growth, exhibitors and visitors, both local and international participate at the fair.
Mr Babatunde Ruwase, President, LCCI, noted that the 2018 fair with the theme; “Connecting businesses, creating value” was a platform to share knowledge, showcase ingenuity and creativity, deepen competitiveness through partnerships and boost economic growth.
Ruwase said values were made when businesses connected and LITF provided the platform to identify these alternatives and exposed the opportunities that abound in value addition to enhance earning and profitability.
The President noted that globalisation had made it imperative for businesses to connect, which was what the trade fair represented and the chamber strove towards its actualisation through its advocacies and programmes.
Also, Mrs Olayinka Oladunjoye, Lagos State Commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives, stressed that the state was paying special attention to MSMEs and was committed to support them to success through its various programmes, policies and initiatives.
To show its support, the commissioner said the state annually provided free space to MSMEs to exhibit their products within the Lagos State pavilion at the fair.
Oladunjoye said the opportunity given the MSMEs would stimulate demand for their products, facilitate inflow of capital through exposures and networking, boost productivity, employment and profitability.
The commissioner said the state was well-positioned to harness its strengths and potential, and aimed to connect businesses by encouraging investors to leverage and identify synergies that added value to them.
The LCCI President, in his closing remarks, expressed satisfaction with the participation of many corporate bodies, government agencies, states and MSMEs from various sectors of the economy, in spite of the challenging infrastructure and business environment.
Ruwase said the turnout demonstrated their confidence in the nation’s economy, urging the government to tackle impediments to investments, especially infrastructure, security, policy frameworks, quality of institutions and funding.
He commended the disposition of government toward creating enabling environment for the organised private sector to thrive. Ruwase disclosed that the 2019 edition of the fair would hold on Nov. 1 to Nov.10.