Hosted by the Islamic Centre for Development of Trade (ICDT), the UFI Open Seminar in Africa was held March 23-25 in Marrakech, Morocco. UFI is the association of the world’s leading tradeshow organizers and exhibition center operators as well as the major national and international exhibition associations, and selected partners of the exhibition industry.
A major UFI event for the region, this year’s annual seminar brought together exhibition industry professionals, both members and non-members, from 15 countries. This first UFI meeting for many years in the Maghreb countries attracted CEOs, decision makers and industry professionals from the Middle East and Europe, in addition to Africa.
“ICDT is very happy and proud to join efforts with UFI the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry in bringing this important event to Morocco for the first time,” Dr. El Hassan Hzaine, director general, ICDT, said in opening the seminar. “Such meetings are special occasions for Moroccan industry leaders and professionals to meet their counterparts from world over.”
Positive feedback showed that the content of the seminar met delegates’ expectations with the theme “Exhibitions in North Africa: today and tomorrow.” Industry experts and decision makers from Morocco, Tunisia and Libya delivered informative presentations, reviewing the current exhibition scene in Maghreb countries and outlining the market potential in a promising but challenging part of the world.
Aziz Alami Gouraftei, director general, Office of Fairs and Exhibitions, emphasized that the government of Morocco is supporting the exhibition sector, ensuring strong and sustainable economic growth, creating wealth and at the same time backing the social development process of the country.
“The sectors that generate most events are the ones most present in the structure of GDP,” he said, describing examples from Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
Gouraftei mentioned that Casablanca currently has the lion’s share of the Moroccan exhibition industry, which accounts for 75 percent of the business in the country.
According to Besma Hmaidi, marketing consultant, GECO EXPO, the strong economy in Tunisia boosts consumer shows. She confirmed that following the Jasmine revolution, a political uprising in Tunisia that forced out President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011, the sector in Tunisia is in a transitional phase.
Attendees also witnessed business adaptation in difficult times by Damian Casapinta, general manager, Casapinta Design Group. He shared how ATEX, a private organizer, succeeded in setting up a temporary exhibition venue to host an international show in Libya during an unstable period.
“There is a growing interest in North Africa among UFI members as we could see from the fact that industry leaders from 15 countries joined us for this meeting in Marrakech,” concluded Paul Woodward, UFI Managing Director and the seminar moderator. “We were particularly pleased to make closer contact with our hosts, the Islamic Centre for the Development of Trade, an important facilitator of trade and business in 57 countries. We have started some interesting discussions on education and research, which we look forward to continuing.”
Key supporters of the Open Seminar in Africa were UFI’s Diamond Sponsors: the Global Experience Specialists and Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau, the UFI Regional Host Expo Centre Sharjah and the seminar’s Gold Sponsor Riyadh International Convention & Exhibition Centre.
For more information, visit ufi.org/marrakech2015