Despite the touted immense benefits to the economy that the Global Expo brings with it to Botswana, ordinary citizens feel locked out of the annual event that changed structure, appearance and management since four years ago.
Global Expo, currently on at Ditshupo Hall and in its fourth edition, was born out of the long-standing Botswana International Trade Fair (BITF) that had made an indelible mark in the annual calendar of the ordinary citizens of all ages and social standing.
Since the phasing out of BITF and the advent of the Consumer Fair, which comes around the same time that BITF used to come and Global Expo that comes around this time of the year, the event enthusiasts have become as equally confused as the elite.
The Consumer Fair, as with BITF, was left the responsibility of Fairground Holdings while Global Expo was made the responsibility of the Botswana Export Development and Investment Authority (BEDIA) ÔÇô an arm of government, tasked with luring foreign direct investment as well as the setting up of exporting industries in Botswana.
Global Expo is meant to be the country’s premier international business to business exhibition.
The acting CEO of BEDIA, Brian Mosenene, is mean with figures or does not know the exact statistics brought about as a result of Global Expo, all he could say was that deals worth P50 million were clinched last year and there is hope that this figure could be surpassed by about P10 million this year.
Unlike the all-encompassing BITF, the effect on the economy was felt instantly with hawkers and vendors revitalised, thereby spinning millions of Pula in a few days as well as the creation of temporary jobs. At Global Expo, it is just business to business meetings and deals which are not conclusive at the venue. They have to be followed up and it is not all of them that fall through.
In its fourth edition, the feeling among many is that it was high time BEDIA gave a comprehensive report on the state of investment born out of Global Expo, into whose execution the government is pumping a lot of money.
Global Expo has locked out a myriad of show zealots who have found themselves in the lurch due to the mix of the exhibitions and the packages that do not favour the ordinary show visitor. Government says this was a deliberate move to make the event have a long term benefit to the economy than just a show.
As a result of this split, local businesses especially in the retail sector have also decided to sit on the fence; they are not exhibiting at both the Consumer Fair and Global Expo.
“We are neither here nor there. We don’t think small retail businesses like us will achieve anything by going into either of the exhibitions because it has split people,” said one Indian businessman who refused to be named.
A visit to Global Expo has revealed that the so-called local exhibitors are mainly government agencies and parastatals and a few local private companies.
A local economic consultant, Keith Jefferis, said he could not comment on the economic benefits of BITF and Global Expo because he had not attended this year’s edition of Global Expo.
Equally, the Consumer Fair has failed to attract the masses that used to patronise the BITF.
“The mix of both profiles in BITF went a long way in benefiting all and sundry in quite a comprehensive way and now I do not even know where to take my family; it looks like there is nothing interesting for the family visitor like me,” said Bakang Kontle, who resides by the nearby suburb of Bontleng.