From 1 to 4 November UFI will stage its 84th Global Congress in Johannesburg. The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry and local host Expo Centre are expecting around 400 delegates.
After Casablanca (1960) and Cairo (2003), the most important UFI event will be coming to Africa for the third time. “When we made the award decision two years ago, Johannesburg was one bidder among many,” says UFI Managing Director Kai Hattendorf. “There was a broad consensus that it was time to take our congress to Africa again.” The decision was an easy one, also because South Africa has the most highly developed exhibitions market on the continent. And the fact that the event is being hosted in “Joburg” raises hopes for a further boost to South Africa’s exhibition sector. A kind of blueprint already exists: “When we staged the event in Bogota three years ago, many people hardly gave Colombia a passing thought,” recalls Kai Hattendorf. “So it was quite an eye opener for many UFI members and generated many positive impacts,” he refers to the cooperation between Koelnmesse and Corferias, among other things.
As UFI members show a great interest in Africa, an “Africa Focus Session” is on the agenda of the annual UFI congress. After all, the “African Spirit” is an exciting mix of pragmatism and innovation. This session is to communicate knowledge and offer an opportunity to establish relevant contacts with Africa. It will provide insights into the African business world – both the myths and realities and risks and opportunities. There will be discussions on whether Africa is really a united continent and open for business, and about whether infrastructure and partnerships are barriers or opportunities. “This focus on Africa as a topic is a novelty,” points out Hattendorf. “In the past we didn’t always have the space for regional issues like this at our global event.” But this time it became possible because additional slots were created. “Internal meetings and special events like the XChange Sessions will already take place on Wednesday and, for the first time, we will also be opening up Friday afternoon with the Africa Focus Session,” explains Kai Hattendorf. “So, in total, we are offering almost a full day of additional content.”
Hence, there will be more contents and even more networking opportunities at Sandton Convention Centre just outside Johannesburg. The “Special Interest Group Sessions”, which were very successful in 2016, will also be continued. This year’s themes include “Large Venues”, “Government Pavilions”, “Digital Disruption” and “Human Resources”. Moreover, the current UFI Award winners will present their cutting-edge solutions. There will also be a panel session on changing formats. “Face-to-Face is growing compared to other marketing instruments,” observes Kai Hattendorf. “The ability to adapt to customer expectations was and always will be the strong point of fairs.” Currently, some sectors are under noticeable pressure to change. “For example, this leads to new hall layout plans, new dates or even completely new formats.” These measures are to improve the prospects of success, according to the headline motto of the congress programme for Johannesburg: “Raising the Odds.” (www.ufi.org).
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