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From 3rd to 6th October the much expected Africa Sourcing and Fashion week will be carried out in Addis Ababa Millennium Hall gathering notable world companies in textile, garment, apparel, and fashion. Fistum Arega , Commissioner of Ethiopia investment Commission, said on the press conference which was held at Golden Tulip Hotel last Thursday ‘’ We build parks which have a total investment of more than USD 4.2 billion and the Sourcing and Fashion week will help us show the world what we are doing . This event will attract investors and allow us to learn something from the participants.’’ The trade show happening for the third time here in Addis is organized by Messe Frankfurt, a renowned event organizer in Germany. Stakeholders from Ethiopian government give big hands in collaboration with the organizers. Skander Negasi is the CEO of Trade and Fairs Consulting at Messe Frankfurt. Now he is busy carrying out many activities for the Africa Sourcing and Fashion week.
Skander Negasi has grown up in Germany and has studied Economics in Frankfurt. He has been working with Siemens Automotive before he started his career with Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH – world´s largest trade show organization. In his first position, he has been in charge of the automotive shows. Later he moved to another position as a director for the world´s leading home textile show called “Heimtextil”. Since 2010, Skander Negasi overlooks all Messe Frankfurt activities in the East and Central African Market, as CEO of his company called “Trade and Fairs Group”. Trade and Fairs Group represents more than 600 exhibitions of the high end German Trade Show companies in the African region. At Tthe same time, Trade and Fairs Group organizes high level international trade exhibitions & conferences such as AFRICA SOURCING AND FASHION WEEK. The company advises African governments on setting up high standard exhibition companies as well as venue management. The regional office of Trade and Fairs Group called Trade and Fair East Africa is located in Nairobi / Kenya. The Kenyan office organizes five annual shows in Nairobi. The company does not have an office in Ethiopia but works with a local partner.
Capital Reporters’ Tesfaye Getnet sat down with Skander Negasi to learn more about Messe Frankfurt and their upcoming event Africa Sourcing and Fashion week. Excerpts

 

Capital: Could you briefly tell us what Messe Frankfurt does in Germany and around the world?

Skander Negasi: Messe Frankfurt is the world’s largest trade fair, congress and event organiser with its own exhibition grounds. The Group employs more than 2,300 people in30 locations around the globe. In 2016, Messe Frankfurt organised no fewer than 417 trade fairs, congresses and other events for its customers. These events are “touchpoints” for the sectors, bringing together supply and demand, business partners and customers, and trends and markets. This means that Messe Frankfurt’s worldwide events are a constant indicator for innovations stemming from the realms of business, science, technology and design. The Messe Frankfurt expertise Network is a combination of the world’s most important textile trade fairs. At about 50 events across the world Messe Frankfurt shows what is driving the industry. A total of 19,500 exhibitors and 477,000 visitors from all points of the globe are attracted by the latest themes, trends and contacts. In Frankfurt, Paris, Shanghai, Moscow, New York and elsewhere we provide from impetus to the entire textile value added chain. We are happy to come to Addis Ababa as the only African city as a premium destination under the umbrella of AFRICA SOURCING AND FASHION WEEK (ASFW).

Skander Negasi
Skander Negasi

Capital: What are the major activities  will carried out in Africa Sourcing and Fashion week ?

Skander Negasi: Africa Sourcing and Fashion Week (ASFW) is Africa´s biggest exhibition & conference for the textile and apparel industry and its taking place in Addis Abeba for the third time. It consists of an international exhibition with over 240 famous international exhibitors from over 27 countries, a high level conference program with over 60 speakers, B2B meetings and a Designer Showcase. We are proud to announce that we have the footwear industry on board for the first time this year. With our partners MADE BY ETHIOPIA, we have started to showcase Ethiopian footwear excellence for the international sourcing market.

Capital:  How will Ethiopia really  benefit from the Africa Sourcing and Fashion week ?

Skander Negasi: This major event will have a huge impact on the Ethiopian textile and apparel market. We are expecting international investors and sourcing groups from over 35 countries who do not only visit the event, but also book trips to various industrial parks, engage in B2B meetings and attend conferences to learn about East African investment opportunities. In addition, Addis Ababa will benefit through their activities in town. Various hotels are already fully booked out, restaurants will have new guests, and our carrier partner Ethiopian Airlines is flying them to Addis. We are speaking of about 3.500 trade visitors and over 240 exhibitors which have a team of over 500 persons. In total, Addis Ababa is taking care of over 4.000 people during a whole week.

Capital: There are only five or six African countries that will participate in the Africa Sourcing and Fashion week. Why are their numbers so small?

Skander Negasi: While we have all East African countries participating as exhibitors, we have confirmed visitors and delegations from West, North and Southern African market. The engagement of East Africans has to do with the manufacturing industry where East Africa is leading today. West Africa does not produce in mass today, and the Southern African countries are not competitive as well. While North Africa is producing high end outfits, it is more expensive than East Africa. Another reason is that the other regions have a different approach of marketing their countries. We are happy that the main important producers attend ASFW.

Capital: How do you see the  Ethiopian textile  industry in the next five years?

Skander Negasi: Ethiopian textile and garment industry has a fruitful future and a potential to be a giant in the manufacturing industry in Africa. To reach this goal it is important that the government support the investors concerning bureaucracy, foreign experts, visas and customs. It is tough to attract investors, but it tougher to keep them. For manufacturers it is of utmost importance that they can get in their machines easily and export their outfits on time. Custom has been an issue in the past, but we have been informed that the government is working hard to solve this.

Capital: You have carried out two trade shows here in Ethiopia. What are the major challenges you have faced so far in doing the trade fairs in Addis and What are your future plans regarding upgrading the Africa Sourcing and Fashion week?

Skander Negasi: Since we have started organizing ASFW two years ago, the collaboration is getting smoother every year. An annual challenge is getting exhibitor goods into the country and then getting them out again. This has to do with the quantity of permissions & documents they need. This topic has for sure space for improvement. We are working on solving these challenges in collaboration with the authorities. Another topic is the visa-issue. It would be good if Ethiopia finds a way to bring international exhibitors (for all kind of events), buyers and investors into the country with easier procedures. Those people are invited by all African countries, and therefore Ethiopia should make sure that they can get in the country without asking for invitation from a local partner. Most of them do not even have a local partner as they are coming to Ethiopia for the first time. To solve this, ASFW is proudly working with Ethiopia Investment Commission and the Immigration Authority. Both are of great help for ASFW.

Capital: Do you believe people are truly starting to realize the impact of textile manufacturing and clothing production on our planet?

Skander Negasi:  People’s minds have changed when it comes to textile and garment production. More and more buyers are now looking for sustainable manufacturing. They want to make sure that clothes they wear come from a good factory that treats their employee well, cope with environment standards and pay fair salary. I believe this will have an impact on the workers in the factories. You can already see this in many Ethiopian factories. Standards and rules are stacked on the wall, people go home on time, they have big canteens with different kind of foods, etc…

Capital: When you think of the future of fashion in Ethiopia, what do you envisage? Do you see the country embracing sustainable options in the near future?

Skander Negasi: I think the ball is in Ethiopia’s corner now. Everybody has an eye on this country. It is now on Ethiopia to make the best out of it. I think there is no better time than now where the main brands (who buy) and international investors are coming to “feel” Ethiopia. This country should not copy the Asian system where there is less standards and sustainability matters. It is key that Ethiopia shows the textile world that it has a different approach. The concerned authorities and partners are already working hard on this. Enterprise Partners and Ethiopia Investment Commission are working on future plans with the main international brands and sourcing groups

Capital: Do you think Africa has unique challenges in creating a sustainable fashion industry?

Skander Negasi: The biggest challenges in Africa are education, work skills, lack of funds and lack of government support. We have good factories which lack skilled labour. On the other side, we have very creative African designers who lack contacts and funds. Finally you have the factories which could produce more with more orders. But due to lack of foreign currency, they are not in a position to buy machines and other items. African textile industry needs a professional body which  brings these issues of all African countries on the table. Countries need to work together, so that Africa can be competitive with Asia and an interesting investment destination for the Western World.

Capital: There is a small number of international exhibition organizers here in Ethiopia, could you tell us some lessons that they should learn from Messe Frankfurt to do better jobs?

Skander Negasi: I think that the Ethiopian trade show organizers do a good job. Since as organizing an event in Ethiopia is a tough job, they need support from the government. It starts with permissions they need to organize every single exhibition each year. To get all permissions they need, they keep running from one ministry to the other, then to the city council, etc…. Then you have venue owners who keep pushing them to show all permissions. There is no other country in the world where you need so many permissions to organize an event. This is because some people do not understand the value and impact of an international exhibition for the country. Those organizers are bringing investors for the country and daily business for the city on the plate! No other business can bring so many investors and business people to the country in a few days at one place. I believe the concerned authorities have to change the rules of permission to motivate organizers to keep organizing more international events. The organizers should be in a position to concentrate fully on getting exhibitors and trade buyers, not on getting all documents. All neighbouring countries do not ask for a single document. You book a hall and organize a trade show. I think Ethiopia should adopt the same practice to be competitive within the region.

Capital: Anything you would like to add?

Skander Negasi: We are all grateful for the support we have received in the past and continue to receive now from all government bodies and local partners. We are all happy to work in a friendly atmosphere where everybody feels supported. Our network spanning over 150 countries is supporting this event while we are receiving support from our Ethiopian partners. We invite all trade people to come to Millennium Hall from 3rd until 6th October, engage in professional business and enjoy our friendly team onsite. We look forward to welcoming everybody to ASFW 2017.