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April 11, 2017
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Sub-Saharan Africa: AAXO Releases Industry Research Showing the Far-reaching Impact of Exhibitions in South Africa


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The Association for African Exhibition Organisers (AAXO) released ground-breaking industry-first research into the economic impact of the exhibition industry in South Africa at a media breakfast on 5 April 2017.

AAXO commissioned the study to assess the impact of the exhibition industry on the South African economy and on the tourism industry. The study, conducted by Grant Thornton between August 2015 and February 2016, undertook to fully understand the exhibition industry, the opportunities it presents for business and its economic impact. The results demonstrate the undeniable power of exhibitions in promoting trade. 

Carol Weaving, Chairperson of AAXO, welcomed the media and industry colleagues with information about AAXO and its extensive membership network spanning across Africa. She further gave a short overview of exhibition opportunities in Africa - a topic which garnered quite a bit of interest.

Gillian Saunders, esteemed Deputy-CEO of the Grant Thornton Johannesburg office, presented the South African figures on behalf of AAXO:

Key Economic Contributions to the Country

As expected, the study confirmed a number of key economic benefits that exhibitions provide and their overall contributions towards the economy. Additionally, the industry is also a major contributor to the national agenda and is instrumental in addressing some of the social challenges faced in South Africa. The findings showed an impressive contribution as follows: 

The estimated total income from direct, indirect and induced income over the period totalled a remarkable R75 billion. Direct spend alone accounted for R24.4 billion of the total spend. 

The number of jobs created over the period of the study totalled just under 153 000. 

Total salaries paid to employees in the industry were approximately R13.5 billion. 

The approximate contribution to government coffers via taxes amounted R3.3 billion. 

Impact of Exhibitions on Tourism

Not only do exhibitions have an impact on local business but the study revealed its contribution to tourism while visitors to the country also confirmed the value of exhibitions on their businesses. 

Financial contributions were in excess of R23 billion through the 1 million visitors attracted into the country and this accounted for a third of the industry’s total contribution to GDP. 

Tourism from exhibitions also helped sustain an estimated a notable 47 000 jobs.  

Other Findings

Compared to the last study done in 2006, the number of exhibitors showed significant growth from 120 to 180, largely driven by a doubling of trade exhibitions by 2015. 

In contrast, the study also revealed that the industry still lags behind in transformation against national benchmarks. This is a focus area for AAXO whose mission it is to transform the industry. 

An important trend is the emergence of smaller and more niche targeted exhibitions to deal with the complex and varied needs of South African society.

The exhibition industry is a competitive market. International players in the market and the rise of African organisers fosters growth in the industry.

“The exhibitions industry is a very competitive market, which is giving way to organisers becoming increasingly professional and skilled. That’s what makes AAXO so great, is that they offer organisers the ability to upskill, formalise and professionalise, which benefits both the industry and the larger economy,” explains Deputy CEO at Grant Thornton, Gillian Saunders.

“Exhibitions not only benefit member organisations but also prove to have far reaching economic benefits for the country as a whole”, concluded Carol Weaving, Chairperson of AAXO. “Other than giving exhibitors an opportunity to have face-to-face time with their target market, the study showed that there are spill-over benefits towards a whole array of industries.”   


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