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June 22, 2015

Sub-Saharan Africa: EXSA Responds to Association Shake-up

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The Exhibition Association of South Africa (EXSA), founded in 1980, has a long and proud history of representing the South African exhibition industry. The Association is a member-driven organization, where members drive the output and advantages of membership, facilitated by the EXSA office.  The members are equally represented in three forums: Venues, Suppliers/Services and Organizers which hold regular member meetings to discuss issues regarding the exhibition industry. In April, a Joint Forum Meeting was also held.  The Chair of each Forum, who drives initiatives within the Association, is elected democratically. Unfortunately the Organizers Forum Chairman for 2015 resigned after being in office less than three months.   

Currently the national membership consists of 30 Organizers – 25 percent of the total Membership; Suppliers and Service companies make up 67 percent; and the Venues 8 percent of the total membership. At an executive Board level organizers are represented by six elected members and make up 43 percent of the Board. With this latest resignation of the three organizers from the Board, elections will have to be held to fill the vacant positions. This is in accordance with the MOI (Constitution) of the Association.

Organisers’ initiatives that were discussed and presented at the recent Joint Forum Meeting had the full support of EXSA. This included the proposed industry research. Although the funding model needed more detailed review the EXSA Board were looking into the organisers’ proposal of funding the research by re-introducing the square meter levy that had been proposed by the Organizers Chairman.  However in response to a survey EXSA had done in 2013 the majority of the organizers had voted against the re-introduction of the unpopular levy (per square meter) system.

EXSA believes that the Association has an obligation to exhibitors to keep the cost of exhibiting for exhibitors as low as possible. The new proposed Association should be asked for a clear statement in regards to their position on the introduction of a levy to be applied to exhibitors, or will the investment come from the Organiser’s own company financial resources?   EXSA has already been in discussion with a number of industry stake-holders concerning research on the size of the industry and the relevance to the GDP etc.  

The statement “The last research done by EXSA was 10 years ago” is misleading at best. EXSA has conducted regular research on many issues including the status of transformation in the industry which has been done on an annual basis since 2011, five years in total; EXSA is the only ‘event’ sectoral Association to have done this – which allows EXSA to accurately represent the membership at the dti, TBCSA and other bodies.   EXSA has conducted ad-hoc research on various topics – such as the available square meterage in total in the country as an input into the UFI international research;  availability of free Wi-Fi in venues, etc. EXSA proposed to undertake research on the contribution of exhibitions in the marketing mix (i.e. Rand spend as compared with other marketing mediums, print advertising, outdoor advertising, television, etc).   Unfortunately the research proposal received no support from the Association’s Organiser members, even though such research would be undertaken by an independent company - AC Neilsen. EXSA also facilitates participation in the international UFI six-monthly industry barometer. EXSA recognises that not all research is applicable to every member.

The statement “We feel that EXSA is focused on internal issues” is just not true, as the following can be cited:

  • Professional Designations: EXSA is a founding member of Council of Event Professionals (CEP Africa), this body, currently being registered with SAQA will manage and administrate Professional Designations (Event Director, Event Manager, Event Coordinator). This is the first step to ‘professionalising the industry’
  • dti task team on transformation in the industry:

Since 2011 the Association has actively participated in a dti initiative arising out of a complaint to the Parliamentary Committee regarding the lack of transformation in the events industry. The Association has represented the industry and its membership, along with SAACI, IFEA, TPSA (now SACIA)


EXSA negotiated a uniform rate in regard to the SAMRO ‘levies’, this would have saved Organisers (and Venues) significantly from a financial perspective, as well as potentially reducing on-site ‘conflict’. The Organiser’s Forum failed to ratify the agreement for signature.   EXSA has recently been approached by SAMPA with the aim to negotiate an industry wide agreement on license fees

  • Event Greening Forum:  EXSA is a founding member of the Forum and regularly attends their management meetings
  • EXSA sits on the Board of the Services SETA for Business Services
  • EXSA is part of the Marketing Standards panel for the Marketing, Sales, Communications Project
  • EXSA sits on the Johannesburg Tourism Committee and the National Tourism Strategy Committee
  • EXSA is a Board member of the TBCSA (the Tourism Business Council of SA).
  • EXSA is affiliated with international bodies UFI, IAEE, AEO and ESSA
  • EXSA is involved and currently facilitating a new African Exhibition Association formed at this year’s Meetings Africa, where many African Exhibition members are looking to EXSA for guidance and emulation.

EXSA will continue to represent Organisers, Suppliers/Services and Venues to ensure sustainability and growth in the South African exhibition industry. Having said this, of course EXSA will engage with the new Association (if and when it is established), along with all other industry and stakeholder groups, whenever and wherever such engagement is a benefit to the sector, industry and our membership.

Brad Alder, Chairman, EXSA


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