Over the past two years of exhibition and event closures, many professionals previously working in the industry have had no choice but to find alternative employment and/or reinvent themselves, resulting in a substantial loss of highly skilled and experienced talent.
As the African exhibitions industry embarks on its recovery after a two-year hiatus, it faces the next hurdle: Access to skills and talent.
The latest estimates published by the UN puts the population of youth in Sub-Saharan Africa at 211 million, a figure expected to increase by more than 89% by 2050. However, whilst South African’s celebrated Youth Day in June, there are bleak youth unemployment rates of 63,9% for those aged 15-24 and 42,1% for those aged 25-34 years being presented.
The exhibitions industry plays an extraordinarily large role in the global economy. Before COVID-19, the sector was vibrant and growing, contributing R75-billion to the South Africa economy annually, with exhibitions contributing R23-billion to tourism through the 1 million exhibition attendees visiting the country annually.
The sector also supports thousands of businesses, many of which are SMMEs. In addition, exhibitions generate income for businesses (many SMMEs) by creating a platform to meet potential customers and generate sales across the full spectrum of sectors.
Exhibition organisers need to boast the merits of this industry. Encouraging young people into the industry will bring renewed ideas which can certainly be of benefit the industry. In so doing we will have to equip them by harnessing the experience of those who remained in the industry and can help support those who are newly entering.
According to Devi Paulsen-Abbott Chair of the Association of African Exhibition Organisers (AAXO), “As part of our remit for the coming years, AAXO will be implementing a number of initiatives to support talent already in the industry as well as the budding talent looking to embark on a career in exhibitions. This includes our career centre and mentoring partnership programme providing an the opportunity to talk to professionals and to increase network opportunities, to share experiences and to learn about best practice along the way.”
The challenges of today’s Africa especially within the employment space can be resolved by actively engaging the teeming youth in the sector and there’s no better way to entice young people to consider the many exciting prospects that exhibitions offer, than to offer them an immersive, hands-on experience.
University of Johannesburg’s Tracy Daniels, adds: “The University of Johannesburg School of Tourism and Hospitality prides itself on grooming the future leaders of the industry by producing graduates that are innovative, work ready, entrepreneurial and with a sense of civic responsibility. This is achieved through engagement with our industry partners who provide our students with experiential learning opportunities in keeping with career focussed education.”
For more information on AAXO and their initiatives to support talent within the industry, visit www.aaxo.co.za