5 months ago

Opportunity Issue 104

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Opportunity magazine is a niche business-to-business publication that explores various investment opportunities within Southern Africa’s economic sectors. The publication is endorsed by the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI).

INTERVIEW The floor is

INTERVIEW The floor is buzzing again Opportunity caught up with Tracy-Lee Behr, Portfolio Director: Built Environment at dmg events on the sidelines of The Big 5 Construct: Western Cape expo and event. She is convinced that the appetite for in-person events is coming back strongly. In terms of the events you run, are you fully back after Covid? I would say we are getting there. Our flagship show in Johannesburg in June 2022 was our first time back. We saw participation from internationals not being that great because of shipping backlogs and currency fluctuations which really impacted the market. So that resulted in international participation not being where it was in 2019 terms. However, we have seen that the local market appetite is there. The local market needed to get back to business and they’re very keen on face-to-face events as a platform for business engagements again. Which is your flagship event? Our flagship show is The Big 5 Construct Southern Africa which is held in Johannesburg in June and then we have the regional events in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal in September. Those are more regionally focussed, looking at the challenges and the opportunities within it. How does the activity at events this year compare with the last one of these that you hosted? The floor is buzzing, which is a great indicator that things are back. At the Western Cape event we had 75 exhibitors, which is comparable to the last edition. The market is constrained, though. There are budgetary constraints and that leads to a cut in marketing. The construction industry has been hard hit by the last few years. Now they are dealing with increasing fuel prices and input costs going up. But definitely the feeling on the floor is that South Africa as a country is ready for business. Tracy-Lee Behr, Portfolio Director, dmg events Have your panel discussions been well attended? At each of our events we have a stakeholders’ engagement forum. That actually started at what used to be called the Cape Construction Expo but it’s evolved now to fit in with our greater portfolio which is worldwide. The mothership of all events is the really 38 |

INTERVIEW large one, Big Five Dubai, which is over 40 years old, and then we have other regional events in Africa as well. What is your target market? Our remit is to get the whole value chain on the floor. We are not quite there yet, but we do have a number of sectors like building materials, tools and equipment, mechanical, electrical and plumbing, machinery and vehicles. In all these sectors we look at getting exhibitors because we believe that they underpin the value chain. Our government stakeholders are really important as well. Our events are geared around an open platform of engagement and also the strengthening of relationships between the public and the private sector. The stakeholders’ engagement forum has been taken to all of our events because it is such a great platform of engagement. It gives an opportunity to the man on the street who doesn’t have access to the government stakeholders or the big private companies to have the conversations and ask the questions about the challenges that they are experiencing. To try to address those and look at the solutions that the cities or the provinces are providing, for example, why it takes so long to get a permit. This time around we were looking at breaking barriers and building a better tomorrow. The Western Cape Government has a red-tape-reduction department and it was good to have the director talk about exactly that. Has the conference and events sector come back any different after Covid? One thing that we have learnt through Covid was to diversify. We saw that a lot of our clients had to do just that in the crisis situation that was Covid. You look at your product mix and you have to diversify, so we did that in respect of digital events. While that was very successful, we still feel – and we know – that people want face-to-face connections. For us, it was about coming back and doing what we do well and making sure that we are connecting, that our quality of visitor is very high, that we’ve got the right people attending the event. We are connecting buyers and sellers, so the right buyers and the right sellers. So that that tangible business is being done. At the Western Cape event I heard from somebody on the floor who walked in the door and did a deal within 10 minutes. So that’s fantastic. Construction vehicles on display at The Big 5 Construct: Western Cape as the events industry rebuilds after Covid. Big Five Construct Southern Africa. That is looks at Africa’s readiness for smart cities and not necessarily building beautiful and pricey cities that no-one can use. It is really looking about integrating the communities into the current infrastructure that we have in terms of smart solutions and looking at what we’ve got, how do we update it or make it work. We want to integrate that community that surrounds it, not just a stand-alone white elephant in the middle of nowhere. Is Infrastructure South Africa involved in that initiative? We got to know Infrastructure South Africa for the first time this year. The desk within the Presidency knows about our events, they are more invested and involved in our events. We are more aligned with government stakeholders now than we have been. Infrastructure South Africa’s remit is to look at the projects that are feasible and get to market quickly where they can create jobs and give investors a return on investment, so it’s a good initiative. Does The Big 5 Construct also have a digital component? It is not being run as a hybrid this time around. We want to encourage down-the-line benefits. We want to draw investment into the country and the region and create those benefits in terms of business tourism and job creation. We have a very important part to play in the economy in terms of driving business tourism. Your portfolio includes these three conferences. Are there other built environment expos or conferences that fall under you? The company also hosts the African Smart City Summit which is an annual event. It is held in Johannesburg and runs alongside Exhibitors and visitors enjoy personal interaction after months of hybrid events. | 39

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