Government should checkmate foreign exchange fluctuation, says Chime
Mr. Jude Chime is the Chief Executive Officer, Elan Exhibitions West Africa Limited. He spoke to VICTOR GBONEGUN about the 2022 Megaclima West Africa Expo starting today and its benefit and contribution to national economic development.
The yearly Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC-R) exhibition has come to stay as a gathering of professionals in Nigeria. What has been the contribution of the forum to the economy?
THE contribution of the forum to the national economy has been massive in the sense that each year, we keep having strong requests for participation from different parts of the world. Companies have been coming not just to showcase their products but setting up their plants and employ Nigerians, and local engineers have been major beneficiaries.
So, in terms of expertise and experience, it has increased a lot of that. It has improved learning and knowledge in the area of heating, ventilation and refrigeration, building and construction because we keep inviting expatriates to attend the event.
For example, in 2018, we invited the man, who designed the Burj Khalifa iconic 206-floor building in Dubai and another one from South Africa that designed the King’s Tower located in Ikoyi, Lagos. That is how far we go to bring the very best and ensure learning, relearning and equipping our local engineers and other building professionals.
From the request so far, professionals are asking to be a part of the general business environment and the expo itself. Besides, the exhibitors that come into Nigeria, especially Lagos, the hotels get filled up, the transport and the construction companies benefit and we can’t be talking of anything less than the estimated $40 billion contributions to the economy.
We thank the Nigerian Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Association of Professional Women Engineers, Nigerian Institute of Building, Nigerian Institute of Civil Engineers and others for their contributions and sacrifices on the project.
Without them, most people would have been discouraged to keep participating on a yearly basis.
What are you doing differently in this year’s edition to drive the building construction, agro-food, packaging and machinery, heating ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration sector?
This year’s edition is going to be huge as the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) is coming out strongly to support the event. They are mobilising their various divisions, which are over 21 branches to attend and also mobilising other professionals outside NSE like the Nigerian Institute of Architects, Association of Consulting Architects and Association of Consulting Engineers. NSE President, Mr Tasiu Sa’ad Gidari-Wudil, will declare the conference open, and the president of the Council for Regulation of Engineers in Nigeria and the Indian High Commissioner will attend.
Asides from the institutional support, we have the event for Women in Construction, Engineering and Commerce, which will happen on the sidelines of the exhibition. The women will be talking about how engineering and construction can leverage commerce to grow beyond the shores of Nigeria.
With the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), there is a lot happening and I believe in the implementation of AfCFTA. We have women in construction, engineering and commerce to discuss the various areas and potential of AfCFTA.
The HVAC+R industry is a huge market, especially with essential services provided for the built industry. How has the rising inflation and increasing cost of logistics in the country impacted the sector?
It has impacted very strongly but some of these companies are actually pushing. Despite the challenges in the market, they see opportunities. The opportunities are not allowing them to give up. Normally, with the current foreign exchange rate, the impact is huge in terms of affecting participation in the expo. It is something that the government should look into.
The Federal government should checkmate foreign exchange fluctuations to boost investments. The exchange rate of the dollar to the naira keeps increasing on daily basis. That alone can make investors give up. Market volatility should be looked into very strongly. Sometimes, we have participation from China. Asides COVID-19 pandemic, the exchange rate affects the participation of some countries.
When companies that are based in Nigeria look at the foreign exchange rate they are to pay and they multiple it by the current market rate, it is high.
The managers of the economy must stem the tide of high foreign exchange rates because if this continues, it will limit investment interest in the country. They should look at companies creating values and provide some soft landing.
There should be some special windows or exemptions to augment the impact of the foreign exchange rate on their businesses. They should also improve the security of life and property.
The operating environment for businesses has been tough starting from the high cost of energy, lack of finance and other unfriendly policies. What challenges have you confronted as a driver of investment and how did you overcome those challenges?
The challenges are numerous. Take, for instance, power like you mentioned. We run our businesses using generators. Imagine what that costs in a month, how many persons the cost can employ. This is very challenging for investment and investors.
What is the total number of participants for this year’s edition and how were they selected for the conference?
We have 150 exhibitors this year and they were selected based on interest in the expo. For the past six years, we have been able to reach out to the right stakeholders across the world. We have built a reputable brand and they know what we can offer. We have the Business-to-Business (B2B) segment which has 520 meetings for ceramics, heat ventilation and air conditioning and the West African water expo.
Bilateral relations, it has started impacting much. We have participants from about 23 countries and various Chambers of Commerce. Among are the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce, the Nigerian-Belgium Chamber of Commerce, and the Nigerian-Indonesia Chamber of Commerce; we have interest from Venezuela and the Nigerian-Taiwan Chamber of Commerce. We are building these relationships. For example, we have a strong relationship with the Indian High Commission and a lot of companies are coming from India to participate in this year’s edition.
Having the trust and participation of leading brands to display world-class equipment and new innovations could be very challenging. What do you think motivates their interest in Nigeria’s economy?
Every company wants to come to Nigeria because the market is here. Just like we read in some books, if you are not in China, you are not in business. A big business in Africa that does not have a presence in Nigeria is not in business because Nigeria is the biggest market in Africa. If you want to compete in business, you must be in Nigeria. The climate too is friendly, when it is hot it gets extremely hot and we also need products to stay alive.