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How Elan exhibition will boost AfCFTA benefits to Nigeria

By Sodiq Omolaoye, Abuja
21 September 2021   |   2:53 am
Jude Chime is the Chief Executive Officer, Elan Exhibition, West Africa. Established in 1997, Elan Expo is an independent pure-play trade event organiser


Jude Chime is the Chief Executive Officer, Elan Exhibition, West Africa. Established in 1997, Elan Expo is an independent pure-play trade event organiser, established with an entrepreneurial vision to provide fast Return On Investment (ROI) to its customers, by leading them into emerging new markets. In this interview with Sodiq Omolaoye, Chime speaks on the 2021 Elan exhibition and how the three-day event will impact the Nigerian economy. 

How has your company fared in Nigeria?
We are basically into exhibitions, trade promotions and investment drives. In the process of exhibition, we drive investment and promote trade. We have eight offices in different countries. Nigeria is one of them and it is overseeing the West African region. Our headquarter is in Istanbul, Turkey. We deal in building construction, agro-food, packaging and machinery, heating ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC+R) sector. We are also into hotels, restaurants, cafes and even the ceramic industry. We have been in Nigeria for over seven years now, organising trade shows, linking businesses with business, businesses to government and government to business. For instance, the HVAC+R industry has done so very well within the five editions we organised.

What is this year’s exhibition all about?
There are over 15 countries participating in the HVAC+R event. We also have various associations such as Nigerian Institution of Mechanical Engineers (NImechE). They are one of our biggest partners in the event. We also have the Nigerian Institute of Builders and many others. Our exhibitions have brought a lot of stakeholders and organisations together. For example, within four years, we have been able to bring together the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), Nigerian chapter and NImechE, collaborating at a high very level. Aside from that, lots of mechanical organisations are now coming to Nigeria because they are beginning to see the prospects and opportunities in the heating industry. They are coming not just to distribute products but to also establish factories and employ workers because apart from the Nigerian market, they also want access to the West African market and Nigeria is the gateway. 
These are opportunities the HVAC+ R Conference and workshop has brought to the industry. In fact, yearly, we do have core engineers who have done very well in the HVAC+R industry from different countries. What we do is to bring them to Nigeria to talk about the latest trend. For instance, in the last edition held in 2019, we brought an expert from India to talk about refrigeration for export. We have also been able to connect with a Turkish organisation known as ISIB, a group of individuals that specialise in HVAC+R industry. We have been able to merge them with associations like NImechE and ASHRAE, Nigerian chapter. Yearly, they hold exhibitions in Turkey and we try as much as possible to organise some Nigerians to join the exhibition in order to update their knowledge on the HVAC+R industry. These are parts of the efforts we put in to ensure that the HVAC+R industry continues to provide services for our built industry.

As you are aware of the projection of Nigeria having a 17 million housing deficit, we will definitely in one way or the other, need refrigeration and air conditioning in those houses. So, you find out that the market is quite huge and that is the reason we are encouraging companies not just to distribute in Nigeria but to also set up their assembly plants so that Nigerians can also learn some skills. A lot of companies are beginning to do that. When we had the first edition of our exhibition, they were some stakeholders who were not Nigerians but were able to make contacts with companies who were at the show and today, they distribute and assemble for those companies.
Apart from inviting people to come to Nigeria to exploit the opportunities, we also invite people to invest in Nigeria, provide a platform where people can enhance their knowledge. So, this conference and exhibition will focus on the HVAC+R industry. 

What is your area of specialisation?
I am a trade and investment person. When you look at the statistics, you find out that there are indices showing that there are lapses in a particular area. One can look at it and see how best to augment those areas. For instance, there are lapses in the agro and food area and we look at the entire value chain to augment those lapses. 
Are there ways the Expo can enhance the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) agreement?
That has been our core focus from day one; ensuring that we provide a platform where investors can come in, create opportunities where people can also learn how to produce goods and services. We have very smart and skilled engineers in Nigeria who are doing well and they also consult for other countries in West Africa. Aside from the fact that we are encouraging the distribution of products, assembling, manufacturing and investment, we also encourage the export of services of our engineers to other West African countries bearing in mind AfCTA which gives opportunity to over 54 countries. Of course, we are having discussions with our partners like NImechE to see how best we can position our engineers to start providing services and manufacturing products in those countries. One thing is that you cannot talk about West Africa without Nigeria. That is why our exhibitions covering West Ain Nigeria and the importance of that is that it will open up wider areas in different industries.

The position of the HVAC+R industry four years ago has shifted to a bigger platform. Four years ago, people only got to know the different brands of a product like air conditioning but with the platform we provided, it is already an industry bonding and aspiring to navigate through all the challenges and of course, provide all the opportunities.
How can you describe Nigerian business environment, especially in the area of ease of doing business? 
Government policies take time to kick in. It has not been easy especially when it comes to the ease of doing business. There are many hurdles in terms of the Custom aspect of it, infrastructure and all that, but still, there are opportunities. The point is that the government has started this and they have seen the need to create an atmosphere where they won’t be challenges for businesses to thrive. That is a plus. Before now, nobody was talking about ease of doing business but the government might have done their survey and seen that there are lots of challenges. And for them to have done that, it means it would definitely lead to something tangible. 
What are the challenges you have faced so far as an investment driver?  
There are lots of challenges, but if you are coming into a market, you must have done your SWOT analysis and in the midst of challenges, there are opportunities. Most of the investors are always looking at the bigger picture and the bigger picture is the opportunity. They look at how to find access to the market amidst challenges such as power. Businesses are still thriving in the country because we have what it takes. We have the population, and the government is also supporting business. 
One area the government wants to see investors coming in is packaging in the agro and food sector, particularly for preservation and export. Are you also looking at this aspect in the Expo?
Yes. In 2019, when we did our survey, we found out that food preservation for export is very key, especially in the agricultural value chain which of course, we have not started utilising properly. Here, we have to talk about the storage and refrigerating system. In trying to provide services like this, you have to look at the environment. Those are the things we look at in 2019 and decided to bring in an expert from India to discuss agricultural food processing for export. He discussed it for three days and almost all the key stakeholders were present to understand how India does it.  Rejection of Nigerian products due to poor packaging is something we have also put into consideration for the stakeholders we invited. 

What practical impact did your last Expo had on the agro and food sector?
I am aware that after our last conference, they have been discussing issues like this, especially with an organisation called Otago which is into refrigeration. Due to the pandemic, we are yet to have time to look at the statistics. By 2022, we should be able to discuss how much impact we have made. 

What is your company’s staff strength globally?
We have over 100 staff globally. These are highly skilled individuals who believe in teamwork and go all out to give their best to ensure that we have the right kind of result. They also assist us to provide good customer service function to our investors and government. 
Are you partnering with the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN)? 
They are very relevant stakeholders and of course, we look forward to partnering with them. We are, however, partnering with the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA). The truth is that we cannot have such an event without partnership with the organized private sector. 

How many people have benefited since you started this Expo?
Over 1500 highly skilled engineers have benefited. This is because it is a very specialised area. So, you have a limited number of persons. What I mean is that if one does not have full grasps of what refrigeration and air conditioning entail, one may not understand the workshop when it is going on. We do have experts who visit from another part of West Africa to participate in the event. 
What about people who are not engineers, can they also participate in the conference?
Yes, they can participate in this year’s Expo because part of the focus area is ventilation in a pandemic area.