Trade Fairs Are For Contacts, Not Sales

The exporting community has for a long time been fixated on selling their wares at trade fairs, but the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) is determined to help them shift focus. Ama Amankwah Baafi reports The Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) is worried that most exporters/businesses, especially the small companies, who attend trade fairs with the sole idea to make sales and not establish contacts that would last them long years of relationship. The Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the GEPA, Mr Stephen Normeshie told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS that the authority would from this year seek to correct the erroneous focusing with vigorous creation of awareness among exporters and businesses in the non-traditional export (NTE) sector, using the GEPA Export School. The GEPA would also organise business fora during fairs so businesses/exporters could get the chance to interact with other business persons to development relationships and partnerships. The Ghana export school is set up to respond to international trade training needs to improve the export competiveness of Ghanaian companies. This is a fundamental pre-requisite for success in the international market. The exporting community faces a lot of challenges when it comes exporting, especially into the European market, which has a lot of standards and certifications to meet. �So we consider it necessary to organise capacity building for them so they will know international best practices that prevail in those markets,� Mr Normeshie said and added that �it is also to ensure that the sector does not only exceed set targets but also constitute more than a quarter of total exports from Ghana.� The training programmes are usually organised for exporters, export facilitating institutions, the media (so they can report well on the issues) and some exporting companies. This year, the export school will run five fundamental programmes; two in Accra, one each in Kumasi, Takoradi and Bolgatanga, while it builds the capacity of staff to deliver efficient services. Again, most entrepreneurs have challenges with meeting requirements of credit facilities and so are unable to access them, some stemming from improper and poor record keeping. �So we advise them to try and keep records. This year, the orientation will be increased,� Mr Normeshie explained. COURSES Normally, the export fundamental programme covers topics such as market research, standards, costing and pricing, trade negotiations and financing. Other specialised courses focus on post harvest loses; quality export management; agricultural best practices; storage and transportation of products to the ports. The acting CEO said the objective of the course included improving the exporting management and marketing skills of the export communities and creating awareness nationwide about export marketing opportunities outside. There are other specialised training programmes will be in the farming areas in collaboration with some of the District assemblies if they have challenges with some as to export of certain products we help them. EXPORT SCHOOL Through the instrumentality of the Export School, most exporters are now aware of the requirements and demands in the international market. Staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs due for postings outside the country also go through the export school. This helps them to provide information about trade and business opportunities in designated countries. Mr Noamesi said the GEPA was now focused on increasing market access in the West African sub-region through trade fairs and other special trade arrangements, adding that such exhibitions, if funds permit, would be organised frequently. The GEPA on the average assists about 50 small businesses to participate in trade fairs within Africa. However, when it comes to international fairs outside Africa, the authority promotes only about 12 small businesses, through the support of the Export Development and Agricultural Investment Fund (EDAIF). To prosecute programmes such as awareness creation and assisting businesses to participate in fairs, the authority requires more financial support to provide the needed assistance to businesses and entrepreneurs.