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Sierra Leone News: Chamber of Commerce Trade Fair exhibits local products

The Sierra Leone Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (SLCCIA) annual Trade Fair is said to be an important event for businesses as it attracts not only local businesses but international participants as well. Past events have seen a large contingent from Ghana and other countries with last year accounting for business people from Egypt. The Chamber on Tuesday 9 April, 2019, gave an insight into what is happening at this year’s Fair which is currently ongoing at the Siaka Stevens Stadium and ends on April 28, 2019. SLCCIA President, Christo Forster said that this year’s Fair seeks to improve on presentation and packaging which is an important element of marketing and will give local businesses an opportunity to compete in the subregion. He stressed that the importance the Fair gives to the local traders and manufacturers businesses is to showcase their produce and with good advertising any business will be successful.  “To be successful advertising is a very big part of their budget, it is a means of getting more business and that is basically what the trade fair is offering. What the Ghanaians have done over the years is to encourage the local participants to raise their game” he added.  He spoke about the African Continental Free Trade agreement and 22 of the 54 signatories in Africa have ratified it through their Parliament and the basis of that is, any manufacturer of these countries has access to trade in the whole of Africa. “In Sierra Leone, we have what we call the Mano River Union where we have import duties arrangement that will move goods back and forth. The three countries have graduated to ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) which now covers 15 member states” he said. Now manufacturers in Sierra Leone he said are competing with their counterparts not only in ECOWAS region but throughout Africa, “we really need to step up by being professional and efficient thru well packaged products. We also have to keep proper financial records as the Fair gives the opportunity for people to be able to reach their mark, on which basis the Chamber continues to host the Fair.” Speaking on the theme of this year’s Fair, Director General Fodeba Daboh of the Local Content Agency, the ‘to go local in promoting made in Sierra Leone’ they are partnering with the Chamber as they see it as an opportunity because they cannot do it all alone, “mutual partnership with the private sector is good to local content.” He emphasised that by putting premium on our local produce whether goods and services their mandate seeks to ensure that Sierra Leonean businesses thrive especially within local enterprises. “It is the priority of government to do that as there is no way we can change the narrative except by strengthening domestic private sector” he said. The quality standard and management issue he said is important and local content means improving on productivity by ensuring that quality standards in management are met. The country he added is part of international treaties, which means that we do not have the right as a country not to allow other countries to display their products here. “We need to up our game on quality and management, so we do not want to compromise that as an Agency” he said. Sierra Leone, he said for the first time has it products displayed in Dubai at their annual investment forum and moving forward with the Chamber’s partnership is key to the Agency’s success. Vivat Arvidsson, a Sierra Leonean based in Sweden brings in natural beauty products from England and America and she also trades in Shea butter and black soap in Europe which she buys from here and packages in Europe. Her assessment of the Fair is mixed. She is concerned about the way the Fair is set up, “it looks like an entertainment thing as everybody is selling drinks, we need to see people showcasing products. It however has been good advertising for my market as the natural products I bring in people want it but they do not know where to get it” she said. The Ministry of Information and Communication for the first time has also secured a booth at the Fair as a means of interfacing with the public through their other sector partners like NATCOM, SALCAB, SALPOST and IMC. Emmanuel Turay said that the ministry serves as the public relations outfit of government, in which information are cascaded using public platform like the Fair. “There are so many things we need to sensitise people about as we cut across various ministries, departments and agencies.”

By Zainab Iyamide Joaque

Wednesday April 10, 2019.

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