Reviews & Profiles
Why is the UMA trade fair losing its appeal?
Posted Wednesday, October 23 2013 at 00:00
Previously, the trade fair was an activity many people attended in big numbers. However, the past years, especially this year has seen fewer show goers attend. We look at some of the reasons why this is so.
The objective of the Uganda Manufacturers Association, formed in the 1960s, according to the organisers of the Uganda International Trade Fair, was to protect the interest of the indigenous industrialist from undue competition emanating from both within the region and beyond.
At that time, the industrial sector was young but robust.
But with the political, social and economic decadence that became prevalent throughout the 1970s, the smooth growth of not just the budding industrial sector but the progress of the association as well was halted.
It was not until April 1988 that Uganda Manufactures Association (UMA) was revived after years of dormancy, thanks to political turmoil and economic challenges that the country grappled with before partially stabilising—by mid 1980s.
It is important to note, that without the efforts of the likes of the late James Mulwana, the revival of UMA would not have happened as quickly as it did and the trade fair wouldn’t have been in the country’s annual calendar, given that the Minister of Commerce then, Prof George Kanyeihamba, was opposed to the idea of establishing UMA on the grounds that it would duplicate the roles of Uganda National Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UNCCI).
Today, however, UMA is one of the largest business associations in the country.
It has a membership of nearly 750 small, medium and large enterprises (SMEs) drawn across the private and public sector.
And in addition to its objectives, which include, promoting, protecting and coordinating the interests of its members, it has also been, for the last two decades, organising the annual international trade fair—one of the biggest business event, whose appeal now extends far beyond the borders.
Before the trade show gained international appeal, three national trade fairs were held between 1989 and 1991 at the Lugogo indoor stadium. And a year later, UMA acquired most of the land it is currently holding the exhibition from.
But with the 21st annual international trade fair that closed about a weeks ago, questions arise as to whether the fair is beginning to lose its appeal or worth and on whether it is still worth its salt.
Here are several reasons explaining what could have gone wrong.
1.Poor publicity. Even though the executive director, UMA, Ssebagala Kigozi denies this claim, saying enough publicity was given ahead of the trade fair, John Tumwesigye, a professional marketer (advertising) and PR manager, says the show organisers did not do enough.
He also says the entry fee of Shs4,000 was on the high side, something that the show organisers also disagree with.
2. Expensive products. Mary Ssentamu, a show goer, says the rate at which the prices of goods are increasing explains why she no longer finds the trade show appealing. “Last year, I bought a basin at about Shs4,000, now its Shs5,400. This means that my ability to buy as many things as I want is less.”
3. Poverty. According to Jane Mayombwe, another show goer, no amount of saving can bail you out as there are other competing needs that must be taken care of such as paying school fees and other pressing demands.