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African firms showcase wares at Frankfurt fair

FRANKFURT, Germany, Aug 29 – One of the biggest and most prestigious trade fairs in the world opened in Frankfurt, Germany on Friday with some 2, 100 exhibitors among them 24 African companies taking part.

Out of the two dozen African firms at the ‘Tendence Trade Fair 2011’, are six Kenyan organisations that are showcasing their products at the consumer-goods platform with the hope of catching the eye of an estimated 100,000 people who will have visited the five-day exhibition, by the time it comes to a close on August 30.

‘African Heritage Design Company’, ‘Kenana Knitters’ and ‘Afrikiko’ are among the firms representing Kenya in a business zone covering 350 square meters themed ‘African Chic’.

The companies have on their display soapstones, African jewellery, hand-knitted shawls and dolls and even paper matte pieces made from elephant dung.

“This is a very unique opportunity for us to exhibit as designers from Africa as opposed to how we have exhibited in the past where we have been looked at as manufacturers of goods for the European companies,” explains Makena Mwiraria, the director of African Heritage.

Being looked at from the perspective of a designer has the advantage of exposing their products to buyers from all over the world and also opens them up to what is happening in the world and how they can compete at the global level.

But besides opening doors for a participating firm, others such as Jungl’art hope that exhibiting at such a global podium will continue to provide more job opportunities for thousands of youth in Kenya from where they source their handicrafts.

This is the reaction and goal that the Trade and Fairs Consulting- the representative of the lead trade fair organiser Messe Frankfurt in East and Southern Africa – and which put together the African participation hoped to get.

The firm’s Chief Executive Officer Skander Negasi says the idea emanated from the need to give potential African exporters an opportunity to expose their wares to the international market.

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“We are providing a platform for selected African companies with exquisite, quality products to be able to access the European market and therefore grow into big international firms,” Mr Negasi pointed out.

The Tendence has two main parts – Giving and Living- with the first dedicated to the showcasing of the creative gift ideas and the latter being a platform for the home, decorating and furnishing accessories.

The fair is also a stage where designers, on a total of 130,000 square meters of exhibition space, get to showcase the latest trends for the autumn and winter season as well as offer a preview of new products for the spring and summer season of the following year.

The need to have more of Africa’s participation in the fair was also informed by the position that the continent continues to earn as the next frontier of economic growth and which therefore cannot be ignored any longer.

With a consistent Gross Domestic Product that over the last few years has been above the world’s average and a growing middle-class, Africa’s changing economic, social and political structure cannot be over emphasised.

“We are all becoming very aware of Africa and this applies as well to consumer goods. Many African companies continue to produce high quality luxury goods and this has given us an excellent reason for organising the first ever special presentation by exclusive companies from your exciting continent,” remarked Detlef Braun, one of the members of the Messe Frankfurt’s Executive Board.

In the long run, the organisers hope that more African firms will exploit this opportunity as a launch-pad to showcase their creativity and talents to the world.

This expectation was echoed by the Commercial Attaché at the Kenyan Embassy in Germany Oliver Konje and Namibian Ambassador to Germany Neville Gertze who also expressed confidence such trade promotional activities would further yield stronger ties between Africa and Germany.

“Trade fairs and exhibitions help us to understand the market place, we are able to reduce the misunderstandings that occur while trading, build relationships and also promote complex products. These are the linkages that we need to continue building so as to also strengthen our association,” Mr Honje said.

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By giving Africans an environment to trade freely and on an equal footing with other business people in the world, the continent would be able to increase its trade by more than 10 percent and thus assert its authority on the international arena.

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