New dawn breaks for local economy
The festival brings together local producers, businesses and consumers and serves as a platform to showcase agricultural products, crafts and various services.
According to industry players in and around Ongwediva, the revival of the tourism sector - which was the hardest hit by the lockdown - has shown just how indispensable trade fairs are for rural areas.
Trade fairs provide a myriad of benefits - including economic growth, income diversification, knowledge transfer, cultural preservation and the promotion of rural tourism.
“These events play a pivotal role in empowering local communities, supporting small-scale businesses and fostering sustainable development in rural regions. To fully harness their potential, it is essential for governments, organisations and communities to collaborate in organising and promoting these trade fairs, ensuring they continue to thrive and enrich rural life for generations to come,” Uukwambi chief Herman Iipumbu said.
Linus Hamunyela, the University of Namibia’s communication and marketing officer for the northern campuses, said the economic impact of trade fairs plays a crucial role in boosting the economic prospects of rural areas.
These events provide a unique opportunity for small-scale farmers, artisans and entrepreneurs to exhibit and promote their products to a wider audience, he said.
“By participating in trade fairs, rural businesses can expand their customer base and gain exposure to new markets - both domestically and internationally.”
Hamunyela was speaking to Namibia Media Holdings shortly after the launch of the Unam career and employment expo, which kicked off in Ongwediva on 25 July.
He said in addition to promoting individual businesses, trade fairs also facilitate networking and collaboration among stakeholders in the rural economy. Such interactions can lead to the formation of valuable partnerships, joint ventures and supply chains that strengthen the overall economic fabric of the region.
“A farmer who participates in a trade fair might discover an opportunity to start a cottage industry based on value-added products from their primary produce, such as turning excess fruit into jams or juices. These new ventures can create additional income sources and improve the financial resilience of rural households,” Hamunyela said.
Echoing these sentiments is Unam’s student representative council vice-president Courage Changunda, who said expos help enlighten the minds of students to make concrete decisions that will build a better future for them.
“With the help of our able exhibiting industries, institutions and speakers, as long as you listen and engage carefully, you will be guided to the right course,” he said.
He added that the right attitude increases learners’ employment opportunities.
Diversification of income
Thomas Paulus, who was transporting students from the career fair, opined that rural economies are often heavily reliant on a single industry, such as agriculture.
The taxi driver said trade fairs enable communities to diversify their income streams by showcasing a wide array of products and services, adding that this diversification is essential for reducing the vulnerability of single-source incomes.
“For instance, people do not feel safe to travel to the trade fair in unknown vehicles, so I turn mine into a ‘dial a cab’ and I double the price. By the time the trade fair ends, I have made significant profit,” he said.
Promoting rural tourism
Sandra Dapilashimwe, the owner of Mango Guesthouse, said the trade fair boosts their accommodation facility by attracting more people to the town, increasing visibility and exposure.
Trade fairs attract visitors from both urban and rural areas, which contributes to the growth of rural tourism, she said.
"As people attend these events, they get an opportunity to experience the rural way of life, appreciate the beauty of the countryside and sample local delicacies.
“The influx of tourists stimulates the local economy by generating revenue for businesses such as accommodation providers, restaurants and local transportation services,” she said.
Dapilashimwe added that this results in higher bookings and occupancy rates, as well as the opportunity to cater to a broader customer base. The influx of trade fair attendees leads to increased revenue and potential utilisation of additional services, she said.
“Proximity to the trade fair centre offers significant advantages, notably heightened visibility for the accommodation facility, as clients tend to prefer lodging options that are conveniently situated in close proximity to the event rather than at a greater distance.”
According to Dapilashimwe, their marketing approach encompasses strategic utilisation of social media platforms and leveraging the power of word-of-mouth referrals while implementing targeted radio advertising campaigns.