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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Trade fair participants express mixed feelings

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Dr Agossou Georges, herbal doctor from Benin described the trade fair as “fairly good”, but said “the problem is the lack of sales as many people are not coming to the fair.” He said during the fair, they learn from their business counterparts from other countries which are very good for business operators.

Dr Sylvester, another participant from Benin also shared similar sentiments, arguing: “This year’s trade fair is more organised than the previous years.  I guess it was due to publicity that is why people are turning up.”

He said they have been making sales even though it cannot be compared to the trade fairs of other regions or countries. “Gambians are nice and hospitable people who are peaceful and good. This is very good,” he said.

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Sane Cisse, a regular trade fair goer from Niger said: “I have been coming to The Gambia for Trade Fair since 2005 but this year’s fair is not as good as the previous years due to lack of serious sales. The previous trade fairs are better than this year’s simply because people are not coming as usual to buy our products. The organizers should have opened the gates early and close late to give more time to those who want to buy.”

Essa Bobb, a local participant from the Salam Batik stall stated: “There have not been any active sales for us this year but thank God we are managing with the little we have. Previous years were better than this year’s trade fair. The stalls are expensive while sales are low compared to other fairs.

“We are dealing with textiles, which is not a priority for many at this time because some are thinking of feeding their families first. The fair is generating some income for people despite low turn-out and lack of active or serious sales,” Bobb said.

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Tina Quaye, participant from Ghana also shared her feelings with The Standard, saying: “The trade fair has come far. The problem we have here is that the stalls are small in size and it is all occupied by local businesses.”

She said one stand for international participant cost US$500 which she considers too high considering the low sales they are making at the fair. She added: “Sales are coming small and we cannot meet our demands, we are paying our hotel bills, and feeding among other constraints.”

Besides the depreciation of the dalasi against the dollar which is also affecting their business operations, “It is a bit difficult for some of us here. As we speak, we have to leave our hotel because we cannot continue to pay for hotel accommodation without making sales at the fair.” 

The Ghanaian trader also decries the poor toilet facilities at their disposal suggesting that there should be mobile toilet facilities at the fair stationed at strategic locations. She also suggested that a permanent structure be erected which can serve as a permanent venue for the fair to ensure sustainability and productivity. This she added, will minimise cost.

Madam Serwa Tosu, another Ghanaian participant expressed similar sentiments stressing that “this year’s fair is not encouraging because we are not meeting our needs. More publicity is needed to ensure that people come out in large numbers to buy our products.” She also complained about the washroom which she said was in a bad state.

Momodou Lamin Keita of Jabot Laboratory, which is offering free counselling and guidance test for HIV at the fair, also spoke to The Standard. “We are offering free testing and counseling for HIV. We are sponsored by NAS to carry out this task and the charges are free for all and sundry above 18 years,” Keita said, calling on the general public to capitalise on free testing.

Pa Matarr Mbye, customer service supervisor at the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation, spoke about the recent BPI and SSHFC housing project which he said will commence soon.

“BPI are our partners from United Arab Emirates and our aim is to build modern housing units in The Gambia that have never been seen here. We have seen people building houses without apartments for sale but for this project, we have apartments for sale like the semi-detached  story building – single and twin houses,” Mbye said.

He said they are working on the pricing of the new housing project but assured of “reasonable and competitive prices”.  Dilating on the type of buildings that BPI and SSHFC will build, Mbye explained: “Emerald Style One is strictly composed from single and twin houses, all of which will have access to the main road and facilities. Our plans are to build and beautify The Gambia like Dubai and will build 500 houses at Brusubi extension phases 1 and 2. We are here for Gambian people to provide them affordable housing needs.”

Muhammed Bou Hadboh, a Lebanese participant from Mali, expressed frustration about the low sales of their products: “I did not expect things to be like this here but unfortunately, things are going bad for my business.”


Author: Sainey MK Marenah


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