New exhibition industry association launches in South Africa Africa

The Exhibition and Event Association of Southern Africa (EXSA) has hit back at claims it is “not serving the best interest” of exhibition organisers, after members broke away to form a new association.

Twelve exhibition and event organisers have abandoned EXSA to form the Association of African Exhibition Organisers (AAXO). The new association will be fully operational in January 2016.

“The decision to break away from EXSA has been an ongoing debate amongst organisers for a number of years,” said Carol Weaving, managing director of founding member Thebe Reed Exhibitions. “EXSA is very supplier-led and we feel that they are not serving the best interest of the organisers.

“We feel that EXSA in its current form is introspective, slow and focused on internal issues and drivers,” Weaving said, adding that the new association would collaborate with EXSA in the future.

However EXSA general manager Sue Gannon defended the 35-year-old organisation, which has 169 members, including 29 organisers.

“Our modus operandi is certainly not introspective,” Gannon told EW.  “Each and every member is as important as each other.”

“We work within a tight budget, but have recently held a fantastic conference; we are putting together new designer awards; training and skills development; mentorships for new organisers; going digital with our annual diary and resource guide.

“In short, EXSA remains committed to the entire industry,” Gannon said: “We will engage with them (AAXO) – it makes no sense at all to work outside the industry parameters.”

AAXO’s founding members are Specialised Exhibitions Montgomery, MMI South Africa, Hypenica, Thebe Reed Exhibitions, Spintelligent, Terrapinn, The Wedding Group, SA Confex Services, TE Trade Events, Exposure Marketing, LTE and Synergy Business Events.

Thebe Reed Exhibitions’ Carol Weaving said South Africa’s exhibition organisers needed a collective voice to lobby stakeholders, such as government bodies, as well as annual research and industry benchmarks.

MMI South Africa chief executive Elaine Crewe said AAXO would promote exhibitions as a marketing medium.

“The research we aim to conduct will assist in gaining government trust and investment and we will also be able to assist exhibitors to gain funding and justify spend by calculating their return on investment,” Crewe said.

AAXO will hold education sessions, work closely with the country’s Department of Trade and Industry on projects including a 2016 trade show calendar, and launch a mediation service for members’ exhibitors.

One of the group’s first events is a free exhibition training day, on 14 October at Ticketpro Dome, to educate exhibitors on how to get the most from an exhibition and measure their return on investment.

Details: go to and