Italian exhibition company hopes to turn Cairo into gateway to Africa

In a sign of the increasing importance of the African market for construction firms in Europe, the Italian exhibition organisation Veronafiere has announced that it is to hold a trade fair in Cairo that it hopes will become the business-to-business hub for the whole of the continent.  

The Projex Africa initiative was launched in the Egyptian capital on Wednesday by the Verona-based company, which is the second largest of its kind in Europe, together with two Egyptian partners: the Expolink association of Egyptian exporters and an organiser of trade fairs and conferences called Art Line.

The first fair is to take place in December this year, alongside a Cairo version of two of Veronafiere’s Italian expos, one for stone and the other for construction equipment. 

In order to attract African architects, Projex Africa will offer training credits that will help design professionals qualify to work in African countries such as the Congo, Nigeria and Tanzania, as well as Europe and America, according to Gianpaola Pedretti, Veronafiere’s head of international business.

About 66 architects from 37 African studios are expected to attend in December, according to Seif Abu Alnaga, the president of the Society of Egyptian Architects and the former chief of the Africa Union of Architects.

The December fair will also include an international scientific conference on building materials.

Veronafiere said it had chosen Cairo as Europe’s gateway into Africa because of its free-trade agreements with the EU, and the existence of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the Pan-Arab Free Trade Agreement (PAFTA).

Africa is reckoned to have a population of 1 billion, 40% of which lives in urban areas. This figure is expected to double by 2050, and as many countries in Africa are experiencing high growth rates this is expected to make it one of the fastest growing markets for construction services in the first half of the 21st century.

The continent presently imports about $29bn in construction materials, of which $590m are imported by Egypt. This figure is expected to increase greatly as economies race to put in place basic social and transport infrastructure. 

In Egypt, the property sector grew by 28% to $32bn between 2011 and 2013; investments worth $7.2bn expected to be made in the construction sector next year.

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