The International Arusha Gemstones, Jewelry and Minerals fair ended at Mount Meru Hotel in Tanzania’s northern tourist city of Arusha at the end of October, but against a backdrop of speculation Kenya had set up a competing gemstones trade fair.
Tanzania initiated an annual gemstones trade fair in Arusha in 2012 to be Africa’s ultimate gemstones fair, according to both the government and the private sector organization Tanzania Mineral Dealers Association who jointly organize the fair. The four-day event which started October 28 was the second event after last year’s.
A strong rumour circulated at the closing ceremony on Thursday, October 31, Kenya had also initiated a gemstones fair at Kajiado, some 100 kilometers from the Namanga border with Tanzania to compete with the Arusha Show.
Anthony Peter Brooke, the Vice President of the Thai Gem and Jewelry Traders Association told this reporter a business colleague had called him to ask if he would be attending the Kenya Gemstones show set up 100 kilometres from the Kenya-Tanzania border on the Kenyan side, which places the show at Kajiado. Brooks said his source is reliable, adding that the show was planned for the first week-end of November, which would be immediately after the Arusha Gemstones fair closed.
Both the Tanzania Mineral Dealers Association Chairman Sammy Mollel and all senior ministry of energy and minerals officials present at the closing ceremony–officials who included the Commissioner of Minerals, Ally Samaje and the deputy Minister for Energy and Minerals–said they were not aware a competing fair had been started in Kenya.
But the Deputy Minister for Energy and Minerals Stephen Masele said there was no problem if such a competing fair had been started at Kajiado. “We are not competing with anyone,” the deputy minister said. “Our people should be free to go there to participate in the fair.”
There were also mixed feelings about whether or not this year’s gemstones fair had been successful or not in comparison to last year’s. Government officials on one hand called it a success, but a number of exhibitors complaining quality buyers did not come because they had travelled to Munich, Germany, where a similar fair was going on at the same time. The four-day International Arusha Gemstones, Jewelry and Minerals Fair started October 28. It ended October 31.
The fair this year witnessed an increased number of exhibitors from across Africa. The number of exhibitors increased from 125 attending last year to 180 this year, but the number of foreign buyers dropped from 300 attending the show last year to 241 this year, according to official figures.The value of deals made have not yet been disclosed.
In a closing speech, the Acting Arusha Regional Commissioner John Mongelasounded upbeat:“I am glad that this year’s numbers are comparing very well with last year’s. As you are all aware, the first…showattracted 300 buyers, 125 exhibitors representing 45 companies from 7 countries.,” hesaid. “We should be proud of the fact that the second [show] has lived up to the promise of making this event a regional fair, and Arusha an African centre for gemstone business.”
Exhibitors were equally positive about the event but they also complained about the low turn-out of quality buyers.
“It is a cost to attend the fair as an exhitor. I spent USD 1000 (Tsh. 1,600,000) to pay for my booth, and another USD 1000 (Tsh. 1,600,000) on cosmetic costs like traveling, meals and other costs to be at this fair,” the owner-manager of Britons International Gems Limited, KhamisYonaMvunta said. “But I have not made any sale at all.”
But Mvunta, a Tanzanian businessman, said there were nevertheless many other advantages to attending this fair. The company got exposure, contacts and the building of a network in the industry he met others of his kind.
A Gambian gemstone dealer but who is based in Antananarivo, Madagascar, MamadouJallow said the small drop in quality buyers should not be a problem. The Arusha gemstones fair is an excellent African business feat which must be supported by all citizens of the the African continent.
“The Arusha show is good. In Africa it is the only show. I got the information about this fair in Bangkok,” Jallow said. “I told four other people about it and they all came. Africa as a whole should do whatever we can to make this annual event a success. Arusha is well positioned to be Africa’s gemstones business centre.”
The Gambian dealer who also has offices in Ibadan, Nigeria, and Bangkok, Thailand said the only problem with this year’s fair was the wrong timing in which the event took place on the same dates as one held in Munich, German. Organizers have to figure out the correct timing so that the event does not coincide with similar events elsewhere.
“This fair is for us Africans. It is not for Tanzania alone. We should make it succeed,” he said.
A South African exhibitor from the multinational gemstones company GEMFIELDS, Janet Silk, conceded the drop in attendance was not a serious problem because the Arusha gemstone fair is new. It couldn’t compare with fairs which have existed for many years such the Hong Kong gemstones fair or the Munich Gemstones fair.
The fair will do fine given time, the white South Africansaid smiling. She added, however, that Tanzania may need to find a way of marketing the fair in a product package that includes the area’s numerous tourist attractions. The fair can be packaged with game parks and other tourist attractions in Arusha, she said.