For corporate service exhibiters such as bankers and insurance firms, the ongoing Expo at Gikondo seems to be a contest of the loudest where one has to speak on top of their voices to outcompete the noisy sound systems.
But Expo officials say, while anti-noise regulations are in place, they can’t guarantee a silent affair. Its 4pm on Thursday and a visit to the BRD tent sheds light on the matter. The team leader with bottled water by her side requests a client to draw nearer, almost ear to ear before embarking on explaining the development bank’s insurance brokerage service which is operated as an independent subsidiary of Rwanda’s Development Bank in transition.
“Soon,” the team leader explains, “we shall transform into a commercial development bank under new management.” She had spoken to over 200 potential clients since morning and you could tell from her husky voice.
Opposite the BRD tent is KCB Bank where Ms. Solange reveals that while she would appreciate the serene environment that they normally operate from, serving in the expo is a whole new experience; “you have to be loud to be heard.”
Solange has a new product that she has to explain to over 250 walk in visitors, KCB’s home loans that reportedly provides clients with total financing to build their dream homes but she has to outcompete loud music from RBA’s gazebo just a few meters away, in order to put her message across.
“Anyone earning a minimum of Rwf100, 000, with long term employment can qualify for the mortgage which is repayable within 20 years at an annual interest rate of 18 percent,” she explains amidst the noise.
The Expo is Private Sector Federation’s big show that happens yearly and according to officials, this year’s event is even bigger than yesteryear’s but to service exhibitors like Solange, perhaps even louder.
Even Morris, a young man manning the Liquid Telecom tent says the noise is too much for him a fact that becomes obvious when he begins to explain the company’s new product; Vsat gadget with a 4G modem that he says enables users to enjoy fast satellite powered internet connection and is especially good for those living in the countryside.
His voice is nearly hoarse from overstraining it to be heard over the blaring music coming from the Radiant cosmetics tent just opposite where a beauty contest of sorts is ongoing. At the radiant pergola, young women are participating in a dance contest where the winner gets a free hairdo and it’s a leg breaking affair as many a girl strive to win.
According to PSF officials in charge of the Expo organisation, they are aware of noise pollution complaints and say they have put in place regulations that exhibitors have to follow though they admit, it’s difficult to guarantee total compliance from the over 370 exhibiting parties.
Dorothy Uwera is the lady in charge of ensuring this tall order that requires exhibitors with sound systems not to exceed 150decibles and their mixers below 1500w. Those that fall short are warned and when they insist, Uwera is technically supposed to confiscate their systems.
“We are doing our best to meet everyone’s expectations and demands but to be honest, we can’t expect a silent Expo,” she observes, fairly so.
But if one has been to the Expo grounds before, then one will know that the organizers have a limited space issue on their hands. The grounds are crowded and it’s difficult to separate corporate service exhibitors from those in the leisure or entertainment sector such as bars and because of that, you have the fun filled Skol tent a block away from several banks.
“However, that problem will soon be no more,” assures Ephraim Karangwa, the head of exhibitions at PSF.
Karangwa is referring to a new Trade Fair arena under construction on an 18 hectare piece of land at Kagarama in Kicukiro district. Recently, Trade Minister Francois Kanimba also assured traders that the new grounds will be ready, a development he pledged during the closure of last year’s event.
When that ground is ready, Karangwa says they will be able to apportion space according to the nature of exhibition. With that, bankers and corporate revealers like 64 year old Ms. Specioza Uwineza who says the Expo is too chaotic for her liking can have something to look forward to in future expos.
Talking of new things, there has been talk of the exhibitors not bringing in something new. The usual big shots such as Bralirwa, MTN and Inyange as usual take centre stage but at the Ministry of Trade tent, the writing on the wall rallies Rwandans to embrace entrepreneurship under the theme; ‘start small and grow big.”
And in spite of competition for attention from well established exhibitors, Rwandan SMEs are well represented, several women associations showcasing handmade garments, footwear and artifacts can be seen rubbing shoulders with the over 75 foreign exhibitors representing about fifteen countries including Nigeria and Poland.
But it’s the ‘Made in Kigali’ stand that stands out; it’s also easy to notice that their trendy African garments on show were absent last year for being new, this is the company’s debut Expo appearance.
“We design stylish garments for both men and women and we are receiving over 200 clients in a day, half of them buying, we are having a good time,” explains a female attendant.
‘Made in Kigali’ clearly shows that amidst the nois,e there’s something on show; evidence of what skilled Rwandan hands are capable of.