Virtual events, conferences and meetings rapidly became the norm during the coronavirus pandemic, forcing businesses to adapt to a new reality as health concerns took top priority. While online gatherings were accepted with gusto in the thick of the Covid-19 pandemic, trade shows, exhibitions and conferences are reopening, with event organisers arguing that there is no substitute for in-person events.
Africa’s biggest mining, electrical, automation, manufacturing, power and transport trade exhibition is no exception and will be welcoming back thousands of visitors through the Johannesburg Expo Centre gates in Nasrec, Gauteng, this September.
Reopening Electra Mining Africa as an in-person event is in line with global trends. The latest ‘UFI Global Exhibition Barometer Report’ indicates that virtual events will not be replacing physical ones, with most respondents (87%) in the June 2022 survey confidently stating that Covid-19 has confirmed the value of pressing the flesh.
“I am yet to bump into a person on a Zoom meeting that I haven’t seen in years and coincidently make a new connection or reaffirm an old one,” says Charlene Hefer, portfolio director of Specialised Exhibitions Montgomery, which organises Electra Mining Africa.
“We have hosted seven exhibitions this year already and we have seen that people want to be back. Exhibitions are the only place where you can entice all five senses of touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste. Nothing that is on a screen can ever replace that,” she says in an interview with Engineering News & Mining Weekly.
Gary Corin, who heads up Specialised Exhibitions Montgomery, agrees. “Even with the growth of the digital age, human beings are gregarious and social by nature. Without a shadow of a doubt, there is a need and a requirement for face-to-face interaction,” he says, adding, however, that engagement has changed as the world recovers from Covid-19.
The pandemic has sparked an acceleration of digital trends, and this is also felt in the exhibition industry. Electra Mining Africa 2022 will be using a digital registration system and will employ technology to ensure that hygiene protocols are adhered to. Some of the publishing around the exhibition will be done digitally and a lot of the information for the five-day event will be available to download.
Hefer says that missing out on Electra Mining Africa in 2020 was a “great loss” to the industry. “Electra Mining Africa is the meeting place for the entire industry, it is where people come to connect and to make connections that matter.”
The return of the traditionally biennial event will also mean a great number of new product and service launches, Hefer says, pointing out that many companies “were not able to launch their products properly in 2020” when the exhibition was cancelled because of the pandemic.
Several companies have already indicated that they will be using the exhibition as a platform to launch their innovations. Among those will be engineering group Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, which is introducing its latest battery-electric vehicle to the Africa mining market, materials handling equipment manufacturer Manitou, which is unveiling a new telehandler, and support solution company Fabchem Mining, which is launching a new yielding anchor for underground mining.
Corin states that Electra Mining Africa is a much-needed platform for buyers and sellers to connect again.
“The event is an opportunity for people to slowly emerge from what was a very traumatic time in the South Africa economy. The show is providing an opportunity – and has been embraced and supported in that fashion – to express ourselves as an economy moving forward, quietly and confidently displaying what we can do.
“I think sometimes, as South Africans, we sell ourselves short. Electra Mining Africa is really an opportunity not only for us, but for the globe to see what our economy has to offer.
“We have world-class products and services,” Corin enthused, adding that more than 85% of exhibitors are local companies.
As in previous years, many associations and industry organisations will be partnering with Electra Mining Africa, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, Society for Automation Instrumentation Mechatronics and Control (SAIMC), South African Capital Equipment Export Council, Mining Equipment Manufacturers of South Africa, South African Mineral Processing Equipment Cluster, the SA Institution of Mechanical Engineering (SAIMechE), Women in Mining South Africa (WiMSA) and Lifting Equipment Engineering Association of South Africa (LEEASA) are on board as partners.
“Partnering with collective bodies that represent interests beyond just individual companies and individual trades is crucial to the success of the show,” says Hefer.
Electra Mining Africa and co-located shows Elenex Africa, Powerex, Transport Expo and Automation Expo will be supported by a programme of content-rich conferences, including WiMSA’s Women in Mining Workshop and LEEASA’s Lifting Equipment Conference, SAIMC’s automation seminar theatre in Hall 7 and the SAIMechE free-to-attend seminars. Industry experts will be speaking on a range of topical and important issues.
The ‘theme days’ concept, launched at Electra Mining Africa 2018, will return to the 2022 event. “The theme days took people a bit of time to get their heads around, but our exhibitors are embracing it and our visitors found it to be a great success,” says Hefer.
The theme days will focus on automation, innovation, safety, future skills and South African day.
Electra Mining Africa will also offer forklift operators an opportunity to show off their skills, competing with others attending a forklift driver competition.