Propak Africa was the way to rid yourself of ‘industry jitters’!

PROPAK AFRICA has come and gone and it should be a relief to many that the event – which is to a large extent a window to our industry – went off successfully.

The state of the packaging sector is also in many ways a barometer of the health of the economy overall. The leading global economies have huge packaging sectors where per capita consumption of packaging materials is far higher than here at the southern tip of Africa. That is a reality of modern economies. Given the sometimes jittery impressions that have been and continue to be created about the SA economy by many people, it was a positive sign that the local packaging sector put on such a good show. And it was a happy and entertaining situation over at Nasrec in Johannesburg during the four days of the event in March (thank you for that folks).

So it’s hats off to the main packaging companies from our industry who were there, well done people. Besides the convertors, there was also a good showing by the many other suppliers.

This year’s Propak Africa attracted the highest number of exhibitors ever – 620 from 450 exhibitors in 2013. More than 11 600 visitors attended the show, slightly under the 2013 numbers. Great news is that 5315m² (35% of the show) has already been booked for 2019.

There wasn’t a huge amount of new stuff on show, but there definitely was an atmosphere of it’s ‘business as usual’ and ‘we can do it’. Of course it could have been better and attendance figures could have been higher, but our impression was that the display was solid overall.


Opportunity for aspirant entrepreneurs to get involved

Our main observation besides is that there weren’t enough black business people there. The main Propak Africa event and Proplas Expo provided a good opportunity for any aspirant entrepreneur to find ideas and technologies to get involved, just a day at the event could have been a life-changing experience for any person with such intentions.

We were surprised at how many small equipment or service suppliers were exhibiting. In the context of the emerging market in South Africa, small is a relevant term: for anyone who is employing even just a handful of people it’s not a small matter. But perhaps people need to think more openly about the status of small beginnings? It’s a fact that most of the big convertors present at the show started out small, in some cases very small.

Even in the challenging current market situation, we have noticed over the past few months how some individuals and small groups are starting up, these being mainly food and beverage manufacturers seeking packaging containers. For some reason these people get referred to us at the magazine, possibly because we have arguably the most comprehensive list of convertors in the region and are happy to put them in touch with container manufacturers – which is effectively what happened at the show too.

Somehow the perceived barriers to entry to the economy need to be broken down, but at the same time it needs to be said: the door is open, all you need to do is walk through it - there is a fairly large group of equipment, service and solution suppliers waiting to assist. Just remember to start small. You can only go up from there.

Martin Wells, publisher