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Out of Africa: Incredible Growth on the Horizon

by Sven Bossu

The convention centers in Africa, the second largest and second most populated continent, has a very diverse market landscape. All share the same ambition: To deliver excellence in service and experience. This ambition is coupled with a clear understanding from policy makers that organized business events are a driver of trade, collaboration and economic growth.

The strengths of Africa as a destination for business events are sometimes underestimated. Its 54 countries each have something different to offer when it comes to business, culture and nature, and Africa has a great tradition of hospitality, with highly experienced staff delivering excellent service. 

African governments are also designing projects and policies intended to lift barriers, such as stringent immigration control policies. As an example, the South-Africa e-Visa system was put in place in February of this year, making travel significantly easier for residents of 14 countries, a list which is expected to grow soon. While the first objective is to grow leisure tourism, it will have a positive impact on business travel and the related trade activities.

Another barrier is the air-connectivity, which was considerably impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. According to IATA figures, there were 970 city pairs in April 2019. By April 2020, there were only 100. With the economy rapidly growing again, African carriers are seizing the opportunity to re-implement direct routes between economic hubs, and  although the number of city pairs remains below 2019 levels, it is growing fast.

The economic opportunities these existing and future assets represent are recognized by policy makers across the region. It is important to note that, as mentioned by the South-African Minister of Tourism, Lindiwe Sisuly,  Africa is a massive market in full development. “Intracontinental travel, resulting from growing economies and growing middle class is an opportunity begging to be explored,” she says. At the same time, there is need for more collaboration, both between the countries but also between the different stakeholders in the value chain of organized events. 

AIPC took a first step on May 17 by holding its first ever AIPC Africa Summit. Bringing together a small group of senior convention center leaders, a lively discussion was held on the strengths and opportunities of the African market landscape and on possible areas of partnership and collaboration, both between African convention centers and with the global AIPC community.

Indeed, while there is a common ambition to deliver excellence when it comes to managing convention centers, there does not exists a dedicated continental platform, allowing to exchange specific knowledge and best practices related to convention center management. That, in combination with professional education focusing on local needs, was considered a key priority. The next steps will be discussed during the AIPC Annual Conference, taking place in Budapest in early July. By that time, a roadmap with a clear set of milestones and tangible objectives will be ready for review. 

The future of business events in Africa is bright and exciting and will be further accelerated by collaboration between governments and between individual stakeholders. AIPC has the clear ambition to support its African Community in any way possible. 

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