The 16th edition of the Meetings Africa trade show continues at the Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg. The flagship event of the South African National Conventions Bureau (SANCB) – has brought together some 161 buyers and 216 exhibitors from 13 African countries.
Speaking at the trade floor opening, tourism minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, said Meetings Africa presented an opportunity to collectively review and realign the African business events industry. “Opening trade corridors across the continent must also open pathways for intra-African tourism to thrive, and vice versa. It is us – the African business events sector that have to be intentional and strategic in ensuring that we leverage this mutual benefit between trade and tourism,” the minister said.
Sisulu added that the business events industry accelerates progress as it is a platform for sharing information and collective engagement. “This in turn results in innovation and re-invention which are key for economic and professional development and advancement.”
She does not doubt that the industry will be able to recuperate swiftly after a dormant two years. “During our Global Brand campaign launch on Monday evening, we shared with you how we have risen time and time again, from many episodes of destruction and devastation of the continent’s history. We shared our ability in always being able to rise with pride and resilience – that is the essence of Africanism. It is our ability to live again and build back better that sets us apart.”
Building Africa’s brand together
Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, SANCB’s chief conventions bureau officer, said Meetings Africa would play a part in our sector’s recovery mainly by focusing on regional buyers to align with South Africa’s Tourism Industry Recovery Plan, which focuses on domestic and regional recovery first. It will also look at reintroducing international buyers to Africa as the Covid travel restrictions are eased. “Platforms like these allow us to come together as Africa. In our sector, while we are in competition, we are also in co-operation. And then of course, we need to build on our brand together go out there and tell the world that Africa is ready.”
She said bidding to attract international events could be a tool to encourage collaborative efforts among African countries. “It is a collaborative effort to go out there and bid for these big events. With our culture of sharing, we as a continent have the opportunity to rotate meetings among each other. We can help build that knowledge economy on the continent.”
Kotze-Nhlapo emphasised the business events industry was a catalyst to get the world to open up its borders again. “After two years of shutting our imaginary national borders to each other, now is the time to allow for a freedom of movement. Sharing minds and economies does not mean we sit behind our desks and stare at each other through screens. It means being able to travel from one place to another freely so as to create and grow relationships.”
She added that Africa could start the business events economy rolling by using its African Continental Free Trade Area (AcFTA) as a springboard to achieving a shared economy.
CMW’s man on the show floor Iain Stirling reports that the general consensus among attendees was that, “More than anything, they are glad to be back meeting face-to-face and showcasing Africa as an events destination. There are some good quality buyers attending from South Africa and abroad. Exhibitors, hosted buyers and hosted media were treated to a cocktail reception after the show, 1 March, at the Sandeck at Sandton Sun Hotel.”
Photo L-R: Tourism minister Ms Lindiwe Sisulu; interim chairperson of The SA Tourism board, advocate Mojanku Gumbi; Mayor of Johannesburg, Dr Mpho Phalatse, and MEC for economic development, Parks Tau