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March 5, 2019

Sub-Saharan Africa: Business Events are the Anchor of Tourism

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Meetings Africa was officially opened at 10am on Tuesday, 26 February, to an excited, energetic and enthusiastic audience. The event took place last week from 25-27 February 2019 and broke several records. Rousing speeches were given by SA Tourism CEO Sisa Ntshona, South Africa’s Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom, and other key stakeholders of the show. The main point driven home was that business events are significant, and Africa is ready to take on more of this growing global market.

“This is the fourteenth year of this wonderful, wonderful conference showcasing the competencies, capabilities of Africa and South Africa in terms of delivering business events,” Mr Ntshona said. He added that in the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address two weeks ago, he placed tourism front and centre in terms of driving the economy and job creation. “It is you in this room who actually make this magic happen. It is you who keep the wheels of the economy going. We acknowledge you and appreciate you, please continue being the champions you are in the business events space.

“Business events are almost seen as the non-sexy side of tourism. But business events are the anchor. This is where we acquire people visiting the country in bulk. This is where policies get made, inventions get done. And I assure you that in SA, this is an area that we want to grow.”

Minister Derek Hanekom drove this point home by explaining the significance in relation to Meetings Africa. “It is my pleasure to welcome you to what is truly Africa’s premier business events show – Meetings Africa. It just grows year after year, fourteen years now it’s been running. Meetings Africa is really hitting an all-time high, and we’ll do even better in future years.”

102 exhibitors from 15 African countries were present at Meetings Africa this year, testament to this being an event by Africa and for Africa. These included Botswana, Namibia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

“I must say, this show has made huge strides in providing a very effective platform for exhibitors and buyers to showcase Africa’s offerings and unique experiences,” Minister Hanekom added. He expressed his excitement at seeing more African countries taking a strong interest in growing their business events sectors, especially through the establishment of convention bureaus.

“It tells you of the recognition of the importance and the potential in hosting congresses, conferences, exhibitions, meetings and events – massive opportunity, not only for events, but also for knowledge exchange, information exchange, and working together to deal with some of the challenges we face as a continent and globally.”

Meetings Africa broke all previous records in 2019, with 338 exhibitors in total – 32 more than last year – and 721 hosted buyers applying for spots at Meetings Africa, with a whopping 462 from 65 countries accepted to attend, surpassing last year’s total of 392. Tanzania and Mauritius for the first time exhibited as countries and showcased the products and facilities they offer as cohesive units.

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