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February 2, 2015

Sub-Saharan Africa: Meetings Africa 2015 – Celebrating 10 Years of Growth and Success

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As avid participants, supporters and partners with Meetings Africa, we as The Event staff are truly thrilled to see how this exhibition has grown into one of the most anticipated events on the African business calendar. Since its modest beginnings in 2005, Meetings Africa has developed into a globally recognised show that will be celebrating its tenth anniversary from 23-25 February. But there are some things that never change – and never need to. The exhibition still showcases the African continent’s incredibly diverse offerings and services, and it still remains an event where African associations and African meetings industry professionals can come together to transform the continent for the better.

To illustrate the extent of its growth, one need only look at the 2013 show report versus that of last year. In 2014, a total of 3,295 delegates were in attendance – 15 percent more than the previous year – while 238 local corporate buyer delegates attended, a 140 percent rise on 2013. SA Tourism’s CEO, Thulani Nzima, is humble about these achievements. “Who do we have to thank [for] Meetings Africa’s incredible success? Without a doubt, you, the people that work in South Africa’s business events industry. It is your commitment and passion to work together to enhance South Africa’s global reputation that has seen Meetings Africa grow,” he wrote in a recent welcome letter. “South Africa is focused on growing this industry not only because it sustains jobs and contributes to the country’s GDP, but also because it also creates business opportunities,” he continued, “These opportunities would possibly not have taken place if these events had not been brought to South Africa, exposing our varied knowledge economy credentials to global audiences.

This year, we can expect many exciting things on Meetings Africa’s programme. Of course, a number of these will be back for another year, like the much-awaited BOND Day (Business Opportunities Networking Day), and Association Day, in conjunction with the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA). The Unique Speaker Bureau (USB) has made Meetings Africa even more connected with their online diary system, which is engineered for business optimisation and went live on 12 January. “The beauty of the online diary is that it enables buyer and exhibiting delegates to plan ahead, to target ideal people for meetings and to set those meetings up well ahead of the Meetings Africa trade show,” says Marilyn Woolfrey of USB. The USB Corporate Buyers Showcase will take place on the last day of the show, bringing over 40 professional speakers together, both local and international.


Section 1: A Chat with Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, Chief Convention Bureau Officer of the SANCB

Appointed in 2011 to head up the newly-established National Convention Bureau as Executive Manager, Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo is now Chief Convention Bureau Officer and, with a wealth of experience under her belt, drives the organisation to new heights. The Event spoke to her to find out what we can expect at Meetings Africa in 2015.

As we approach Meetings Africa's 10th anniversary, what can we look forward to and what has changed since previous years?

We are very excited about this year’s Meetings Africa show and are very confident that it will exceed expectations in terms of visitor experience, attendance numbers and the number and quality of exhibitors and hosted buyers. The show, as you rightfully point out, celebrates its tenth year anniversary this year and we really want it to be celebratory in nature without compromising on the its key strategic objectives: that of bringing premier African exhibitors to do business with quality hosted buyers under one roof.

This year we continue with our theme of Advancing Africa Together. This in recognition of the fact that we still see Africa’s business events potential as one all countries on the continent can benefit and should work together to promote and grow.

We have an exciting and informative event programme lined up that we are certain will cater to all in attendance. An exciting new feature includes the first ever AIPC (International Association of Convention Centres) Africa Summit which is taking place on BOND day, Monday, 23 February. This will be addressed by global and local industry experts who will speak on a range of enlightening topics pertaining to business events trends and Africa’s potential in relation to the global market. BOND day will again feature the third edition of the very successful IMEX MPI-MCI Future Leaders Forum, African Association Day to be held in conjunction with ICCA, and the first edition of CEP(Continuing Education Programme) Africa and as well as the very popular Event Greening Forum.

The second day of Meetings Africa marks the official opening the exhibition programme.  A key highlight on this day is welcoming Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, who will officiate over his first ever Meetings Africa since his appointment last year. There is a fantastic programme lined up for this day consisting of the Global Media Face-Off that will see industry experts and stakeholders as well as an economist with speciality in African affairs to discuss the state of the industry on the continent and how business events is a key sector to Africa’s growth. This is a discussion not to be missed! There will also be an array of other events during this day which will culminate in the Gala Dinner that evening, tickets for which are available for purchase.

In line with the one of the key strategic objectives of Meetings Africa, to create a platform to do business, the partnership with The Unique Speaker Bureau corporate hosted buyers programme has made a new exciting turn: The inaugural VIP Local corporate “B2B” speed marketing event.  This is a platform that will assist our exhibitors to do more business, 50 exhibitors have the opportunity to meet 50 of our top regional corporate companies. This event will take place over the 2 days of Meetings Africa, 24-25 February 2015.

As one of the figureheads and drivers behind the trade show, where do you see Meetings Africa headed in the next 10 years?

I see Meetings Africa continuing to grow and year on year bring more of the continent together as interest in Africa continues to grow. The show will remain Africa’s best business event trade show and furthermore, occupy its rightful place as one of the most successful regional business event trade shows in the world. It will continue to be the place to meet the best African trade product owners and in time, will be acknowledged for its contribution towards growth and development in many countries across the continent.

What would you like your legacy to be and what are your goals for Meetings Africa in 2015 and coming years?

Under the SANCB we want to grow the show, but numbers alone are not important. We want to use Meetings Africa as Africa’s platform to show the world that doing business in Africa is easy, that Africa’s product offerings is world class and that we are capable and do deliver.

We also want the show to be regarded as must attend for hosted buyers, should they want to meet African business event products and service providers. Ultimately, we want Meetings Africa to get recognition as a trade show that delivers quality leads and business to the exhibitors

Has the Advancing Africa Together theme grown Meetings Africa's profile? How can African conference goers get the best from the show?

Our theme ‘Advancing Africa Together’– has definitely heightened South Africa and Africa’s business events profile. The continuing growth of participation of African destinations is evident to this. Advancing Africa Together, in particular, has done a tremendous amount of work in unifying the industry on the continent and raising awareness about the need to work together as players in this field.

According to the 2013 ICCA rankings, Africa hosted just over 300 of the 12,000 global association meetings. We are confident about the potential for future growth of this sector on the continent and will use Meetings Africa to show off what we have to offer and encourage the rest of the world to rise with us.


Section 2: From the Exhibition Floor

Meetings Africa 2015 will have its official opening ceremony on day two (24 February) and will open the exhibition floor then, too. That evening, a glamorous gala event is planned for attendees. Exhibitors and stand builders alike are excited about this year’s show, which has attracted a number of new faces to the floor.

Pamela Niemand, CEO of Westpoint Executive Suites, says this will be her first year exhibiting, but they’re looking forward to using the digital diary which “makes for easy planning and targeted marketing”. When asked how she will ensure that the show is profitable for the company, she explains her method: “As we do with other shows, we ensure that we follow up on every card collected with individual emails, so that important contacts are not forgotten. At the show, we ensure that our stand is inviting and captivating, and always briefly converse with visitors so as to introduce our product gradually and show genuine interest in the buyer or visitor. Lastly, personality is key. A dull face is a sure way to repel visitors.”

Gill Gibbs, CEO of Concept G, stand-building contractors for Meetings Africa, says that the company has been working with the show since its inception in 2010 to ensure all standards are met. “Meetings Africa is a Green Exhibition and one of the few events that actually conduct a Green Audit,” she explains. “We work to the allocated budget for each project, using the required recycled, re-used and environmentally friendly materials. As a full in-house manufacturing concern, we are able to firmly and stringently control all costs related to the project. We own, maintain and develop our own furniture range to ensure longevity and quality. We also have long established relationships with our supply chain with respect to materials, such as aluminium, electrical components, timber, paint, fabrics and flooring and we have negotiated the best value prices to ensure that we can offer a turnkey quality solution to our clients, in budget and on time.”

Pamela says she expects to see an increasing number of continental visitors, as well as a huge UK market and more of the Asian market, too. Gill says that stand-building trends will definitely be different to last year because “we firmly believe that you cannot do things the same way as the previous year and expect a different result! We are constantly evolving to meet the industry demands and pace. Business is being conducted differently today and we must be current, relevant, attentive and open to these trends – evolve or die.”


Section 3: A Chat with SCC’s CEO Mati Nyazema

The Sandton Convention Centre (SCC) has hosted Meetings Africa since its inception ten years ago. And there isn’t a more fitting home for this prestigious event. The SCC is Southern Africa’s leading multi-purpose centre, with over 22,000m2 of exhibition space. Each year, the SCC has upped its game with Meetings Africa, bringing some extraordinary features, culinary delights and fabulous entertainment to all in attendance. The Event spoke to Mati Nyazema, the Executive Director at Sandton Convention Centre to find out what’s new in 2015.

How do you feel about hosting Meetings Africa on its tenth anniversary?

It’s an honour to have been part of an exhibition that has grown phenomenally in the last 10 years. The greatest accolade was when the show was bought over by South African Tourism and became a firm calendar event for all global business tourism buyers. The SA National Convention Bureau continues to grow the quality, content and marketing of the show through their global channels. Being a committed partner, it is always gratifying for SCC to watch this show continue to be a huge success.

How do you manage to run such a high-pressure show whilst still maintaining SCC’s world class reputation? What are your secrets for success?

My secret for success is an excellent and strong team that puts their heart and soul into the SCC. We are well known for our superior service offering and continue to offer when being compared to other venues. The SCC also draws immense support from being a part of the Tsogo Sun group. We are able to package conference and accommodation specials, and we also benefit from the corporate resource base in terms of sales, marketing and administration, which other venues may not have. Tsogo Sun provides the competitive advantage edge for the SCC.

Meetings Africa is a launch pad for bringing the African continent together in business. How does SCC help it reach that goal as well as attract new events from across the continent?

The SCC is well situated in the heart of Johannesburg’s business, hotel and entertainment district.  Sandton Convention Centre offers easy access to over 5,000 hotel rooms, is adjacent to the country's top shopping and entertainment complexes. Because of our location, we are able to attract the African market as we are well-poised to offer not just a business destination but shopping and array of entertainment as well.

What are some of the challenges you face when planning and executing Meetings Africa and how do you overcome them?

The SANCB team drives the core plan for Meetings Africa and SCC as the host venue ensures that we translate the client’s plans into reality. Meetings Africa consists of several stakeholders but SCC views this as an opportunity to deliver a world-class event. A strong communications strategy ensures that everything to the last detail is executed according to plan. There is a large investment from the meetings industry in SA into Meetings Africa and the challenge is to continue to offer value and ROI.  In order to address this, every year the Meetings Africa team conducts a research study of the previous year in order to enhance the event for the Industry. Every opportunity is investigated to offer more value each year for the industry.

What trends and types of buyers and exhibitors do you expect to see at Meetings Africa 2015?

I expect to see an increase in international buyers and Pan African representation at Meetings Africa. In terms of trends: how to effectively use technology in the meetings space and social media impact in the meeting space. For buyers, I expect to see international, government, corporate, associations and PCO’s, while exhibitors will be present from the whole industry, from convention centres and hotels to car rental and incentive companies.

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