‘Best Place For Expos’: South Africa’s Tourism Minister De Lille Touts Continent’s MICE Offerings At Meetings Africa 

Against the backdrop of rapid growth in the global Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) sector, Africa is eager to capitalise on the opportunity by positioning itself as a significant and capable player in the industry.

This much was revealed on Tuesday in Johannesburg by South Africa’s Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille at the opening ceremony of Meetings Africa 2024, Africa’s premier trade show currently underway at the Sandton Convention Centre.

With 380 exhibiting companies from 21 African countries in attendance, Meetings Africa 2024 is solidifying its status as the continent’s leading business events show. 

 “I have no doubt that even here at Meetings Africa, it will be clear for all to see that the African continent is the best place to bring all meetings, events, expos and indeed incentive trips,” de Lille said.

Boldly spelling out Africa’s readiness to host events of any scale, de Lille emphasised that there is still room for further efforts to promote and position the continent as the leading destination for business events. 

 “It is imperative that we take control of our narrative and boldly showcase ourselves to the world,” she said. 

This comes as organisations globally are increasingly relying on in-person conferences and business meetings to devise solutions and strengthen relationships.

De Lille welcomed exhibitors, buyers, media and other stakeholders in the tourism space to the event which has steadily grown to become a mainstay in the global business calender. 

“This is my first Meetings Africa since I took office in March last year, and I am pleased to be here with all of you at this proudly Pan African gathering of global business events partners.

 “It is a very special time to be in South Africa. This year, our country celebrates 30 years of Freedom since our first democratic elections in 1994. 

“For us as a country, this means a time of reflection but also of celebration.”

Stating that freedom to move and explore is vital to the tourism sector, she acknowledged the power of collaboration.

“The many successes of the past 30 years in our industry can be attributed to the partnerships formed with various countries both on and off the African continent.”

Trade Floor Opening 2

De Lille highlighted the 19 new exhibitors at this year’s edition of Meetings Africa, the 17th in 18 years after a hiatus in 2021 due to the COVID pandemic. 

Among the new exhibitors are four from the rest of the African continent, drawn from Egypt, Cote d’Ivoire, Tanzania and Zambia. 

The remaining 15 new exhibitors are from South Africa. 

The 388 exhibitors drawn from across the continent collectively represent diverse and abundant choices available in Africa. 

“Each of these exhibitors brings distinctive perspectives that enhance the diversity of our exhibitor line-up,” the minister said.

“I am confident that our partnerships across African countries will once again demonstrate the value we all derive from this event,” she continued.

Recounting how in it’s early years, representation was primarily South African with minimal participation from the rest of Africa, she expressed satisfaction over its successful expansion into a truly Pan-African show. 

“Building on the success of previous editions of this event we continue to reassure the global business events industry that our continent is open for business and has all it takes to host events of any size,” she said. 

De Lille had special words for the hosts; Gauteng Tourism Authority, the City of Johannesburg, and the Sandton Convention Centre. 

“Your support allows us to showcase South Africa’s ability to host major events, inviting the world to experience our country beyond conference centre rooms.”

According to global economic research, the global business events industry was valued at $345.8 billion in 2021 and is projected to reach $2.1 trillion by 2031. 

 Meanwhile Africa’s business events industry for 2023 was estimated at $12.7 billion, while South Africa’s business events for 2023 was estimated at $6.4 billion. 

 De Lille said South Africa’s positioning should transcend its socio-economic challenges.

“Our challenges do not define our potential, our ability to lead in key business sectors, or our capacity to innovate and host global MICE events. 

“South Africa is home to exceptional individuals achieving remarkable feats, and it’s time to share that story.” 

Following her speech, the Minister was joined on stage by Gauteng MEC for Economic Development, Tasneem Motara, the CEO of Joburg Tourism Company, Thandokuhle Mgudlwa; Mr Tim Harris, the chair of the South African Tourism Board and Nombulelo Guliwe, the Acting CEO of South African Tourism. 

Together, they officially opened the trade show by ringing the bell. 

 Harris echoed De Lille’s sentiments that more needs to be done to grow the business events industry in South Africa and across the continent. 

“We are the leader in Africa, but Africa is only three percent of the global business tourism industry. So as much as we are here to celebrate this week, we also need to put our heads down and work to grow this contribution as Africa emerges to take its rightful place on the global business tourism stage.”

Demola Ojo