African Century

Date: 02/05/2024


In many ways, Africa is the continent of the future. The United Nations projects that by 2050, Africa’s population will reach close to 2.5 billion. Such a figure would mean that more than 25 percent of the world’s population will be African. In parallel, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement will merge 55 economies into a single, competitive mega market, making it one of the biggest free trade areas in the world. Needless to say there will be a massive need for conference and exhibition spaces, as key platforms for facilitating trade and collaboration. AIPC – in close partnership with its African Community – is launching tailor made educational programmes to support venues in their journey.

Africa is a vibrant, colorful continent with a young and ambitious population. Whether you read articles in The Economist, reports from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the Organization for Economic Collaboration and Development (OECD), the message is the same: the future lies in Africa. According to the OECD, Productivity has risen across the continent, and though Africa’s population is expanding rapidly by global standards, income per head has nonetheless risen twice as fast as in OECD countries, sowing the seeds of a burgeoning middle class. From refrigerators and mobile phones to cars and financial services, consumer sales have surged: vehicle ownership in Ghana alone leapt by 81% since 2006.

There are, however, still important barriers to conquer, with trade tariffs being one of them. According to research done by Al Jazeera, at present, intra-continental trade tariffs mean that it is 6.1 percent more expensive to import goods from within Africa than to import from outside the continent. Due to that markup, countries barely trade with each other, with total intra-African exports hovering at about 14 percent of total African trade, compared with 55 percent in Asia, 49 percent in North America and 63 percent in the European Union. So the importance of rolling out the AfCFTA cannot be underestimated and could have a massive potential on GDP growth.

Given the close correlation between GDP and event industry revenues, as demonstrated by AIPC research, this economic rise will result in an increasing demand for conference and exhibition spaces. Unfortunately, and despite a growing workforce, African venues are struggling to find and retain the talent needed to deliver excellent events to their clients. This is not an African problem, but a global one: according to the latest AIPC member survey, 58% find it extremely/very challenging to recruit and retain suitable employees.

Providing tailor-made, high-quality training can help venues in addressing this challenge, as demonstrated by the long term success of the AIPC Academy, a five day “bootcamp” touching upon all the different aspects of venue management – from finance to dealing with conflicts on the work-floor. However, we felt that the Academy in its current format needed to be adapted for the African Community. First of all, there is an economic reality: travelling to Europe is expensive. Secondly, the programme tries to meet the needs of a global community, making some of the modules less relevant. And thirdly, we have learned by experience that our African community of venue professionals is a high-energy one – so the programme needs to be high-energy too.

That is why, under the patronship of Taubie Motlhabane, CEO of Cape Town ICC and AIPC Board Member, we decided to launch the Africa Academy, open to members and non-members of AIPC. The five-day programme, hosted by Taubie and her team in Cape Town (19-23 August), will offer very interactive and hands-on sessions, brought by global thought leaders on technology, operations, security, business development and much more. And while the African landscape of venues is as diverse as the natural wonders of the continent, we are very confident there will be sufficient common ground for exchange of best practices, lessons learned and great networking. Because at the end, that will be the most valuable outcome for the participants: having access to a new network of colleagues from the continent and across the globe.

Sven Bossu,

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