THE AFRICAN ASSOCIATION OF EXHIBITION ORGANISERS HIGHLIGHTS THE GROWTH AND RESILIENCE OF BUSINESS TOURISM IN AFRICA, ATTRACTING FOREIGN INVESTORS AND DRIVING ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. THROUGH INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT AND IMPROVED ACCESSIBILITY, THE EVENTS INDUSTRY SHOWCASES AFRICA AS AN ATTRACTIVE DESTINATION FOR CONFERENCES AND CORPORATE EVENTS.
The African Association of Exhibition Organisers spotlights the thriving business tourism in Africa, drawing foreign investors and fueling economic development. The African events industry has grown remarkably in recent years, playing an important role in the continent’s economic progress. Foreign investors are increasingly interested in the potential for growth in business tourism in Africa. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, business travel and tourism in Africa are projected to increase by 7.6% annually through 2028.
This promising statistic shows that foreign investors recognize the untapped opportunities and potential returns offered by business tourism in Africa. Although African businesses and events face challenges like underrepresentation in global trade, infrastructure issues, a poor reputation, digital divides, and poverty, the events industry continues to find solutions to local challenges through business tourism.
Devi Paulsen-Abbott, Chairperson of the African Association of Exhibition Organisers (AAXO), highlights solutions African countries have adopted to overcome events industry challenges. Governments in Africa are prioritizing infrastructure development by investing in convention centers, exhibition spaces, and hotels. The primary goal of these efforts is to enhance the continent’s capacity to host large events and conferences, which in turn will attract more foreign investment.
In addition to infrastructure, African countries are promoting their destinations to attract business travelers. Farirai Nandipa Mabodza, Managing Director of Farirai Nandipa Events in Zimbabwe and an AAXO member, says, “Our government has recently been promoting MICE tourism. We hope to contribute to the initiative by promoting Zimbabwe for business events and connecting external organizers and the Zimbabwean events industry.”
Collaboration and local partnerships are crucial to developing business tourism across Africa. Projeni Pather, Managing Director at Exposure Marketing and immediate past-Chair of AAXO, emphasizes finding a local partner with knowledge of the economic, cultural, and social context and access to resources and venues. A good local partner provides insights, funding, sponsors, and industry partners, ensuring an exhibition’s success.
Accessibility has also improved recently, with advancements in visa restrictions and market access. Governments now recognize and welcome the economic opportunities of business tourism. Countries like Rwanda and Kenya have e-visa systems, making the visa process easier for international visitors. Mabodza notes, “Africa is a huge market, and foreign investors can use events to market to the continent.”
Pather adds, “Africa’s emerging markets offer opportunities, and events are a way for investors and visitors to tap into them. From social development and sustainability to business growth, knowledge transfer, diversification, and channel growth, Africa is an untapped market with immense potential. Along with cultural diversity and heritage, visitors want to return.”
Business tourism has emerged as an important driver of economic growth in Africa. International conferences, exhibitions, and corporate events attract foreign direct investment by showcasing business potential. Business tourists stimulate local economies, generating revenue for hotels, restaurants, transportation, and more. Business tourism also fosters local industry growth by creating opportunities for local suppliers and service providers to collaborate with international businesses. Small and medium-sized enterprises benefit from exposure to global markets, promoting entrepreneurship and innovation.