Cape Town Leads Africa in International Business Meetings

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Cape Town Leads Africa in International Business Meetings
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Cape Town Leads Africa in International Business Meetings
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02 July 2024

Cape Town has cemented its status as Africa's premier destination for business meetings, hosting the most international in-person association meetings on the continent in 2023. This achievement is highlighted in a recent report by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), the leading authority in the global conference industry.

In 2023, Cape Town hosted 42 international association meetings, a significant increase from the 30 meetings held in the previous year. This increase solidifies its position as Africa's leading business meetings city, a title it has maintained for over a decade. Following closely behind was Kigali, Rwanda's capital, with 31 meetings, and Nairobi, Kenya's capital and East Africa's commercial hub, which hosted 21 business events.

ICCA annually collects data on international association meetings worldwide. As an ICCA member, the Cape Town and Western Cape Convention Bureau, powered by Wesgro, leads the collection of these statistics for the region, ensuring accurate submission and validation by the global association.

Business events play a crucial role in the Western Cape's economy, not only contributing to visitor numbers but also showcasing the region's expertise across various economic sectors. This has a direct impact on foreign investment, export opportunities, and tourism growth.

The ICCA Statistics Report, released in May 2024, offers a detailed analysis of the global meetings industry. Europe emerged as the frontrunner in hosting the highest number of business meetings in 2023, trailed by Asia and North America. Africa and the Middle East also showed growth compared to pre-pandemic levels, with Cape Town ranking 50th globally in 2023.

Focusing on the broader Western Cape region, it continues to be a significant hub for hosting business events. In 2023, Stellenbosch hosted nine international association meetings, an increase from five in 2022. Overall, the province hosted 51 international meetings in 2023, contributing to South Africa's total of 98. ICCA's rankings criteria require conferences to be attended by at least 50 international delegates, last at least two days, and rotate through at least three countries. The report also emphasises sustainable practices and eco-friendly initiatives to meet the growing demand for environmentally responsible events. 

In 2023, Cape Town and the Western Cape hosted several significant conferences, including the 18th International Congress of Immunology, the Entrepreneur’s Organisation event, and the African Investment Indaba. This year, the region is hosting the Open edX conference from July 2 to July 5 at Stellenbosch University, the International Astronomical Union General Assembly in August, and the International Congress on Infectious Diseases in December 2024.

  Wrenelle Stander, CEO of Wesgro, noted that the ICCA report reaffirms Cape Town and the Western Cape's position as a leading destination for business events, bringing substantial economic benefits to the region. "Hosting conferences and events stimulates economic activity, creates jobs, boosts local hospitality and tourism sectors, and drives innovation and knowledge sharing. These gatherings serve as platforms for industries to showcase their strengths, exchange ideas, and build relationships that can result in valuable deals and investments," she said.The City of Cape Town’s Alderman James Vos, Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Growth, said: “Cape Town’s ranking in the ICCA report exemplifies the city’s status as a premier conference and events’ venue. A variety of organisations across industries and sectors choose Cape Town because of the high standard of services offered as well as the diversity of experiences delegates can enjoy during their stay. Through the Cape Town and Western Cape Convention Bureau, the City will maintain its mission to amplify the Mother City’s appeal as a meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) destination.”

Dr Ivan Meyer, the Western Cape Minister of Agriculture, Economic Development, and Tourism, pointed out the significance of the ICCA report as evidence of the province's commitment to attracting investments and advancing economic growth while enhancing job creation efforts in line with the Growth for Jobs (G4J) strategy. This strategy aims to cultivate a trillion-rand economy that prioritises job creation. 

Meyer highlighted the broader impact of business events, stating: "Business events are not just about drawing delegates; they serve as the cornerstone for economic resilience and innovation. They have the potential to attract trade and investment opportunities that are in sync with our growth sectors."

The Cape Town and Western Cape Convention Bureau is dedicated to promoting the region as a premier business events destination and expanding the business events pipeline. Through strategic business development initiatives and collaboration with stakeholders, the Bureau secured 30 new bids for the 2023/2024 fiscal year, set to exceed the estimated R1 billion economic impact mark. Close cooperation with the South African National Convention Bureau reinforces efforts to secure bids and elevate the region's prominence in the global business events landscape.