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RESEARCH

Bridging Africa’s trade gaps With the African Continental Free Trade Agreement in the pipeline, Londi Khumalo, managing director of research consultancy Niche Partners, feels this can lead to exciting prospects for the continent’s MICE stakeholders and overall growth.

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Together with Meetings and The Planner Guru, Niche Partners is in the process of onboarding regional associations and clients within African MICE to help the industry understand the market on the continent.” Londi Khumalo, managing director, Niche Partners

12 • MEETINGS l NOV/DEC 2020 

usiness research that I conducted in 2017 showed that the leading reasons for conference attendance are networking, learning and trade opportunities. As the African Union’s (AU’s) African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) promises to open up various opportunities across sectors for shared learning, trade and networking, an imperative question for MICE stakeholders on the African continent should be: what are the ways that our industry facilitates this growth? The AU’s Agenda 2063 “is Africa’s blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future.” According to the AU, this continental strategic framework seeks to stimulate collective and sustainable development on the continent. Agenda 2063 has, most significantly, resulted in the establishment of the AfCFTA, which aims to “create a single market for goods, services, facilitated by movement of persons in order to deepen the economic integration of the African continent”. Signed in 2018, it prioritises the removal of barriers to trade across the continent, and the promotion of intracontinental trade among member countries. The World Bank states that there is great potential to create “the largest free trade area in the world measured by the number

of countries participating” – that’s 1.3 billion people across 55 countries, with a combined GDP valued at US$3.4 trillion (R52 trillion) and the potential to reduce the poverty of 30 million people.

A SMALL MARKET WITH HUGE POTENTIAL While an unclear number of regionally rotating meetings take place in Africa, the continent currently holds the smallest share of international association meetings. In addition, there is a major shortfall in data to understand specific opportunities available in the MICE industry in Africa. Following on from the AU’s vision “to create the Africa we want”, Niche Partners – in collaboration with Meetings and its digital brand extensions, The Planner Guru – has begun sourcing regional data and identifying leading suppliers and clients across the continent who are participating in the creation of an opportunities report, titled African Perspectives on the MICE Industry. After Niche Partners’ Covid-19 study across Africa on the state of the MICE industry, it is clear that businesses have suffered, and will no doubt continue to do so with challenges such as financial sustainability remaining obstacles to growth. However, from the data, we can

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Meetings November December 2020