Jeffers Miruka is the President of the African Society of Association Executives (AfSAE), headquartered in Johannesburg. A man of wisdom and knowledge, he has over 10 years of combined experience in association management and the meetings industry. He shares with Boardroom his views on how Africa is developing fast, both as an association and a meetings destination.
Can you elaborate on the development of the African Society for Association Executives?
The Africa Society of Association Executives (AfSAE) was an idea whose time had come, and that could not be stopped. For several years, an informal group of African association executives – largely supported by the South African National Convention Bureau (SANCB) – meeting during the Meetings Africa’s Association Day, otherwise known as “Business Opportunities Networking Day (BONDay)” had canvassed about the need to stay connected with each other throughout their careers. This gained momentum during the build-up to the 10th anniversary of Meetings Africa in 2015.
During Association Day of 2015, I reinstated the subject during one of my presentations entitled “Why Africa needs an association for association leaders” by citing well-known examples from around the world such as the American Society of Association Executives or the Canadian Society of Association Executives. The association executives present that day eagerly bought the idea. After more deliberations, we setup an Establishment Committee of 23 individuals, representing associations and other interest groups. AfSAE was formally established in February 2016.
Since then, it has been a journey of faith, determination, commitment and purpose.
How do you see the future of Africa as congress destination evolving?
Africa has the potential to be the ideal backdrop and the next frontier for congresses and meetings, thanks to its growing infrastructure, ease of connectivity, a developing healthcare cluster, rich history and natural beauty.
In Africa, we now fully acknowledge that congresses promote destinations; they build the reputation of the host countries by building awareness and image to the visitors. They spur trade and investment by creating partnerships and collaborations through research and academic works. Conferences help to establish networks when people meet face-to-face. They disseminate knowledge as practitioners apply newly gained insights to enhance their professional practice, growth, and many more benefits.
Many African countries are currently investing in Convention Bureaus, modernizing the existing convention centres and building modern ones, increasing the number of accommodation rooms, overall improving our infrastructure. This is geared towards making Africa a destination of choice for congresses.
What can governments do to help the development of Africa in this area?
On Wednesday, March 21, 2018, in Kigali, Rwanda, 44 African heads of state and governments, representing their respective countries met and signed the now famous African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement. This was a culmination of the Africa Union’s vision of establishing free trade and a single currency amongst member-nations. One of the main objectives of this agreement is to ultimately free movement of people and create a common currency.
The beauty of this long-awaited agreement is that it will open the skies, thus lower the cost of flying within Africa and accelerate growth of air services in the continent.
I believe this is by no doubt, it is to me, to this day, the most significant step ever taken by African governments to help its people and spur continental development. It was long overdue and I pray the bottlenecks of its implementation will be minimal, or none.
You are the executive director of the African Association of Agricultural Economists (AAAE) as well, do you notice a need for a more global collaboration with other associations?
I always speak about collaborations in my presentations. Associations are not in the business of competition, but rather coopetition, with the hope of mutually beneficial results. They are communities of people bound together by a common goal. If we don’t look at it from this perspective, we will lose the motivation of serving our members. And this always reminds me of my favorite quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who once opined that “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
Jeffers Miruka was interviewed by Cécile Koch, Founder and Managing Partner of Boardroom / firstname.lastname@example.org