Feature

Macro-Economic Benefits Through Business Events

The idea of the value of business events extending to the acceleration of a country’s economy has been circulating for a while. The pandemic showed that most economic sectors were fragile and unsustainable. In this recovery phase we are going through business events have a major role to play. South Africa and its Convention Bureau (SANCB) has realized the need to match association conferences and key industries to optimize its recovery and drive growth for the country.

Words Vicky Koffa

South Africa’s economy has not had an easy journey and the pandemic certainly did not do them any favors. But the government is determined to bounce back implementing the Reconstruction and Recovery Plan for the South African economy. The initiative is aimed at stimulating equitable and inclusive growth in three phases: Engage and Preserve – a comprehensive health response to save lives; Recovery and Reform – interventions to restore the economy; and lastly, Reconstruct and Transform – building a sustainable, resilient, and inclusive economy.

Part of the plan is the promotion of the country as a capable business events destination. The goal is to empower the association industry of the country and attract international conferences. “South Africa has a well-established professional and trade association industry spanning across various sectors. The SANCB focuses on attracting conferences in economic sectors that the government has identified as priorities for future development. Hosting major events in these sectors can significantly accelerate macro-economic benefits for the country,” says Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, Head of SANCB.

Focus on Key Industries

Medical and Life Sciences are at the top of the list. SA is making strides towards innovation; bright example is the new Technology Innovation Cluster Program (TICP) for Medical Devices and Diagnostics (MeDDIC), initiated last year. Launched by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) in partnership with the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), MeDDIC aims to strengthen the medical devices and diagnostics innovation ecosystem through a cluster-based approach.

On the same note, the Johannesburg Health Cluster is a research report compiled by Trade & Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS) and is focused on the healthcare sector in the City of Johannesburg (CoJ), in particular, the medical devices sector. It delves deeper to understand the problems faced by the sector and what would be required to leverage the sector for domestic growth and import substitution.

The well-developed farming sector in South Africa is the backbone to the country’s agricultural economy and in 2020 it showed the best growth rate of all economic sectors. In 2020 the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development announced that the government would be making 896 farms (totaling 700 000 hectares of under-utilized or vacant agricultural state land) available for emerging farmers. The decision came with heavy investment in innovative farming and digitalization.

Manufacturing is another sector where SA is set for growth, localizing and developing transformative and efficient ways of manufacturing existing and new products. The Centre for Robotics and Future Production (focusing on disruptive technologies), and the National Photonics Centre (supporting laser-based technologies for advanced manufacturing applications) are just two areas where the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is focusing its research on.

Recently, the government has rolled out various incentive plans and policies to develop ICT capabilities for local and global companies. Furthermore, industry-academia collaboration and training programs, such as Digital Innovation Precinct, are established for building more complex IT skills. SA houses two Azure datacenters by Microsoft and one by Huawei. South Africa’s thriving start-up community further supports innovation and advances in emerging fields such as Fintech, EdTech, InsurTech, and HealthTech.

Other key industries which have been identified as growth drivers are tourism, mining and minerals, finance, wholesale and retail trade, and creative Industries.

Complementing Industries with Infrastructure & Services

Any visiting associations will benefit not only by coupling with the knowledge sectors SA has to offer, but also from the abundance and quality of its conference venues. Flagship venues include the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban, the Sandton Convention Centre and the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

SA has hosted many International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) qualifying conferences and meetings, with delegates enjoying high standards of event organizing. Kotze-Nhlapo says: “We demonstrated our capabilities in transport, accommodation, safety and security, smooth immigration procedures, and an abundance of leisure activities.” And she concludes: “South Africa is a developing country, and we learn from the knowledge these association meetings bring into the country. When these meetings are convened in SA, our local experts get an opportunity to learn from international experts, and international experts get to learn from our local experts.”

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