Africa is ascending to new heights as it takes a collaborative approach to innovative, sustainable business events. That was the core message of ICCA’s first Africa Summit. The event kicked off with the exciting launch of the Kenya Convention Bureau (KNCB). Jacinta Nzioka, CEO, Kenya Convention Bureau and Hon Najib Balala, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Tourism & Wildlife Kenya delivered inspiring messages on the outlook for the business events industry in Kenya. 

“Kenya prides itself on its legacy and heritage. We in the events industry want to extend a legacy that benefits our nature and culture to business events delegates.”

Jacinta, who is also the ICCA African Chapter Deputy Chair, is the powerhouse behind the new convention bureau's MICE brand and marketing strategy. “We’ve developed a roadmap for developing MICE in Kenya and launched the Kenya National Convention Bureau. We have fantastic input and alignment in what we are doing.” 

Hon Najib Balala reiterated the importance of business events, both locally and globally. “Without tourism we cannot survive. People feel the effects of lack of tourism. It’s not just about a holiday that people take. It is an economy that rotates through people’s lives. For business tourism, we must be strategic and careful. We must care for people’s health as number one and work together. Collaboration is key.”

Business events are the backbone of Africa’s success

Working together was also a central theme as a panel session examined the role of African Associations in business events. 

“The more we collaborate, the more we support each other, that’s how we are going to win as a continent,” said Frank Murangwa, Director of Destination Marketing, Rwanda Convention Bureau. “During the pandemic, we saw the role of convention bureaus becoming so vital in terms of bringing together the key players on the ground, educating on protocols, and sharing information through our marketing and communications.”

Kathleen Lihanda, Regional Development Manager Europe, Middle East & Africa, International Coaching Federation, explained why strong partnerships and clear communication are key for associations as they begin planning in-person events once again.

“We are looking for convention and visitor bureau (CVB) partners who can give us the latest information on pandemic protocols in different countries. We want to know how we can plan our meetings safely and help our members feel that they are being taken care of. We want to ensure our members feel comfortable to still meet and develop themselves.”

Kathleen said direct partnerships with CVBs are critical associations as they move forward. The International Coaching Federation is one of many associations that will also implement a hybrid event strategy to continue to engage members who cannot attend physically. 

Zuhura Ogada, Chair, Event Managers Association Kenya, is already adapting to this shift. “The hybrid events are here to stay with us. The best part is that they are complementing the face-to-face component. You cannot do without the business aspect of the convention, the meetings and the conferences.”

From a sustainability perspective, Kathleen explained that associations understand the critical role their events have in achieving the UN’s 2030 agenda. “We realize that it is important for us to continue having events and conferences. These are the things that will keep us having momentum even after COVID-19.” 

Zuhura agreed. “We are going to work very closely with associations across Africa to reach new heights.” 

The sustainability revolution is now

As the world ground to a halt in 2020, many organisations and industries took the opportunity to rethink their strategies and apply a fresh perspective to their operations. ICCA’s new strategic partner, the Global Destination Sustainability Movement, shared the positive and innovative transformations that they’re seeing from the business events industry.  

For example, the New African Development Bank-GCA initiative is committing $25 billion to scale up African climate adaptation. From an industry perspective, 96% of event professionals considered sustainability important or extremely important in an October 2020 survey by IMEX-Marriott. That’s an increase of 5% since the previous survey in October 2020. Furthermore, 95% of European DMO CEOs say the crisis will lead to a “new normal” with a much stronger focus on sustainability.

Guy Bigwood, GDS Chief Changemaker & Managing Director, and Melissa Baird, GDS Communications Changemaker, delivered a step-by-step approach for our industry to regenerate social, environmental and economic fabric post-pandemic. 

“For the change to happen, we need to engage big and small companies and organizations and governments,?Guy explained “That’s what associations do so they have a vital role in and purpose right now in catalysing change, bringing people together, creating new certifications.” 

Forward to a more focussed future

“The pandemic has challenged all of us to think differently and to be open to changing at a faster pace than we are used to. It is heartening to see ICCA members leading the way in new formats and innovative plans,” said ICCA CEO Senthil Gopinath. 

A recent ICCA survey of associations found that 49% of respondents are planning an in-person meeting for the first or second half of this year, and a remaining 38% are scheduling in person meetings for next year. 

Senthil advised ICCA members to not assume delegates will want to return to events with the same format as before the pandemic. In the same survey, 96% of association respondents said technology has impacted the way in which they conduct meetings and 49% of respondents are adding hybrid elements to their events. 

“We will need to consider content and knowledge transfer, but also the increasingly important contribution of the physical environment where we meet and our sustainability goals,” he said. “It is clear that the pandemic has given us reason, and perhaps forced us, to pause and reflect on our events and how we can make them even more relevant in the future.” 

Even though the pandemic resulted in a period of limited mobility, ICCA World has found that, in fact, the community has been able to come closer together. Each region has built stronger ties as they exchange ideas and unite in local industry advocacy. 

“As a global organisation, ICCA is deeply committed to being a support pillar for each of the unique regions that comprise our diverse community. Our members in Africa have shown incredible resilience and a transformational mindset in their strategies for overcoming today’s challenges. They are a shining example of how our industry will emerge from this crisis stronger and more focussed than ever before.”


  • ICCA members can read the results of the survey by logging in to MYICCA
  • View the extended video of the Kenya National Convention Bureau, here
  • Download the GDS full presentation, here.