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SSouth Africa explores ways of facilitating inclusive economic growth through tourism
JOHANNESBURG – On the eve of Meetings Africa at the end of the month, South Africa continues to explore meaningful ways of ensuring the tourism sector benefits all, particularly youth and women, so that the country could achieve inclusive economic growth that will help tackle the endemic poverty and inequality.
This was the key message from a panel discussion convened by South African Tourism at the auditorium of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, Sandton, on 7 February 2020. Before the panel discussion, Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, who earlier had opened the day’s trade at the JSE, offered a keynote address that officially launched Meetings Africa, which will be held at the Sandton Convention Centre between 24 and 26 February. This year will be the 15th edition of this premier trade show.
In her address, Kubayi-Ngubane acknowledged Meetings Africa’s undisputed stature as a key event in the MICE sector that benefits all of Africa. “It (Meetings Africa) is the ultimate platform for regional business events industry to engage in a bid to attract more global and regional business events to Africa,” Kubayi-Ngubane said.
She went on to note that the business events sector was crucial to the tourism industry as well as the economy of our country and continent. “The tourism industry directly and indirectly sustains more than 250 000 jobs, and contributes an estimated R115 billion to South Africa’s GDP, annually,” the Minister said. “Africa’s growing economies, improved infrastructure and growing tourism sector in globalised environment have led to the improvement in the continent’s MICE supply sector.”
Then the panelists, made up of SA Tourism CEO Sisa Ntshona, Xhanti Payi, an economist, Makhotso Lekhooa, a pharmacology lecturer, and Kganki Matabane, CEO of Black Business Council, took to the stage for a robust and enlightening discussion. The topic was “The role of corporates in driving Africa’s business events agenda” and the facilitator was journalist Gugulethu Mfuphi.
All the panelists were in agreement that accommodating more South Africans in the tourism sector was necessary and urgent, and required effective communication to targeted groups about economic opportunities to be had. “Many sectors, such as construction, medical research and technological, benefit when business tourists invest in the country even after the events they come to attend. Tourism can, therefore, lead to inclusive growth, which simply means that everyone will be involved,” Phayi said.
Lekhooa suggested that the tourism sector could tap into the vast pool of unemployed graduates. “We cannot have inclusive economic growth if the majority of South Africans are excluded from the tourism value chain,” Lekhooa said.
The notion of using tourism to boost African economies is a fundamental aim of Meeting Africa. It allows diverse role players to showcase products and services that help advance the interests of the continent, together. “It’s important that we use the business events sector to showcase the capabilities of the continent. It’s important that Africa speaks with one voice, for the continent to hunt together. That’s why these business meetings events such as Meetings Africa need to rotate within the continent. When one African country grows in tourism, we all grow,” Ntshona said.
Ntshona went on to congratulate Meetings Africa for reaching the 15-year milestone. “We wish Meetings Africa another great 15 years. It needs to be 15 years of doing things differently, a quantum leap so that South Africa could cement its market share in the business tourism sector,” Ntshona said.