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BBy Sisa Ntshona, Chief Executive Officer of South African Tourism 

Sharing and communal existence has been intrinsically linked to the African way of life for time in memorial. Sharing Economy is broadly described as a socio-economic network in which assets or services are shared between private individuals, either free or for a fee. This concept is a great fit to the African way of sharing and co-creating. 

Advancement in technology and globalisation, has also ensured that this system stands today as a vital catalyst in Africa’s growth story especially in this era of innovation and need for inclusive economic growth. 

In many countries on our continent, the informal sectors and high rates of unemployment (specifically among the youth) have necessitated the creation of sharing economies to bring more participation in the economy. This includes small businesses collaborating, for example, to bring about economies of scale – for the benefit of many. And the tourism sector, both continentally and globally, has been a great sector for the concept of shared economies to become dynamic and thrive. The introduction and wide usage of “disruptors” such as the sharing of transport, homes and working spaces, will only lead to more of our people seeing a value, ownership, and participation in the sector. 

The United World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) recently announced that global international tourist arrivals have grown by a remarkable 7% in 2017 to reach a total of 1.3 billion - with Africa’s growth estimated at 8% reaching a record of 62 million international arrivals in 2017. 

This growth alludes the continent’s ability to attract more international leisure tourists and make waves as a serious global player in hosting regional and global meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions. Another important aspect is - it demands of Africa’s entrepreneurs and people wanting to enter the industry -to find innovative ways to capitalise on the mounting global interest in Africa. This will ensure that growth not only happen in big metros, but bring in the smaller towns in the peripheries. 

The emergence of the sharing economy – in players such as Airbnb and Uber – has already disrupted many industries outside of tourism. Certainly, Africa’s economic, demographic and infrastructural profiles all point to a viable environment for the ideas of the sharing economy to take root and flourish. 

At this year’s Meetings Africa, the continent’s premier business events trade show, our focus will examine how a sharing economy can transform people’s lives, positively and sustainably. This will be a platform for players in the tourism and other economic sectors, to share ideas, expertise and learnings to propel the continent’s growth. It will further cement partnerships that will position Africa globally as an ideal MICE destination. 

We as Africans possess the determination and insight to adopt and create innovative business solutions tailored to the continent’s unique needs. 

The growth of our continent depends on diverse minds with a common purpose connecting and working towards a common goal. Technological innovations to advance the model of shared economies can certainly offer new choices for consumers to access goods and services, and new opportunities for small and emerging businesses – particularly those operating in the tourism and business events space – to gain a foothold and prosper. 

  • Meetings Africa 2018 takes place at the Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, on 27 and 28 February 2018, with a Business Opportunity Networking Day (BONDay) for exhibitors on 26 February 2018. Visit meetingsafrica.co.za for more information. 

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