The convergence of key continental and global players from business, government and civil society under the auspices of the World Economic Forum Conference on Africa will go a long way towards profiling the Province of KwaZulu-Natal as a suitable location for mega events, investment and tourism. This is the upbeat assessment by the KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Mr Sihle Zikalala, ahead of the three-day conference taking place at Durban’s iconic Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre to discuss economic development issues pertaining to the African continent.
Zikalala, who is also the Leader of Government Business in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, said the City of Durban was ready to host the more than 1 000 delegates that were expected to grace the 2017 instalment of the World Economic Forum on Africa.
“The Province of KwaZulu-Natal is known the world over for successfully hosting major events and the World Economic Forum on Africa will be no different. We have consistently proven that we have the capacity and infrastructure to host world leaders as we boast some of the finest conferencing and hospitality facilities in the world.”
Zikalala added that this massive gathering of high profile delegates featuring leading decision makers in governance and global trade would also serve as a platform to remind all and sundry that KwaZulu-Natal offers considerable investment opportunities in the diverse sectors of the province’s economy. The event also provides an avenue for local entrepreneurs to interface with their global counterparts where, through business networking, they can forge partnerships essential to improve the province’s competitiveness in the global market.
“We have in the past few years witnessed considerable progress with respect to the emergence of new business investments in various sectors of our provincial economy. Bolstered by our two Special Economic Zones in the Dube Trade Port and the Richards Bay Industrial Zone, we have been able to attract millions of rand worth of new investments to the province and we will doubtless use the forthcoming World Economic Forum on Africa to woe yet more potential investors into the province.”
The Province of KwaZulu-Natal has also been hard at work with its Airlift Strategy which has seen the introduction of international direct flights into Durban from long-haul destinations. In 2015, at the World Routes Conference, KwaZulu-Natal announced new direct routes into Durban, with airlines opening access to over 900 global destinations through their strong networks that are now available through hubs in Dubai (Emirates Airlines), Doha (Qatar Airways), Istanbul (Turkish Airlines), Addis Ababa (Ethiopian airlines) and Air Seychelles.
“These new additions have had an impact on driving both leisure and business travel, with delegates to major events, such as the impeding World Economic Forum on Africa now having the option to fly directly to Durban from anywhere in the world,” added Zikalala.
The hosting of conferences and conventions such as WEF Africa have direct and indirect impacts. “The direct impacts are activities that are aligned with hosting of conferences and their contribution to the province’s GDP. These are receipts generated by hotels, tour operators, travel agents and restaurants. The indirect impacts are due to expenditure of participants and promoters of conventions and the jobs created as the result of hosting conferences.”
The direct impact of business events in KwaZulu-Natal alone for this financial year is expected to be as much as R450 million with a total macro-economic impact of about R1 billion. The estimated direct impact of hosting of WEF Africa on KwaZulu-Natal will be at least R64 million, with a total impact of some R155 million.