Tanzania strives to become Africa’s conference centre

Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre (JNICC) in Dar es Salaam. PHOTO | COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Tanzania is ranked 5th behind South Africa, Morocco, Rwanda and Egypt in promoting the business of conference tourism

Dar es Salaam. The government has outlined strategies to increase its share in Africa’s conference business and become a top hub for international events in the next five years.

Tanzania currently ranks fifth in promoting conference tourism, trailing South Africa, Morocco, Rwanda, and Egypt, and accounts for 10 percent of the continent’s market share in the events industry.

This is an improvement, as it was previously ranked 10th with a five percent market share.

According to the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) data for 2022, South Africa was the leader in terms of the number of international conferences in Africa, accounting for 32 percent of the market, followed by Morocco (17 percent), Rwanda (13 percent), Egypt (12 percent), and Tanzania (10 percent).

Highlighting Tanzania’s success in promoting the conference tourism business and its future plans, Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC) managing director, Mr Ephraim Mafuru, said in 2022 alone, the country hosted 18 conferences at both the Arusha-based AICC and the Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre (JNICC) in Dar es Salaam.

The conferences earned the government entity Sh18 billion in revenues for the financial year ending June 2023, he said.

“Tanzania has opened up. We have attracted both new and repeat visitors,” he said during a meeting with editors.

Mr Mafuru said the entity targets hosting 30 conferences and generating $48 million in the current financial year.

He said the number is expected to increase to 50 conferences and generate between $120 million and $240 million in the next five years.

Business events were estimated to contribute $1.6 trillion to the global economy (GDP) and employ 27.5 million people.

Some of the major events hosted by the conference facilities include the African Anti-Corruption Day and the 17th International Christian Medical and Dental Association (ICMDA) 2023 World Congress held in Arusha.

Arusha International Conference Centre. PHOTO | COURTESY

Others hosted in Dar es Salaam’s JNICC are the Human Capital Summit and the recently closed Africa Food System Forum (AGRF).

“These conferences come with benefits to the country, including foreign exchange and boosting tourism, and for that we have come with key projects that will enable us to expand the current numbers of conferences and delegates,” Mr Mafuru said, adding that they are determined to restore AICC’s dimming glory.

Some of the strategies in place include the expansion of the conference facilities to Dodoma, Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar.

The planned Mount Kilimanjaro International Convention Centre (MK-ICC) is expected to boost revenue by $240 million if completed in the five years to come. The centre plans to develop a wide range of five-star hotels, sports arenas, shopping malls, and banking services.

Mr Mafuru said the government organisation was also reviewing its landed property master plan and policies to ensure that they are aligned with the envisaged masterplan and to ensure that Tanzania excels in the events industry.

The JNICC in Dar es Salaam is also up for upgrading to boost its capacity to host 3,000 delegates at the same time.

“We will review the performance of every individual and ensure they understand their role in re-branding the centres, notwithstanding the position or area of work, and for non-performers, the exit doors will be ready for them,” he said.

 In order to achieve these projects and others, Mr Mafuru said they are currently surveying to see if they can borrow a leaf from countries that have succeeded in international conferences so that they can do more in that sector.

As the country is keen to become an international conference hub, a 14-day summit that kicked off on September 13–22 is ongoing in Arusha, organised by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

For the first time in history, the 2024 World Esperanto Conference is being held in Africa, as Tanzania becomes the first country on the continent to host the event to be held at the AICC with more than 3,000 participants.

On top of that, Tanzania has been selected to host the World Congress of Beekeepers, which is expected to start on September 20 and run through September 25.

According to the Tanzania Apimondia 2027 website, the country won the opportunity because its beekeepers have perfected the art of honey harvesting, employing techniques that not only ensure a bountiful harvest but also prioritise the well-being of their industrious bees by having a Gentle Approach: Smoke and Selective Hive Opening and Balancing Harvest and Bee Health.

Mr Mafuru commended President Samia Suluhu Hassan, saying it is because of her efforts, including the Royal Tour Film to brand Tanzania, that the country is now receiving large numbers of international delegates.