African concerts, sporting events, and even oil and gas events are beginning to take shape in 2021 after a significant period of inactivity due to COVID-19 restrictions. African cities including Cape Town in South Africa and Dakar in Senegal have created amazing hospitality and tourism industries that have brought in millions of visitors each year and fueled millions of dollars in economic output. While most foreign event firms like London based Hyve group/Africa Oil Week have deserted the continent for ‘greener pastures’ elsewhere, Africans and Africa-focused energy events are leading the way and cities like Cape Town stand to benefit.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and the subsequent lockdown regulations implemented worldwide, have caused unmitigated impacts on the global economy which have had a major impact on the tourism and events industry. Relying heavily on international travel and gatherings, tourism and event restrictions have led to significant revenue losses and industry-wide employment risks. However, as countries reduce measures and economies begin to open up again, a unique and strategic opportunity has emerged in which the African energy sector, in particular oil and gas events, can revive the tourism and events industry, breathing life into African markets.
South Africa is considered one of the top tourism destinations in Africa, ranking sixth out of the world’s seventeen megadiverse countries. Tourism’s contribution to Gross Domestic Product in 2019 was 8.7%, demonstrating an average annual increase of 1.21% since 2000. One of the primary tourism sub-sectors in South Africa is the events industry, with the country ranked number one in Africa in the International Congress and Convention Association in the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report. According to Research and Markets Event Management in the South Africa 2020 report, in 2019, 11.4% of foreign tourism was attributed to the events industry with an estimated one million delegates hosted annually. In addition to attracting tourists to South Africa, the events industry is responsible for job creation, business expansion, investment, and increasing revenue across multiple support service sectors such as the food, health and infrastructure industries.
However, when COVID-19 hit, the tourism and events industry experienced significant impacts including loss of income, job redundancies – in April 2020 11% of tourism businesses made some or all of their staff redundant – as well as tax losses for the economy. According to the Tourism 2020 report released by Statistics South Africa, foreign arrivals dropped by 71% from over 15.8 million in 2019 to less than 5 million in 2020. Additionally, the business events sub-sector saw international delegate arrivals decline by 78%.
Despite these impacts, the easing of restrictions in South Africa, coupled with expected COVID-19 case declines in summer, has created the unique opportunity for oil and gas events like the upcoming African Energy Week (AEW) 2021 to revive South Africa’s tourism industry. AEW 2021, an interactive networking event that unites global energy stakeholders on the 9th-12th of November, is expected to set a new standard for Africa-focused conferences, presenting a multi-platform, community-oriented approach to energy events. Ironically, at a time when the oil and gas industry has taken a strong move towards the energy transition, an oil and gas event has the potential to revive a myriad of sectors in Africa.
What makes AEW 2021 unique is its location. AEW 2021 will take place at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town – an economic and cultural hub comprising five districts – and will utilize conference centers, art galleries, museums, restaurants and even a golf course in its comprehensive event program. This location enables AEW 2021 to not only attract both regional and international tourists to one of the continent’s most exciting socio-cultural hubs, but ensures that the event’s associated commercial benefits extend into multiple sectors. The event demonstrates how Africans, and the oil and gas sector, are rallying together to give the Waterfront, and South Africa’s tourism industry, its biggest commercial boost since the start of the pandemic. Unlike other Africa-focused yet internationally hosted energy events, AEW 2021 encapsulates comradery, job creation, local business participation and African tourism revival. By focusing on African innovation, new technology, free market growth, local content and upstream and midstream oil and gas, AEW 2021 is officially the benchmark for African energy events. Accordingly, the African Energy Chamber is reaffirming its commitment to African people, African energy, and African business by focusing on regional and multi-sectoral socioeconomic growth and recovery.
What AEW 2021 will accomplish will pave the way for other energy events. The event’s success is already being noted with unprecedented support declared by OPEC Secretary General, Mohammed Barkindo, as well as H.E. Diamantino Pedro Azevedo, Minister of Mineral Resources and Petroleum, Angola; H.E. Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons, Equatorial Guinea and H.E Bruno Jean Richard Itoua, Minister of Hydrocarbons, Republic of Congo. Attendance by these prestigious industry leaders, among others, will not only drive multi-industry growth and development, but will establish Africa as the destination for Africa-focused energy events.
Additionally, AEW 2021 is ensuring all COVID-19 regulations are adhered to in order to present a safe and productive event. The event’s strategic design, comprising the utilization of multiple venues over a four-day period, not only complies with COVID-19 social gathering limitations, but ensures that multiple venues and event companies benefit from this one event. With on-the-day rapid testing facilities and sanitizing stations, AEW 2021 is demonstrating that Africa-focused events can and should take place in Africa in 2021.