African businesses encouraged to redefine themselves on the global stage

13 May 2024

African businesses encouraged to redefine themselves on the global stage

Durban - The Deputy Minister of Tourism, Fish Mahlalela, says it is up to the African continent to be bold about what it can offer the world.

Mahlalela was the keynote speaker at the Business Opportunity Networking Day (BONDay) of Africa’s Travel Indaba 2024 (ATI), which sets the scene for the ATI that will start tomorrow until Thursday at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre (ICC) in Durban.

“It is up to us as Africans to open the world’s eyes to what we have to offer as a continent and take charge of the narrative because only when we are proactive, will we control our destiny,” he said.

ATI showcases a wide variety of Africa’s best tourism products, and attracts African exhibitors, international and local buyers and media from across the world.

He said: “There is no opportune time to do that than at Africa’s Travel Indaba, which takes place during May, which significantly, is also Africa Month. Today, we gather not merely as representatives of businesses, but as catalysts of change, and architects of a future defined by co-operation and collective success.”

Mahlalela added that transformation is important, especially in the South African economy for tourism to thrive. “Transformation becomes a necessity in South Africa because there is inequality and poverty,” says Mahlalela.

Mahlalela added that although there are challenges,  there is some headway being made as small businesses are being developed and tourists encouraged to visit the township businesses.

Deputy Minister Mahlalela’s address was followed by a  panel discussion of leading entrepreneurs. South Africa remains the gateway to the continent.

The CEO of Motsamayi Tourism Group, Jerry Mabena, said the Motsamayi Tourism Group prides itself in building iconic destinations such as the Kruger Shalati - The train on the Bridge and the Nelson Mandela house, where he stayed from 1992 to 1998 in Gauteng, which has been converted into a hotel.

“We’ve just a finished a camp in Dinokeng, outside of Johannesburg, which is a pop-up hotel. We put it up for four nights and after that we pull it down,” he said.

 South African Tourism CEO, Nombulelo Guliwe, said tourism is a catalyst for job creation and it is important for everyone in the ecosystem to be aware of the role they  play.

She was one of the panellists in a discussion titled Stimulating Local Economies Through The Tourism Value Chain.

“Platforms like Africa’s Travel Indaba and other  South African Tourism-owned trade shows as well as those we participate in are important for creating an enabling environment for people in the sector to have access to information,” said Guliwe.

Panelist Zinhle Mqadi, the CEO of Max’s Lifestyle, the uMlazi township shisanyama-turned upmarket eatery, said they now work with other service providers in the township and the city  to curate a full experience of township tourism beyond visiting a shisanyama. 

South African property developers have some note to share with their continental counterparts. Brian Mpono, the CEO of Oceans Mhlanga Development, says other African countries have approached them to assist in building infrastructure similar to the Oceans Mall in uMhlanga.

At the Future of Travel Through the Eyes of the Youth, three young travellers shared how they have converted their hobby of travelling into thriving businesses while also visiting the lengths and breadths of the continent. 

Acacia Denison and Michael Monk, of Yeti the Van, have been to more than 100 campsites throughout South Africa travelling in their self-converted van, which also doubles up as their home. 

Monk said they generate income through brand placement. “We offer brands diversity because we are at a new location all the time. We also cover establishments. They pay for us to travel. We put ideas into their heads when we pitch because they might not be thinking about their brands that way,” he said.

Denison and Monk, who are also a couple, have been travelling off-road for the past three years. 

Katchie Nzama, a solo traveller, has been to 35 African countries. Her adventure began when she felt stifled by the corporate industry. She packed up to start a Cape to Cairo journey. Ten years later, she has not looked back. 

“The travelling community is huge and people are always excited to meet someone from South Africa. When I arrive in a country, I go to the South African embassy and get emergency contact details and let them know that I am travelling solo. I am a digital content creator and a travel writer,” said Nzama.

In a discussion titled Airlift Advancements in Africa, Hamish Erskine, the CEO of Dube TradePort, reflected on their 14-year journey since inception in 2006.

He stressed the importance of prioritising cargo transport to sustain operational growth. “Cargo remains the lifeblood of our operations, driving our focus and innovations,” he said.

Mpumi Mpofu, the CEO of Airports Company South Africa, echoed Erskine's sentiments, underlining the significance of intra-African tourism. “Without robust travel networks within the continent, the potential for growth remains stunted,” she remarked.

She provided insights into the company’s resilience post-2019, citing impressive figures of 54 million passengers traversing their global airport network.

She lauded the role of airports such OR Tambo International and King Shaka International in facilitating this growth.

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