Africa CEO Forum reflects steady rise of the event industry on the continent

Africa CEO Forum organiser, the Jeune Afrique Media Group, offers insights into organising top events in Africa.

In June 2023, Abidjan will welcome more than 2,000 CEOs from Africa and beyond, as well as leading politicians from all over the continent, to the Africa CEO Forum’s 11th edition. The brainchild of Jeune Afrique Media Group, the Forum is designed to offer an insight on the slow but steady rise of the event industry in Africa.

Since its inception in 2012, the Forum has developed into an annual meeting of decision-makers, focusing on business management, industry and community.

The exhibition that runs alongside has established itself as the primary platform for private-public collaboration on the continent.

Despite logistical difficulties and high operational costs, the Forum has consistently managed to assemble a consortium of private sector leaders from 70 countries, serving as a melting pot for governments eager to foster dialogue with the private sector and attract international investments. Another recent venture, the Africa Financial Industry Summit in Lomé, attracted over 800 attendees from 50 countries, setting a new benchmark in another West-African capital.

“The journey has been challenging, encompassing the transformation of a traditional media group to an integrated events powerhouse,” says Amir Ben Yahmed, CEO of Forum organiser Jeune Afrique Media Group. “One of our greatest satisfactions is to have proven that it is feasible to achieve global standards of quality and profitability despite the inherent constraints associated with the continent.”

During the recent Forum, the 1,500sqm exhibition zone emerged as a hotspot for business. Housing 40 locally fabricated stands, it facilitated networking opportunities between leading multinational corporations and top African firms. In line with the event’s sustainability aims, the stand canvases were later repurposed by a local group to create items such as notebook covers and pouches for students.

Historically, South Africa has been the preferred host for international events on the continent, credited to its facilities and established infrastructure. However, the tide is changing. Rwanda has swiftly become one of the top three destinations in Africa for hosting international events, a testament to the transformative power of infrastructural investment. This construction of a new convention centre (that will welcome the Forum for a second time next year) has helped continue this momentum.

The African events sector already embraces many household names such as Clarion, Hyve and Informa all having carved out a niche, hosting events such as Africa Energy Forum, Africa Oil Week and AfricaCom.

Ben Yahmed says it has been “a fulfilling endeavour,” working on the CEO Forum, “triggering connections between regions that previously had little to no interaction.”

The Jeune Afrique Media Group events team employs a staff of 20 individuals hailing from nations including Morocco, Senegal, Cameroon, the UK, and France. Today, the group orchestrates major investment events, serving nations like Tunisia and Côte d’Ivoire. Furthermore, notes Ben Yahmed, the Forum has seen off competition, notably Davos, which had to discontinue its World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa.

Ben Yahmed foresees an evolutionary path for the Africa CEO Forum, transitioning from a singular physical event to a dynamic ecosystem nurturing year-round initiatives. These span digital meetings offering insights into investment opportunities in African nations, and discussions around issues central to African development, such as climate change and energy transition dialogues.

“Jeune Afrique Media Group has succeeded in the African context against all odds for more than 60 years, showcasing not merely resilience but an unwavering focus on nurturing progress and fostering alliances, a tradition that is poised for growth with each passing year,” Ben Yahmed concludes.