ICCA Rankings: What They Mean For Africa

Event Africa Contributor 29/07/2019 Industry Statistics
ICCA Rankings South Africa Event Africa

Event Africa speaks to Esmare Steinhofel, Regional Director for Africa at ICCA, to find out exactly what the latest ICCA Ranking mean, and where opportunities for growth can be found on the continent.

This article was first published in Event Africa Issue 4.

A Bit of Background

Before we dig into the numbers, it’s important to understand that the International Congress and Convention Association is a 50+ year old organisation that has been successfully supporting and growing the business-events industry through its deep understanding of association meetings and how to create opportunities for these kinds of events to grow across the world.

The Africa Chapter of ICCA is small, yet very active, and often draws on its member benefits with ICCA. One of these benefits is the annual ICCA rankings, in which ICCA explores how many association meetings were held in the various cities globally, which cities and countries rank highest, and what new trends or movements can be expected in the coming year.

The ICCA Africa rankings, which now has a ten-year report for association meetings on the continent, is based – as with all ICCA rankings – on criteria that is not inclusive of all association (or other) business events. For a meeting to be considered part of the ICCA rankings, it must:

  1. Take place on a regular basis
  2. Rotate between a minimum of three countries or territories
  3. Have at least 50 participants

The reason for this is because ICCA’s Association Database is designed to be a resource for its members (suppliers) to target future international association meetings – hence the exclusion of once-off events or those that do not move between locations.

Kigali Rwanda ICCA Rankings South Africa Event Africa

Kigali, Rwanda (c) Archi Datum

What the Stats Say

The ICCA Africa 10-year report shows exponential growth in the number of meetings hosted on the continent – although the number is nowhere near where it could be if potential is maximised. In 2009, around 330 meetings were reported in Africa, while in 2018 that number has grown to 413. Here’s a look at the top ten country and city performers in the last decade:

ICCA Rankings Stats Event Africa AfSAE

Although the estimated number of participants has dropped slightly in 2018 when compared with the previous two years, the average number of delegates to Africa has hovered between the 130 000 and 170 000 mark annually in the last ten years. South Africa has received a total of around 535 000 association meeting delegates during this period, followed by Morocco (136 000), Egypt (104 000), Kenya (89 490) and Rwanda (34 515).

Unpacking Africa’s Potential

Most of the association meetings recorded by ICCA since 20019 attract between 50-149 delegates – 1 055 to be precise – followed by 150-249 delegates (909 meetings) and 250-499 delegates (778 meetings). Fewer than 300 meetings with over 1 000 guests were held in Africa over the last ten years. This means that smaller association events will continue to dominate in coming years, with up and coming destinations like Stellenbosch and Addis Ababa slowly rising in the ranking by leveraging the uniqueness of their destinations (Stellenbosch has the Winelands and academia, Addis Ababa is home to African Union events).

African Union Building Addis Ababa Ethiopia South Africa Event Africa

The African Union building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (c) Lonely Planet


There is an upward tick in rotation of international events to the African continent – which is a great opportunity for association members to take hold of. Most of the meetings held in Africa are either hosted by organisations based in Africa, or organisations from Europe and North America. For those meetings held by organisations in Africa, this means that there is much potential for the regional rotation of events, ultimately contributing to the overall ICCA Africa stats and the future of association events on the continent.

Most of these meetings are held annually, followed by biennial events. The majority of meetings tend to be held between September and November – the spring and summer months in Sub-Saharan Africa – as well as in May, a temperate month leading into the winter season. There is, in fact, more room to host events in temperate climates that don’t really experience the ‘winter’ cold during ‘off’ seasons.

Of note is the fact that more and more association meetings are being held in hotel meeting facilities (171 meetings in 2018) rather than conference or exhibition centres (61 in 2018). University venues are also becoming far more popular (36 in 2018 compared with 11 in 2009). This ties in with the size of the meetings hosted in Africa – small to mid-size conferences, of which many of the major convention centres are either unable to cater for, or are far more pricey to use than alternative facilities.

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