Meetings No 21
Gender Equality the New Growth Factor
Atti Soenarso on the silent knowledge women have built up.
Cover Story
Women Deliver
Focus on the Women Deliver Conference.
Women Leadership
Dubai Women Establishment
A champion for women’s participation.
IMEX Launch
The “She Means Business” event
The Future Disrupted
Rohit Talwar on shocks that could overturn our world.
A Life Remembered
Tim “Avicii” Bergling.
Young Leaders
Gaining Edge Scholars
Learning, contributing and building the future.
Smart Cities
How Does a City Become Smart?
Lessons from Tel Aviv.
Motivating Using the Right Mindset
Scientist Alva Appelgren on praise and learning.
Economic Impact
Regarding Rwanda
Becoming one of Africa’s leading business events destinations.
IMEX Frankfurt
Innovation and Inspiration.
MCI Experience
Kim Myhre: The power of brand experiences.
Johan Hagegård
“The future isn’t at all what it used to be.”
Habits to Build Your Empire
Robin Sharma: Resist the saboteur!
Collaboration is key in winning association meetings.
Brain Check
Cecilia Björkén-Nyberg
On reading printed books and listening to audiobooks.
Why Is It Taken for Granted That I’m the Boss?
Roger Kellerman: More Space to Women!
instant booking is here
Four Major Hotel Companies
Invest in Meetings Venue Tech.
urban transformation
ICC Sydney and Partners
Showcase First State Super Theatre.
increasing priority for travelers
CWT research reveals
business travelers are more health-conscious during trips.
2nd meeting city in UK
Conference & event organisers encouraged
to ‘Make it Edinburgh’ as city strengthens position as UK no.1 for hotel investment & development.
new job
New director appointed for Meet in Reykjavík
- Reykjavík Convention Bureau.
The world’s first carbon-neutral constructed convention centre
- The CCD, attracts European clean electricity conference.
connecting the future
Ocean Science
fuel innovation and conferences in Victoria.
business Intelligence
Sixth consecutive record year:
Vancouver welcomed 10.7 million visitors in 2018.
Baltic Trade Show
returns to Vilnius in 2020.
AEG Ogden
Cairns Convention Centre
expansion great news for region, says CEO.
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Regarding Rwanda
Rwanda, the Land of a Thousand Hills, as it’s called is rapidly gaining a reputation for being one of the first countries in the world with more women than men in its parliament. Rwanda is also shaping up as one of East Africa’s premier business events destinations, following efforts by the government and its partners to help strengthen and grow the private sector in the meetings industry.

Having climbed from 7th to 3rd in the International Congress and Convention Associations’ (ICCA’s) 2016 latest ranking of business events in Africa, Rwanda is becoming a destination of choice for association planners.

The east African country invested in a new convention center adjoining the Radisson Blu Hotel in Kigali, Marriott Hotel Kigali with major meeting spaces available in the hotel plus added new hotels. There is also the investment in the national airline Rwandair, which is now serving 21 destinations in Africa, the Middle East and India while adding London at the end of May to their network too.

Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, boasts international events under its belt, including high-level forums such as the World Economic Forum on Africa in May 2016, 27th African Union Summit in July 2016, the Global African Investment Summit in September 2016, Africa Hotel Investment Forum in October 2016 and the 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol in October 2016.

The University of Kigali in collaboration with Shri Ram College of Commerce, University of Delhi and Namibia University of Science and Technology organised an international conference on advances in Business and Information Technology and a doctoral colloquium on March 1–2, 2017. Up to the latest Transform Africa Summit which is the Smart Africa flagship event. Following three successful editions, the fourth Transform Africa 2018 Summit took place at the Kigali Convention Center from 7–10 May.

Under the theme ’Accelerating Africa’s Single Digital Market’, the summit is expected to attract over 4,000 participants, including Heads of State and government, First Ladies, UN Broadband Commissioners, ministers, representatives from the public and private sector, international organisations, industry leaders, investors, entrepreneurs, young innovators, civil society and academia. And this is mentioning only one of the conferences during 2018. According to the events calendar for the rest of this year it’s around 40 more events coming up.

According to the latest biennial Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, published by the World Economic Forum (WEF), Rwanda is ranked the ninth safest country globally for tourists.

And the meeting industry in Rwanda is at the center of tourism, driving the sector’s growth through generating income, employment and investment. Currently, the segment is contributing 15 per cent of the direct tourism revenues and it continues to play an integral part in the economic development of the country.

In 2016, the sector contributed USD 47 million. Beyond the direct revenues, there is a multiplier effect to other economic sectors such as agriculture, transport, and visible growth of infrastructure, such as meeting venues – notably the Kigali Convention Centre and international hotel brands like the Kigali Marriott Hotel and Radisson Blu. In addition, meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions have contributed to closing the trough caused by leisure tourists in hotels and restaurants.

Denise Omany is the CEO of Rwanda Convention Bureau (RCB), and we asked her some questions about their work.

How important are international meetings and events for Rwanda in terms of the development of knowledge?

International events usually attract leaders, policy makers and specialists in specific sectors who harness the art of knowledge-sharing through meetings and conferences hosted by Rwanda. This, in turn, is a learning opportunity for local participants representing their sectors – both public and private. More importantly, hosting events has become a learning experience for Rwanda’s private sector because with more events you want to do better, you have to align to the latest technology, ensure the standards of hospitality are upgraded to match the expectations of delegates.

How does the convention bureau work together with the universities and other education institutions?

Rwanda Convention Bureau is the National Convention Bureau that works with Government institutions across the entire country. The bureau works with both public and private universities to identify potential conferences, bidding preparation and presentations through rectors and professors who are members of international academic associations and we support each other in the execution of those conferences.

Specifically, the bureau works closely with the University of Rwanda in terms of outreach and conducting training for students in line with meeting industry tourism promotion. The University of Rwanda has been a reliable source of academic and research events.

RCB, in partnership with various higher institutions of learning, attracts and bids for academic conferences – for example, the recent Next Einstein Forum, in partnership with the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences which attracted 1,200 delegates from all over the world.

How important is it for you to be familiar with sponsors of the conventions and events? How do you cooperate?

Events require financial resources to be successfully organised; yet some of the conferences are non-profit making and are non-paid events. Therefore, they require sponsorship to be able to execute such events. Rwanda Convention Bureau is expected to facilitate event planners in identifying and recommending both local and international sponsors. Thus, it is important for the bureau to cultivate a good relationship, especially with well-known sponsors with interest to specific sectors – also knowing that sponsorships promotes a win-win business model, and provides an opportunity for sponsoring companies to showcase their products during meeting periods.

Are you and your office involved in the bidding process or is this up to the cities’ CBs?

Rwanda Convention Bureau bids on behalf of the government of Rwanda. Hence, we work with other stakeholders like government institutions, associations, and corporate companies to prepare an appealing bid. It is entirely the mandate of RCB to empower the private sector through capacity building and business exposures to the best international practices in the meetings and events industry so that they can proactively identify and attract business events to Rwanda.

Which are the most important knowledge clusters, leading innovative companies and organisations in Rwanda?

ICT is at the center of driving Rwanda’s economy and so meetings aligned to ICT are prioritised. Meetings around governance are also important given the recent developments in Rwanda. With that said, we are open to hosting different meetings affiliated to key sectors of the country which are: agriculture, health, tourism, energy, manufacturing, investment and trade, mining, among others.

Which are the most important sustainability issues from a five-year and ten-year perspective in Rwanda’s meeting industry?

Understanding the changing needs of the meetings industry market; more research needs to be done to identify event needs in the next few years and to be able to establish ways of satisfying them. The private sector needs to be proactive and begin sourcing for businesses to support Rwanda Convention Bureau if we are to maintain the momentum and improve our business pool. Meetings infrastructure: More international hotel brands and exhibition venues are needed if we are to cope with competition. More tourism activities especially in Kigali need to be developed for delegates if the destination is to be as attractive as our close competitors. Rwanda needs to create its own events, based on home-grown initiatives and success stories. This will minimise dependence on imported events.

When it comes to budget? Giving a free dinner to the client’s board, or to the full convention – are these important questions for your office?

The government of Rwanda offers incentives to international events planners through Rwanda Convention Bureau that range from offering a welcome reception or a free dinner to all delegates to even paying for the dry venue. As a destination, RCB has always had such requests and it is part of our investment to support international events planners in order to show some commitment and partnership in their events. This is done after carrying out a Cost Benefit Analysis in order to advise on the best investment.

Is RCB working with a long-term meetings and events strategy?

RCB has a National Meetings Industry Strategy that was adopted at the national level. The strategy focuses on establishing Rwanda as a preferred meetings destination in Africa. The core focus of this strategy is to ensure that it contributes to the economic development of the country through increased foreign exchange inflows, job creation and investment. The strategy focuses mainly on:

Targeting conferences that are not one-off conferences, those that are willing to go into long term partnerships (2–5 years) or even permanent.

Establishing and grooming home-grown conferences that would, in the long run, attract international participation.

Which are the three main challenges for Rwanda Convention Bureau? How do you deal with these challenges?

Brand and image – Rwanda is yet to be recognised globally as a top meetings destination. RCB is working on strengthening the brand through attending international meetings trade shows together with top meetings destinations. An ambassadorship campaign is another strategy yet to be launched to market Rwanda as a remarkable destination through reputable stakeholders in the global meetings sector.

Rwanda is still short in exhibition space and much larger meeting venues for big events. We are currently targeting events that fit into our facilities. Nevertheless, the investment authority is aware of the challenge and is working towards attracting investments in all areas.

Connectivity: Rwanda still has limitations in terms of air connectivity to key source markets but this is being addressed by the expansion of Rwandair, the national airline. A new airport, to be built with bigger capacity, will almost triple the existing facility that currently handles 1.5 million passengers annually.

You are working in international networks – why is that important?

Currently, Rwanda CB is working with international networks such as the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE), the Association of African Exhibitions Organisers (AAXO), and the African Society of Association Executives (ASAE). These networks are potential sources of business in addition to being marketing and networking platforms.

How are meetings and events contributing to your country when it comes to legacy?

Very important! Rwanda is getting globally recognised as a preferred meetings destination. Rwanda has recently been chosen to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2020 (CHOGM). This is, undoubtedly, due to the tremendous strides exhibited in the meetings industry’s capabilities to host major events like the World Economic Forum, Transform Africa Summit, Africa Union Summit and the International Meeting on Family Planning, a global event, that Rwanda will be hosting this year in November. What’s more, next year Rwanda will host the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) conference, which is also a big conference bringing over 5,000 international delegates from the health sector. All these are good exposure for our country but, more importantly, Rwanda will be known as a remarkable meetings destination at a global level.

Do politicians understand the role of Rwanda CB? Is it easy to get the support of parliament persons or from the government to meet the congresses or conventions delegates and give welcome or opening speeches?

There is utmost political will/support towards meetings industry activities. Rwanda CB was established and approved by the Rwandan government, which is an indication that they understand the value and the role that RCB is expected to play in the economy of Rwanda. Government officials have been supporting the bureau in the bidding process and always provide all the required technical support during conferences. On a number of occasions his Excellence President Paul Kagame has officiated various conferences along with ministers and other high-ranking officials.