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Youth vital to the growth of the MICE sector across Africa

The events and exhibitions sector is a rapidly growing segment of the global tourism industry, and Africa is no exception. The involvement of youth in Africa’s MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) sector is crucial for driving innovation, economic growth, and sustainable development.

“Engaging young professionals in MICE activities supports cultural exchange, economic diversification, and global competitiveness, empowering young leaders and showcasing Africa’s talent on the world stage,” says Gary Corin, Chairperson of The Association of African Exhibition Organisers (AAXO).

AAXO and its members recognise the vital role of youth development in driving economic growth across the continent, with some actively involved in or supporting initiatives aimed at the sustainable development of youth, not only within the MICE sector but within their communities too:

Event Synthesis International


Event Synthesis International’s focus on youth upliftment was inspired by owner, Angelique Smith’s, experience during a board meeting, where it was highlighted that there was a significant age gap in the leadership committee and training facilities across South Africa. The issue became critical when three top leaders passed away without a succession plan, leaving a void of knowledgeable leaders. The loss of their expertise underscored the importance of involving youth in every aspect of their work to ensure continuity and create a legacy.

“At Event Synthesis International, we support youth development through various programmes. At all our events, we involve teams of university students studying tourism, hospitality, or event management, and these students gain practical, hands-on experience in both event administration and on-site execution, ensuring they acquire comprehensive knowledge beyond theoretical learning,” says Smith.

Gallagher Convention Centre


Gallagher Convention Centre is dedicated to youth development within the event industry, particularly through initiatives like MusicEx. Recognising a gap in the South African music scene, Gallagher launched MusicEx to provide aspiring musicians with opportunities to learn, grow, and showcase their talents. MusicEx, scheduled for 26-28 July 2024, features a “Battle of the Best” competition with significant prizes, expert-led workshops, and performance opportunities for buskers.

The MusicEx planning includes the creation of approximately 313 new job opportunities in the MICE industry, offering new prospects not only for aspiring South African artists to learn and gain exposure but also for young professionals seeking careers in the events and exhibitions sector.

“This event supports youth by offering exposure, education, and employment, aligning with Gallagher’s mission to foster internal growth and industry advancement. This inaugural event aims to become an annual celebration, furthering Gallagher’s commitment to nurturing young talent and revitalising the MICE industry,” says Leniese van der Merwe, Marketing Manager at Gallagher Convention Centre and Assistant Project Director for MusicEx.

RX Africa


RX Africa, in partnership with SME TradeLinks, recently sponsored an Enterprise Supplier Development Programme and an Enterprise Development Programme to foster the growth of entities in the tourism, hospitality and allied sectors, and help them build the critical capabilities they require to grow into thriving businesses.

SME TradeLinks’s Entrepreneurship Support Centre provides a wide range of customisable interventions designed to achieve the ESD (Education for Sustainable Development) objectives of RX Africa and its beneficiaries, who were KJ Styles, Lifeway Imphatho Brands, and Shai Boi Project Management, all 100% black-owned South African companies.

“The incubation programme includes skills training, mentoring, coaching, and a small grant component. RX is actively involved in the implementation of the incubation programme” says Carol Weaving, Managing Director at RX Africa.

Scan Display


Scan Display was inspired to focus on youth upliftment due to the high unemployment rates in South Africa, particularly amongst young people. Observing many matriculants and newly qualified individuals struggling to find work was disheartening, prompting the company to take action and offer internships to young people – through their Skills Development Programme – providing them with valuable training and opportunities to build their careers.

To support youth development, Scan Display formally established an Internship Programme in 2016, which employs students needing Work Integrated Learning (WIL) to complete their qualifications in the tourism and events industries. Additionally, the company offers job shadowing opportunities, such as the upcoming placement of two Interior Design students with their design team.

“These initiatives align with Scan Display’s mission to transfer skills and develop people, particularly in the demanding exhibition industry, which is well-suited to the energy and potential of young individuals. The success stories of past interns who have risen to management positions highlight the effectiveness and transformative impact of these programmes,” says Justin Hawes, Managing Director of Scan Display.

Woodlink Design


Woodlink Design, specialising in custom design exhibitions stands, is committed to youth upliftment through the Faranani programme, inspired by the everyday challenges faced by children left unsupervised on the streets while their parents are at work. Faranani was established to protect these children and prepare them for the future through activities like drum majorettes, dancing, singing, homework assistance, and provides school uniforms and sanitary pads to those in need.

Faranani aligns with Woodlink Design’s mission to eradicate poverty, save children, and develop them mentally and spiritually. One success story highlights a trip to Giyani, where the community warmly supported FARANANI’s performances, extending their stay due to the village chief’s request. This trip allowed the children to explore new places and learn about different environments, leaving a lasting impression on both the children and the community.

Natalie Ralinala, Spokesperson for Faranani Drum Majorettes and Woodlink Design’s partners, says: “FARANANI aims to impart skills such as leadership, conflict resolution, goal setting, communication, creativity, and responsibility. Future plans include expanding the club to different communities, founding a registered association, and establishing a trust fund for aspiring young majorettes to further their education and draw more youth into the initiative.”

“We are proud to represent members who are making significant contributions to their communities and the general youth population of Africa. By investing time, energy, and resources into our youth, we can ensure a prosperous future for the sector together,” concludes Corin.

Recognising the critical contributions made by the youth to the MICE sector across Africa, AAXO will be announcing the elected committee of their inaugural AAXO Youth Chapter in July,  which is an exciting new forum for members dedicated to empowering the young voices within the industry.  

For more information on AAXO, visit

About AAXO

The Association of African Exhibition Organisers is a collaborative platform primarily representing exhibition organisers in Africa. This collaboration guarantees an investment in the growth and development of exhibitions as well as industry challenges being addressed.

Having earned the acclaim as an association that delivers on its obligations, AAXO is committed to promoting the industry, encouraging businesses to invest and participate in exhibitions, affording members tools and resources for successful exhibition management, and encouraging world-class industry standards. This dedication is evident in AAXO’s commitment to linking organisers to a network of suppliers and opportunities to ensure growth in the exhibition industry.

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