With its first quarter being defined by events that will shape the future of business tourism, fashion and business leadership, among many others, Sandton Convention Centre has cemented its position as a venue that provides a platform for idea generation and fresh thinking and set a benchmark for a year of growth.

Deputy Minister of Tourism Tokozile Xasa officially opened Meetings Africa 2014 at the end of February with the traditional sounding of the bell. The show, which focuses on growing the meeting industry in Africa, represents one of business tourism’s annual highlights, bringing together leading players in an industry that contributes an estimated R663-million towards the country’s economy. This year’s show was a resounding success under the theme ‘Advancing Africa Together’, attracting a record number of exhibitors and buyers, with 262 exhibitors and around 1 000 hosted local, regional and international buyers.

“Over the past 20 years, South Africa has made great strides as a business events host and is the most popular business events destination on the continent,” says Xasa.

Says Dr Matifaza Nyazema, Executive Director of the Sandton Convention Centre, “The SCC as a convention centre is intrinsically in the business of conventions, exhibitions and meetings, essentially linked to economic development. Our business is critical to the promotion of professional and business development, academic and research exchange, technical and medical advancement as well as cultural evolution. The SCC’s ability to host Meetings Africa as well as the growth of the event is a testament to the growth of business tourism in South Africa and the emergence of the African continent as a role player after 20 years of transformation”..

From the business of generating tourism to the business of celebrating fashion in Africa, the SCC showcased its ability to provide the perfect platform – or catwalk – to cultivate trends. March saw the return of African Fashion International (AFI) to the SCC for their Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Joburg, showcasing the Autumn/Winter designs of 34 of the country’s top designers as well as the exceptional talents of select newcomers.

“It is heartwarming to have AFI back at the SCC. Being located in Sandton, a progressive cosmopolitan city that forms part of Africa’s heartbeat, the SCC provided the perfect platform for AFI to showcase trends and designs rich in African heritage and culture.” says Nyazema.

SCC’s March line-up also included the Discovery Leadership Summit, an event that has become synonymous with the SCC, having been hosted by the convention centre since 2009. The Summit is renowned for bringing together some of the globes most brilliant minds to share their intellectual capital and contribute to leadership in business, government and civil society. Speakers for this year’s event encapsulated the themed ‘Intellectual Capital Shared’ with a wealth of knowledge and insight from Starbucks chairman, president and CEO, Howard Schultz, American economist Joseph Stiglitz and British Olympian champion, Lord Sebastian Coe, amongst many other top local business leaders.

SCC’s January to March calendar events also included Breakbulk Africa, Africa Energy Indaba, Tyrexpo Africa , Power and Electricity World Africa, India Cothing & Textile Trade Show, Cards, Baba Indaba and Success Summit South Africa. “The SCC platform is synonymous with releasing potential, which is captured in the essence of all the events that take place at the convention centre, making it the venue of choice in Gauteng,” concludes Nyazema.