Unlocking Africa’s Potential: AfSAE springs a successful inaugural Africa Association Summit

Over 100 association executives drawn from seven African countries showed up in Kenya’s capital Nairobi on 21 to 22 October 2019, for the inaugural Africa Association Summit (AAS1). The 2-day Summit was organised by the African Society of Association Executives (AfSAE) in partnership with the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC). AfSAE is a professional community of association executives and the voice of the association profession in Africa.

The summit, premised on the theme of Unlocking Africa’s Potential, was the first of it’s kind in Africa, anchored on AfSAE’s mission to build and advance the importance, and professionalism of associations in Africa through education, advocacy, networking and advisory. A mix of seasoned association executives, volunteer leaders, civil society advocates, scholars and early career apprentices attended the stimulating two-day summit marking the beginning of what most participants agreed was an eye opener to them and their organisations in association management. Speakers drawn mostly from Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, US and China did not disappoint with their well-researched and articulate presentations.

During the opening, AfSAE President Jeffers Miruka, ostensibly excited told the participants that the time had come and there will be no turning back as Africa is poised to join other regions in professionalising the association industry, to serve our members and to help spur development in our regions. He asked delegates to be focused, be hungry to learn and to believe that AfSAE will serve their interests. Gregg Talley, AfSAE’s Management Advisor, who is also President and CEO of Talley Management Group Inc., couldn’t hide his excitement on what he called a new chapter in the association industry in Africa. He said that Africa stands to reap big from growing and professionalising the industry.

Keynote speakers during the summit were Kenya’s former Attorney General Prof. Githu Muigai, and the Secretary General and CEO of the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists & Dentists' Union Dr. Ouma Oluga. Prof. Muigai, a Columbia University School of Law scholar, who, over years has been at the centre of the struggle for an open democratic space in Kenya through various civil society organisations noted that associations are the conscious of the communities, bringing together the concerns of the community and being able to fashion the message for governments to understand. He continued to say that challenges of our generations and our time are well catered for by associations all over the world, calling civil society organisations as champions of change around the world in all spheres of mankind. He further said that the existence of all these associations is self-evident from what they do, however, he quipped,  ‘we must have the capacity to run them efficiently, professionally, transparently, and productively, and train others to do the same, if we’re to achieve and realize growth, like what our friends in other parts of the world have accomplished.” He finished by thanking the organisers of the summit of a well thought-of and executed plan to acknowledge the role of the profession in Africa by bringing together everyone to chat ‘our way forward’ towards a more inclusive and productive Africa and the potential of job creation for the youth

Other key speakers included Ms. Magdelena Mook, CEO of the International Coaching Federation (ICF), who also serves as the International Section chair of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). As a representative of the Center for Association Leadership, she spoke on drivers of change and how the new ASAE associations’ research bore relevance for African Associations, saying that collaborations will help Africa associations grow and realize their potential.

Ms. Jacqueline Price-Osafo who is the director of membership development at the Water Quality Association, in Chicago, Sharon Newport, the executive director of Door Security & Safety Foundation based in DC, Asenath Mwithigah, Director at My Leader Kenya and Nicanor Sabula, CEO of the Kenya Association of Travel Agents (KATA) also contributed their knowledge and expertise during the Summit. Others were Eric L. Schmidt, co-founder & CEO, Event Bank from Beijing, Zenab Mohamed from Abu Dhabi Convention & Exhibition Bureau, Esmare Steinhofel who is ICCA Africa’s Regional Director and Juliet Odhiambo, CEO at Pesa Savvy.

Mr. Raphael Kuuchi, the Special Envoy to Africa on Aeropolitical Affairs at the Montréal-based International Air Transport Association (IATA) spoke very broadly on the benefits implementing the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) and the positive impact of African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) in promoting intra-trade in Africa and opening the sky for competition and growth of air travel in the continent. He said this will help travellers, most of them association executives be able to take organise their events and execute their activities with limited constraint around the continent and all over the world.

Other than KICC being a presenting partner, other regional partners, especially the Rwanda Convention Bureau and the South Africa National Convention Bureau sponsored the event and erected a booth each. Local sponsors of the event included the Safari Park Hotel & Casino, Radisson Blu hotel and the InterContinental Hotels, all 5-star rated hotels in Nairobi that support and promote MICE events. Waridi Events, a local PCO was the key partner in event coordination with Event Bank, a technology company based in China, and AFAMCO Group also sponsoring. The Talley Management Group from the USA, and Gaining Edge from Australia partnered with AfSAE for programming and content development. Agritech Africa 2020 taking place in Cape Town supported the event too.

The inaugural Africa Association summit ended on a very high note promising to be bigger during the second summit that will be held in 2020 in Kigali, Rwanda.