The 2023 business events year in retrospect

by Editorial Team
12 minutes read

As we welcome 2024, we look back at 2023, the year that started with the business events market looking forward to fruitfulness and productivity as the Covid19 pandemic took a back seat to give way to face-to-face eventing again. It was a year that witnessed some improvements in existing events and the introduction of new ones.


While the market continued to complain about awards whose selection criteria and judging processes were not transparent and award ceremonies where awardees were asked to pay for “tables,” there was a noticeable effort to rectify these anomalies. For example, those who told targeted “recipients” of awards to pay as much as US$300 for a “table” as part of the conditions for winning awards changed tact. In their correspondence to winners, the “tables” issues were presented as optional thereby making the aspect appear more acceptable.

During the year, some award organisers responded to the market’s concerns by communicating their award selection criteria and addressing other contentious issues. Although the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe (MAZ)’s Exceptional Marketing Awards (EMAs) were not the subject of complaints, the association rejigged, revamped and rebranded the event and enhanced the transparency of its processes by providing the market with more information on the awards. The awards were expanded to include more categories.

Instead of a one-pager call for entries, the association came up with a 30-page booklet with all the information that both participants and other stakeholders needed about the event. This included the criteria, scoring and the judges, who were led by renowned marketer, Dr Douglas Mamvura. Until 2022, the awards used to be part of the annual MAZ Marketers Convention. Apart from making them a stand-alone event, the association also revived the decentralisation of the event to provinces, an initiative that it started in 2021, to ensure that as many marketers and companies as possible benefitted.  

Similarly, the Contact Centre Association of Zimbabwe (CCAZ) carried out a survey in August to solicit feedback from stakeholders on the 2022 edition of its annual Service Excellence Awards to improve the event experience for the attendees of the 2023 edition which was held in October.

One of the complaints, that the market had about awards was the kind of events where individuals were just announced as, say top 40 under 40 people in Zimbabwe, with no information relating to the criteria used to select and adjudge them as winners. The Business Connect newspaper received some flak in this regard for its Iconic Men, Iconic Women and Pacesetters Awards. In November the publication invited nominees. The communication also included the nomination criteria which included the demonstration of leadership and its impact on business.

During the year, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) in association with the Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe (TBCZ) introduced the Twalumba National Travel and Tourism Awards, whose debut was in March in Harare.

When Business Events interviewed the then Megafest Holdings Chief Executive Officer, Dr Tafadzwa Matsika, whose company runs the Megafest business awards, back in 2021, he said the main purpose of the Megafest Awards was to cheerlead the industry. Since 2021, when the Nyaradzo Group, celebrated its 20th anniversary, the company has been using its social media pages to celebrate and cheerlead Zimbabwean award winners, and 2023 was no different.

Conferences and meetings

Many annual professional body and business membership organisation conferences such as and the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) were held during the year. The meetings brought to the fore the fact that organisers of such events are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that their meetings are experiential brands that should be planned as such. The MAZ Annual Marketers Convention which was held at the end of October in Victoria Falls received a lot of praise from delegates and speakers alike because of the way the organisers addressed conference brand touch points such as speakers, moderators, breakaway sessions, side activities networking opportunities and conference giveaways. The event was preceded by a survey to establish delegates’ concerns and preferences and the effort paid off. Stakeholders also praised the event’s wowsome and world-class stage which was supplied by Passion Events.

Another annual conference that received rave reviews is the CEO Africa Roundtable annual conference which was also held during the last quarter of the year in the Victoria Falls resort city. The event was lauded for its thought-provoking panels, valuable insights and networking opportunities.

Zimbabwe also hosted international business conferences such as the Transform Africa Summit that was held from 26 to 28 April in Victoria Falls. Although the event is organised by the Smart Africa Alliance, a body of countries that aim to become more competitive, open, smart and innovative economies, many private businesses, especially from the technology sector participated in the event which was described by many as well organised. While the event was billed as a meeting, it turned out to be a confex as it also had a concurrent exhibition which many local tech firms participated in. The private sector players also participated in the event as exhibitors and resource persons.

The rise of ESG in eventing

The rise in the need for sustainable business practices and the introduction of the environmental, society and governance (ESG) concept saw it becoming an in-thing in eventing during the year under review. For example, the theme of the 2023 MAZ Superbrand Awards theme, which was held on 1 December 2023, was: “Anchoring brand success on ESG.”   The association’s Annual Continuous Professional Development Masterclass which took place in Nyanga in July was held under the theme: “ESG impact on economic growth.”

In June, Corporate Social Responsibility Network Zimbabwe (CSR Network Zimbabwe), which was formed in 2016 to advance the principles of sustainability and social responsibility, rebranded to Environment, Social and Governance Network Zimbabwe (ESGNZ) “to reflect the current realities in the global sustainability space.” This means that the network’s events that carried the old name had to be re-named to reflect the new name. For example, the Zimbabwe Annual CSR and Responsible Business Achievement Awards were re-named the Zimbabwe Annual ESG and Responsible Business Achievement Awards.


Most regular exhibitions such as the Zimbabwe Agricultural Show, the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) and the provincial agricultural shows that fall under the National Association of Show Societies of Zimbabwe (NASSZ) were held without incident.

The ZITF continued to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic during the year. This was revealed by the ZITF Company Marketing and Corporate Communications Officer, Doreen Dzamatira in a Zoom event organised by MAZ in June. Visitor numbers went up 26 percent from 59 022 in 2019 to 74 294 in 2023. In terms of local exhibitor numbers Harare continued to dominate as the major source of exhibitors given its capital city status.

It is important to note that during the trade fair, the ZITF Company worked with a research company, Total Research Solutions which worked on the figures given above as more and more event organisers continue to involve research companies in their events to come up with event statistics which other stakeholders such as exhibitor and sponsors can use in making decisions that are related to leveraging events for marketing purposes.

During the year, the ZITF Company deferred the Mining, Engineering and Transport (MineEntra) exhibition from its traditional July slot to November as this coincided with the elections season. This also saw the company postponing to this year the Africa Infrastructure and the Built Environment Confex (AfriConfex), A new construction exhibition, Buildex which digital marketing agency, Sabistar Digital (Pvt) Ltd, intended to introduce to the market in June had to be moved to March this year because of the same reason.


The increasing number of both business and social or lifestyle events in Zimbabwe brought with it demand for qualified event professionals who can deliver high-quality events. This means that there is a need for more institutions offering event planning and management training in addition to tertiary institutions like the Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT), which has been offering an academic degree in event management since 2019, as well as Speciss College and others.

In June, the MAZ Business Institute introduced a professional event planning course to equip marketers and event professionals with skills to plan and manage events.

Venues and accommodation

Following the holding of the Transform Africa Summit in Victoria Falls in April there were some media reports to the effect that the event and the Victoria Falls Carnival, which was held on the heels of the summit, exposed the fact that Zimbabwe’s push to host international meetings under the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA)’s “Meet in Zimbabwe” meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) campaign could be hampered by inadequate conferencing and accommodation facilities.

The reports cited the closure of the Kingdom Hotel at the end of 2022 following a disagreement between the property owners, Makasa Sun and the First Capital Bank, and tenant, African Sun, over lease tenure. According to reports, Victoria Falls city is home to 2000 of Zimbabwe’s total of 6 000 accommodation rooms. The reports quoted tourism experts who pointed out that the country needed 20 000 rooms by 2030 to match the growing tourism trajectory. This presents an investment opportunity for the construction of accommodation and conferencing facilities.

While the trend where most major conferences are held in either Nyanga or Victoria Falls persisted during the year, it was noted that Harare event venues like the Golden Conifer Functions Venue, Manna Resorts, and Zimbali Gardens were also popular with some event planners. For example, while CEO Africa Round Table held its annual conference in Victoria Falls, the entity chose Zimbali Gardens for its annual banquet where it launched its Business Confidence Report. Other events which were held in such venues include the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) Annual Congress, which was held at Manna Resorts, and the launch of the State of the Service Economy Survey (SOSES) Report that was hosted by the Golden Conifer Functions Venue.

These venues are preferred for smaller events because of their intimate nature. The small size of some events makes the venues a natural choice. CZI Membership Marketing and Communications Manager, Conrad Choruma also hinted to Business Events that some event attendees were tired of Nyanga and Victoria Falls.

Although Victoria Falls hotels remain the preferred venues for business and international events, the resort city requires more and bigger event venues. The closure of the Kingdom Hotel at the beginning of the year took with it the hotel’s 900-seater conference facility, which was the largest in the city followed by those at the Elephant Hills Hotel, whose capacity is close to 600 people.

During the year, one events planner and marketer, Simbarashe Mukondo pointed out that Harare required bigger and more modern event venues given that the Rainbow Towers and Conference Centre, while still the largest venue at 4 500 seating capacity, urgently required refurbishment. The City of Harare-owned 4 000-seater City Sports Centre is not in the best state of repair.

The market is now looking forward to the opening of the 6 350-seater Harare Hippodrome Conference Centre which is under construction in Harare’s Braeside suburb. The Herald newspaper tweeted in March that the venue, which is owned by Spirit Embassy leader, Uebert Angel, was expected to open in May. At the time of compiling this article, the final phase of the construction of the venue was ongoing and some events such as the church’s year-end Exodus Night event were held at the venue at the end of December. In November the venue also hosted the Spirit of Praise Zimbabwe Tour by South African artistes.

Looking into 2024, the market is set to see the introduction of the Buildex show in March and other new events such as the Build Expo which is set to debut at the Business Hub (formerly Harare Showground) in March as well.

The events market is also looking forward to the opening of the Harare Hippodrome Conference Centre to increase events venue choices for Harare business, arts and social events.

The introduction of ESG to the business events industry is set to result in the growth of the concept from being a we-too addition to business events to an integral part of event planning. In this regard, some planners have invested in the concept and stand ready to assist others in integrating ESG in event planning and management.

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