Durban ICC a symbol of democracy

PLANS for the development of the Durban’s International Convention Centre (ICC) took root during the tension filled days of racial division, however, today it has become a symbol global harmony, equality, health, wellbeing and development.

In fact, the eThekwini Municipality’s head of International and Governance Relations, Eric Apelgren said the story behind Durban’s ICC is one Durbanites can be proud of.

Initial plans to erect an international convention centre in Durban, he said had been shot down in the late 1980s.

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“It was during pre-democracy days and there were serious differences between the various political parties represented on the city council. It took the courage and far-sightedness of a group of civic-minded individuals who formed Operation Jumpstart to kick-start development in the city and region,” said Apelgren.

The chief architect of Operation Jumpstart was successful businessman Terry Rosenberg who traversed the length and breadth of KwaZulu-Natal convincing politicians and business leaders to throw their weight behind the project.

“It was no easy walk in the park for those who saw merit in the proposal to build an international convention centre. However, by convincing the city fathers of the knock-on effect of convention centres in other parts of the world which stimulated the local economy and development, the city council approved the proposal and the first phase of the development commenced,” said Rosenberg.

The original design provided a flexible multi-purpose venue accommodating a variety of demands for international, national and local events, catering for 1800 delegates. Today the centre can accommodate up to 22 000 attendees.

November 1994 saw the turning of the first sod for the construction of the Durban ICC by the then Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Frank Mdlalose. Throughout construction there was strict adherence to the creation of opportunities to develop emerging contractors and sub-contractors from previously disadvantage communities.

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The eye-catching building was opened in 8 August 1997 by former president Nelson Mandela, who praised Durban for having “the foresight, determination and initiative” to build the ICC.

Since then the Durban ICC – which was later named after Africa’s first Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Inkosi Albert Luthuli – has welcomed kings, queens, presidents, bishops, actors, icons and entertainers and has hosted some of the biggest, most high-profile conventions in the world.

It has won the coveted title of “Africa’s Leading Meetings and Convention Centre” 16 times in 17 years of participating at the World Travel Awards. It is also ranked in the Top 15 Convention Centres in the world by AIPC which recognises Excellence in Convention Center Management.

To cater for increasing demand the Durban ICC was expanded with the opening of the Durban ICC Arena in March 2007, transforming the centre into the largest flat floor, column free exhibitions and meetings space in Africa.

The Durban ICC has been responsible for creating and sustaining over 93 000 jobs cumulatively. In the past financial year, a total of 11 024 people have been meaningfully employed as a result of the Durban ICC’s activities. In 2017, 7 991 people were employed directly and a further 3 033 people were employed indirectly as a result of events hosted at the centre.

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