GHANA. Welcome to our coverage of the Middle East & Africa Duty Free Association (MEADFA) Conference, which took place this week in Accra, Ghana from 19 to 21 November.

Alongside an extensive networking programme, key themes discussed over the two conference days included the future for African aviation, tourism and travel retail; the travel retail business model; how the industry can defend itself against regulatory threat; insights into the behaviour and spending habits of regional travellers; sustainability and innovation plus a special session dedicated to one of the world’s great travel retailers, Dubai Duty Free, as it prepares to mark its 40th anniversary in a few weeks’ time (20 December).

Scroll down for highlights from the event in words and images.


Rounding off a memorable first MEADFA Conference in West Africa, which attracted 313 attendees (83 from Africa), MEADFA President Sherif Toulan said: “This week’s MEADFA Conference has given us plenty of reason to feel optimistic about the future of duty free and travel retail in the Middle East and Africa.

“As we met for the first time in West Africa, we at MEADFA were very encouraged that so many of our colleagues from the region and beyond were able to join us. It is gratifying to be able to provide the industry with such a strong platform to better understand the African market and the vast opportunities within it.”

Preparing to depart Accra after a memorable MEADFA 2023 are Dermot Davitt, King Power Traveler President Rakhita Jayawarden and Duty Free Global Founder Barry Geoghegan

MEADFA 2023 concluded as ever with a round of exciting prize draws for delegates, courtesy of Imperial Brands (below, which presented the prize of a trip to Sharm el Sheikh) and (above) vouchers of US$500, US$1,000 and US$1,500 courtesy of Avolta/Accra Duty Free

Orange Africa Innovation Booster Nicolas Bry (below), who has a wealth of experience helping companies in Africa to harness the region’s potential, spoke about the spirit of innovation. The session also heard how Beam Suntory is brining new ideas to the market and elevating retail experiences, through Global Marketing Director Manuel Gonzalez (above).

Lagardère Travel Retail CEO Saudi Arabia Munif Mohammed addressed the sustainability challenge from a retailer and MEADFA viewpoint, with Dubai Duty Free Senior Vice President Finance Dr. Bernard Creed outlining the strategy at the leading UAE travel retailer

World-class Africa’ was a central theme for both Tourvest Retail Services CEO Clive Jones and Lagardère Travel Retail CEO West Africa Sountou Bousso on day two

IATA Economist and Policy Analyst Martina Bednarikova outlined the airline association’s view of passenger traffic growth, with Africa showing strong recovery in the international passenger segment compared to pre-pandemic levels

Among the big highlights of day two was a one-to-one with Dubai Duty Free Chief Operating Officer Ramesh Cidambi, who spoke eloquently about the retailer’s 40-year journey to date, the challenges ahead, spending levels, key nationalities, investment and the vision for the future (more to follow)

Keynote speaker on day two was the inspirational Roberta Annan, fashion entrepreneur and the founder of the Africa Fashion Foundation (AFF), who spoke about empowering talent in Africa


Dermot Davitt (left) at the Gala Dinner with the excellent TFWA organising team of (from second left) Catherine Fily, Michele Miranda and Myriem Chalabi

Duty Free World Council President Sarah Branquinho is honoured a Lifetime Achievement Award for her service to the industry, with the presentation made by ARI Middle East CEO Rob Marriott and MEADFA President Sherif Toulan

Dubai Duty Free (above) and Avolta (below) are named joint winners of the Best Retailer Award

Dual winners of the Marketing Strategy Award for Mondelez World Travel Retail (above) and Nestlé International Travel Retail (top)

Dubai Duty Free captured the Sustainability & CSR Award, with Dr. Bernard Creed collecting the accolade from MEADFA President Sherif Toulan (right) and ARI Middle East CEO Rob Marriott (who announced the awards on behalf of MEADFA)

The MEADFA Awards were a central feature of the Gala Evening, with Le Clos winning the Customer & Supplier Award. Le Clos partner Roger Jackson of Organico Travel Retail collected the award on behalf of Le Clos owner Emirates Leisure Retail

Avolta regional President & CEO Luis Marin greets guests to a sumptuous Gala Evening in Ghana, and highlights the key role of local partners and brands

Raffle draws are a popular element of every MEADFA event, with the chance to win entry to the Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise and Millennium Millionaire draws especially prized. Winners of the DDF tickets on day one, drawn by Joint COO Salah Tahlak (second left) and Senior Vice President Marketing Sinead el Sibai (second right), included Beam Suntory Global Marketing Director Manuel Gonzalez and separately (pictured centre) Kreol Trading Business Development Manager Shahzad Abdul Khader.

A data-rich panel on consumer insights led by TFWA Conference Manager Michele Miranda (left) included Pi Insight Managing Director Stephen Hillam (presenting regional shopper research commissioned for the event), Japan Tobacco International Regional Sales Director, MENEAT Travel Retail Philip Haine and Euromonitor Research Manager for Sub-Saharan African Christy Tawii

Stronger together: Joining moderator Antoine Clément of Penta, a key advisor to MEADFA and other associations on advocacy, were DFWC President Sarah Branquinho (second left), MEADFA Advocacy Group members Rob Marriott (ARI Middle East, third left), Roger Jackson (Organico Solutions, second right) and Milika Kalyati (JTI, right) alongside Africa Travel Retail Co-Founder Chichi Maponya (third right)

Tackling the thorny issue of the industry business model and where it might go from here were (left to right) Dermot Davitt, Avolta CEO Middle East and Africa Abdeslam Azgoul, Gebr. Heinemann Director of Business Development Nico Reifkogel and Hunter Palmer – Global Retail Solutions Partner Keith Hunter

The opening panel of the day brought together two airport companies plus a leading travel retailer to discuss the opportunities and the challenges of Africa. Pictured with moderator Dermot Davitt, left, are Egyptian Airports Company Commercial Development Director Dina El Sherif, Avolta President and CEO Europe, Middle East and Africa Luis Marin and Ghana Airports Company Group Executive, Commercial Services Kwame Amuah.

Ghana Minister of Information The Honourable Kojo Oppong Nkrumah officially opened the event, offering a positive message about investment in aviation infrastructure in the country

“If you and your company are here this week, it is because you share our determination to ensure our market fulfils its potential in Africa. Staging the MEADFA Conference here in Accra is a small but significant step towards that objective.”

MEADFA President Sherif Toulan opened his welcome presentation with heartfelt thanks to the 300 registered delegates for their support of MEADFA 2023 in Ghana.

He added: “It is a central part of our mission to bring together the industry stakeholders – airports, airlines, retailers and brands – that are working to enhance the travel experience for African travellers, from Cairo to Cape Town. Through our advocacy work and the sharing of experience and professional networks, MEADFA can help Africa’s travel retail companies to thrive.”

Sherif Toulan: Messages of hope for African duty free and of industry resilience against crisis

Speaking about the wider Middle East and Africa regions, Toulan acknowledged that external crises continue to play a part in influencing the sector.

“The atrocities of war have had an immediate negative impact on travel patterns in the Middle East and beyond, and created considerable unease about the short-term future for the region.

“It might seem heartless to focus on business at such a time – and yet we must. Sadly this is far from the first time that conflict has threatened the health of our industry in the Middle East; the region’s travel & tourism industries have become used to functioning against such a backdrop. And that is precisely why I remain resolutely optimistic with regard to the future for duty free & travel retail in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere. The conflict will have serious repercussions, of that there is no doubt. But in such circumstances, it is up to all of us to redouble our efforts to secure our businesses by serving our customers even better.”

He also used the welcome message to highlight one of the great stories of regional and global travel retail, as Dubai Duty Free prepares to turn 40 years old next month.

“If you seek an example of resilience and retail excellence in the face of recurring periods of adversity, look no further than one of MEADFA’s founding members, Dubai Duty Free.

“Dubai Duty Free’s longevity and continued success gives me great hope that together, our industry will overcome the challenges we currently face. On behalf of all of us at MEADFA, our sincere congratulations to Colm, Ramesh and all at Dubai Duty Free on your anniversary, and for representing our region with such distinction.

Close to 300 delegates gathered on day one at the Kempinski Hotel, Accra

“If the Dubai Duty Free story gives us grounds for optimism, there are many more reasons to be positive. The opening of the new Terminal A at Abu Dhabi International Airport earlier this month was a moment for celebration, and we express our sincere congratulations to all those involved. Recent venues for this conference, such as Bahrain and Oman, show the transformative impact that new airport infrastructure can have on commercial revenues, and we are certain that this will be the case in Abu Dhabi.

“Here in Africa, our industry is also reaping the benefits of investment in transport infrastructure, and in tourism. That is not just in the established tourist markets such as South Africa, Kenya, Egypt and the Seychelles, but also in emerging markets that merit our close attention and support.

“I am especially excited by the potential for our industry here, in West Africa. Countries such as Senegal and the Gambia have long recognised the benefits that tourism brings to national economies, and new airport developments in Benin, Sierra Leone and Niger are testament to the belief in the potential for travel and tourism here. Our industry is on the verge of a step change in Africa, and we need to be ready.”


Organico Travel Retail Managing Director Roger Jackson (left) with Lagardēre Travel Retail ME Commercial & Business Development Director Jacqui Davies and Dermot Davitt at the Welcome Evening sponsored by Aphrodite Duty Free

With Peuch & Besse Managing Director Sylvain Combe and former TFWA Managing Director John Rimmer at the Welcome Evening at the Kempinski Hotel

Kreol Group CEO Lal Arakulath (right) with Lindt Head of Travel Retail Peter Zehnder (second right) and colleagues (from left) Senior Lindor Brand Manager Laura Stopforth and Head of Duty Free MEIA Jimmy Larue

Dermot Davitt with King Power Traveler President Rakhita Jayawardena (centre) and Avolta CEO Middle East & Africa Abdeslam Agzoul (right)

With Aphrodite Duty Free CEO Karl Raphael, MEADFA President Sherif Toulan and brand and distribution partners at the Welcome Evening

Dermot Davitt with Aphrodite Duty Free CEO Karl Raphael, whose company sponsored the Welcome Evening, just before the event began

The MEADFA press racks at registration, with The Moodie Davitt Report bundle including our November Magazine, a Category Insight devoted to Tobacco & Reduced Risk Products, plus our Dubai Duty Free 40th anniversary title

MEADFA 2023 has been well supported by companies from across the industry

The Avolta team had a warm welcome for guests from across the continent and the world over recent days; pictured is Accra Duty Free arrivals

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