2016 Review: Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt

The African Currency Forum, hosted by the Central Bank of Egypt Printing House on behalf of the Association of African Banknotes and Security Documents Printers (AABSDP), although hailed as the first such event, was in fact the 19th conference of the AABSDP, and in the view of the 280 or so participants, surpassed all expectations.

In 2014 the South African Reserve Bank and its printing works hosted the 18th AABSDP conference in Cape Town and decided that they wanted to change the nature of the event.

In conjunction with Reconnaissance international, which won the tender to co-manage the event, it  became pan African, focusing on currency in all African countries with the governor or director of cash of every African country invited to attend.

The event was named the African Banknote Conference and its key objectives were education and participation. Over 300 people attended and the new format was well received by all attendees.

The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) and its printing house, whose turn it was to host the 2016 event, were keen to continue with this new approach and again engaged the services of Reconnaissance to co-manage the event.

The event was given a new name – the African Currency Forum – to more greatly reflect the participative nature of the event with the main tenets of the previous event being retained  – a business programme devised to be educational and inclusive with a mixture of presentations, panel sessions and workshops to encourage open dialogue, and all delegates invited to the various social sessions to enable the discussions to continue and for people to meet one another and engage socially.

The venue chosen was Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt’s famous resort on the Red Sea, with an optional visit to Cairo to include the CBE Printing House, the Giza Pyramids and Sphinx and the famous Cairo Museum of Antiquities, culminating with a dinner cruise on the Nile.

The Forum’s business and social programme, its location and the optional visit to Cairo proved to be a major attraction. Some 280 delegates attended, with 30 central banks signing up, of which 23 came from Africa; the percentage of delegates from central banks, state printing works and government institutions was around 50%. The event was well sponsored by industry suppliers, with 17 companies filling the Blue Nile Exhibition Hall, many of whom openly expressed their support for the new format of the Forum.

Tarek Al Kholy, a Sub Governor of the CBE, welcomed all delegates at the opening reception, hosted by Crane & Co. His speech ended loudly, launching the Forum with explosive remarks – a firework display conducted by the Egyptian Army.

The business sessions commenced with a speech from Mr Al Kholy, in which he provided an overview the Bank’s role in the Egyptian Economy, followed by a welcome speech from Joyce Kumbirai, the President of the AABSDP (who had originally coined the slogan ‘One Africa, One Voice’ in Cape Town and who gave the clarion call again in Egypt),  and a thought-provoking as well as challenging keynote address from Francois Groepe, Deputy Governor of South Africa Reserve Bank.

The three day programme included presentations on counterfeiting from Interpol and the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior, the threat of new payment systems, the increasing role of ATMs in Africa and globally, new African banknote series, developments in security features, banknote printing, substrates and durability, coins, selecting for security or durability, the cash cycle, solving financial exclusion, engaging the public, improving banknote security and quality control, specifying banknotes and quality management – in all there were 41 presentations in the two and a half bay business programme.

The social programme was just as full and varied – the welcome reception, which opened the Forum, was followed on consecutive evenings by an Egyptian night celebrating African food and music, followed the next evening by a beach enhanced by a spectacular firework display over the moonlit Red Sea.

Ending the conference was the gala dinner featuring international music and cuisine in the spectacularly decorated Egypt Hall.

As a final formality, Joyce Kumbirai handed over the presidency of the AABSDP for the next two years to Khaled Farouk, Sub Governor, Printing House of the CBE.

Finally, around half of the delegates arose bleary eyed the next morning to leave the hotel at 03.45 to fly to Cairo for the day’s tour. The CBE printing works may not rank historically with the pyramids, the Sphinx, the Cairo Museum or the Nile, but credit to all of the Printing House management and employees who provided a very warm reception and a most informative visit. Their pride in their work and banknotes was apparent throughout the visit.

The AABSDP conference is now held on a two year cycle, with each of the eight members taking turns to host it. The next African Currency Forum will be held in Autumn 2018 in Zimbabwe, hosted by Fidelity Printers.

…a useful conference and a great opportunity to exchange experience and meet with experts in the printing industry

Central Bank of Jordan

The conference was excellent – officially and socially. Topics were relevant, well researched and updated. I would look forward to more of these. 

Central Bank of Kenya

The conference was a great success, well organised and the location was perfect. The topics of discussion were all exciting and interesting.

Central Bank of Swaziland

Very informative conference. I was able to connect with many representations from the industry.

Central Bank of Sri Lanka