United Nations Encourages African Countries to Harness Their Nascent Tourism Sector
By Abdi Ali
Published July 8, 2017
Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), says that tourism demand across the continent is driven by Africans themselves.
Tourism for Transformative and Inclusive Growth, a report by UNCTAD, says that four out of 10 international tourists in Africa come from the continent itself and that this number increases to two out of every three tourists in black Africa. The report shows that tourism export revenues have tripled since 1998, up from US$14 billion to nearly US$47 billion in 2017.
The report paints tourism in Africa as a flourishing industry that supports more than 21 million jobs, or 1 in 14 jobs, on the continent. Over the last two decades, Africa has recorded robust growth, with international tourist arrivals and tourism revenues growing at 6% and 9%, respectively, each year between 1995 and 2014.
By collecting and comparing data from two different periods, 1995–1998 and 2011–2014, the report reveals that international tourist arrivals to Africa increased from 24 million to 56 million. Tourism export revenues more than tripled, increasing from US$14 billion to approximately US$47 billion. As a result, tourism now contributes about 8.5% to the continent’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The First Ten-Year Implementation Plan of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 aims at doubling the contribution of tourism to the continent’s GDP. To meet this target, tourism needs to grow at a faster and stronger pace.
Chantal Line Carpentier, Chief of UNCTAD’s New York office, says Tourism now contributes to about 8.5% of the continent’s gross domestic product (GDP) compared with 6.8% in 1998.
“While four out of 10 international tourists in Africa are from the continent itself,” Carpentier told a press conference at UN Headquarters. “By 2026, tourism’s direct contribution to GDP is forecast to surpass US$121 billion.”
To realise the continent’s economic growth, Carpentier says governments should liberalise air transport, promote free movement of persons, ensure currency convertibility and recognise the value of African tourism and plan for it.
These strategic measures, UNCTAD says, can have relatively fast and tangible impacts. For instance, the abolition of visa requirements for fellow members of the East African Community in 2011 helped In Rwanda to increase intraregional tourists from 283,000 in 2010 to 478,000 in 2013.
While addressing safety and security concerns as well as swift responses to crises by African governments and regional institutions are paramount to the growth of tourism in Africa,” UNCTAD says “Promoting strategies aimed at improving Africa’s image in the global media are also critical in ensuring the sector’s recovery after conflict or political unrest.”
The mere appearance of instability in a region can deter tourists, leading to devastating, long-lasting economic consequences.
The report notes that the economic impacts of political instability can be quite significant and long-lasting. For example, following political instability in Tunisia, total tourism receipts in 2009–2011 declined by 27% on average, from US$3.5 billion in 2009 to US$2.5 billion in 2011.
During the next decade, tourism’s continued growth is expected to generate an additional 11.7 million jobs in Africa. Furthermore, where tourism thrives, women thrive. In Africa, more than 30% of tourism businesses are run by women; and 36%t of its tourism ministers are women, which is the highest share in the world.
UNCTAD says that creating firm links among tourism, the agriculture and infrastructure sectors, ecotourism and the medical and cultural tourism market segments can foster diversification into higher value activities and distribute incomes more broadly. To unlock this potential, UNCTAD says, African Governments should adopt measures that support local sourcing, encourage local entities’ participation in the tourism value chain and boost infrastructure development. This continued investment into the tourism sector in Africa could lift millions out of poverty, while also contributing to peace and security in the region..