How Tourism Can Unlock Africa’s Economy
The United Nations has declared 2017 as “International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development”, with the official launch by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) on January 18 in Madrid.
On this occasion, UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai put the continued growth of tourism into figures: “In 2016, more than 1.2 billion people travelled around the world for tourism purposes and another 6 billion people travelled domestically,” he said, highlighting the need to promote more sustainable tourism.
“Tourism has become a pillar of economies, a passport to prosperity, and a transformative force for improving millions of lives. The world can and must harness the power of tourism as we strive to carry out the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” said UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres.
“In parallel with the growth of the sector, there is also increased responsibility to advance towards greater sustainability, equity, inclusiveness and peace in our societies,” added Rifai.
This will consist of promoting tourism that is respectful of the environment – to preserve countries’ resources and natural wealth – and of the people, who stimulate the economy, creating jobs and income and, thus, the development of countries and their populations.
Tourism in Africa, a developing potential
With its wealth of exceptional flora and fauna, legendary landscapes and varied cultural heritage, Africa offers a still largely untapped tourism potential.
In terms of revenue, Africa earned US $43.6 billion in 2014, representing 3.5% of worldwide tourism revenue.
Tourism, engine of growth
Generating income and jobs, tourism can be an engine of growth. In 2014, the sector accounted for 8.7 million jobs in Africa, 500,000 more than in the previous year.
Developing infrastructure and regional cooperation
Infrastructure and transport services remain the Achilles’ heel of the growth of the tourism sector: “Journeys in the African continent are not always seamless”, noted the 2015 edition of Africa Tourism Monitor. It proves more complicated – and more onerous – to travel across the continent than it does to get there from Europe, North America or Asia. Dedicated incentive policies are still to be put in place, besides strengthening regional cooperation.
On the ground, the work of the Bank also supports the interests of dynamic tourism, provider of income and growth. Not only when it funds and builds roads, airports and other infrastructure, but also when the AfDB makes every effort to ensure that neighbouring communities are involved in and associated with projects for them to better take ownership and benefit from them later.