More than ever before, African countries need to craft economic and trade policies that will foster inclusive and green tourism growth, intra-Africa trade, and contribute to visa openness for a borderless and interconnected continent, according to the latest edition of the Africa Tourism Monitor.
The report, just released by the African Development Bank, stresses why it is now more important than ever to draw on the collaboration and expertise of public and private sector practitioners to foster a resilient travel and tourism sector. “Let us help Africans to move freely and make Africa a more open, prosperous and truly connected continent,” Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), advocated in the report.
The Africa Tourism Monitor is a yearly research publication by the AfDB that grew out of a three-year collaboration with New York University (NYU) Africa House and the Africa Travel Association (ATA). This latest edition (Volume 4, Issue 1, December 2016) focuses on “Sustainable Tourism through Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Technology”.
The African Union Commission’s Agenda 2063 proposes the creation of an African passport and an end to visa requirements for all African citizens. Specifically, visa openness is seen as having great potentials to improve interconnectivity, boost economic growth and trade, and spur investment, bringing massive benefits for the travel and tourism industry. Visa openness also harmonizes with AfDB’s High 5s ‘Integrate Africa’ agenda, which seeks to make Africa more open, prosperous and interconnected.
“It is clear that tourism is one of Africa’s most promising sectors in terms of development, and represents a major opportunity to foster inclusive development, increase the region’s participation in the global economy, and generate revenues for investment in other activities, including environmental and cultural preservation,” Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General, United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), said in the report. To give impetus to this new direction, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
“With this renewed global focus on sustainable tourism, now is the time for all African countries to craft economic and trade policies that will foster inclusive and green tourism growth, intra-Africa trade, and contribute to visa openness for a borderless and interconnected continent,” an extract from the Africa Tourism Monitor stated. The report called attention to the latest data from 2015, which globally saw the highest level of tourism arrivals to date, but noted that Africa’s international tourism receipts also fell to US $39.2 billion from US $43.3 billion during the same period.
“A more positive outcome was witnessed in the employment sector for Africa, which grew in line with global trends. Direct travel and tourism employment in Africa in 2015 totaled 9.1 million, rising to 21.9 million jobs if we include direct, indirect and induced employment. In light of the tourism decline in Africa in 2015, it is now more important than ever to draw on the collaboration and expertise of public and private sector practitioners to foster a resilient travel and tourism sector.”
In response to this, the AfDB, in partnership with McKinsey & Company and the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Agenda Council on Africa, has developed the Africa Visa Openness Index, which it launched in February 2016. “Interconnectivity requires more than common passports and more open borders. What is equally important is investment in Africa’s infrastructure. The AfDB has for many years highlighted infrastructure development as one of its focal priorities to facilitate accessibility and trade across the continent,” said Charles Leyeka Lufumpa, Director of Statistics at the African Development Bank Group.
Indeed, the Bank’s assistance has ranged from modernizing air transport systems in Morocco to supporting the Nairobi-Addis road corridor to improve access between Kenya and Ethiopia, to cite just two examples. The AfDB also seeks, through the Africa Tourism Monitor in particular, to provide a forum for all stakeholders in Africa’s tourism and travel industry to come together and present new ideas and initiatives that can revolutionize the sector and make it an engine of progress for Africa’s socioeconomic transformation.
“The facts, figures, articles, and case studies in this issue illustrate how sustainable travel and tourism involve local populations and community stakeholders to engage and thrive in this dynamic sector in Africa,” Yaw Nyarko, Director of New York University Africa House, said in a preface to the report.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) in collaboration with New York University Africa House has also developed the “Africa Tourism Data Portal,” a user-friendly tool dedicated to providing professionals with access to tourism-related data from a range of international and national sources. This portal is part of the AfDB’s “Africa Information Highway” initiative aimed at improving data collection, management and dissemination in Africa.
Data from the report suggests that even with declining tourist arrivals, the employment figure for the tourism sector in Africa was strong in 2015, in line with world market trends.
Najib Balala, Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of East Africa Affairs, Commerce, and Tourism, Republic of Kenya, described tourism as an international economic activity that many countries in the world depend on to anchor their Gross Domestic Products (GDP).
“Technology is key in driving the tourism sector and Kenya recently addressed the ease of travel through availing an e-visas facility. This has proved useful in addition to the availability of online information on the destination through the magical Kenya website and other social media channels,” she stressed.
The Africa Tourism Monitor also highlighted the place of Africa common passport as a catalyst to boost intra-Africa travel and trade.
In a CNBC Africa interview in September 2016, African billionaire businessman Aliko Dangote lamented his frustration with visa procurement in Africa: “Despite the size of our Dangote group, I need 38 visas to move around Africa. You go to a country that is looking for investments; that particular country will give you a run around just to get a visa. They are giving you visas as if it is a favor.”
It is well documented that strict visa regulation brings about differentiated negative socio-economic spin-offs. The share of intra-Africa total trade is very unfavorable when compared with other trading blocs. Intra-Africa trade is about 12%, slightly higher than Western Asia which stands at 9%. The rest of the intra-regional trade at the global level enjoys high volumes, with North America and the European Union trading within their blocs at 61% and 62%, respectively.
But the lack of free movement of people, goods and services on the continent impacts negatively on economic growth and job creation.