According to the latest UNCTAD Economic Development in Africa report, Africans are fast becoming the main tourist population on the continent. Released on July 5, the report highlights the increasingly strategic importance of the tourism industry in Africa, as well as its potential for inclusive and sustainable growth.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 2 in 3 tourists are Africans and for the whole continent 4 in 10 international tourists are Africans, according to the latest report on economic development in Africa from the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development ( UNCTAD). Published on July 5 in Geneva, the 2017 edition of the report was devoted to tourism, a sector serving transformative and inclusive growth according to the organization. The data compiled in the study indeed show “that contrary to what one might think, it is the Africans who are driving more and more tourism demand in Africa”.

In the wake of the latest reports of the same type and having focused on the same theme, UNCTAD highlighted the weight that the sector is increasingly taking on in the development of African economies and all the growth potential that they can in shoot. Tourism is a booming sector which represents more than 21 million jobs, or 1 in 14 jobs on the Continent. Also according to the report, Africa has shown dynamic growth over the past twenty years, as each year from 1995-2014, the number of international tourist arrivals increased by 6% and tourism receipts by 9%.

In order to better measure the dynamics of the sector, the report presented and compared data relating to two distinct periods (1995-1998 and 2011-2014) concluding that the number of international tourist arrivals in Africa increased from 24 to 56 millions. Tourism export earnings more than tripled over the same period, from $ 14 billion to nearly $ 47 billion. Thus, tourism today represents about 8.5% of Africa’s GDP.

Growth potential

According to UNCTAD, “due to its cross-sectoral nature, tourism can help promote structural transformation in Africa.” In addition to contributing to greater diversification of economies and business development, tourism is also a driver. essential for the creation of jobs and wealth, notably through its impact on the evolution of trade in goods and services.

In 2015, the sector directly employed more than 8.8 million people and according to forecasts, the number of jobs is expected to reach 11.7 million, up 2.5%, between 2016 and 2026. That is This certainly explains why the first ten-year implementation plan for Agenda 2063 of the African Union aims to double the contribution of tourism to Africa’s GDP. This, according to UNCTAD, requires faster and greater growth in the tourism sector.

“Tourism is a

“Tourism is a dynamic sector with tremendous potential in Africa. Well managed, this sector can greatly contribute to diversification and facilitate the inclusion of vulnerable communities “. Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD.

UNCTAD has therefore recommended that African countries further strengthen their development policies to take full advantage of the prospects in the sector. The growth of the intra-regional sector offers real levers for the expansion of the sector. According to UNCTAD, to put the potential of intra-regional tourism at the service of the continent’s economic growth, African governments should take measures to liberalize air transport, promote the free movement of people, guarantee the convertibility of currencies and above all, recognize the value of African tourism and integrate it into their plans. “These strategic measures can produce fairly quick and concrete effects”, underlined the report, drawing on the example of Rwanda where the abolition, in 2011, of visa formalities for members of the African Community of ‘Est has contributed to the increase in the number of intra-regional tourists (283,000 in 2010 to 478,000 in 2013).

Also, if until then, only 12 African countries applied the Yamoussoukro Decision of 1999, the liberalization of African airspace could create 155,000 jobs, lead to an increase in the number of passengers of nearly 5 million, contribute up to almost $ 1.3 billion to the continent’s GDP and translate into a gain of $ 1 billion for consumers.

The relationship, “mutually beneficial between peace and tourism”, is among the other important themes addressed in the UNCTAD report: “Peace is obviously essential to tourism”, reminds us in the document which takes into account the fact. that an unstable region may be enough to deter tourists from going there for a long time, thus causing disastrous economic repercussions even if the perception of danger does not always correspond to reality.

This is shown by the impact of the Ebola epidemic which broke out in West Africa in 2014 and cost Africa as a whole dearly in terms of the number of tourists. and tourism revenue. “Although this epidemic has affected a relatively small number of countries located in the western part of the Continent, the number of tourist arrivals and bookings has declined in countries that were not affected by the epidemic, such as the ‘South Africa and the Republic of Tanzania,’ UNCTAD recalled.

Likewise, political instability can have very significant and persistent repercussions on the economy. In Tunisia, for example, political instability from 2009 to 2011 caused the total amount of tourism receipts to decline by an average of 27%, dropping it from $ 3.5 billion to $ 2.5 billion.

To ensure the growth of tourism in Africa, “it is critical that African governments and regional institutions address safety and security issues and respond quickly to crises,” advises UNCTAD. The report also believes that it is essential to promote strategies to improve the image that the media around the world give of Africa, “if we are to ensure the recovery of the sector after a conflict or a marked period. by political unrest ”.

Figures that speak

In its report, UNCTAD also highlighted certain figures which, in addition to testifying to the dynamism of the sector in Africa, highlight certain specificities of the tourism industry on the continent. Thus, if during the next ten years, 11.7 million jobs are expected to be created in Africa thanks to the sustained growth of tourism on the continent. Distinctively, more than 30% of tourism businesses are run by women and 36% of the continent’s tourism ministers are women, which is the highest percentage in the world. Overall and globally, women represent between 60% and 70% of the workforce in the sector, half of whom are aged 25 or under. This is also the case in Africa, where 47% of hotel and restaurant workers are women.

Over the period 2011 to 2014, Egypt (9.9 million), Morocco (9.8 million), South Africa (9.2 million) and Tunisia (6.8 million) recorded on average the most important international tourist arrivals. These four countries received 64% of all international tourist arrivals in Africa over the three years. In 2015, however, Morocco was the only African country to receive more than 10 million international tourists, while Africa welcomed the same year, 4.4% of global tourist arrivals and benefited from 2.3% of global tourism revenue.

According to UNCTAD, the number of tourist arrivals on the continent is expected to grow by 5% per year between 2010 and 2030 to reach 134 million by 2030, with African tourists outnumbering internationals.

In 2015, tourism’s direct contribution to Africa’s GDP amounted to $ 73 billion and is expected to reach $ 121 billion by 2026. Tourism’s direct contribution to real GDP has increased in annual average of 2.6% in 2011 2014.

“By creating strong links between the tourism, agriculture and infrastructure sectors, ecotourism and the medical and cultural segments of the tourism market can foster diversification into higher value-added activities and allow for a distribution wider income. To harness this potential, African governments should adopt measures to foster local sourcing, encourage local entities to participate in the tourism value chain and stimulate infrastructure development. If it benefits from these lasting investments, the tourism sector could lift millions of people out of poverty while contributing to peace and security in the region. ” UNCTAD

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