Intra-Africa tourism: Where tourists go, trade seems invariably to follow

Traditionally, only the destinations in North, East and southern Africa illustrated the importance of the tourism sector as a driving force for economic growth. But now, more and more states in West and central Africa are also embracing the tourism sector.

The African Union too identifies tourism as one of the avenues through which the continent could achieve structural transformation, thereby shifting from agrarian-based economies towards those driven by manufacturing and services.

To realise this, the AU has established goals to be met by 2063 on the basis of 10-year implementation targets.

For instance, in its first 10-year implementation plan, 2014-2023, the AU seeks to double the tourism sector’s contribution to the continent’s GDP by 2023 from base year 2013, translating into about $338 billion.

In addition, it seeks to double intra-Africa tourism by 2023, that is, travel by Africans around the continent for tourism purposes. As in the case of trade, intra-regional tourism is comparatively low by prevailing global standards.

Despite its current position as a strategic economic sector on the continent, the tourism industry faces a number of challenges: The high cost of air transport; poor connectivity; and the unfavourable visa regime.

In fact, the African Development Bank’s 2017 Visa Openness Report revealed that Africans on average were required to apply for visas before travel to 55 per cent of other African states, unlike, their European counterparts.

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