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Four out of 10 tourists in Africa come from the continent itself, according to findings from the newly launched Economic Development in Africa Report 2017. It focuses on how tourism can be a tool for a transformative and inclusive growth and points out that the sector in Africa currently supports more than 21 million jobs.
Furthermore, it also points out that over the last two decades, the continent has recorded robust growth and international tourist arrivals and tourism revenue have grown at 6 percent and 9 percent respectively between 1995 and 2014.
“Tourism is a dynamic sector with phenomenal potential in Africa. Properly managed, it can contribute immensely to diversification and inclusion for vulnerable communities,” said Mukhisa Kituyi, the Secretary-General of UNCTAD.
The report, by comparing data from two different periods, 1995–1998 and 2011–2014, reveals that international tourist arrivals to Africa increased from 24 million to 56 million. Tourism export revenues more than tripled, increasing from USD 14 billion to approximately USD 47 billion. This shows that tourism now contributes about 8.5 per cent to the continent’s gross domestic product (GDP).
As the tourism industry offers an immense opportunity for growth, it is also facing some challenges. According to the report, in order to harness this resource, African governments need to work on infrastructure, transport and the free movement of people. Despite years of discussion by the African Union, the continent remains one of the least integrated continents in the world.
The report further suggests that if such measures are taken, they can have relatively fast and tangible impacts. It also provides the example of Rwanda, the abolition of visa requirements for fellow members of the East African Community in 2011 helped increase intraregional tourists from 283,000 in 2010, to 478,000 in 2013.
Looking at projections, the report states that during the next decade, the continued growth of tourism is expected to create an additional 11.7 million jobs in Africa. In addition to that, the sector will contribute to the empowerment of women as 30 percent of tourism related businesses are run by women.