One of the consequences of globalization is that “the world has become flat” if I were to appropriate the expression of the American columnist Thomas Friedman. Indeed, the development of transport, in particular air transport, and the consecutive decline in prices, have led, among other things, to a sharp increase in tourist flows. This not counting the window opened on the world by internet making us want to go to discover the world beyond our garden.
Africa also benefits from the increase in tourism flows. According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the continent welcomed 57.8 million tourists in 2016, 4.4 million more than in 2015. According to UNWTO projections, tourism in Africa could reach 134 million by 2030. In its 2017 report on African economic development, UNCTAD draws our attention to the economic importance of tourism on the African continent: tourism accounts for 6.8% African GNP and represents more than 21 million jobs (about one in fourteen jobs). In total, tourism is the continent’s second largest sector.
One of the interesting points highlighted in the UNCTAD report is the fact that it is the Africans themselves who are increasingly driving tourism demand in Africa. Indeed, four out of ten international tourists are Africans. Tourism is a sector especially interesting to study because it reflects the stakes of our continent: the weight of Africans in international tourism in Africa underlines the emergence of an African middle class, while the obstacles to its development are the same as for the economy in general: lack of infrastructure, energy deficit, hindrances to the movement of people…
Africa has such an untapped potential. Indeed, these figures must be put into perspective as tourism accounts about 10% of GDP elsewhere in the world. If the total number of tourists is reported to the continent’s population (about 1.2 billion), the figure of 57.8 million tourists is low. Let us recall that a country like France welcomes more tourists (about 83 million) than it has inhabitants (about 66 million) …
However, like other sectors of the African economy, tourism in Africa could benefit from the digital revolution. A new generation of entrepreneurs wants to show another side of Africa, more authentic, by showing other things than the classics of African tourism. Three innovative projects (Tastemakers Africa, Hip Africa, Visit Africa) led by diaspora entrepreneurs participate to the change of the image of the continent. The use of social networks is a powerful marketing tool for these websites, notably with Instagram.
NEPAD also addressed this issue through the Nepad Tourism Action Plan (TAP) on the recommendation of the African Conference of Tourism Ministers. The TAP will serve as a roadmap for sustainable tourism for the African continent. The plan focuses on six key points: the political and legislative environment of tourism; its institutional capacity; tourism marketing; R & D; investment in infrastructure and tourism products; human resources and quality control. NEPAD considers tourism as a powerful tool for both regional integration and socio-economic development that supports poverty reduction.
I will therefore speak on this theme of improving the engine of growth in Africa through sustainable tourism during a round table that we will organize on September 21 at the 72nd session of the the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). According to me, tourism is a real opportunity as it can be used for transformative and inclusive growth, in particular by facilitating the inclusion of vulnerable communities and by participating in the preservation of our environment.