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Booming Tourist Industry Boosting African Economies

FILE - In this photo taken March 28, 2012, a man offering camel rides for tourists leads his animals along the Indian Ocean beach of Diani, a popular tourist destination on the coast of Kenya.

A new report finds flourishing tourism in Africa is putting millions of people to work and adding billions of dollars to national economies. The UN Conference on Trade and Development’s annual Economic Development in Africa Report projects continued robust growth in tourism in the coming years.

Growth figures in Africa’s tourism sector are impressive. The World Travel and Tourism Council projects the total contribution of tourism to Africa’s Gross Domestic Product will amount to $296 billion by 2026.

FILE - Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
FILE - Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

This is a phenomenal increase considering that tourism’s direct contribution to Africa’s GDP was $30 billion between 1995 and 1998. The Tourism Council also expects the sector to generate nearly 29 million jobs in 2026 up from 21 million in 2016.

UNCTAD secretary-general, Mukhisa Kituyi says intra-African tourism, which now exceeds visitors from Europe, the United States and Asia is behind the fast growth in the industry.

“Also, importantly documented in this report is the fact that intra-African tourism is 12 months a year," he said. "It does not wait for the north in winter and that way it underpins more continuing livelihoods than the seasonal tourism associated with the traditional South markets.”

But, Kituyi says African governments must liberalize air transport to realize the potential of intraregional tourism for the continent’s economic growth. Currently, he says four countries, South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia and Kenya, account for more than 90 percent of air traffic.

FILE - In this April 9, 2015 image tourists ride camels at the historical site of the Giza Pyramids in Giza, near Cairo, Egypt.
FILE - In this April 9, 2015 image tourists ride camels at the historical site of the Giza Pyramids in Giza, near Cairo, Egypt.

“Many countries that do not have a viable national airline, do not see the reason of giving concession for low-cost landing when there is no such benefit for their own airlines," he said. "And, what it means is that you start finding abnormally high landing costs for airlines from other African countries.”

Kituyi says this short-sighted policy results in abnormally high costs for intra-African flying. This, he says, holds back greater potential revenue through the greater movement of persons across the continent.