Promoting Tourism as an Engine of Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development in Africa (21 July 2016)

Ministerial Round Table: Global Services Forum

  • Tourism in Africa is rapidly expanding and holds great potential. The continent boasts a rich variety of attractions that draw in tourists from around the world. Photo: African Business Review

  • Africa offers a wealth of historic monuments, stunning landscapes and an exceptional diversity of plants and wildlife.

  • The economic potential of tourism is remarkable, with direct and indirect impact on employment, inclusive growth and sustainable development.

  • In Africa alone, travel and tourism generated 9.1 million direct jobs, and 12.9 million indirect jobs, in 2015, and represented a total contribution to Africa's GDP of 8.1%.

  • M. Maged Abdelaziz, at the General Debate, stated that “Moving from Decisions to Actions” would require a strong and effective global partnership at all levels as well as a special focus on the synergies and complementarities existing between the global trade trends and regional frameworks.

  • From the left: 1. ; 2. ;3. Mr.  Maged Abdelaziz, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Africa; 4. ​Mr. Joakim Reiter, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development; 5. ; 6. Mr. Márcio  Favilla, Executive Director for Operational Programmes and Institutional Relations, World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) ; 7. ​Ms. Elizabeth Wheeler, Chief Executive Officer of Micato Safaris East Africa; 8.

    Participants to the event co-organized by OSAA discussed how to promoting tourism as an engine of inclusive growth and sustainable development in Africa.

  • H.E. Mr. Mohamed Yehia Rashed, Minister of Tourism of the Arab Republic of Egypt, called for the establishment by 2017 of the African Tourism Organization, based in Cairo.

The Office of the Special Adviser on Africa and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development co-organized a panel discussion on "promoting tourism as an engine of inclusive growth and sustainable development in Africa" as part of the Global Services Forum, on 21 July 2016 (Nairobi, Kenya).

The Forum provided a unique platform for all stakeholders in the service s sector to deliberate the ways and means for optimizing the contribution of the services economy and trade in services to the sustainable development goals. The Forum brought together Ministers and high-level policymakers, thought leaders, business leaders, coalitions and associations of services industries, international organizations and services regulators.

Tourism has the potential to greatly contribute to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly since it is becoming increasingly important for employment, poverty alleviation and farm sector competitiveness and productivity. The session explored how tourism can overcome the challenges of becoming enclaves and how the industry could enhance spillover effects and positive externalities to both the environment and society at large. It also examined emerging tourism sub-sector opportunities that developing countries could better exploit, such as green, eco or sustainable tourism, and how public policies should aim to maximize the benefits and minimize negative social, economic and environmental impacts.

Some of the questions raised during the panel discussion included:

  • What opportunities does a peaceful and secure Africa create for tourism and how can African countries create better linkages between tourism and other sectors of the economy?
  • What advocacy role could tourism play in facilitating effective implementation of both 2030 agenda for sustainable development and AU Agenda 2063 and its 10-year implementation plan?
  • How can tourism contribute to the envisaged increase in intra-Africa trade in services?

Tourism for Development

Africa is endowed with huge environmental assets, natural resources, and cultural heritage and, therefore, tourism has contributed greatly to the continent’s economic growth for the past decade.

According to the 2014 report of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Africa is one of the fastest growing bases for tourism sector globally, behind South-East Asia.  It is estimated that international tourism arrivals in Africa increased by 2% in 2014.  The region maintained a 5% share in worldwide arrivals and a 3% share in tourism receipts.  Africa received 56 million international tourists up from 26 million in 2000.  Travel and tourism direct GDP in Africa reached $83 billion in 2014.  With nearly 9 million direct employees in the continent, travel and tourism is one of the leading employers, surpassing other sectors such as financial services, mining, banking, to  mention a few (source: World Travel and Tourism Council Benchmark Report – Africa Summary May 2015).

The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development addresses inclusive and sustainable economic growth, in particular with:

  • Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all;
  • Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns;
  • Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts;
  • Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development; and
  • Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

And, Goal 17, on strengthening the means of implementation and revitalizing the global partnership for sustainable development, notes that potentially, tourism, due to its cross-sectoral nature, may strengthen Public-Private Partnership (PPP) and engage multiple stakeholders in the interest of sustainable development.

The African Union' Agenda 2063, the structural transformation framework of the continent, integrates tourism as a critical driver of inclusive growth, job opportunities and wealth creation, through industry and service. It has prioritized tourism among the socio-economic sectors in defining the targets and strategies. The Framework addresses critical issues for boosting Africa’s tourism, including:

  • removing visa constraints;
  • undertaking joint marketing including packaging and promotion of cross-border attractions;
  • promoting joint projects for infrastructure development and investment, such as promoting cross-border investment in hotels, airport, roads, etc.; and
  • capacity building for people working in the tourism industry.

In Agenda 2063 Ten-Year Implementation Plan, sub-goal 5 puts emphasis on the fact that transformed economies and jobs will be achieved through economic diversification for increased resilience to external economic shocks, and by African countries developing and implementing national long-term economic diversification plans, including tourism, within the context of the structural transformation of the economy.

The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), the technical arm of the African Union, developed the Tourism Action Plan (TAP), which was adopted by the African Union's Assembly in 2004. The Tourism Action Plan seeks to optimize the role of tourism as an engine and catalyst for regional integration, inclusive economic development in Africa through the establishment of a conducive environment and regional cooperation. It identifies eight priority areas of intervention that can facilitate this objective in particular, through harmonization of policies and standards at national, sub-regional and continental levels. Since then, the Tourism Action Plan has become the core strategy of the African Union on tourism, taking into account the current continental and global challenges and within the context of the NEPAD’s vision and Agenda 2063 aspirations and goals. 

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (17 - 22 July 2016)

The fourteenth session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD 14) will take place in Nairobi, Kenya, from 17 to 22 July 2016.

Logo of UNCTAD 14

The theme will be "From Decisions to Actions". The Conference will feature ministerial debates, high-level round tables, thematic events, a World Investment Forum, a Global Commodities Forum, a Youth Forum and a Civil Society Forum, among other events.

For more information: #UNCTAD14

Fact & Figures

  • Tourism continues to be one of the fastest-growing and most dynamic sectors of Africa’s economy.
  • Africa holds a 5.8% share in worldwide tourism arrivals, and a 3.5% share of worldwide tourism receipts.
  • Destinations with the strongest growth in international arrivals compared to 2013 were Egypt, Morocco, and Côte d’Ivoire.
  • Direct travel and tourism employment in Africa totaled 8.7 million in 2014, which is a rise of 0.5 million over 2013.
  • Looking ahead, UNWTO forecasts that international tourist arrivals in Africa will more than double its present numbers by 2030 to reach an estimated 134 million.

Source: Africa Tourism Monitor 2015

Did you know?

The United Nations declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development [A/RES/70/193] PDF.