Sustainable tourism: A pathway to development and poverty eradication in Africa

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The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report on Economic Development in Africa for this year has singled out tourism as a tool for development and poverty eradication on this continent.

The UNCTAD report concluded that tourism can be an engine for inclusive growth and a complement to development strategies aimed at fostering economic diversification and structural transformation within an appropriate policy context.

UNCTAD Secretary General Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, said tourism’s impact on economic and social development of African countries can be huge.

“We must manage tourism properly in order to enjoy its fruits without leaving anyone behind,” Dr. Kituyi said.

He said when addressing delegates of the Africa Travel Association’s (ATA) 41st Annual World Tourism Summit that the tourism sector’s growth presents enormous economic opportunities that have spread throughout African societies.

“This is a great opportunity to present and review tourism on the continent,” said Dr. Kituyi.

“To succeed, we must put in place adequate policies, forge public-private partnerships, ensure free movement, as well as peace and security,” the UNCTAD chief emphasized.

“Africa’s tourism industry continues to flourish and supports more than 21 million jobs and, for the developing countries, tourism is a enormous tool for sustainable development,” added Dr. Kituyi.

“Sustainable tourism must ensure viable, long-term economic operations, providing benefits that are distributed fairly among all stakeholders,” Dr. Kituyi told the delegates.

Organized by the Corporate Council on Africa and Africa Travel Association in collaboration with the Rwanda Development Board, the summit brought together African leaders, international investors, and travel professionals from across the world to explore how tourism can spur economic growth and job creation across the African continent.

Hosted by Rwanda, one of East Africa’s premiere and fastest-growing tourist destinations, the ATA Annual Summit was held from Monday to Thursday this ending week in Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali.

Rwanda remains one of the world’s fastest-growing tourist destinations, second only to Southeast Asia, and recorded tourist revenue of more than US$400 million in 2016, up from US$370 million the previous year.

The high-profile tourism summit focused on innovative business models, new technologies, and strategic partnerships in Africa and globally.

It also provided a platform to network and explore new tourism markets and products, including the promotion and preservation of Africa’s rich cultural heritage and wildlife being the key tourist products available on this continent.

The United Nations General Assembly has designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, underscoring its power to spur poverty eradication.

Tourism is also singled out in 3 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, part of an ambitious global plan adopted by the international community in 2015 that is setting the tone for development through to the year 2030.

Specifically, tourism is tied to the goals on sustainable economic growth and decent employment, sustainable production and consumption, as well as the conservation and sustainable use of oceans.

Today, tourism generates 10 percent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), one in every 10 jobs and 30 percent of world trade in services, counted as a key sector to many countries’ economies and livelihoods.