In South Africa, one in 10 jobs is in the tourism industry. In Africa, it is one in 14. Overall, the industry provides jobs to 21 million Africans, and there is plenty of space to grow.
Tourism matters if the continent is to provide work and better lives for its people, said Claudia Roethlisberger, a co-author of the UN Conference on Trade and Development’s Economic Development in Africa Report 2017: Tourism for Transformative and Inclusive Growth.
Globally, half of those who make up the labour force in the tourism industry are younger than 25, and almost a third of the businesses are run by women. These numbers are significant given the youth unemployment crisis and the need to bring more women into the economy across the continent.
Roethlisberger delivered the key findings of the report this week, which is a hefty 200 pages. One of the stand-out findings is that interregional tourism matters – a lot – and that, overall in Africa, 40% of international tourists come from within the continent.
In South Africa, that percentage is 70%, while, in northern Africa, it is only 20%. In the Southern African Development Community, there are two African tourists out of every three people who travel internationally.
The report compared two sets of data – one collected between 1995 and 1998, the second between 2011 and 2015. This means the report can show the upward trajectory in the industry in terms of helping include more Africans in the economy and in transforming who owns that economy.
This is also reflected in the growth of the contribution tourism makes to GDP. The global average contribution tourism makes is 10% of GDP – in South Africa, that percentage is 9%. Across the continent, the contribution to GDP has increased from 6.8% to 8.5%, which is significant, especially when you factor in that there is a lot of untapped tourism potential around the continent.
Consider that Africa in 2015 held a 4.4% share of worldwide tourism arrivals, which, in numbers, is upwards of 56 million people travelling into and within the continent. This is up from 24 million between 1995 and 1998, and 48 million between 2005 and 2008.
The report points out that South Africa has some work to do to stem leakages. This refers to money that is spent here, but that is banked in another country. International hotel chains and restaurants were used as a proxy for the industry as a whole to collect this data. In Tunisia, Indonesia and Thailand, the leakage rate is between 20% and 25% – in South Africa, it is 50%. This means we should all make an effort to stay in a local hotel chain so that our money goes back into our own economy.
To illustrate the potential for growth, the report refers to Rwanda, where, in addition to upgrading their infrastructure in key areas, government abolished certain visa requirements. The result gives pause for thought – in 2010, there were 283 000 visitors to the country, which rose to 478 000 in 2013. Tourism is the fastest growing sector of the economy in Rwanda and brought in R637 million in 2013. This is expected to triple to R1.95 billion this year.
Similarly, if just 12 African countries were to implement the 1999 Yamoussoukro Decision, it would create 150 000 more jobs on the continent, add 5 million visitors and contribute an additional $3.4 billion (R45 billion) to continental GDP.
The 1999 decision is an agreement to open the skies over African countries – to protect the share held by state-owned air carriers, most countries don’t allow just any airline to land.
According to the World Bank, Africa is home to 12% of the world’s population, but only accounts for 1% of the global air service market.
The report is chockful of recommendations for growth in this labour-intensive industry, which has the capacity to reach excluded rural communities, and to build cooperation and cultural tolerance across the continent and between regions.
Primarily, though, with Africa’s cripplingly high youth unemployment rate, and the lack of transformation and inclusion of women and marginalised communities, it is an area that, with proper implementation, could unlock vast economic potential for the continent.
Roethlisberger said it would require better cooperation and policy that capitalises on regional tourists better to put in place the continent-wide strategy put forward by the African Union to double tourism’s contribution to GDP by 2023.
To read the full report, visit unctad.org