Achieving sustainable tourism growth and development in Sub-Saharan Africa: What is the missing link?

Thomas P.Z. Mpofu


International tourism is currently the largest and one of the rapidly expanding economic sectors in the world, growing at an average annual rate of 4 %. However, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) remains the least travelled sub-region in the world, with the least share of the world tourism market. This is despite its rich endowment with a diversity of both natural and human-made attractions. Therefore, the major research question that the study sought to answer was: What is the missing link? In other words, what can Sub-Saharan Africa do to stimulate its tourism industry? To what extent are public sector bodies in SSA involved in facilitating sustainable tourism growth and development, and increase their global market share. Specifically, the study investigated the existence of tourism policies; the state of tourism infrastructure; and the existence of marketing strategies. The study was justified on the premise that tourism is one of the lucrative industries that could contribute towards generating government income, creating jobs; and alleviating poverty in SSA. Second, the study was deliberately timed to coincide with the hosting of the 2013 United Nations World Tourism Organization General Assembly by Zambia and Zimbabwe. The geographical scope of the study was confined to that part of Africa south of the Sahara Desert. The study was based on secondary data sources from the following organizations: United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), World Tourism Barometer, Euro-monitor International, Regional Tourism Organization of Southern Africa (RETOSA), as well as relevant books and papers. The study found that, while the majority of SSA countries had tourism policies and strategies, the tourism industry suffered from inadequate policy implementation; poor or inadequate tourism infrastructure; and lack of aggressive marketing. The study also found that, in general, SSA suffered from a poor image. The study concluded that, while the tourism industry is predominantly in the hands of the private sector, the fledgling state of tourism in SSA necessitated direct intervention by the public sector. Thus, the study recommends that public sector bodies, the private sector, and local communities should work in partnership in formulating and implementing sustainable tourism policies; developing and maintaining tourism infrastructure, formulating and implementing comprehensive marketing strategies; and work towards improving the largely negative image of the sub-region.

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