According to the World Tourism Organisation, Africa registered the highest tourist growth on average compared to other regions with an increase of 8.6% ahead of the current global average of 7%.
In 2017 alone, Africa received almost 63 million visitors which brought an impressive revenue of $37billion (R568bn). It is estimated that by 2030, Africa’s tourist figure would have reached 134 million people. The market value of this sector stands at $165bn.
The AU’s Agenda 2063 and the 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development recognise the importance of the tourism sector’s potential to absorb unemployment, preserve the environment and effective resources management.
There are numerous reasons why tourist numbers are rising on the year-to-year basis in Africa.
In the last 15 years, the world witnessed a shift in the global tourism sector trends. There was a major shift from the usual movements from Global North to Global South to South to South movement of tourists.
The rise of the Chinese economy to number two in the world and particularly its 400million middle class accounts for a large number of these new tourists on the global stage. Africa has been a beneficiary of the Chinese tourists including those from other emerging markets such as India, Brazil, Gulf states and Russia.
In recent years, Africa and much of the developing world have benefited from the tensions between China and the US.
The flourishing partnership between Africa and China through the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (Focac) has facilitated and attracted more Chinese tourists to the continent.
Africa has some of the most impressive tourist destinations, such as the many world-renowned attractions in South Africa, Victoria Falls shared by Zambia and Zimbabwe, Egyptian Pyramids, beaches in Gambia to the wildebeest migration in Maasai Mara in Kenya.
The continent also has many unexplored and undeveloped attractive destinations in Ethiopia’s ancient Christian kingdom. There are other marvels in Sudan, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and the Kalahari and Sahara deserts.
While Africa makes remarkable strides in the tourism sector, there are many possible hindrances too. At the centre of these lies the lack of co-ordination.
There is a need to co-ordinate infrastructure both physical and digital to speak to one another for easy movement of tourists across the vast continent.
Tenuous security is also a blight. The abduction of Europeans by pirates off the coast of Somalia, perennial conflicts in North Africa, parts of West, East and Central Africa make it hard to develop a common African brand as a tourist destination.
Most African countries therefore market their own exclusive tourist destinations independent of the entire continent.
The images of chaos in Cape Town and Joburg work against the development of tourism sector. The gang violence in Cape Town which has brought the military on the streets sends negative signals to tourists, as do the police raids in Joburg and reported crimes at airports, on Table Mountain and in Mpumalanga.
Although the outbreak of the deadly Ebola in the eastern Congo appears well-contained, it is often reported overseas as if the whole of the African continent is affected.
To overcome these challenges, the AU and RECs should work closely with the private sector in designing strategies and tactics to attract more visitors to the continent.
* Monyae is the director of the Centre for Africa-China Studies at the University of Johannesburg.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.