April 21st, 2017

This week, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the President of the African Development Bank, described the progress and priorities of the Bank in a session at the Center for Global Development on The Challenge and Logic of Greater Financing for Africa. The President presented his “High Fives”:

Not surprising, tourism was not mentioned as a priority for the Bank. The “High Fives” focus especially on agriculture, education  and energy — all of course essential for all development, including tourism. The President also highlighted the priority need of attracting private sector investment.

The African Development Bank has launched an initiative called Jobs for Youth in Africa to support countries to create 25 million jobs in SMEs, agriculture and ICT. President Adesina said, “We have no choice. The youth are the present and the future of Africa. Their future is in a prosperous Africa.” 

Tourism is already an important path to prosperity for African countries and, with the assistance of institutions such as the African Development Bank could have an even greater impact. In 2016, Sub-Saharan Africa was the fastest growing tourism region in the world. The industry generated directly and indirectly USD165.6 billion in GDP and 20.7 million jobs. More airlines are flying to African destinations and hotel groups such as Marriott and Accor are investing more and opening hotels all across the continent. Countries such as Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia are some of the beneficiaries. 

The UN World Tourism Organization just released some additional figures for 2016, which show that international arrivals to sub-Saharan Africa increased to more than 39 million, up from 35.5 million in 2015. While most countries had not yet reported their final totals for 2016, the ones that did showed impressive increases: South Africa (+12.8% accounting for nearly a quarter of all arrivals), Seychelles (+9.8%), Reunion (+7.5%), Mauritius (+10.8%), Madagascar (+20%), and Cabo Verde (+15.1%). Other countries to watch include Ethiopia, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia — all of which the World Bank is assisting or has assisted with their tourism development. 

While the growth in arrivals is impressive, growth in tourism receipts was much lower at 4.4% in 2015 (the latest year available), which was actually a decline from 2014. And at only three percent of total market share, international tourism to Africa is very much a glass half full with only a tiny fraction of its potential being tapped. With increased visitor and investor interest heating up, the continent is proving to be a great investment, one that should attract more donor support.

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