‘’It is clear that we must find an African solution to our problems, and that this can only be found in African unity. Divided we are weak; united, Africa could become one of the greatest forces for good in the world’’ – Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah The African Union (AU) founded on September 9, 1999 was formed with the view to accelerate the process of integration within the continent so that it plays a more prominent role in the global economy whilst addressing social, economic and political problems.The AU represents 98 per cent of the countries that comprise the African continent (excluding Morocco). African Unity has been top of the continents agenda for many many decades. The benefits in general are just overwhelming but one particular sector seems to benefit immensely. That sector is Tourism.
Regional tourism is driving the world over. For example, it is estimated that four out of five international arrivals are visitors travelling within their region (UNWTO Tourism Barometer 2014).
Image and international recognition – In the past, Africa was touted as a place of slaves, war and political unrest with many countries involved in domestic turbulence and political instability. The image was worsened when HIV and EBOLA became widespread in the region. Many international tourists shun Africa because of this. The once very vibrant and beautiful place of great history was for a certain period tagged a ‘’no go area’’. The period that followed was full of calls for unity among individual countries and the entire continent. Bilateral relations and easy entry by Africans into other African countries.
Free Travel – Have you ever wondered why many people don’t like travelling around in Africa? Why should it be stressful moving from Ghana to Nigeria or from Kenya to South Africa? What makes it worse is that, it has proven to be much easier for Africans to travel outside the continent than travel to other neighbouring countries. The main barrier often has to do with Visas and permits. With the implementation of Visas on arrival for many African nationals, this has been greatly impacted. Now more Africans travel freely and visits to other African countries has increased. African unity has made this possible and in no time, this will enable regional integration and development.
Learning from other countries – With free travel comes cultural integration. Many people will have the freedom to travel all around the continent and learn about the way of life of different people. Food, dance, music, lifestyle, tradition, festivals and many more. Some may be similar while others may be diverse. However we find it, there are always positives to take back home and implement. There are always learnings we can take back to our respective countries. From different strategies for tourism development to best practices in hospitality. We can learn a lot from the various African countries if we are united. If we come together as one, tourism will develop in the region.
Pooling Investment Resources – One of the biggest drawbacks of tourism development in Africa has to do with the lack of adequate investment resources. Although many governments and private organizations have tried over the years to inject some resources into the industry, there is still the need for more investments. Many tourism sectors in Africa lack the technology to keep up with growing trends. Also, maintenance of certain tourist centres and facilities are often costly which demand great amounts of financial commitments. Refurbishments, construction of link roads, hospitality, aviation, hotels and many other facets that combine to make a successful tourism industry also require loads of investments. Having a united Africa only makes it easy to pool such resources together. The belief in each other and the willingness to make every country better helps to achieve this. Once we are united as a continent, foreign investments also come much easier as many investors prefer a calm and peaceful business region.
All said and done, we are over 1.2 billion people in a land blessed with so much richness. We have the potential of developing into one of the worlds leaders when it comes to tourism because we are blessed with amazing natural resources. How to put them together and harness everything has always been a challenge for us. One sure way to achieve this is through African unity. When we all come together, the opportunities are endless.