Press releases

Tourism and trade: key economic drivers for Africa’s development

30 November 2010
ITC News

Tourism and trade can be powerful drivers of economic growth in Africa and they have much in common when it comes to the policy environment needed to get the best out of them.


Both benefit from economies that are open to the outside world, although liberalization must always be accompanied by appropriate regulation. Both require the creation of complete value chains, and these value chains - to thrive - must be competitive globally.


The Geneva-based International Trade Centre (ITC) brought its experience and expertise to bear on these core development issues during the World Economic Forum on Africa meeting held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 5-7 May 2010.


Tasked with “Rethinking Africa’s Growth Strategy,” the meeting focused on the challenge to Africa of the global economic crisis and whether the opportunity is being seized to redesign a sustainable roadmap for its future within the new global economy.


Addressing a session  “Open borders: The Opportunities for Trade, Travel and Development in Africa”  ITC Executive Director Patricia R. Francis said that success in travel and trade necessitates a holistic policy approach that takes account of the interests of the private sector and involves all players.


In developing ports and airports, too often private sector needs are overlooked, Ms Francis observed. If tourism is the economic driver behind a new airport, for example, facilities that can promote trade, such as cold storage, are sometimes omitted.


“The infrastructure for trade and tourism must provide an enabling environment which delivers more to each player in the chain if we are to achieve the development outcomes which we have set ourselves,” she said.

It is also crucially important; the session heard that local economic operators benefit from efforts to maximize the value chain. In the case of tourism in Tanzania, for example, local farmers ought, where possible, to be used to supply nearby hotels.


At the international level, participants saw an urgent need to reform customs’ procedures, introduce “one-stop border posts” and make greater use of information technology. Currently road transit from Dar to Lusaka return takes 60 days. Automated payment systems could also facilitate trade.


The region must develop its human capital, with particular emphasis on women and young people.  Ms Francis pointed to the economic contribution made by women in informal cross border trade among countries of the South African Development Community (SADC). The United Nations puts its value at $17.6 billion per year, or 30-40% of intra-SADC trade.

“At the end of the day, I would like to believe that if we find solutions for the African women trader, we will have solved the issue for many, many more.We cannot ignore 50% of our population and the value they represent,” she said.


The ITC head stressed that success in trade and tourism means meeting global standards for quality. This in turn requires an understanding of markets and the factors that drive competitiveness. The ability to deliver is crucial. “When we talk about travel and tourism, we are talking about global standards,” she said.


But to manage something, first it is necessary to measure it.Here the ITC has a special role to play through its mandate to assist developing countries in building their own trade intelligence systems in order to make better decisions and build greater levels of competitiveness.


Together with the World Trade Organization (WTO) and UNCTAD, for example, it produces the ‘World Tariff Profiles’, and with contribution from the World Bank, it puts together trade and market access information which in turn is an input into the WEF.


Finally, there is a need for transparency in all that supports trade and tourism in order for market participants to understand where to invest and which investment will bring the greatest level of return.

“Transparency, accountability and measurement are critical if we are to build trust and confidence between all stakeholders,” Ms Francis declared.

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