The African continent is known for its natural endowments in primary products and natural attractions as well as a rich array of diverse multi-ethnic cultures which has lured travelers from far and wide to witness and explore.
Naturally, earnings from tourism ought not to be a challenge, but unfortunately it is, due to a lack of supporting infrastructure which has discouraged visitors from outside the continent.
The major challenge a typical African economy faces in trying to maximize the gains from revenue diversification is infrastructure development. Requisite Infrastructure is needed to support the smooth operations of any sector from manufacturing to tourism.
Over the years many African countries have sought to improve on infrastructure to boost earnings from its natural attractions without significant success. As revenue from primary exports continue to thin it becomes more constraining to build infrastructure consequently dampening any hopes of reviving other sectors.
Recently the continent has found a reliable partner in China in the area of infrastructure development as most projects in road and transport sectors are being funded by the Asian giant on partnership terms of Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) or Design, Build, Operate and Transfer (DBOT).
This has spurred a series of other complementary infrastructural development from investors in the hospitality sector as Africa has witnessed an unprecedented flurry of new hotel and resort projects in recent times.
According to Nigeria’s minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, the partnership between Nigeria and China in the area of infrastructural development has acted as a catalyst for domestic tourism in the African nation.
“I think China is a good example of how domestic tourism can prosper, of course you also need improved infrastructure. This is why we are so glad that China is collaborating with Nigeria in the area of infrastructure such as roads, power and railways,” he told visiting Chinese ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Zhou Pinson.
The minister further described the bilateral relations between Nigeria and China, as mutual and sincere, saying China remains one of the strategic partners of Nigeria because of its genuine commitment and passion towards the country.
In his response, Pinson said culture and people-to-people relations are part of the 10 priority areas which China is exploring to foster relations with Nigeria.
He said China has opened discussion with the minister towards the building of Nigerian-China Cultural Centre in Nigeria to further promote the cultural ties, which will boost communication and understanding between the two countries.
“What we wish to do with Nigeria we have outlined in the four cardinal framework and we have the bilateral document with this esteemed ministry. So, cultural activities, personnel exchanges, skills training and capacity building we wish to have firm foundation in these fields and we wish we could do more in these fields with Nigeria,” he said.
In another forum, specifically the 59th Meeting of the UNWTO Commission for Africa held between 18-21 April in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and attended by 21 tourism Ministers from the African continent, other tourism ministers lauded China’s efforts in accentuating the value of Africa’s tourism sector through its infrastructure development partnership.
The NWTO Regional Commission for Africa discussed tourism trends in the continent and the potential that Chinese tourism can induce at regional levels.
The attendees also included Edmund Bartlett, Minister of Tourism, Entertainment of Jamaica and Hongtao Wei, Vice Chairman of the China National Tourism Administration.
UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai who received a Recognition Award from Mr. Muktar Kedir, Minister of Good Governance of Ethiopia to highlight his legacy in promoting tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability said: “We all come out of Africa, and went on to inhabit the world, making Africa the first source market in history. Africa is the future and Ethiopia is the soul and heart of Africa.”
Mr. Muktar Kedir, also described Ethiopia as a unique land where the earliest ancestors of human beings first walked upright and expressed his expectation to see Ethiopia become one of the prime choices of tourists in the near future.
He said China has become a major investor in the African continent, contributing to infrastructure development and reshaping the economic landscape, and is the world´s largest outbound market since 2012 after recording double digit growth in expenditure every year since 2004.
The meeting witnessed a high level of participation not only from African governments but also private sector stakeholders who discussed the dynamics of the Chinese outbound market together with ways to provide guidance for policies and strategies to African Member States, Chinese stakeholders and African businesses.
The Commission served to motivate African Member States to undersign the African Charter on Sustainable and Responsible Tourism as well supporting the African Caravan on Sustainable and Responsible Tourism led by Morocco through activities to be organized and celebrated during the campaign of the International Year.
The event was a combination of keynote presentations from UNWTO, IVY Alliance Tourism Consulting, AVIAREPS and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), interactive panels and roundtable discussions.
To further affirm the strategic impact China has made on the continent’s infrastructure development and its importance to improving tourism revenues, the Commission announced that the 60th CAF will be hosted in Chengdu China within the framework of the 22nd Session of the General Assembly, to be held in September 2017. In addition, members of the Commission unanimously welcomed Nigeria´s expression of interest to host the 61st CAF to be held in 2018.