Washington — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s focus on economic growth and cooperation as “a key pillar” of U.S. foreign policy supports the goal of “economic development which reaches all sectors of society” throughout Africa, says Reuben Brigety, deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs — and a major element in that development is travel and tourism.

Tourism provides significant revenue to many countries worldwide, including a number of African nations, Brigety said.

Brigety spoke March 16 in Washington at the fifth annual meeting of the Africa Travel Association, an industry group that promotes travel, tourism and transport to and within Africa.

Citing sub-Saharan Africa’s yearly growth rates of 5 percent to 6 percent and an improved investment climate, Brigety expressed his hope that positive trends will continue to lift more people out of poverty, while also helping U.S. businesses that can serve the growing African middle class.

“There is no question that robust economic development is the key to Africa’s future,” he said. “Strong, growing economies help stabilize democracies, promote peace, and improve social and health conditions.”

The U.S. government “supports a number of different policies and programs to help Africans and Americans alike capitalize on … emerging opportunities,” Brigety said. He pointed to the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which mandates low tariffs for thousands of African goods entering the U.S. market, and other U.S. measures that support two-way trade with Africa.

“One of our programs has specifically helped the tourism industry: Our Safe Skies for Africa Program focuses on making air transport safer and has assisted African airports to meet the standards necessary for U.S. carriers to enter Africa,” he said. A country’s success as a tourist destination depends on ease of access, he added, so aviation infrastructure “is vital.”

International tourism receipts in Africa “totaled 44 billion U.S. dollars in 2010,” he said. “This signifies that the sector can become a powerful platform for Africa’s economic growth, and especially U.S.-Africa tourism.”

But tourism “is a highly competitive business,” and in a digital age, “maintaining competitiveness requires the effective use of technology, information and innovation.”

INFRASTRUCTURE

“Adequate infrastructure is crucial to a country’s growth and success as a tourism destination,” Brigety said. Access to energy, transportation and telecommunications will help advance tourism throughout Africa.

Brigety noted that the United States continues to work with African nations to develop the continent’s infrastructure. In February, the U.S. State Department organized an energy trade mission to Mozambique, Tanzania, Nigeria and Ghana, and later that month, Clinton hosted the first State Department Global Business Conference, which featured a regional session devoted to Africa.

In addition, the Millennium Challenge Corporation — an independent U.S. foreign-aid agency that fights global poverty — is helping to develop “needed infrastructure in important markets” including Africa’s, Brigety said.

Finally, the tourism sector cannot fully develop without enhanced health services and personal safety in tourist areas, he said. 

BEST PRACTICES

“While there are numerous best-practice models within the tourism industry that can be applied to help improve the industry across the continent, what works for one state may not always work for all,” Brigety said.

In East Africa, the Serena hotel chain “has stood as an example of the positive spillover effects associated with direct community involvement,” he said. These community-based business models encourage the consumption of locally produced goods when possible, “thus adding local suppliers and employees to the value chain and utilizing information from, and the support of, local leaders and ethnic groups in the packaging of tours and the building up of local infrastructure to the mutual benefit of all.”

In southern Africa, Namibia — with support from a $304.5 million Millennium Challenge Corporation compact — is working to improve tourism. “Some $66 million of the compact will be devoted to improving tourism potential and park conservation efforts,” Brigety said. Through a variety of reforms and investments in local road systems, “we expect … an overall increase in tourism throughout the country.”

“As Africa continues to grow, so too will its tourism potential,” Brigety said. “It is up to all parties involved, be they governments, consumers, investors or local leaders, to work together to realize the goal of a more integrated, open and developed Africa.”

Source: iipdigital.usembassy.gov

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