Negative image hinders African tourism: Mzembi

Fortious Nhambura in Madrid, Spain
Continued negative perception of Africa as a place of disease, hunger, war and poverty is hampering its ability to attract foreign direct investment in tourism, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Engineer Walter Mzembi has said.

Minister Mzembi, who is also the World Tourism Organisation Commission chairman for Africa, said for many people in other parts of the world, the mention of Africa evoked wrong images of civil unrest, war and mounting social problems.

Contributing to a round table discussion on investment into tourism in Africa, he said Africa provided lots of opportunities for development.

“In tourism, Africa is seen as a long haul, inaccessible, with poor aviation infrastructure, high airport taxes, is viewed pejoratively as one single destination, and a single negative social development in one corner of the continent is assumed erroneously as if its the whole of Africa,” said Minister Mzembi. “Thus, Africa suffers huge collateral damage. This Afro-pessimism is perceptional and indeed indicts on Africa in many cases very unfairly and continues to scare FDIs into Africa.”

Minister Mzembi said international investors needed to appreciate that Africa had many positive aspects with its dynamism evident in its vast achievements.

“It is imperative that companies globally recognise that Africa isn’t one economy or homogenous population block,” he said. “Africa is a conglomerate of 54 countries which, more often than not, don’t share policies and attitudes, and have evolved differently through their social and economic past experiences. Many of them have put a cocktail of incentives and policy regimes that are unmatched to motivate FDI. For example, in Zimbabwe my Government offers tax rebates/duty exemptions through Statutory Instrument 172 and 173 on all capital goods and equipment imported for the tourism sector’s re-tooling and re-kitting over and above tax holidays zero-rated and 100 percent repatriation of profit.”

Minister Mzembi said apart from isolated political incidences involving Boko Haram in Nigeria, insurgence by Al-Shabaab in Somalia and attacks waged by the same group in Kenya, many regions in Africa enjoyed relative peace and stability.

He said the emergence of large African companies presented an opportunity for FDI in joint venture projects.

“The fact that we have 20 African companies with revenues base of at least US$3 billion and more than 100 companies with revenue of at least US$1 billion proves that there are broadly vast opportunities,” he said.

“Furthermore, over 316 million new mobile phone subscribers have signed up with over 50 mobile service providers since 2000, which provides an opportunity for growth.” Minister Mzembi said Africa has a rich natural resource base, holding 10 percent of the world’s oil reserves, 40 percent of gold and more than 80 percent of the chromium and platinum group of metals.

“It is unfortunate that many of these positive manifestations have not been amplified and highlighted globally to demonstrate Africa as the opportunity continent,” he said.

“Although growth is expected to continue in all areas in Africa, tourism is the centrepiece for accelerated sustainable growth that is likely to drive the continent’s new growth path.”

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