AU summit endorses African tourism action plan

Addis Ababa- Ethiopia (PANA) -- Africa's tourism Industry could be on a booming track following the endorsement of the continent's Tourism Action Plan by the annual Summit of Heads of State and Government, which ended here Thursday.
The plan, developed by the secretariat of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), was forwarded to the Assembly of the African Union (AU) after its adoption by tourism ministers and the Union's Executive Council.
Stakeholders in the industry, including governments and private investors, want to make Africa the destination of the 21st Century.
They bank on the continent's unsurpassed natural tourism attractions to develop the young African tourism industry and fill up yawning state coffers, in addition to creating job opportunities for millions of unemployed young people.
In their decision on NEPAD implementation, African leaders have called on tourism ministers to form a steering committee that would guide the AU Commission and the NEPAD secretariat, regional economic communities and member States in carrying out the Tourism Action Plan.
According to the decision, tourism development is among priority sector strategies of NEPAD across Africa.
Details of the action plan were not immediately available, but it is understood that tourism development in Africa is closely related to the improvement of infrastructure and ongoing efforts to attract foreign direct investment in all service and productive sectors.
This explains NEPAD's combination of tourism with agriculture, productive capacity building, science and technology, and infrastructure development as priority sectors.
They are all supportive of each other.
Promoting African entrepreneurship in tourism most likely requires the involvement of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the leading financiers of development in poor countries.
Already the World Bank has committed US$500 million to support the multi-country agricultural productivity programme through NEPAD.
The African Development Bank has approved financing for nine investment projects amounting to $580 million in the implementation of the short-term action plan for infrastructure.
The World Bank too has approved $570 million for the same purpose.
However, compared with the estimated $64 billion total requirement for implementation of the NEPAD programmes, funds made available or pledged so far are just a drop into the sea.
Speaking to journalists at the end of the Summit, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, the new AU chairperson, said sources of funding for NEPAD would include enhanced fair and improved international trade and direct investment by Africans, non-Africans and Africans in the Diaspora.
At the same time, the Secretariat of NEPAD and the Heads of State and Government Implementation Committee, chaired by Obasanjo, continues to lobby developed countries and donor institutions to provide support and effective partnership for Africa's economic transformation.
No matter whether potential investors are on the Mother Continent or in far-flung countries, they need information before they can decide to put their money into new ventures in Africa.
It will best serve Africa's interests if governments, either individually or through regional economic communities, will take immediate action to raise Africa's tourist profile globally.
While taking that move, every government must at home stress conservation as a matter of life and death.
The natural heritage must be protected if Africa's future generations are to thrive in both economic and cultural terms.
The linkages between the economic benefits from ecotourism and the protection of biodiversity don't seem to be clear to many people, particularly the poor rural communities.
Poverty drives them to destroy the environment and to being used by unscrupulous business people to kill certain animals to near extinction.
African countries, best endowed with natural attractions, must develop tourism as a sustainable economic alternative that will provide jobs to local people and offer real incentive to preserve the environment.
In Africa NEPAD has become a political slogan for development.
Though there isn't much to show on the ground as a fruit of the programme, the population will be eager to see the outcome of this decision on tourism and the accompanying action plan.

08 july 2004 13:22:00

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