UAE restricting African travelers entering their country is a silver lining

Raymond Mugisha

What you need to know:

  • Continental population is currently 1.4 billion people. The travel and tourism potential that the continent will hold by 2050 when the population hits a projected 2.5 billion people needs no exaggeration. Africa may therefore, be a leading source of tourists in coming decades

Africa is set to be the world’s biggest client block, by numeric strength. Strategically speaking therefore, the UAE should be devising measures to motivate more African travelers into their country. It is the UAE that needs Africa, as a client, not the other way round. The UAE is not short of national revenue streams but the tourism sector has been steadily growing. In 2006, it contributed a mere four percent of GDP and this has steadily grown, hitting over 11 percent of GDP 10 years in 2016. It is projected that by 2026, the sector will contribute more than a fifth of the country’s GDP. Therefore, within the strategy pipeline of the UAE, tourism is a key pursuit. 

Arguably, for some years now, the UAE has been the most likely destination for many Africans wishing to set foot outside the continent for pleasure and business. Travel requirements have been very favorable but recently a number of restrictions were introduced, affecting some African countries. Over the six-year period, from 2015 to 2021, the proportion of travelers into UAE coming from Africa grew from an average six percent to 10 percent. This trend is logically expected to continue to grow, along with Africa’s evolving population. According to the African Development Bank, by 2022, middle-class Africans have tripled to 313 million, approximately 34 percent of the continent's population, over the last 30 years. As such, the number of Africans with the potential to travel for both pleasure and business is similarly rising. Continental population is currently 1.4 billion people. The travel and tourism potential that the continent will hold by 2050 when the population hits a projected 2.5 billion people needs no exaggeration. Africa may therefore, be a leading source of tourists in coming decades.

As Africans, we need to note that massive travel outside, especially for tourism, is not necessary in the long run. Granted, there will always be something to see and enjoy out there, but there is enough to enjoy within Africa if we focus on it and develop it.
Africa offers a variety of travel experiences for pleasure hunters. From historical monuments to events such as festivals celebrating African culture, music, and food, there is so much for travelers to enjoy across the continent. 

For example, between the 11th and 14th centuries the Great Zimbabwe was a thriving trading empire that was based on cattle husbandry, agriculture, and the gold trade on the Indian Ocean coast. The extensive stone remains of this African Iron Age city are available in the southeastern part of the modern-day country of Zimbabwe. The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, 11 in number, dating back to the late 12th and early 13th centuries, still stand in north-central Ethiopia, telling a story of ancient architectural mastery. The city of Timbuktu, with remaining structures located on the southern edge of the Sahara in what is now Mali was a trading post on the trans-Saharan caravan route and as a center of Islamic culture in the 15th through the 17th century. Olduvai Gorge, located in the eastern Serengeti Plain, within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in northern Tanzania has yielded the fossil remains of more than sixty human ancestors, providing deposits that cover a time span from about 2.1 million to fifteen thousand years ago. There are several other monumental sites across the continent and possibly only a handful of Africans have visited them. 

Wildlife watching tourism is an important segment of the tourism sector in Africa, but even in an endowed country like Uganda , one would be surprised at the huge number of people who have never seen a live elephant and who possibly would not pay see one. The African continent enjoys a lengthy coastline of about 30,500kms, offering exciting opportunities for beach tourism, but not yet optimized. Tourism opportunities on the continent are immense to meet the touring needs of the native.

The challenge however, lies in the fact that traveling across Africa is very complicated with huge constraints, as well as very expensive. Tourism infrastructure still requires more investment so as to entice the African to spend their travel time within the continent. The constraints to intra-African tourism are simply many. However, if UAE makes it harder for Africans to visit, it is a good reminder that we have enough compensating facilities here at home, and we simply need to make them work for us. The scenario can catalyze mindset change for motivating intra-Africa tourism. With the right initiatives in place, an African with passion for touring could take a fulfilling holiday on the continent every year of their adult life and still not exhaust the opportunities. 

Raymond is a Chartered Risk Analyst and risk management consultant
[email protected]


 

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