Sub-Saharan Africa remains, on aggregate, the region where Travel & Tourism competitiveness is the least developed. Although regional performance has increased, it has improved less compared to other parts of the world.
Southern Africa remains the strongest sub-region, followed by Eastern Africa and then Western Africa. Yet, on average, Eastern Africa is the most improved region, while Southern Africa has experienced a slight decline.
Considering the size and the rich cultural and natural resources, the 29 million tourists visiting the continent in 2015 is low. From a business perspective, the untapped potential of the region could be an opportunity with expected returns potentially higher than other already mature destinations.
Still, a number of conditions need to be in place to grow tourism, including the expansion of an African middle class. Despite sustained economic growth in the past decade, Africa has not seen the same kind of income increases enjoyed by Asian households. As a consequence, only a fraction of African people can afford to travel.
While tourism in Europe and, more recently, Asia has been fuelled by intra-regional travel, data reveals that, on average, African tourists spend a tenth of what an overseas tourist would spend.
Air connectivity and travel cost are challenges linked to the regulatory framework. Although most African nations have signed onto the 1988 Yamoussoukro Declaration in an effort to reach a multilateral “open skies” agreement, almost thirty years later, air travel remains inefficient throughout the region.
Stifled by concerns about different levels of development, protectionist fears linked to their national carriers, conflicts with competition regulations and lack of dispute settlement mechanism, mean that, to date, it is still difficult for any company to fly to new destinations.
Airlines regularly need to lobby their governments to negotiate a bilateral treaty with the destination country, which can be a lengthy process. As a result, there is little competition and little connectivity. In fact, in some cases, it is faster for a passenger to fly through Europe rather than use an African hub.
The lack of competition in turn impacts the costs of tickets and airport and landing charges. Twenty of the 30 Sub-Saharan countries covered by the Report apply ticket taxes and airport charges above the world average.
The countries that have been more active in signing bilateral agreements Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa have been able to create strong state owned carriers. Some countries in West Africa rely on privately owned companies, while all other African countries still maintain unprofitable, inefficient and insecure publicly owned national companies.
Recently, the five countries with strong national carriers, private operators and small state-owned operators committed to a Single African Air Transport Market that should enter into force by the end of 2017. Air transport in particular, and transport infrastructure generally, remain, to date, the biggest challenges for travel & tourism development in Africa.
The lack in significant improvement in the use of natural resources is also hindering Africa’s T&T competitiveness. While tourism in the region is mainly driven by natural tourism, there is ample room for improvement in protecting, valuing and communicating cultural richness.
In several African countries, there are numerous cultural sites and intangible expressions that could be better leveraged and combined with the rich natural capital available; only South Africa performs above the world average. Natural resources are also unevenly protected, despite the importance of protecting the environment for African economies.
On average, environmental performance is positive, but deforestation and habitat loss are becoming problematic in some countries. Ten African countries have lost at least 7% of their forests compared to 2000.
Lack of international openness is a further area that requires policy attention at the regional level. In addition to open-skies policies, in many cases visa policies are still very restrictive, especially in West Africa.
While regional analysis highlights some of the common trends, shared strengths and weaknesses, there are, as always, large variations at the country level. Compared to the 2015 edition of the TTCI, Tanzania, Uganda, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon and Mozambique have all achieved a stronger performance, while Namibia and South Africa have lost some ground.
South Africa still leads the regional ranking, taking the 53rd place globally, though the country slipped 5 places since 2015. It continues to rely on cultural resources (19th), strong natural resources (23rd), and a conducive business environment (21st), characterized by minimal red tape and modest administrative burden.
Although the labour market remains inefficient (118th), there has been some progress in this area: it ranked 135th two years ago. The country has also improved price competitiveness (43rd) by reducing tickets charges, taxes and hotel prices. Despite these improvements, South Africa’s tourism competitiveness has deteriorated on two elements—safety and security (120th) and environmental sustainability (117th).
Fears of terrorism and an increased sense of insecurity related to crime make tourists less light-hearted about travelling in the country. With 33 homicides per 100,000 people, South Africa has one of the worst homicide rates in the index, ranking 131st.
With respect to environmental sustainability, deforestation and loss of habitat have proceeded at a rapid rate since 2000. The global interest and demand for South Africa’s natural resources is increasing, but insufficient habitat preservation could prevent the country from benefitting from this growing source of tourist attraction.
Another aspect that has contributed to a lower performance for South Africa this year is the reduced efforts made by the government to support the sector (59th). Although spending has remained unchanged, marketing campaigns have been perceived as effective (40th). To foster its tourism sector, South Africa could also implement more open visa policies (71st) and service trade agreements (91st).
Namibia is the 4th most T&T competitive nation in Sub-Saharan Africa, taking the 82nd place globally. Namibia’s natural resources (40th), its business environment (38th), air transportation (58th) and price competitiveness (30th) sustain Namibia’s competitiveness as the country slowly continues to increase international arrivals.
Nonetheless, Namibia loses 12 positions this year, resulting partially from statistical adjustments such as the inclusion of previously unavailable deforestation figures, which have significantly reduced the sustainability performance of the country.
Despite these adjustments, which make comparison more challenging, Namibia has lost a considerable portion of its forest since the early 2000s (127th) and its water resources have deteriorated.
Similarly, the re-assessment of car rental services (72nd) and the diffusion of ATMs have resulted in a lower performance of Namibia’s tourism service infrastructure (73rd). Beyond these changes, Namibia still needs to improve its health and hygiene (117th) and under-appreciated cultural resources (127th), and renew focus on its inadequately qualified human resources (106th), which remain the main bottlenecks toward a faster development of the T&T sector in the country.
Tanzania ranks 91st in 2017. It is home to one of the most impressive concentration of natural resources (8th) and wildlife globally, with its rich variety of landscapes, ranging from Mt. Kilimanjaro to its coastline and Zanzibar.
Yet international arrivals have flattened since 2012, when the country welcomed 1 million international visitors. Tanzania is a price-competitive destination (34th) where the government plays an active role in promoting the T&T sector (45th). Still, there is enormous untapped potential.
Cultural resources (86th) could be nurtured to better complement the natural and safari tourism offer. While there has been some progress in the country’s infrastructure, particularly air (106th, up 10 places) and ground transport (102nd, up 18 places), it remains largely underdeveloped.
Tourism service infrastructure (103rd) and, specifically, the hotel reception capacity, remain low (119th). Despite some improvements, Tanzania’s business environment (102nd) is still characterized by slow and costly processes to start a business or obtain construction permits.
Health and hygiene conditions (125th) are also improving very slowly. Similarly, the uptake of ICTs technologies is proceeding at a slower pace than in other countries (121st), with a particularly low increase in mobile broadband subscriptions. Despite its immense potential, Tanzania still has important gaps to fill to fully leverage the T&T sector as a mean to increase its living conditions.
Côte d’Ivoire ranks 109th on the index, rising eight places, which is an increase of almost 4%. International tourists’ arrivals increased from 380,000 in 2013 to 1.4 million in 2015, and the country has bettered its scores on nine of the 14 pillars, with a remarkable improvement in international openness (94th) since implementing a visa liberalization policy.
Although starting from a low level, Côte d’Ivoire has increased the level of its qualified labour force (122nd, up 16 places), and improved its safety and security (96th) as well as its ICT readiness (104th). Despite this directional improvement, the T&T sector is not yet very well developed.
Air transportation is still sub-optimal (91st), the offer of tourism services remains limited (101st) and the cultural resources, despite a significant influx of business tourism, are not strongly valued (120th). Health and hygiene conditions also contribute to the lower appeal of the country (134th), with a high incidence of malaria and HIV.
To continue attracting more tourists, the country needs to develop a better offer, and should try to improve on health and hygiene, infrastructure and human resources. Price competitiveness should also be monitored; Côte d’Ivoire has become more expensive to visit this year due to increased airport and taxes charges.
Mozambique improves considerably, rising 8 places, and ranking 122nd. The strengths of Mozambique’s T&T competitiveness continue to be its natural resources and its very open visa policy (8th). This year, the country rose in the rankings through improvements in ICT readiness (123rd, up 11 places), resulting from increased mobile phone usage, by reducing taxes and charges on air transport, and by placing more value on its natural resources.
Although there is still no natural site on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, Mozambique has slightly increased the surface of protected areas and has managed to improve the awareness of its outstanding natural resources (73rd), ranging from safari parks to pristine beaches and islands.
The country’s environmental sustainability is positive (64th) and the amount of threatened species is low. However, there are looming sustainability risks, including the lack of water treatment systems and deforestation, resulting from illegal logging.
Despite the climb in the ranking this year, the tourism potential in Mozambique remains largely untapped. Infrastructure (121st), human resources (129th), and health and hygiene conditions (136th) are all factors that require significant investments and would generate substantial returns for the tourism sector, but also for the country’s overall competitiveness and productivity.