Tourism as a Tool for Poverty Reduction in West Africa


Every year different NGO’s, and other private organisations come together with one purpose: to raise money to reduce poverty in the world. This gesture extends to the whole of the African continent. The idea of these fund-raising activities is to help improve the lifestyle and betterment for the poor. There are numerous NGO's with different aims to reduce poverty in Africa. Orphan Aid Africa helps families of children at risk of abandonment and gives them secure futures within their communities in Ghana, Igbo Charitable Association Inn is an organization delivering community level poverty alleviation support to people in Eastern Nigeria and creating employment opportunities for young people in all of Africa and the Helping Hands Healing Ministries Inc is also another charitable organisation helping the poorest of the poor with educational, medical, social, and spiritual needs. All of these organisation have one thing in common to provide any help they can in education, employment, security and safety for the young and old.


Poverty alleviation is an important issue for many developing countries within western Africa. It is believed that poverty can be alleviated mainly through achieving higher sectoral growth and ensuring that the poor have a share in that growth. Both the tourism industry and community development are still at a very early stage of understanding what will actually work most effectively in reducing poverty through tourism development, there is evidence that tourism contributes a lot to the economic growth, especially in countries with poor economies through foreign exchange earnings, creation of employment opportunities and provision of public revenues. Therefore with proper intervention, such economic benefits can play a crucial role in the process of poverty alleviation.

 

Tourism can be a tool for poverty alleviation but the challenge is 'how' and 'where' tourism can intervene to provide opportunities, employment, and security for the poor at the local level and boost economic growth at the national and regional level. It is a fact that tourism is one of the few industries in which many developing countries actually have a comparative advantage over developed countries in term of cultural heritage, climate, wildlife etc. Therefore tourism can be an effective tool to bring about these synergies. By focusing on rural areas instead of the urban areas (capital cities) in western Africa, pro-poor tourism can be used to not only promote tourism in unknown areas but also to provide opportunities and access for both tourists and local residents.

Since tourism operates through different geographical areas such as remote mountainous, coastal and forest environments, it can be an important tool which could reduce poverty at national, rural and urban levels. For example when visiting Ghana, instead of spending all their time on Labadi beach in Accra, tourists can be more adventurous and go on a mountain biking excursion on Mount Afadjato in the Akwapim-Togo Ranges. In doing this tourists’ spending can provide economic gain through the creation of full time or part-time employment, it has the potential to reduce rural ‘out-migration’ to urban areas, or create other livelihood benefits such as access to potable water, roads which bring poor producers through, improved access to markets, improved health or education.

I therefore believe tourism is an appropriate mechanism for poverty reduction. Tourism contributes to economic growth, and also has a positive effect on social, environment and cultural benefits; but having said that, it also has it negative aspect to it. Tourism can create high level foreign ownership which leads to a high level of economic leakage and minimizes local economic benefits; however this can be seen in any other industry. This has led to the creation of The Association of Small Scale Enterprises in Tourism (ASSET) by the British High Commission in 1999 and established in 2000 in the Gambia. ASSET brings together 40 small and micro enterprises including craft market vendors, tourist taxi drivers, official tourist guides, juice pressers and fruit sellers. It also includes a number of small hotels, guest houses and ground tour operators. Its main objective is to enable small-scale tourism enterprises to benefit from the industry by putting pressure on the government and local leaders to do more for them such as tax relieve easy business set-up processes and infrastructure development such as markets. Also, through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the government received an International Development Assistance (IDA) to help build road networks linking the hotels, the airport and the main urban centres.

So, considering the above, with the effect and contribution of the tourism industry to the world and especially developing countries, the continuation and improvement of these measures will surely help sustain and improve the local economies at the receiving end of tourism.

For more information on tourism projects in West Africa which are working towards reducing poverty and creating opportunities for local economies through their activities, visit the West Africa Discovery web portal, or join a community dedicated to travel in West Africa by clicking here.

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