Kigali, Rwanda, November 21, 2018 (ECA) – A two-day Ad-Hoc Expert Group Meeting opened in Kigali Wednesday with participants exploring avenues through which financing for tourism development in the Eastern Africa region could be sustained in line with the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the global Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.
Meeting under the theme; Promoting services trade within the AfCFTA: The Sustainable Financing of Tourism, participants are trying to find innovative ways through which to increase the region’s share in global tourism investment and come up with models for tourism investment and financing that would be relevant to facilitate faster tourism growth and development and suggest policy measures that would be appropriate.
Participants are also discussing policy measures that could be adopted in the region to address the challenges that small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMMEs) face in the tourism industry.
Geoffrey Manyara, a Tourism Expert and Economic Affairs Officer in the Economic Commission for Africa’s Sub-Regional Office for Eastern Africa, said with an average growth rate of 4.6 percent, the share of Africa’s global tourism investments, and more so, that of East Africa, remained small compared to other regions in the world.
“With the industry currently identified as a priority economic sector by the African Union in its Agenda 2063, by a number of Regional Economic Communities, including the East African Community, and a number of Member States, more needs to be done to attract more investments given the potential the continent harbours,” said Mr. Manyara, adding on-going continental initiatives – in particular the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) - were steps in the right direction.
National governments, he said, remain at the forefront of financing and investing in tourism development in Africa, especially when mega tourism infrastructure projects were involved.
Attracting private sector investment in the region and continent at large is key, the tourism expert added.
Ms. Nura-Lisa Karamagi, CEO, Hotel Association of Tanzania, said it was crucial for governments in the region and the continent at large to put in place policies that will promote private sector investment in tourism.
Her presentation focused on sustainable financing of tourism development in Eastern Africa. She said governments need to also reduce hurdles, in particular compliance or investment, for start-ups and smaller companies in the sector; lower bureaucracy hurdles in obtaining permits, licences and corporate filings; improve ease of doing business; and implement tax breaks for investors, among others to attract private sector financing in tourism.
“The challenges are many but they are not insurmountable. Our governments need to address a number of issues that include the lack of regional tourism visa for easy multi-country travel, address the marketing gap of destinations and related issues if things are to improve in our sector in Eastern Africa,” she said.
Participants are also looking at specific tourism projects in the region, in particular financing tourism SMEs and public sector perspectives. They also discussed the financing of mega tourism projects in East Africa, in particular the case of the Rwanda Convention Centre which has changed the face of Kigali in various positive ways, making the City one of the most popular destinations for conferences in Africa.
The AEGM, which is part of the 22nd Meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts (ICE) which is being held under the theme; Implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area in Eastern Africa: From Vision to Action, is being attended by experts from Eastern African countries, as well as representatives of the private sector, civil society organizations, and other relevant institutions.
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