The Horn Of Africa States: Investing In The Tourism Industry – OpEd


The region has a vast tourism potential, but that industry is almost non-existent. Barely a few adventuring non-native people visit the region annually and they do not, obviously encounter the kind of tourist industries in other more tourist-oriented destinations across the globe, and more specifically in countries like Egypt, Türkiye, and/or Morocco. And one would probably raise eyebrows when one mentions these countries in comparison with the Horn of Africa States region for obvious reasons. 

But one must do so, for the region does offer a much cleaner environment, a better weather, and an equally deeper historical background. It is the cradle of humanity and that should, at least, attract many who would like to know more about it.

Investors in the tourism industry of the Horn of Africa States region will be but winners as the region offers many rewarding opportunities involving cultural and historical tourism, beach tourism, geographical tourism, and as a matter of fact, a new frontier for the industry. Many must be looking for new places to go and what would be better than the Horn of Africa States region in terms of distance, costs, and new things to see and new adventures that could not be in no one else’s plate.

One must note that tourism is a prime economic driver but the countries of the Horn of Africa States are generally busy in other non-productive activities either fighting off those who are challenging them in governance or themselves initiating civil strives to keep the populations busy and away from the power infrastructures of governance in the region. In the Horn of Africa States, there are many potential triggers for conflict, which both ruling groups and foreigners use and deploy to keep the Horn of Africa citizen disturbed and out of balance all the time. 

Many in the tourism industry and the governments of the region fail to notice that the Horn of Africa States has much to offer in terms of history, culture and its diverse natural geography and climate. It could have been one of the great destinations of tourism industries anywhere, but this remains only a wishful thinking at present.

The Horn of Africa States fail to notice how much a successful tourism industry could contribute to their economies, noting that it has a coastal belt of some 5,500 km from the northern tip of Sudan to the southern tip of Somalia, beautiful beaches, bays, and headlands protruding into the seas and oceans of the region, geographical diversity from highlands with temperate climes to below the sea Danakil plains that are as hot as smoldering volcanoes with all kinds of geographical sceneries in between.

There are many things to see in the region including places which indicate the origins of the most favorite beverage of all times, coffee, the birthplace of the unique ‘teff’ cereal, the place where the camel was first tamed and where donkeys were first used as a transport animal or where Muslims in flight first came to Ethiopia to meet the Negash.

A tourism industry always contributes to an economy and is a major employer. It is often said that tourism contributes up to some ten percent of world employment as per reports of World Travel and Tourism Council, and according to Statista about 7.6 percent of global GDP. In some countries it is, indeed, a major contributor to the economy while in others it may be just another element.

The catalytic effect of tourism across economic sectors is well known. It creates jobs both under construction and after construction. It creates jobs in the construction period of tourism accommodation in terms of hotels and resorts, even roads and rail and highways. It creates jobs in the preparation of national parks and/or historical parks and sites. 

Once developed it participates in the growth of other industries such as trade where furniture and furnishings, clothes, shoes of all types and a lot of tourism paraphernalia can be traded. It does increase transportation and the increase of the consumption of fuel and the opening of many fuel stations along roads and highways. This could then be accompanied by many food outlets and of course peoples’ rest places. 

Tourism thus contributes not only to the earning of incomes directly from the industry but it also stimulates the growth of other industries like agriculture, fishing, food production and processing and others.

The Horn of Africa States probably assumes that it is natural for others to visit a country, but it is far from just being natural. Many countries deploy specific and result-oriented plans to attract tourists and for tourism and related industries to develop and grow.

Investments in hotels, resorts, national parks and adventure trails, trekking and tourist sports all mark significant attractions where governments invest to attract more visitors to one’s country and region. Each of the Horn of Africa States region offers many opportunities alone but together, they can offer a world class tourism industry of very few equals and here one is not talking about macadamized roads and bars and other outlets where usually one encounters in old countries like Europe, but a fresh and completely a new historical, cultural, geographical and clean marine environment.

In the Horn of Africa States region, one should expect to see clean blue seas and waters, white beaches, climates rising from hot coastal belts to temperate climes in high mountain ranges to the roof of the continent, rivers, gorges, and valleys, lakes and plain savannahs, and of course the wilderness of Africa in terms of terrain and wildlife and many more.

Investment in the infrastructures of tourism such as hotels and resorts and other projects also impact development of support infrastructures such as roads, rail and marine travel, which itself engenders port developments and hence indirectly exports and imports in trading with others beyond the region.

The Horn of Africa States region represents a major opportunity for those who see value in visiting ancient lands with clean and pure marine waters, plains as vast as any could imagine, and mountains and rivers, lakes and gorges looking like falling from the sky. It would be a fresh region for world tourism if only the governance infrastructures were made peaceful so that people can live in peace, travel in peace, and visit them in peace.

It is why it becomes even more essential to have the governments working together instead of eyeing jealously each other’s assets or what one country can have and the others cannot have. The Nile river would be Ethiopia’s as the waters of the seas and oceans would be those of the littoral countries, but then they could all be working together instead of creating sources of trouble for the region.

Perhaps it is time the governments of the region revisited their priorities and instead of using the youth of the region as fodder for the fires of their unreasonable wars, they could turn to developing the economies of the region through its resources including the tourism industry, where it has much to offer.

It is also time for those involved in the industry such as international hotel chains, resorts developers and other tourism operators whether for adventures or sports or even historical and cultural took on such opportunities in the region, which is available at present and could be developed at cheap costs compared to more advanced destinations. Perhaps they could turn rivers of tourists the way of the Horn of Africa States and they would be all winners.

Dr. Suleiman Walhad

Dr. Suleiman Walhad writes on the Horn of Africa economies and politics. He can be reached at [email protected].

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