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Opening and key note address speech by Tourism Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu at the African Travel and Tourism Summit, Johannesburg
Opening and key note address speech by Tourism Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu at the African Travel and Tourism Summit, Johannesburg

Honourable Deputy Minister – Mr Amos Fish Mahlalela
Director General, Department of Tourism, Mr Victor Tharage
South African Tourism Board Chair – Mr Siyabonga Dube and the rest of the Board members
South African Tourism Acting CEO – Ms Sthembiso Dlamini and the South African Tourism Executive Committee members
African Tourism Ministers
Industry Associations
Country Tourism Authorities and Industry Experts
The Entire Supply Value Chain for Tourism
Representatives of the International Community and even Countries that have a blurred Vision about us
Delegates, media representatives
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am glad that we are have this African Travel and Tourism Summit hosted by South Africa to rethink, recalibrate and find our way out of this situation that we are in where the pandemic has strangulated the tourism industry. I am glad that there have been discussions all morning to find our way out of this quagmire.

This is premised on the fact that, from our analysis, we have been stuck on the World Health Organisation (WHO) analysis and requirements. We have now come to the conclusion that we should start discussions on our own road to recovery. We are hopeful that there will be a new tomorrow.

Having said all these, it is an honour and privilege to be here today. This event could not have come at a better time.

It is befitting that we are launching Africa Travel and Tourism Summit during the Tourism Month when South Africa celebrates tourism and heritage.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic the dream and narrative around Africa’s tourism sector was inspiringly vivid. It was a dream of a continent rising – rising and freeing itself from the shackles of stigmatisation of us as unsafe, uncouth and unwelcoming.

From the expansive arid plainlands in the North to the Southern tip of Africa where two oceans meet, with its diverse fusion of peoples and cultures, we celebrate the world in one continent.

Today, we celebrate the rising giant that is Africa - We celebrate her natural vast wonders, ranging from the plains and woodlands of the Serengeti to the arid Kgalagardi Transfrontier Park, to the beach elephants of the greater St Lucia and the Pyramids of Giza.

This summit enjoys the participation of the African community delegates who aim to understand how tourism has shifted in the African continent and identifying new opportunities.

It is therefore a catalyst for engagement on the current state of tourism on the African continent, the sharing of ideas on collective recovery initiatives and solutions and exploring global tourism survival trends and challenges facing the global tourism industry.

This summit unpacks the four main themes of Best Practice for Brand Africa, Sectoral Transformation, Leisure and Business Opportunities and Strengthening and Enabling Economic Capabilities.

It also affords Africa’s tourism leaders a platform to create solutions for Africa and contribute to global solutions for the industry in efforts to awaken a new beginning for Africa.

My fellow Africans, I bid you a warm African welcome to the inaugural African Travel & Tourism Summit on the eve of World Tourism Day, which we will celebrate globally on 27th of September.

How Far We Have Come

Quoting pre-Covid-19 statistics, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) indicates that Africa’s tourism industry was robust. It reports that tourism generated in excess of US$200-billion (approximately R3-trillion) – accounting for 6.9% of Africa’s GDP – and had supported 24.7-million jobs.

Following the outbreak of the Covid pandemic, WTTC statistics show a decrease of US$83-billion (or R1.2-trillion) and a loss of 7.2-million jobs. This downturn trend was experienced by all tourism sectors across the globe.

Gatherings such as this Summit, are crucial to the industry’s survival. The fact that we can now have up to 500 people attending outdoor events and 250 people attending indoor events, is a significant step for the Business Events industry.

Through these events, we are able to connect, share ideas and create a new positive narrative of Africa, one that shifts from a continent in turmoil to one that is recovering steadily and ready to do business.

Africa’s Path to Recovery from the Covid-19 Pandemic

The nightmare of COVID 19 seems eternal as we move from wave to wave and variant to variant.

The African Development Bank in its African Economic Outlook 2021, indicates that most African economies were battered by the Covid-19 pandemic. Real GDP in Africa contracted by 2.1% and is projected to grow by 3.4% this year. This projected recovery will be underpinned by a resumption of tourism, a rebound in commodity prices and the rollback of pandemic-induced restrictions.  Although all economies in Africa have been affected by the pandemic, tourism-dependent economies, oil-exporting economies and other-resource intensive economies were the most significantly hit by the pandemic.

Tourism-dependent economies are projected to recover from an 11.5% GDP decline in 2020 to grow by 6.2% in 2021; oil-exporting countries, from a 1.5% decline to grow by 3.1%; and other-resource-intensive economies, from a 4.7% decline to grow by 3.1%. Non-resource-intensive countries, where output shrank by 0.9% in 2020, are projected to grow by 4.1% in 2021.

Top tourism-dependant economies experienced the following decline: Mauritius - 15%; Seychelles – 12% and Carbo Verde – 8.9%. These countries are expected to recover this year with a projected growth rate of 6.8%, assuming the pandemic is brought under control and international travel and tourism are allowed.

It is important to note that not all African countries were impacted the same way by the Covid-19 pandemic. Experiences in Africa’s regions and the prospects for growth are therefore varied. While Southern Africa was hard hit by the pandemic with economic contraction of 7.0% in 2020 and a projected growth of 3.2% in 2021 and 2.4% in 2022, East Africa was the most resilient region. Its growth prospect is estimated to be 3% in 2021 and 5.6% in 2022. Djibouti (9.9%), Kenya (5%), Tanzania (4.1%) and Rwanda (3.9%) are expected to be the top performers.  

West Africa experienced relatively limited spread of the virus. Many West African countries maintained positive growth in 2020 thanks to less restrictive lockdowns. These countries include Benin (2.3%), Cote d’Ivoire (1.8%) and Niger (1.2%). Countries that experienced recession include Cabo Verde (8.9%), Liberia (3.1) and Nigeria (3%). Growth prospect in West Africa is estimated at 2.8% in 2021 and 3.9% in 2022.

GDP growth in Central Africa contracted by 2.7%. Countries that were most affected include Cameroon (2.4%), Republic of Congo (-7.9%), Democratic Republic of Congo (-1.7%) and Equatorial Guinea (-6.1%). The Region is expected to recover at 3.2% in 2021 and 4% in 2022. The economies of North Africa contracted by 1.1% in 2020, propped up by Egypt, which maintained 3.6% growth despite the relatively severe health impact of the virus in the country. Other countries contracted significantly in 2020, including Tunisia (–8.8%), Morocco (–5.9%) and Algeria (–4.7%). The effects of COVID–19, internal conflict, and a drop in oil prices caused an estimated 60.3% contraction of real GDP in Libya. North Africa is projected to experience robust recovery of 4% in 2021 and 6% in 2022.

The Financial Implications of Africa’s Recovery from the Covid-19 Pandemic

Africa’ recovery from the pandemic is not going to be easy. The Bank reports that there will be a surge in African government financing needs to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, governments have announced fiscal stimulus packages ranging in cost from about 0.02% of GDP in South Sudan to about 10.4% of GDP in South Africa. The Bank estimated that African governments would need gross financing of about $154 billion in 2020/21 to respond to the crisis. This amount constitutes 97% of the World Bank’s $157 billion it has deployed to fight the health, economic and social impacts of the pandemic in the whole world. This means that other sources of funding will have to be found to help us drive Africa’s recovery from the pandemic.

Policy Priorities to Support Africa’s Transformation to a More Resilient, Inclusive and Sustainable Post-Pandemic Recovery

Despite the economic growth prospects outlined above, the continued uncertainty about when the virus would finally be contained will continue to pose a major threat to Africa’s recovery. It is therefore important that we continue to pay attention to policy priorities that seek to mitigate the impact of the pandemic but also bolster Africa’s transformation to a more resilient, inclusive and sustainable post-pandemic recovery.  It would be critically important that we continue to focus on the following priorities, amongst other initiatives that individual countries are taking:

  • Continuing support for the health sector to consolidate gains in the fight against the pandemic.
  • Effectively using monetary and fiscal support to underpin the economic recovery where policy space remains available.
  • Expanding social safety nets and making growth more equitable to address increasing poverty.
  • Scaling up active labor market policies to retool the workforce for the future of work.
  • Intensifying structural transformation through digitalization and economic diversification to build resilience, and
  • Fostering regional and multinational cooperation to ensure sustained and widespread recovery.

Reopening African Markets

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a more negative impact on our tourism activities in the first half of 2020 than anticipated, and although recovery has begun in the third quarter, with the pandemic continuing to spread, many countries have slowed re-opening, and some are reinstating partial or complete lockdowns to protect susceptible populations.

While our borders are open to accept visitors from across the globe, international travel has also been restricted by border closures in a number of our key international source markets.

The Kigali Extraordinary Summit of 2018 in Rwanda put in motion the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. The Free Trade Agreement promised to create one African market with a combined GDP of more than $2 trillion.

The Kigali Declaration and the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons signed at the summit put into effect the free trade agreement and would have eased border controls to allow free movement of people.

The declaration was ratified by 47-member states and was meant to boost trade between African countries, remove non-tariff and tariff barriers on goods and services that would have doubled intra-African trade, and ensure local beneficiation and manufacturing.

Innovative campaigns such as Ghana’s tourism ministry’s “Year of Return” – which urged African American travellers to “come home” – ran between 2018 and 2019.  

The various initiatives by our friends in the Diaspora through the narratives of the “home coming revolution” since the beginning of the 2000 have abruptly ended at the beginning of 2020 - shattering our dream.

According to Statistics South Africa, all ten leading SADC countries have since showed a decrease in the number of tourists from 2019 to 2020. Botswana had the largest percentage decrease of 80.6%. Zimbabwe remained the leading SADC country in terms of tourist visits.

Outside of SADC, Côte d’Ivoire had the largest percentage decrease of 77.4%. However, a comparison between 2019 and 2020 volumes indicates that the number of tourists decreased in all ten leading countries.

Domestic tourists in Kenya cut their holiday expenditures by 37.5 percent in 2020, amidst massive job losses and pay cuts due to the pandemic.

It is estimated that tourism jobs in the East African region dropped by 46%, from 4.1 million to 2.2 million, according to a new report published by the East African Business Council.   It is estimated that a total of $57.8 million, is needed to implement the East African tourism sector's recovery plan.

As we embark on new ways of doing business and hosting the peoples of the world, let’s draw lessons from the experiences of the pandemic and ensure that our businesses are more robust and agile for future sustainability.

Soon, certainly we will gather again like we did before.

It is therefore important that we are aligned as a continent when we adopt measures to reignite the tourism industry. This is crucial for building inclusive recovery.

Vaccination Drive

Reports have shown that tourism in countries with a high share of vaccinated people will rebound faster than in countries with a low share.

The nature of the COVID-19 pandemic is that new variants are bound to develop as a natural evolution of the virus. This is why, while vaccination remains absolutely important, non-pharmaceutical interventions such as maintaining social distancing, keeping masks on, sanitizing remains CRITICAL

International tourism recovery will strongly depend on pandemic trajectories, travel restrictions and vaccine development.

The latest statistics show that there have been just over 8-million infections on the entire continent, 33-million fewer than the US, 25-million fewer than India and 13-million fewer than Brazil.

Also, nearly 76-million vaccinations have been administered throughout Africa.  South Africa alone has administered over 15-million vaccines and the country seems to show a downward trend in terms of infection rates.

In East Africa, reports show that low access to vaccines, slow vaccine rollouts and a potentially high cost of vaccinations risk are holding back the recovery of the region’s economies.

Yet, despite these concerns, the African Union has made great strides to ensure the vaccines are administered securely. The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) Consortium for COVID-19 is a knowledge hub that brings together vaccine developers, funders, and African organisations that conduct clinical trials to collate information on the virus and act on their findings.

The AU also launched the Pan-African bio-surveillance technology called PanaBIOS that can track the spread of the Coronavirus and connect testing centres across the continent.

Yet Africa as a whole is still considered a no-go zone. Many of our nations are on the UK red list of countries to avoid travelling to. The UK itself has a little over 7-million cases. Removing African countries from the red list of European countries is a challenge we should embrace and work steadfastly to bring to an end.

South Africa’s Tourism Recovery Plan

We have worked on our recovery plan and we will share it with you so that we can learn from each other what is workable and what is not.

We have always recognised tourism’s crucial role in developing and growing an inclusive economy. And the fact that it is listed as one of eight interventions in its recovery plan illustrates this point.

My Department has already drawn up and is implementing its Tourism Sector Recovery Plan, which is in line with the Government’s broader Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, with the following strategic interventions:
  • Implement norms and standards for safe operations across the value chain to enable safe travel and rebuild traveller confidence;
  • Stimulate domestic demand through targeted initiatives and campaigns;
  • Strengthen the supply-side through resource mobilisation and investment facilitation;
  • Support for the protection of core tourism infrastructure and assets;
  • Execute a global marketing programme to reignite international demand;
  • Tourism regional integration; and
  • Review the tourism policy to provide enhanced support for sector growth and development

South Africa needs to reset the tourism sector in the continent. We hope to make immediate gains through inter-regional and domestic travel to sustain the sector. We are ready to take our fair share of the world tourism organization estimate that tourism in Africa could more than double to 134 million tourists in 2030 as opposed to 50 million we had in 2010. We are gearing ourselves for that. In our case in South Africa we regard ourselves as a desirable tourism destination, which accounts for a substantial amount of the country’s revenue.

This path we are about to undertake in reviving tourism in Africa will not be an easy one, especially if we do not harness the energy of our oneness, our unity of purpose and our common dream of a destination connected and united.

It is a long road ahead, but the interventions outlined here will go a long way to rebuilding the sector.

I would like to welcome all of you to Africa’s Travel and Tourism Summit, which I now declare officially open.