Over the past decade, tourism has gradually become a key driver for economic growth through creation of employment in emerging economies across the Africa continent and the world. Notably, tourism in Africa is experiencing steady growth and as a result, it has enabled the development of ancillary and other tourism support businesses. Women and other young people have applied their skills and knowledge to enable them to monetize their business ideas that create tourism product offerings. For instance, in popular community destinations local women have developed businesses like selling crafts like woven clothing, baskets, and handbags to generate income and improve their livelihoods. This article will highlight the development of tourism entrepreneurship and small businesses in Africa by analyzing the drivers, opportunities for development, the economic, sociocultural and environmental advantages for Africa in stimulating tourism entrepreneurship, and how Africa can support emerging tourism entrepreneurs.
Drivers of tourism entrepreneurship in Africa
The growth of the tourism industry has perpetuated entrepreneurship in Africa especially during the COVID-19 outbreak as people sought to become self-employed and seek alternative forms of employment. Some of the other drivers of tourism entrepreneurship in Africa are discussed below.
Digitization is among the major drivers of tourism entrepreneurship. Technological innovations have enabled entrepreneurs to develop products and services that can easily be accessed online by travelers. More importantly, technology via social media has enabled connectivity of people across the continent and the globe. Entrepreneurs have gained access to online markets for their products and services creating convenience and timeliness of product and service delivery. Digitization has also enabled innovations that drive development of tourism businesses that are resilient and sustainable. Favorable government policies and tourism industry laws is another driver of tourism entrepreneurship in Africa. Through this, entrepreneurs have access to investors who support their businesses.
The growing rate of unemployment in Africa has fueled entrepreneurship development and emergence of small businesses in the tourism industry. Infrastructural development is also another driver of tourism entrepreneurship. Development of good transport networks have eased travel and opened up remote areas by enhancing their accessibility. For instance, the construction of the standard gauge railway has been a source of employment opportunities where people have been able to set up small businesses at the train terminus. In addition, it has created employment opportunities for young people especially the youth that offer taxi and transfer services for travelers.
Another driver for tourism entrepreneurship is the rapid growth of middle class in Africa that provides a ready market for luxury products and services. Integration and efforts by governments to promote regional tourism through visa policies that allow free movement has fueled tourism entrepreneurship. For instance, the East African Community has made efforts to create a single passport policy for the nationals of the member states and a single visa for tourists to visit these nations. This has created connections of various markets across regions; thus, promoting entrepreneurial development. Stable tourism environment is also another driver for entrepreneurship. This attracts investors to capitalize on the growing potential of tourism in Africa by creating and supporting new businesses.
Support for local communities’ development through inclusion in tourism development opportunities and financial aid is also a driver for entrepreneurship. This helps them to improve their livelihoods and become empowered.
Tourism entrepreneurial opportunities in Africa for small businesses
The steady and peaking growth of the tourism industry presents several opportunities for entrepreneurial development for small businesses especially in Africa. Opportunities for tourism entrepreneurship and small business development in Africa include; first, presence of new tourism markets presents opportunities for small business development. For instance, the unveiling of new signature experiences by magical Kenya opened up new tourism niches that create opportunities for entrepreneurship and small business development.
Second, the high youth population of Africa attributes to high demand for travel. This creates an opportunity for tourism businesses to emerge and address the demand by developing travel products and services.
Another opportunity for entrepreneurial development is the demand for more inclusive tourism practices that aim to meet the specific needs like wellness, religion, and lifestyle travel. This is portrayed in the rising demand for tourism products and services for people with disabilities or travel for religion and health purposes. Airbnb is also another great opportunity for entrepreneurship as many travelers are seeking authentic and immersive experiences.
The practice of sustainable travel is also another opportunity for entrepreneurship as many small businesses emerge with innovative products and services that encourage responsible travel. Industrialization and technological advancements also present opportunities for entrepreneurship in creating virtual tourism experiences. This has been adapted by new emerging businesses especially during the pandemic that has instigated travel bans. It has enabled diversification of the tourism product offering while people also get to enjoy travel experiences at their convenience.
It is evident that Africa presents numerous opportunities for entrepreneurial development; thus, there is a need for entrepreneurs to be creative and innovative to address the shifting demands of the tourism industry.
Economic, sociocultural and environmental advantages for Africa in stimulating tourism entrepreneurship
Tourism entrepreneurship ventures evolve overtime through various stages from startup, development and growth. Throughout these stages in a business, the positive impact of the business can be felt far and wide economically, socio-culturally and environmentally stimulating sustainable development.
Economically, tourism entrepreneurship in Africa has been credited for providing new revenue streams for the different stakeholders in the tourism value chain. The stakeholders include the government, the host communities and the entrepreneurs themselves. The resultant multiplier effect guarantees local prosperity for local destinations.
Tourism entrepreneurship reduces economic leakage as more income stays within a destination hence ensuring local control. Local control in entrepreneurship is also achieved when there’s an increase in the number of local investors. With this, employment opportunities for the locals are achieved. Further, tourism entrepreneurship benefits the growth of other economic sectors that are extensively linked to tourism such as banking. This acts as a boost towards the local economy in the destination area. The multiplier effect will see to it that there is diversification of the local economic activity and an expansion of the existing tourism enterprises.
Environmentally, sustainable tourism entrepreneurship ensures that there is prudent use of resources such as water and energy balancing between the needs of the clients, the local community and the planet. This will help a lot in creating a peaceful coexistence between the stakeholders hence a steady growth in the enterprise. Tourism entrepreneurship also ensures that there is responsible production and consumption of tourism products and services. This prevents the overexploitation of resources and the pollution of the environment through solid waste and waste water. Generally, tourism entrepreneurship promotes new parameters of thinking towards conservation and sustainability.
The positive socio-cultural impacts of tourism entrepreneurship include enhancement of positive attitudes of locals towards entrepreneurial skills. One way of enhancing these attitudes is through inclusion into entrepreneurial activity. Tourism entrepreneurship strengthens local culture and identity since it gives the communities, who are the custodians of the culture, a reason for preserving it. This enhances more community participation in tourism activities.
Improvement and development of infrastructure at the local level such as road networks, schools and health centers can mostly be attributed to tourism entrepreneurship. This aids in improving the living standards of the people destination areas. When life at the local level is improved and there’s much importance attached to the value of their heritage then there’s reduced rural urban migration.
How Africa can support emerging tourism entrepreneurs to succeed
Tourism entrepreneurship is the heartbeat of tourism development and as such a lot effort should be made to support emerging tourism enterprises. Ways to support this kind of ventures include concerted efforts by African governments for capacity building through business management skills. Many great ideas are abandoned prematurely for lack of business skills.
Governments can also support with quality assurance, not to stifle innovation but encourage competitiveness. Other issues in entrepreneurship that require government support are the formulation of fair policies for new entrants, that is, policies that are more motivating to SMEs and a support framework for digitization of new business enterprises. Financially, the government and other stakeholders can work hand in hand in a public private partnership kind of model to give interest free loans and grants for new enterprises as a way motivating them into conducting business.
Market intelligence – Ensuring that there is sufficient data and information about market trends will help entrepreneurs tailor their products to suit the needs of their target market. Finally, tourism entrepreneurship demands a more conducive and enabling environment where political stability is valued and bilateral ties are stronger. Hence a push for a more intra Africa travel should be fostered through the abolishment /relaxation in border regulations among countries.
Tourism entrepreneurship has overtime proven to be a big driver towards achieving sustainable development. With its capability to diversify economies and improve livelihoods at the local level, enterprises advancing for this kind of venture should not only be encouraged but also supported financially, morally and with the right business skills to promote and advance growth. Growth in tourism entrepreneurship should be measured based on the above mentioned indicators that show the impact.
By Nyamweya Doreen Moraa and Wanjiru Dominic