Tourism drives 8.5% of Africa’s economy, and supports 24m jobs. By 2030, visitors could more than double, to 134m people.
The global tourism industry accounts for one in ten jobs and 10.4% of GDP or $8.8 trillion annually. It accounted for one of every five new jobs created over the last five years, globally. Nowhere on the planet is tourism growing faster than in sub-Saharan Africa, where the number of hotels has doubled in just four years. By 2030 the number of international tourists to Africa is projected to jump from 62m to 134m people. This rate of growth is potentially transformative because already tourism comprises 8.5% of the continent’s economy supports 24m jobs.
Wildlife is the single biggest driver for Africa’s tourism growth. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation found that 80% of annual sales of trips to Africa were for wildlife watching: people wanting to visit the natural ecosystems that contain some of the last great wildlife spectacles left on Earth, including populations of terrestrial megafauna that are globally unique. In doing so, these tourists provided a powerful financial boost to the African countries that succeeded in attracting their custom.
The most thorough study conducted into the financial impact of nature-based tourism2 has found Africa’s 8,400 Protected Areas are generating $48 billion in direct in-country expenditure. This demonstrates that significant financial opportunity is available to the African governments that protect, market, and develop their natural assets in the right way for the tourism market – and that financial opportunity is only predicted to grow significantly.
This Working Paper addresses the economic value of nature-based tourism in African State Protected Areas. Its authors have sought to demonstrate the elements required to create an enabling environment for sustainable nature- based tourism. It is the first in a series produced by Space for Giants and its partners including UN Environment, entitled ‘Building a Wildlife Economy’. This body of work will inform African Union member nations on the potential use of wildlife to diversify and grow their economies, strengthen rural livelihoods, and achieve vital ecological resilience in the face of pressing social and environmental challenges.