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Africa In The Age Of The Digital Boom

In the past couple of blogs, we have had a chance to take a look at how digital communication has become such a huge part of our lives in the travel lifestyle. However, isn’t it time that we take a look at those areas that haven’t been hit with the explosion that is digital communication? Being a tech baby, I am surrounded with endless opportunities that social media and other forms of communication bring to me, especially in my access to travel inspiration, but it is important to take a closer look into areas, such as the beautiful continent of Africa, where digital communication is more of a foreign concept in terms of boosting their travel industry. It has always been a place I have been interested in visiting, however the accessibility feels more of a challenge. I know this is more of a serious topic for Worldly Wanders, but why wouldn’t I want the chance to understand why seeing those giant giraffes is a bit of a stretch? (Cheesy, I know!) This blog will take the time to discuss Africa’s adaption to the digital age, and how it is (or isn’t) affecting their travel industry.

Africa is one of our largest continents and it would be inaccurate to state that digital communication is lacking everywhere. Many of Africa’s countries have been successful within their establishment of the tourism sector, including South Africa, for its beautiful scenery and culture, Egypt for its historical heritage and Morocco for its accessibility. According to PWC Global, there has been a 344% growth in mobile phone usage in Africa between 2007 and 2016, and 58% growth in broadband usage. These statistics aren’t accurate to specific regions, but with economic growth follows communication technology which we already know creates an easy route for international booking, travel inspiration and keeping in contact. These factors will always march hand in hand, and although this is beneficial for economically established African countries in terms of developing tourism, it could cause a spiral of decline for others, making the transition to a digital age in the travel lifestyle challenging.

As discussed by Nomad Africa, Africa’s greatest tourist attraction provide websites for booking and making reservations, however it is not yet a factor to encourage interactivity and reviews, which would encourage more tourism to the area, thus boosting economic growth. Even though this could be a simple transition for countries with strong economies, what about those with digital poverty?

“Digital poverty is the inability to use IT, either due to the lack of access or due to the lack of skills,” said Thierry Geiger, co-editor of the Global Information Technology Report. “It is really a form of poverty because without digital access, without digital skills, you cannot tap into the huge potential of technology to improve your lives and create opportunities.”

What possibilities could the travel industry create for smaller, more economically challenged communities with the help of digital communication? Greater supply of jobs, the chance to develop more established businesses, the respect and education of the wildlife and land? According to World Bank, 3.8 million jobs could be created in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2020 as a result of the boost in tourism and with this growth comes the further demand for digital communication, which World Bank concludes will help lead Africa to an economic boom, much like Africa and India 3 decades ago.

Image of Camel on beach.
Credit to Pixabay

However, at this current state, many African countries are struggling with the tourism boom. Although there has been an increase in tourism by 4.4 million visitors in 2016 and The World Tourism Organisation projects that by 2030 the number of tourists could be more than double (Read more here), many countries local businesses may be lacking in trade due to the poor accessibility and lack of awareness.

Image of native African villagers.
Photo by Follow Alice from Pexels

So How Can Digital Communication Help? As pointed out by World Bank, peer-to-peer discussion and user generated content has become hugely powerful in the influencing of travel inspiration, which gives the consumers more power. Although this factor is still developing in many African areas, this could be a far more accessible opportunity to boost areas tourism sector, due to its affordability and fast-growing effect. With the ability to create a viral awareness of an areas tourism, this can create a ripple effect, starting with more customers, then more money being spent on local goods, a greater awareness of African heritage, money being invested in local infrastructure, boosting the economy by providing more jobs, creating a more hospitable destination thus boosting the chance for good reviews and constantly increasing level of tourism.

The World Bank states that when tourism is built to a strong point, it can contribute to the nation’s economy, which further improves human livelihood, the creation of rural businesses and promote international awareness concerning heritage.  These benefits could be endless, however should it be considered that a boom in tourism can also damage a country similarly? This could be in regard to destruction of beautiful land and wildlife and a loss of traditional culture. As stated in my first blog (read here), areas become less unique and special the more they are published using digital communication. It should be considered that some African communities may not want their heritage varnished with popularity and Instagram posts. With this in mind, digital communication has both its benefits and negatives, however where poverty is such a huge problem in some of the poorest countries such a Malawi, Somalia and The Democratic Republic of Congo, the boost in tourism could combat huge problems regarding conflict, disease and corruption and digital communication would allow for an accessible and simple route towards this boom in tourism.

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