Diasporans urged to invest back home

This came out at the just ended SADC/EU (European Union) Tourism 2006 conference in Windhoek, Namibia, when a Zimbabwean-born tourism investment expert addressed hundreds of participants from southern Africa and Europe.

Shepard Nyaruwata, former director at the Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa (RETOSA), said people working in the Diaspora could make meaningful developmental change if they invested in real estate business such as lodges and other tourism ventures.

He said if people seeking greener pastures outside their countries wanted to ensure that their investment ventures were secure, they could utilise established institutions such as banks.

He made reference to the project initiated by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, called Homelink, which encouraged Zimbabweans working in Europe and other parts of the world to send money to the bank for the construction of houses for them.

“The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe went out and encouraged people working outside the country to invest in houses by sending money to the bank which, in turn, built houses for them. Many Zimbabwean working in the Diaspora now have houses. And if similar project are done, especially in tourism, there will be development in the industry at regional level,” said Nyaruwata. He gave examples of the Chinese and Indians that send money they raise overseas back home to develop their countries.

“They are doing it, and their countries’ economies are developing. Ghanaians working outside their country are also doing the same now and the country is changing,” added Nyaruwata, who is now a tourism investment consultant.

Representatives from SADC member countries talked about tourism investment opportunities in their respective countries.

International Finance Corporation representative in Mozambique Irene Visser said the country, like many others, has a vast range of tourist attractions.

“Mozambique has coastal and various other tourism sites, so has Africa as a continent: big game, untouched wilderness, a rich cultural heritage, tropical beaches and marine resources,” said Visser.

She said despite all the resources Africa has, most tourism opportunities remained unexploited such that apart from four countries, the rest account for only 15 percent tourist arrivals.

“Africa’s resources strength is exceptional, but its performance remains weak. South Africa, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia account for 75 percent of the arrivals,” said Visser.

Tourism director with Zambia’s Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources Justine Wake said the country had made giant strides in tourism development the last two years.

“As a country, I think we are on course. The ‘Visit Zambia’ campaign is working such that the last two years the tourist arrivals have risen from 9 percent to 25 percent, all this because of the enabling environment and political will,” she said.

Tanzanian tour operator Edwin Munyeme said his country was also on track in terms of tourism development but still faced some hurdles due to lack of finance and logistics.

“All I need is re-capitalisation so that I can spread out my business to most parts of the country. Right now I don’t have enough vehicles for guided tour operations and yet tourists are always on the increase,” said Munyeme.

The Windhoek workshop was aimed at bringing government, private tour operators and potential investors in order to exploit ways of partnership so as to improve tourism in the region. If well developed, tourism could be one of the major sources of income to southern Africa.

The EU and SADC have since partnered to source expertise of what investors could require in identifying projects and partners.

The project, EU-SADC Investment Promotion Programme (ESIPP), is being co-ordinated from the SADC secretariat in Botswana.

October 2006
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