The Sunday News
Richard R Mahomva
THIS past week Zimbabwe hosted the Africa Youth In Tourism Conference. The conference was officially opened by Her Excellency, the First Lady of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa. The third edition of this conference was convened under the theme “Changing Africa’s Future by Accelerating Investment Capacity in Youth for Sustainable Tourism Development”. The thematic centre of this youth annual meeting embodies a shared aspiration across the continent to transform tourism against the odds of a past embedded in structural rigidities. Historically, tourism was a colonial enterprise which facilitated the exploitative and marginalising exploration of our heritage and fortunes for colonial gains. Subsequently, white monopoly capital branded and exclusively trademarked this space as foreign and it isolated us from the socio-economic benefits of this sector. Furthermore, the history of colonisation in Africa discoloured our national image and tourism was utilised as an institution that perpetuated the ideology and identity of colonialism to the world and prevented our local people from defining their national identity through hospitality as an African cultural philo-praxis underpinned in ubuntu.
This gap gives post-independent Zimbabwe and Africa at large the impetus to partake in this sector and exploit its various networks to redefine our image and market our authentic culture, ethos, values and philosophy to the world. This will enable our nation to critically invite discussions on pertinent national questions and the complete detachment from the colonial image. It is on this philosophical dispossession that the pretext of what I term the re-imaging of previously colonised countries can take root. (Re-imaging is a deliberate process of detaching ourselves from the colonial image by marketing our authentic and real image to the global world.)
In light of this reality, the First Lady made reference to the country’s tourism blueprint — the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy — Vision 2025. In her view, the Government through this policy:
“ . . . strives to recoup lost market share in the traditional markets of Europe, America, Australia and Japan. The broader aim is to also penetrate new markets in Eastern Europe, China and India in Asia as well as growing the domestic market so as to enhance the contribution of tourism to the national economy. This aptly resonates with the Second Republic’s cardinal mantra ‘Zimbabwe Is Open for Business’’’.
The First Lady, Amai Mnangagwa further buttressed that there are huge profits which Zimbabwe is set to amass if the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy — Vision 2025 is to be successfully implemented:
“The target is to increase tourist arrivals from the anticipated 2,7 million in 2018 to over 5,5 million by 2023 as well as growing tourism receipts from US$1 billion in 2017 to US$3,5 billion by 2023. This calls for enhanced branding of our sector in a bid to ensure that we unlock the much needed contribution to elevating Zimbabwe be a middle-class economy by 2030 as prescribed in our country’s main economic blueprint, the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP).”
In other words, the aspect of Changing Africa’s Future through tourism advances the ambition for a paradigm shift from a problematic present towards a future which is viable for prosperity. To achieve this, policy framing must be underpinned on a resolve of inclusion and productivity. Tourism must become a central pivot for poverty alleviation. For this to be achieved the counter-productive residues of a history which made tourism an enterprise for white monopoly capital must be challenged. Policy-making must also dismantle the reproduction of the colonial framing of tourism. Pathisa Nyathi’s Amagugu Cultural Heritage Centre in Matopo is one such model. The Amagugu concept symbolises a rethink of tourism as a preserve of the settler community and colonial explorer class. Through the Amagugu project, one can clearly see how grassroots- based tourism has been brought to life. Speaking on the sidelines of the First Lady’s address, Butholezwe Nyathi who is also the Director of the National Art Gallery in Bulawayo underscored that the success of Amagugu Heritage Centre was a result of the institution’s deliberate measure to ruralise tourism considering that it has been traditionally defined as metropolitan. As a result, this has seen the people of Matopo benefiting from the centre in terms of heritage preservation and employment creation.
The Amagugu Heritage Centre’s success story emphasises the need for transformative warfare of ideas. At the same time, it calls for capital injection towards tourism-related knowledge production and policy-grounded support to community-based tourism. While Government must be commended for investing in tertiary education, there is need for a deliberate tilting towards refashioning the teaching of tourism and hospitality management to cater for a decolonised tourism sector. The curriculum of this subject should invite a rethink of the colonial postures defining the traditional and status-quo of tourism. There is need to shift the geography of knowledge in this field to service the immediate and relevant interests of the sector.
There must be a curriculum lobby for entrepreneurial advancement of the learner so that we avoid producing graduates who are beneficiaries of tourism’s value chain. We must seek a teaching which constructs a new value for the sector. This platform becomes important as it lays the foundation for producing tourism and hospitality management practitioners who are investment oriented and are able to turn around the fortunes of the sector through local and foreign direct investment.
The platform socialises youth to business modelled thinking and partnership rooted interaction within the tourism sector. The posterity of this platform resides in continued synergy creation between established and upcoming entities in tourism. The continued investment in conversation between tourism policymakers, captains of industry and the youth guides the path to material investment. The involvement of youth in this dialogue space is critical as Africa must consolidate the youth demographic dividend to aid sustainable development. This type of sustainable development must break the limitations of yesterday’s marginalities. Genuine development in this regard must situate the formally marginalised at the centre of the means of production; at the same time creating the space for equal opportunity and equitable access to resources.
In mapping the future of a liberated tourism sector we need:
– Robust youth-inclined policy making because the youth epitomise the anti-colonial ideological methods which disfigure the structure economic exclusion, monopoly and uneven distribution of power and goods.
– Repositioning our heritage to be the central source of packaging our culture as a strategic market commodity.
– Rethinking of the models of financing tourism. Instead of confining our scope to start-up capital we need to create a new value based tourism by opening up the sector to all and debunking its elitist exclusion.
– De-benchmarking the meaning of tourism, particularly its exclusive and monopoly-based personality.