The impact of conflicts in transformative tourism based community processes in africa by arrey mbongaya ivo

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The Impact of Conflicts on transformative tourism-based community processes in Africa …

The Impact of Conflicts on transformative tourism-based community processes in Africa
Author: Arrey Mbongaya Ivo
Director of African Centre for Community and Development
P.O.Box 181, Limbe, Cameroon
This article explores the implications of conflicts on the possible benefits and growth
of communities and stakeholders in tourist destinations in Africa. It draws examples
from academic research and from livelihoods based research from selected areas in
Africa to arrive at analytic dimensions that can help argue for the need to curb
conflicts as a means of empowering developing communities. Conflicts are
expanded here to include ideological, socio-economic, environmental as well as
armed or political conflicts

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  • 1. The Impact of Conflicts on transformative tourism-based community processes in Africa Author: Arrey Mbongaya Ivo Director of African Centre for Community and Development P.O.Box 181, Limbe, Cameroon ©2013 African Centre for Community and Development. All rights reserved.
  • 2. Abstract This article explores the implications of conflicts on the possible benefits and growth of communities and stakeholders in tourist destinations in Africa. It draws examples from academic research and from livelihoods based research from selected areas in Africa to arrive at analytic dimensions that can help argue for the need to curb conflicts as a means of empowering developing communities. Conflicts are expanded here to include ideological, socio-economic, environmental as well as armed or political conflicts. Africa is very rich in tourist attractions. From historical sites like the Olduvai gorge in Tanzania, the pyramids in Egypt to relief features like Mount Cameroon, Mount Kilimanjaro, the Namib desert, Sahara desert to rich fauna and flora scattered across its varied climatic zones including the tropical rainforests of the Congo Basin, the Sahel and many sub-regions with diverse socio-economic, political, historical, cultural and linguistic realities that can be valid boosters for tourism in the continent. However Africa is witnessing several conflicts within and outside that impact on the numbers of tourists visiting Africa hence the benefits from tourism as well as the possibilities of using tourism as a device in the transformative processes of communities within touristic attractions or on general wellbeing of countries and the region. In this light conflicts have been broadened to include ideological, socio-economic as well as armed or political conflicts so as to arrive at a holistic picture of the impact of conflicts in transformative community processes in Africa. Also as the conflicts in Africa are complex and many, in
  • 3. this article they have just been highlighted to validate certain analyses based on academic research and contemporary happenings. As a result, this article considers the following points as the possible or actual fallouts from the conflicts in Africa: • Conflicts lead to destruction of species when touristic attractions are in conflict zones. A recent example is the conflict in Eastern Congo between M23 Rebels, the Congo Democratic Republic and Rwanda that imposed threats on conserved gorillas in the area and on livelihoods as well. For animals that have not been habituated conflicts lead to their migrations to usually less friendly ecosystems hence their exposure to possible extinctions. In some instances passage of migratory animals is cut-off leading to deaths and other life stresses for the animals and the recipient ecosystems and countries. • Also armed conflicts lead to migrations of people from one area or country to another. Conflicts in East Africa saw Somali refugees migrate into Kenya leading to the biggest refugee camp in Dadaab. Displaced persons leave behind their livelihoods strategies and touristic attractions unattended hence degraded and unattractive to future tourists. Many farmlands become fallow due to migrations and may need expensive high external inputs to be revived or may just be abandoned by their owners. More so, emigrants cannot earn from tourism while in refugee camps as many end up sick and incapable of working. • More so, conflicts may also lead to destruction of historical sites. Another recent example is the conflict in northern Mali which led to the destruction of holy tombs and sites, very valuable to the heritage of Mali, Africa and the greater world. This led to African ministers calling for an end to the destruction of
  • 4. shrines in Timbuktu in the September of 2012 which also marked celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the World Heritage Convention. This Malian example tallies well with the ideological dimension of conflicts as it revealed that the Islamic sects who took over Northern Mali did not validate the timeless holy sites which have been a main touristic attraction to the impoverished West African country for decades. Other ideological conflicts out of Africa were common during the cold war era and led to reduction of tourist flows into countries ideologically opposed to each other like between Cuba and United States, Russia and the United States and contemporarily between Shia and Sunni Muslim areas in Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. • Conflicts also lead to a loss in foreign earnings by countries engaged. Internal political conflicts before, during the Arab spring and post-Arab spring affected negatively foreign earnings from tourism in Egypt while the threats imposed by militant groups in Northern Nigeria, Niger and Algeria recently arguably act as deterrence to future tourists hence possible earnings from tourism. In such situations sub-local economies are affected in areas like lodging, tours, employment etc resulting in movements out of tourism into other less lucrative occupations or unemployment for many. This leads finally to the shrinking of the tourist industry and the Gross Domestic Product of the countries concerned. • Conflicts prevent the free flow of tourists from one country to the other. It fuels suspicion and tighter visa rules even after negotiated settlements in some instances. Pro-poor tourism thrives on exchanges and interactions between tourists and the poor and when the former are handicapped by tighter rules to
  • 5. move, the poor communities suffer even though many have argued that these communities must improve on the capacities of their youths and other stakeholders in order that they know the true values of their touristic sites and avoid exploitation by some visitors. This calls for synergies, vocational training centres and civil society organizations working across various levels and interests to create an operational framework for the good and sustainability of the industry. • More so, other negative fallouts from a reduction in the flow of tourists include cultural stagnation. The cultures of the areas will not be learnt and used by visitors and cannot therefore be vulgarized globally. This ironically or incidentally exposes the wide gaps between tourist perspectives and local realities and even between stakeholders in development management. Some examples include notions like “the poor are a passive lot” (De Haan and Zoomers, 20005) to other negative qualifications like Africa is unprogressive to the almost unimaginable myth of Africa being a single country. With conflicts the several thousands of African languages, cultures, the hard works of the poor and many nation-states and peoples will not be understood by visitors who include policy makers and scholars that can transform interventions aimed at poverty alleviation and trade in the continent which many have been failing due to lack of stakeholder and environmental understanding (Gow and Morss, 1988, Toner and Franks, 2006). • Besides cultural conflicts have implications on the transformative processes in communities. This tally with religious and some social practices that do not usually go well with the handed down traditions of recipient tourist destinations.
  • 6. As a result tourists are cut between the local belief systems and their cultural underpinnings hence tend to go to places which have understood them or that tend to put a blind eye to exotic behaviours. Flexibility and educational processes within communities are necessary here in order to better understanding between parties concerned. Civil society organizations can do well here to transform public actions towards sustainable ends. • Another serious category of conflicts are environmentally imposed conflicts. Recently they have been heightened by climate change and its various harsh fallouts including drying of watery holes, desertification and increase in diseases. A pertinent example in Africa is the Lake Chad Basin area (Coe and Foley, 2001) which is witnessing desertification, droughts and decline in rainfall and drying of the watery mass which has been the main vehicle for many livelihoods and civilizations for centuries (Odada et al, 2005). It has led to a loss in fishing related livelihoods, movements into unsustainable poaching and migrations into Northern Cameroon and Nigeria and even heightened criminality in the region hence putting socio-economic pressures on recipient governments and subpopulations. Historical sites of the Sao Civilization which could be visited by tourists are not fully exploited leading to more economic stagnation in a region also pregnant with armed inter-tribal and regional conflicts. In Africa the impacts of climate change on economic cost are that governments have to prioritize on emergency and on fighting harsh fallouts like diseases and desertification rather than infrastructural development hence leading to a wider regional economic stagnation.
  • 7. • Also due to a change in rainfall patterns around Okavango Delta, in Botswana, many communities are increasingly finding it difficult to practice their traditional methods of rain-fed and flood recession agriculture due to the drying of the Thaoge water hole. An unhealthy Okavango Delta means people cannot embark on basketry which is a cultural tourism product hence leading to a shrinking of livelihoods and the embedding of poverty in the region. • Finally when communities earn less from tourism, fewer stakeholders can use their earnings to provide basic services to other vulnerable sub-populations like children, girls and women. Poor access to basic services affects attainment of Millennium Development Goals and may well be the reason for debates on post 2015 MDGs. This article has thus demonstrated that conflicts affect tourist-based transformative processes within communities in Africa. However there could be mitigating policies and practices which if used can help to improve on the livelihoods within tourist destinations. They include the following: • The creation of tourist regional centres by governments and other stakeholders to educate people and policy makers including police on the need to facilitate the transboundary movement of tourists from within and across countries. This will incidentally reduce suspicion between countries and increase possibilities of more effective regional integration and intra-trade in Africa arguably vital for Africa’s growth in the 21st century. • Transboundary movement of tourists and other visitors will lead to inter-cultural dialogue which is vital in a world plunged in ideological and religious, socio-
  • 8. economic and political conflicts in Afghanistan, Mali, Burma, East Africa etc. This will facilitate transboundary management of natural resources especially by countries that share geographical boundaries like in the Congo Basin or the Sahel. • More so, the African Union, United Nations and other international stakeholders must step up efforts to ensure that potential warring parties resolve crises situations peacefully or that they enter into political negotiations in transparent instruments. The Bakassi crises between Cameroon and Nigeria is one such example of the merits of international diplomacy but more has to be done to open up other areas like the Niger Delta, Eastern Congo etc so that local communities can attract tourists, earn money or simply use their local livelihoods strategies and resources to survive. • More so, world heritage sites should be secured by local governments and with the support of international stakeholders in order to avoid situations like in northern Mali recently. This can best work with the establishment of publicprivate partnerships that can improve on sites management, visibility and use in order to earn more foreign currencies locally. • Climate change and its impacts on livelihoods and tourism must be fully explored as well as the links between these thematic areas and conflicts. Scientific studies will help to design more sustainable and inclusive tourist instruments that can improve on the economic benefits of local communities and countries in Africa. This article has thus demonstrated that conflicts are multi-dimensional in nature. They occur based on historical, ideological, socio-economic, environmental and political reasons which have serious implications on communities, peoples and states within given
  • 9. areas. They may lead to loss of revenue from tourism, migrations out of tourist areas, abandonment of livelihoods and even affect biodiversity negatively. Ensuring that conflicts do not exist across various levels within and outside tourist destinations will directly and incidentally impact on monetary flows to communities, provision of basic services, inter-cultural dialogue, regional integration and intra-trade in Africa and most areas of the world. The creation of regional tourist centres to educate various stakeholders on conflicts and tourism and solving crises via peaceful political and transparent instruments is also vital as well as transboundary management of natural resources. If not African communities will have the attractions but will be the bicycle without a rider or the rider without a bicycle. References and Bibliography Arrey I.M, 2008 “Subjective wellbeing” a lucrative contemporary jargon for development management? Published online in Kiss A and Shelton D, International environmental law, 3rd ed, New York: United Nations Environment Programme, 11. Coe M. T and Foley J. A, 2001. Human and natural impacts on the water resources of Lake Chad basin, Journal of Geophysical Research 106(D4) 3349–3356. De Haan, L and Zoomers, A. (2005) Exploring the Frontiers of Livelihoods Research Development and Change 36 (1): 27-47 Odada E O, Oyebande L and Oguntola A J, 2005. Lake Chad: experience and lessons learned brief, N’Djamena: Lake Chad Basin Commission, 2005; R Hassan, Climate change and African agriculture Harden G, 1968. The tragedy of the commons, Science 162 (1), 238. Hall A, Midgley J. 2004. Social Policy for Development. Sage Publications: London.
  • 10. Integrated Regional Information Network, Replenishing Lake Chad, Science in Africa, March 2003, http://www.scienceinafrica (accessed 5 May 2006). Policy Note No. 33, 2006. Centre for Environmental Economics and Policy in Africa, Pretoria, South Africa. Toner A, Franks T. 2006. Putting Livelihoods Thinking Into Practice: Implications For Development Management Public Admin, Dev. 26, 81-92 Published online in Wiley InterScience The Research and Analysis Working Group (R & AWG), Vulnerability and resilience to poverty in Tanzania: causes, consequences and policy implications: 2003/03 Tanzania participatory poverty assessment (TZPPA), Main Report, Dar es Salaam: Mkuki na Nyota Publishers Ltd, 2004. UNEP, Global environment outlook 2000, Nairobi: UNEP, 1998, 398. ©2013 African Centre for Community and Development.