Time for Africans to Explore Africa

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a Senegalese friend about tourism in Africa. He made some interesting statements that I found to be insightful. He said that Africans were more likely to know more about France, The United States, United Kingdom and a host of other western countries, than they were to know about, Mali, Ghana, Tanzania, Angola or Senegal. Furthermore, Africans were more likely to visit western countries than countries on the African continent.

I often listen to Africans speaking and boasting about how many European countries they have been to, they however fail to mention one African country they have visited. Have you ever heard of anyone mentioning that they have been saving for a trip to visit Timbuktu in Mali, which was a centre of Islamic learning from the 13th to the 17th century; or Ghana which has some of the finest untouched beaches in the world; how about The Great Zimbabwean Ruins which is a world heritage site? Many of the places to visit in Africa do not cost you an arm and a leg to tour. It is possible to visit African countries on a small budget and get the most out of the holiday. Here is a list of places to visit in Africa(go to the links).  Westeners know more about our beautiful continent than Africans.  Whether it is  North, Southern, East and West Africa. There are some great places to visit in Africa, something to suit peoples unique preferences.

Africa has many wonderful countries to visit where we can enjoy the rich history, cuisine and culture. It is time we take advantage of what this continent has to offer in travel and tourism. Let Africans support travel and tourism within Africa. Many of the places we wish to visit in the outside world are just at our doorstep.

We travel to France to get a taste of French bread and wine; Italy to experience their pasta and pizza; and Switzerland for their cheese and chocolate.  What cuisine are African countries celebrated for having? Do we as Africans know? Here are a few African dishes I came across that I am certain would tickle anybody’s taste buds. Ghana is famous for its shitor, which is a spicy hot chilli pepper condiment that tastes like ketchup in the United States and salsa in Mexico.  Shitor is served with any meal. It is delicious!  West African Cuisine and East African Cuisine are delicious. Why not try cooking a new dish from these regions? Kenyan and Ethiopian coffees are some of the best in the world.  I am sure there are plenty of other dishes and cuisines I have failed to mention.

Let us be more adventurous, in learning about different African music, cultural history, cuisines and tourist spots. It is a shame that we let our beautiful continent go unexplored by Africans.

Kate Tutu

Social Entrepreneur,Business Consultant, Editor of Feint & Margin, a young woman who's passionate about Africa's people and development.

13 thoughts on “Time for Africans to Explore Africa

  • October 5, 2010 at 11:40 pm
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    Thank you for the article. Interesting indeed. I would be among the first to agree with you on the matter of getting to know one’s backyard before looking around the neighbourhood. That said, there are a few things that I would like to bring to your attention about the things that we would all like to happen on this continent.

    A couple of years ago I tried to organise a trip around Southern Africa, and up to the East Coast, ending on the beaches on Kenya where we were to enjoy our New Year’s eve amongst Kenya’s most beautiful. There were a number of challenges that resulted in the trip being cancelled. These challenges are the very things that I would like to bring to your attention.

    The first challeneg about travelling in Africa is that one always has to travel with companions, preferably people who are familiar with the country you choose to visit. The basic story there, and this is one I experienced first hand while travelling in Botswana just last year, is that the road infrastructure (including and especially raodsigns) is nowhere to be found and as a result getting lost is VERY easy. I spent about an hour trying to find my way from Gaborone to the border – a 15 minute trip, even after having asked people for directions. The story there, if you wana travel in Africa, find a knowledgeable companion. What this means is that Africa is not friendly to first-time visitors – something that cannot be said for any of the developed nations.

    The second challenge came around the question of how to get to where we wanted to get to. Would we travel by bus, car or plane, maybe even a combination of all three? The answer to that question is not as simple as it might be in some parts of the world.
    We could go by bus, but the experience would be of such a nature that we could not even consider packing much more than we could carry in one backpack, lest we get tired along the way. Not exactly ideal for leisure travel. We could possibly go by car. The challenge with this mode of transport was the fact that we would need a fourwheel drive in order for our journey to be remotely possible. This could not happen because we just did not have cars to begin with, nevermind big ones. Plus there would be petrol consumption issues involved. At the time we wanted to do the trip, Zimbabwe was still prone to having no petrol at its gas stations so we had to factor that into the trip as well. The last option was to fly. That was a none-starter because trying to fly from South Africa, through Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Uganda, spending some time in Zanzibar, and ending up in Kenya – and then back to South Africa – would probably cause a dent even in Bill Gates’ wallet. The combination of these modes of transport as you can imagine was not really an option either. Anyway, we managed to hash out some plan that could allow us to make the trip and cost us what could be viewed by only a few Africans as reasonable.

    Now, I am not one to simply press on the problems that we have on the continent because I believe in the potential that this continent has, as you so rightfully point out in the article. The reason I have painted the picture that I have painted is to draw your attention to some of the things that need to be corrected if African tourism is to be a reality.
    The first is that we need to ensure that the infrastructure in African nations is of such a state that it becomes unbelievably easy for first-time travellers to make their way through this continent without having to worry about being lost. The second is one of affordability, and it leads on from the infrastructure issue. We ought to ensure that there is good enough infrastructure to make the travel between African cities easy to accomplish and therefore cheaper to provide. The third, and last that I will point out today, is that of stability. Only stable regions can enjoy great booms in tourism, even from their own brothers and sisters. In neighbourhoods where there is a lot of gang violence, parents tend to tell their children to stay indoors and don’t allow then to see their neighbourhood.

    In our own little way, no matter where in Africa you might be from, let’s each play a role in getting these things in place. Let’s put each of our nations in a position to say to the rest of Africa that they have no excuse for not visiting our nations because everything is in place that would make it possible for them to visit. Infrastructure, affordable travel, safe streets and a stable supply of all the goods and services needed to make a holiday what it is meant to be, a restful time of fun and laughter. One thing I cannot disagree with you about, is the wonderful and colourful cusine that Africa has to offer, including Nigeria’s peanut chicken.

    Reply
    • October 7, 2010 at 11:12 am
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      Chief(Thulani)

      As usual you are very thorough and thoughtful in your response.A very impressive quality indeed.
      As someone who has had the privilege of backpacking through Southern Africa I have to say that some of the challenges that you highlighted are indeed real, but not insurmountable. I travelled with a mate of mine through Southern Africa without knowing any locals, all we had was a map and some very helpful, friendly locals so you don’t necessarily need to know any locals to travel through the continent. You can easily navigate your way with just a decent sense of direction, a good map and the help of the locals.

      Secondly Africa is actually quite friendly and welcoming to first-time visitiors even in its current state. What struck me and my mate as we backpacked through Southern Africa and had the most incredible experiences, was that we where the only Africans who were travelling. In every place we went there where lots of North Ammericans, Europeans,Australians etc travelling through the continent and totally loving it in spite of all its challenges. In fact for most of them Africa’s rawness actually presented its greatest appeal. So the current state of affairs need not be an impediment to young Africans wanting to see and experience this great continent.

      If people from outside can travel the continent so freely, despite all its pitfalls, the question needs to be asked;What is stopping us Africans from exploting our own continent?

      Reply
  • October 7, 2010 at 12:03 pm
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    I do not disagree with the fact that we should be travelling. I do not disagree with the fact that we should be trying to get more Africans to see their continent and appreciate its beauty. I am of the view that, as stated before, one should get to know their own backyard before exploring their neighbourhood. What I am simply trying to bring to light is the fact that there are real challenges to travelling in Africa that cannot simply be ignored. There are challenges that present themselves that we ought to get rid of. Of all the things that I stated, you have only stated one that can be overcome. The matter of cost is real, and we know that the majority of Africans live in poverty. The matter of instability is yet another. Who would dare travel through the Congo even today, in what is considered a relatively stable political environment. Even countries like Uganda still have parts that one cannot move through because of political instability and warfare.

    Believe you me, if I could have things my way, every South African child would travel to every town in every province of this country by the time they turned 18, after which point they would go on to explore Southern African countries by the age of 22, and the rest of the continent before they turned 30 years of age. Unfortunately that is something that cannot happen, and my real point in writing is that we ought to deal with those challenges so that the next generation of Africans can have no reason to remain within their artificial borders.

    From a practical point, we also ought to make it possible for Africans to cross African borders for holiday making without any need for a visa for at reasonable amount of time – about a month. That way one does not even need to think about whether they should travel or not. Then there is the issue of healthcare Mr. Ratshikuni. If you were to catch Malaria or any other disease on your travels through Africa, it will prove quite difficult to find descent health care that would be able to save your life. This is real, and most people worry about that. Every time I tell my family I am going to any other African country, one of the first questions I get asked is about Malaria prevention, not out of ignorance, but because it’s a real concern.

    Once again I ask. What can we do, as a generation, to rid this continent of these obstacles to travelling across the Motherland? How can we make it possible for those who come after us to live and love Africa by experiencing it? In every great nation, it is incumbent on the current generation to see it as a duty to leave the country better than they found it for the next generation. Let us make that our pledge.

    Reply
    • October 13, 2010 at 3:03 am
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      Hello, my name is Daniel and I am the Educational Coordinator for the Binghamton University African Student Organization. We are currently looking for Young Africans making a difference to be profile in our upcoming magazine themed “Faces of Africa: Yes Youth Can”. I have read your writing and have found it very insightful. I am specifically looking for something about how youth can make a difference from within and outside of the continent. Please let me know if this would be possible. I am working with a November 1st Deadline. Thanks, Daniel

      Reply
        • October 13, 2010 at 3:04 pm
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          Hi I think the message was meant for me. Hi Daniel I’ve responded to you via gmail. Kindly check your email.

          Kate

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        • October 13, 2010 at 4:15 pm
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          Hi Thulani,

          not a worry at all. In response to your comments about the challenges that potential african tourist may have…

          I’d say that you’ve raised some very valid points. With regards to the financial aspect of it, I know many people who save for a year to go on holiday. Perhaps you and your friends could have opened a bank account and put aside money each month towards the trip. Also hiring a 4×4 and driving it through Southern Africa could have been another options. So you would not have had to have anyone own a vehicle to make such a journey. Below are some websites that can provide you with a quotation for vehicle hire.
          http://www.offroadafrica.com/offroadafrica/rates.jsp
          http://www.drivesouthafrica.co.za/4×4-hire/botswana/

          From what I can tell with the research I did it costs about R1000-R1200 per day to hire a 4×4 the 4×4 can accomodate 5-7 people and includes tents etc.

          There are always ways around these challenges, we just need to be creative and little more adventurous as Africans.

          Reply
  • October 13, 2010 at 3:07 pm
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    I think the message was meant for me. Hi Daniel I’ve sent you a response via gmail. Kindly check your email.

    Regards

    Kate

    Reply
  • October 13, 2010 at 3:47 pm
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    Hi Kate

    My apologies. I thought the article had been written by Mugabe, hence my thinking it was either Mugabe of myself. I also asked because Daniels remark was place as a reply to one of my comments. I do apologise for my mistake.

    Reply
  • October 26, 2010 at 4:17 pm
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    We know the challenges; what we hardly have access to is how to overcome these challenges. Kate I appreciate that you have done the required research and endeavoured to respond to these issues, but we still have to acknowledge the fact that African countries do not market themselves. No package holidays that would provide the ease of travelling, etc. The necessary info on African travel is just not available, not to mention the financial commitment. I know if one is passionate about travelling Africa, they would do the necessary research to accomplish the task… however one could do with a little help.

    That said, I’m visiting Kenya in 2weeks and Tanzania thereafter. It’s been easy to take this step because my sister now works in Kenya and my Tanzanian friend I went to school with has offered an invite.

    Reply
    • October 27, 2010 at 1:30 am
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      Hi Pamella,

      You’ve identified a gap in the travel and tourism industry in our African markets. I hope that someone working in this industry can see the opportunity in offering the kind of information and travel packages you have suggested.

      I for one will definitely look into it. Thank you for pointing it out.
      Travel safely and enjoy your holiday to Tanzania and Kenya!

      Reply
    • October 27, 2010 at 2:48 am
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      Hi Pamella,

      I found a website that offers packaged deals for african tours, but it looks like flights are not included. Have a look at it for futurehttp:
      http://www.tourvacationstogo.com/africa_tours.cfm reference when you want to go on holiday.

      What I’ve concluded from my research is that there are packages available but it seems that these packages are tailored to the American and European market. This is definitely an opportunity for those in the travel industry to take advantage of.

      Reply

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