The world is a dangerous place, and for many African nations that already have national struggles, the threat from within and without is sometimes not as great as the threat that prevents growth, evolution, innovation and general improvement – all of which can be brought about by bad reputation.
In many nations around the world, protection of lives and property are the first things the government is responsible for and in doing this, sometimes these nations battling bigger problems forget to invest in the general outlook of the nation to the international community.
The Global Peace Index (GPI) measures the relative position of nations’ and regions’ peacefulness. The GPI ranks 163 independent states and territories according to their levels of peacefulness and sadly, many of the African nations are ranked the lowest.
The GPI is a report produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) and developed in consultation with an international panel of peace experts from peace institutes and think tanks with data collected and collated by the Economist Intelligence Unit. The Index was first launched in May 2007, with subsequent reports being released annually. It is claimed to be the first study to rank countries around the world according to their peacefulness. The GPI gauges global peace using three broad themes: the level of societal safety and security, the extent of ongoing domestic and international conflict and the degree of militarisation. Factors are both internal such as levels of violence and crime within the country and external such as military expenditure and wars.
While it appears to be such a formidable index that seems to explore all relevant options, many as the final authority take the index, and this affects the level of the success in the tourism industry of any nation ranked low.
Travel and tourism are two industries that are sorely affected by the level of perceived insecurity in a nation, and nations in Africa particularly fall victim to these perceptions.
In the last peace index, countries like Iceland and New Zealand topped the chats while African countries like Nigeria, Sudan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya, Somalia and South Sudan were ranked the lowest.
While the index cannot be said to be technically wrong, the parameters used in ranking the countries are quite harsh considering the level of development in some African nations, and the truth of the situation in these countries.
Take Nigeria for example, the 2018 index places her as Number 148 out of 163 countries. While some parts of Northern Nigeria (North east) and a few states in the South-South are from time to time embroiled in unrest like the Boko Haram insurgency, the Southwest and Eastern parts of the country remain relatively secure asides from the irregular bouts of controlled crime. The index has no parameter to judge by a region-to-region basis, and simply lumps the whole of the country together as one.
This ultimately affects the tourism of the country because with such pronouncements, would-be tourists invariably shy away from the country and travellers would avoid the country totally. This is without forgetting that the nation has regular everyday people who live peaceful lives and most times live an entire lifetime without coming across unrest in any form; and even thrive in the nation. The fact that a part of a country is unstable does not mean that the entire country is at war.
A country like the United Kingdom for example was ranked 57. A recent report by a Nigerian daily newspaper stated that in the first four months of 2018, about 10 cases of Nigerian youths being murdered were reported. This is asides the number of black young people who were similarly killed. How does that differ from the level of insecurity perceived in some other African countries? Simply because it is a targeted kind of insecurity does not change what it is or make it more secure than a place where a people of a certain race are being murdered?
Yes, African nations do have security challenges, but the peace index highlights mostly the bad and scares prospective tourists away. Their narratives paint only the bad and thereby denies these nations the income and improvements that tourism as an industry can bring to the nation.
The bad press further hurts Africa’s already endangered reputation. A fish cannot be judged in the same way that a lion will be; the two are fundamentally different. Comparing Africa to other nations, and judging them by the same standards can only sabotage what little Africa has achieved and may even cause the continent to fall into further degradation.
Already, associations and groups have begun the fight to counter the negative reputation such indexes project of Africa, and among them is the African Business Lawyers’ Club (ABLC), an association of African lawyers. The association organises annual conferences, and for the 7th annual conference slated for June 18, the theme will be Tourism as a vector for development of the continent and is entitled: The African Tourism: A Brightening Future.
According to forecasts by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the number of tourists visiting Africa – in the order of 57.8 million in 2016 – could reach 134 million in 2030. In the next 10 years, some 1.8 billion tourists are expected to travel each year (just over one in five people worldwide), according to UNWTO, and Africa can to welcome a good number of tourists so far as they change the negative perceptions about Africa.
ABLC for this year will gather actors and experts from this sector around two panels to discuss the identification of the tourism products and the related opportunities. These panels will point out the way to leverage these opportunities.
The ABLC organises the conference while considering the economic impacts for governments and their populations. The issue of a sustainable tourism that protects the environment and the cultural identity of the concerned countries will also be addressed.
In spite of their truly laudable efforts though, African leaders have a duty to support such initiatives by educating the international community on the intricacies of the nation, creating a means to judge Africa by standards fair to the continent.