Funding key for tourism sector growth

HARARE - Financial institutions have been challenged to come up with innovative solutions to avail support to tourism infrastructure and development, says Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara.

“We are going to take tourism as one of our key drivers of the economy. So to the bankers who are in the house, I heard you told my people here that tourism is a low sector, that you do not prioritise tourism.

“We will take your licence. So go figure out how to find those funds required to support tourism,” said Mutambara at the official opening of the Sanganai/Hlanganani World Travel and Tourism Africa Fair.

He said tourism in Africa had the potential to create jobs and this was meaningful to the growth of the economy because it did not make sense to have a growth in gross domestic product (GDP) without employment creation.

“When you say GDP growth, do not assume that when your GDP grows there will be jobs. We can have what we call jobless recovery or jobless GDP growth.

“What we want is GDP as accompanied with growth in jobs,” said Mutambara.

He added that identifying sectors that are labour intensive and that are true job creators was a priority in Africa as well as tourism and its service was one of the anchors of the economy.

“In Zimbabwe, we are going to take tourism as one of the key drivers of the economy.

“We have already identified tourism and there are several things that we ought to do.

“One of them is to build infrastructure to grow those jobs and also access to finance. We need to fund tourism because it’s a job creator,” said Mutambara.

He urged all stakeholders to use an ecosystem approach that will allow unlocking of value in the sector.
“We need to take cognisant of all the players and listen to each other but more importantly we need to deliver and monitor tourism products through partnerships,” said Mutambara.

He said the fair was now being positioned as a Pan African event as it was no longer a Zimbabwean affair and has already poised to be a bigger and better event.

“Come to Zimbabwe and you are going to be exposed to Africa, come to Zimbabwe and you are going to be exposed to Sadc and Comesa.

“So we are repositioning this fair as a Pan African fair so that we become bigger than the South African one because ours will be Pan African one.

“It’s bigger and better,” said the deputy Prime Minister.

Mutambara said it was easier for big economies like the United States and China to engage a grouping of countries because of the population and the value of the gross domestic product than a single country.

“This is now Pan African Sanganai affair. We cross, sell and package our products as regional products. We will work together with Botswana, South Africa and Mozambique among others so that the international buyer is buying a Pan African product.

“This is our new approach,” said Mutambara.

He added that it was no longer feasible for a single country with the advent of globalisation to make it without regional and continental countries’ backing.

“We will not make it under globalisation as a country. We can only make it as an African continent.

“Surely, if we are to go to China and say I represent a billion Africans and I also have a GDP of $1 trillion the Chinese will listen to you not out of love but economics,” said Mutambara adding that there was need to broaden the definition of tourism and its products to include township, historical, academic and cultural tourism among others.

Meanwhile, Bankers’ Association of Zimbabwe president George Guvamatanga said his members’ failure to provide funding to the tourism sector was being hampered by lack of funds as the country’s financial sector was not fully developed.

“Unfortunately in Zimbabwe today, because our financial system is still evolving, a commercial bank is expected to play all these roles and it can not.

“We should be having venture capital banks, developmental banks and they all serve a reason, that is funding various needs,” he said.

“You need to find an equity financier or a venture capitalist because you can have a bright idea, but the nature of the financial industry we have in Zimbabwe today does not have venture financing,” added Guvamatanga.

He said in terms of priority for finance, tourism did not have a high significance  as agriculture, mining, ICT, manufacturing, distribution and services were better ranked. - Kudzai Chawafambira

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