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South African NGO and Millennium Challenge Account Namibia set to diversify tourism

South African NGO, Open Africa and Grant Thornton Consulting have been contracted by the Millennium Challenge Account Namibia (MCA-N) Compact to assist the Namibia Tourism Board in plotting three self-drive travel routes in Namibia to help alleviate poverty, using tourism as an economic platform. The government of the Republic of Namibia has signed the grant funding agreement (MCA-N) Compact with the United States government body, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). The compact aims to reduce poverty through economic growth and funds development projects in the sector of education, tourism and agriculture.

While the Namibia tourism sector has grown at a steady rate since independence in 1990, it is still reliant on its peak tourist and travel seasons where the country sees an influx of tourists, most of which come from neighbouring Angola and South Africa, as well as Germany and other European countries. The aim of the project is to diversify tourism products and experiences and increase and share the benefits with rural communities in rural areas which will sustain and create jobs.

The three self-drive routes cover most of the northern regions of Namibia. The first route covers the north-western part of the country and focuses on the traditional culture of the Himba and Damara people and includes well-known tourist attractions such as Spitzkoppe, Brandberg, Twyfelfontein and Epupa Falls. The route will be linked to the renowned Etosha National Park through the Galton Gate, which will be opened to the public in the near future.

The second route aims to highlight various cultural attractions related to traditional royalty and covers areas such as the Kavango region and is linked to Etosha National Park through the King Nehale Gate in the north of the park.

The third route links the well-known Victoria Falls in Zambia/Zimbabwe to the Okavango Delta via Namibia’s Caprivi Strip. It offers excellent opportunities to view wildlife and experience the rich culture of the region. The route further extends to Tsumkwe where visitors have the opportunity to interact with local San people, who will be beneficiaries of the route.

The development and marketing of the three tourism routes will focus primarily on communal conservancies with the explicit goal of directing visitors to the communal areas in support of local businesses, thereby encouraging job creation and poverty alleviation.

Approximately 42% of Namibia’s land area is under conservation management and according to Keith Sproule, Tourism Business Advisor with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Namibia, it is Africa’s greatest wildlife story ever told. Over 240,000 rural Namibians participate in the conservancy programme, underwritten in large parts by the largest number of Joint Venture Agreements with rural communities in any African destination. Communities have not only become custodians of their wildlife resources but for the first time they are deriving real benefits from it.

Open Africa general manager, Francois Viljoen says, “In one of the most significant developments yet, the country of Namibia adopted the route development model as a vehicle for rural tourism development. We couldn’t be more excited about this project and we are looking forward to working with the local communities and enterprises in the identified areas and sharing Namibia’s conservation story with the rest of the world.”

Martin Jansen van Vuuren, Strategic Solutions Director of Grant Thornton Advisory Services says, “International trends points to Route Development being the most effective way to promote and develop a destination. We, at Grant Thornton, are looking forward to the opportunity to partner with MCA-N and NTB in the pioneering project”

Head of Industry Services at the Namibian Tourism Board, Manfred !Gaeb said, “ Just when we were thinking ‘when will people on grass root level ever benefit from tourism?’, MCA came up with diversification of tourism products in our regions. This is possibly the most exciting time in tourism development in Namibia.”

Sisco Auala, the Marketing Manager of MCA-N Tourism commented, “We are very excited about this project, which will further unlock opportunities in communal conservancies by getting tourists off the beaten track into conservancy areas.”

The new routes will play a crucial role in sharing this story with a larger audience and attracting more travellers and trade to these often remote and undiscovered areas. The route development process will run until April 2014.

About Open Africa:
Open Africa is a non-profit organisation started in 1995 under the patronage of Nelson Mandela. It uses tourism as an economic platform to create and sustain jobs for rural communities in Africa developing and marketing the strongest network of authentic African travel destinations. Communities are facilitated to:

• Create off the beaten track, self-drive routes, clustering travel attractions in an area for travellers to explore (e.g. accommodation, tour guides, local artisans). We market the routes through an innovative travel portal (www.openafrica.org) and other initiatives.

• Further develop enterprises around a route so that more people can benefit.

To date, 64 routes have been developed in six countries in Africa, with 2,400 participating businesses which employ 27,000 people. A staggering 80% of the results have been in South Africa, where two-thirds of the beneficiaries are previously disadvantaged. For more information visit www.openafrica.org

More information about Millennium Challenge Account Namibia:
The Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) Namibia Compact, providing grant funding for public investments in Education, Tourism and Agriculture, was signed on 28 July 2008 between the Republic of Namibia and the US Government, acting through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).

Namibia is the first MCC country that is benefiting from a Tourism Project. The MCA Namibia Programme seeks to address the following three obstacles to more rapid growth in the tourism industry and to greater participation by Namibia’s rural communities in the tourism sector:

1) Etosha National Park (ENP), the jewel that attracts tourists to Namibia, is not fully developed in terms of its tourism potential and faces management challenges if compared to competing regional parks;

2) Namibia is relatively unknown as a tourism destination with little diversification of source markets for long-haul international tourists; and

3) Low levels of private investment on communal land due to high transaction costs and difficulty in securing long-term access to land limit benefit streams to Namibia’s formerly disadvantaged communities.
Visit http://www.mcanamibia.org/ for more information.



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