Can tourism help reduce poverty in Africa?


Robert Kappel

To person

Dr. rer. pol., born 1946; since 2004 Chairman of the Board of Directors of the German Overseas Institute and Professor of Political Science at the University of Hamburg. DÜI, Neuer Jungfernstieg 21, 20354 Hamburg.
Email: [email protected]

The three African countries identified in the literature as models of success - Uganda, Botswana and Mauritius - represent very different stages of development.


A large number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa will not be able to reduce their poverty by 2015, as intended in the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). [1] Why is it that the goals are largely missed? The article shows that even successful countries have great difficulties.

The three countries identified in the literature as models of success stand for very different stages of development, successes in reforms and different prerequisites (agricultural economy Uganda, raw material economy Botswana and world market integration Mauritius). All three have seen very high GDP growth over the past fifteen years, yet they are at a crossroads. Despite very clear reform efforts, Uganda is facing the problem of rising poverty again and hardly any increase in per capita income (PKE). Even if growth rates continue to be high, the country will not belong to the middle-income states for the foreseeable future. Botswana's inequality continues to grow and diversification efforts have failed. Botswana's growth process is threatened by the spread of HIV / AIDS and increasing rentseeking (rent economy). Mauritius faces increased international competition, declining preferences and rising unemployment.

The selected countries couldn't be more different. They only have three things in common: 1. Their conditions for growth were not favorable due to their geographical isolation (island or inland location). 2. They are described in the literature and by donor institutions as successful economic reformers. 3. You have experienced high growth in gross domestic product over a long period of time. Mauritius and Botswana are among the most successful catch-up countries in Africa, [2] with a PKE now exceeding 3,000 US dollars. They are mentioned again and again as examples that African countries can also catch up. Uganda is a low-income country that has been declared a "showcase" since the early 1990s. Uganda is considered to be the most successful reformer in Africa in the last 15 years and has managed to reduce poverty significantly within ten years (1990-2000). [3] But all three countries show weaknesses, albeit very different ones.

Many studies show that institutions in particular play the decisive role for success and failure. A corresponding connection is made clear in cross-country analyzes. However, the thesis that growth and poverty reduction depend above all on institutions is not entirely convincing. Institutions are of great relevance, but the previously predominant method of cross-country analyzes blurs the special conditions under which the countries operate, be it different geographical conditions, be it degree of urbanization, inequalities, historical conditions, different economic starting conditions (e.g. Countries in poverty traps vs. middle-income countries), high informality (subsistence orientation without accumulation), distorted trade structures or the different status in the demographic transition. This fact of distortion is called structural instability, [4] i. That is, the focus on one aspect, the institutional conditions, is relativized in other studies. Numerous economic and political studies make it clear that the above-mentioned factors are essential for insufficient growth, poverty reduction, modernization of societies or long-term underdevelopment. [5]

In this article I would like to try to raise and answer two questions: Where does the great success of all three countries come from? What were the success factors? What are the weaknesses in the current growth process? Despite successful reforms, the three countries have not been able to eliminate structural problems over the past few years. These are completely different in the low-income country Uganda than in the middle-income countries Botswana and Mauritius.

The three countries belong to very different groups of developing countries in Africa. Naturally, this allocation is too rough to give a precise picture of the situation in the countries examined. However, the classification makes sense: Mauritius is one of the really successful countries (emerging economies), Botswana has economic potential and has developed in recent decades, and Uganda is seen as having opportunities to catch up.