Tourism in Myanmar
Tourism in Myanmar has become a concern following the recent Rohingya crisis. Tourists and tourism organizations are debating whether it is safe or ethical to travel to the nation. But beyond the political issues, it is clear that tourism can benefit Myanmar’s communities. In order to ensure tourism will have a direct, positive impact on the people of Myanmar, it is crucial for the tourism industry to employ local Burmese. Additionally, tourists can educate themselves about what they can do to help improve the livelihoods people in the regions they are traveling to.

While many have considered a boycott of Myanmar due to the state’s violence toward the Rohingya, the benefits of tourism for local communities are too important to lose. Liddy Pleasant, the managing director of Stubborn Mule Travel, says avoiding tourist travel to Myanmar would have a “profound impact on local people.

As the problem itself is political, a boycott of tourism to Myanmar would likely only hurt local populations without affecting the country’s leadership. Furthermore, many primary tourist sites are located far from the areas where the persecutions of Rohingya are happening, meaning the tourism economy does not support these efforts. It also means that tourists should not feel unsafe traveling to Myanmar.

Boosting Tourism in Kayah State

Currently, most tourism in Myanmar is to six main regions: Bagan, Inle Lake, Yangon, Mandalay, Kyaikhto and Ngapali Beach. According to the International Trade Centre, expanding tourism to other regions of the nation could help those areas benefit economically. One target area is Kayah, a state in eastern Myanmar. As one of the poorest states in the country, ITC started working on increasing tourism in Kayah with the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, Union of Myanmar Travel Association, Myanmar Ministry of Commerce and Myanmar Tourism Marketing in 2014.

In building the tourism industry in Kayah, the main goal is to enrich local people and businesses. Working with a variety of Kayah’s residents — including the youth, the elderly and people from various ethnic backgrounds — companies have started offering cultural tours. The Kayah tourism sector primarily employs local residents as guides for cultural tourism. In particular, these companies offer opportunities for ethnic minorities, many of whom have recently returned to the country after being displaced.

Overall, the work in Kayah provides a model for how all tourism in Myanmar should develop, focusing on providing job opportunities, particularly in low-income areas. The project has had success in growing tourism to the region, with tourism increasing by 140 percent between 2014 and 2016. As the tourism sector in Kayah continues to grow, perhaps companies can extend similar efforts to other parts of Myanmar, thereby benefiting impoverished Burmese.

Tourist Considerations and Responsibilities

Ideally, all tourism sites would have a positive impact on the local population. Therefore, tourists need to make the effort to educate themselves on the areas they are traveling to if they want to support local communities and businesses.

One consideration is respect for the culture. Due to religious beliefs, men and women should dress appropriately while in Myanmar. This generally involves wearing pants and covering the shoulders and upper arms. It is also important to communicate with locals, asking them questions about their culture and trying to learn about their way of life.

If there are concerns about financially contributing to the government of Myanmar, the solution is to go local by shopping at markets, eating in local restaurants, hiring local tour guides and purchasing craft products made by local Burmese. This is the primary way that local communities benefit from tourism and can have a direct impact on the livelihoods of people tourists come into contact with.

Tourists should also take care not to contribute to the abundance of waste Littering is a huge problem caused by tourism in Myanmar. Garbage builds up on riverbanks, turning them into landfill sites. The nation is currently struggling to keep up with waste disposal. In general, minimize waste. In some cases, it may be better to take items back home with you and dispose of them safely.

Overall, the tourism sector in Myanmar needs to continue so the people of the country can economically benefit. Meanwhile, tourists can educate themselves about the political situation in Myanmar and decide for themselves whether they feel it is right to travel there. If they do, it is important to focus on supporting local communities and businesses to positively impact the livelihoods of many.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Tourism in PakistanIn recent years, Pakistan has witnessed a surge in the number of tourists from around the world. This positive change is not only welcomed by the government agencies but also the private businesses and the local people. According to a CNN report in 2017, Pakistan saw in increase of around 200,000 more tourists this year than the year before, about 1.7 million foreigners. Moreover, the annual tourist arrival has tripled since 2013, as reported by The Pakistan Tourism Development Corp (PTDC).

The restoration of tourism in Pakistan will not only benefit the country’s overall economy but will also enhance its image in the eyes of the people who enjoy activities such as hiking in snow-capped mountains, walking on beaches, trying a variety of food and appreciating the rich historical heritage and diverse cultures.

The Ultimate Back-Packing Destination

Pakistan’s perception as a tourist destination has been marred by the political instability for a very long time. But professional tourists like Will Hatton are helping to change the image of the country and its people by their first-hand experiences. Hatton describes Pakistan as the “ultimate adventure back-packing destination” and Pakistanis as “the most hospitable, kind and welcoming people” he had encountered. The people always insisted on feeding him and showed him around their local towns like royalty.

He also recounts that Pakistanis are fiercely anti-Taliban and most locals can speak some English. They are highly protective and caring about their guests. The portrayal of Pakistan in the mainstream western media augments the misperception about the country as a war-torn region. However, in reality, the Pakistani armed forces are combatting the extremist militants in the border regions to keep the country, its inhabitants and its visitors safe.

The increased security and the ease of obtaining visas will undoubtedly attract more tourists from around the world and also within the region. Moreover, tourism in Pakistan can benefit from better branding and media coverage. In a report in The British Backpacker Society, Pakistan was ranked as the number one adventure travel destination for 2018 among 20 other countries. A lot of this has to do with aspects ranging from the hospitality of the people to the wildness of the Himalayan mountains.

Despite their rough terrains and lofty peaks (five out of 14 world’s highest peaks present in Pakistan), the mountainous regions are quite accessible due to expertly engineered roads and one of the world’s highest paved highways, the Karokoram Highway. The Karakoram connects China with Pakistan and gains an elevation up to 4,693 meters (15,397 ft) above the sea level.

History and Culture

Pakistan is not only the cradle ground from Indus Valley Civilization but it also consists of several relics from the Gandhara Civilization to the Mughal era. Among the greatest cultural treasures of Pakistan are the Gurdwaras – the sacred shrines of the Sikh religion. Pakistan is also the birthplace of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.

Since Pakistanis welcome thousands of Sikh pilgrims from India and other countries around the world every year, improved geopolitical relations between India and Pakistan and better perception about tourism in Pakistan can be immensely beneficial in supporting both the Pakistani locals and the Sikh communities from around the world.

Apart from its cultural allure, Pakistan also is a great destination for an economical trip. The transportation, food and accommodation are relatively inexpensive. According to Hatton, a weekly budget of $100 would suffice. The rich ancient sites, the mesmerizing natural landscapes and the remarkably amiable dwellers make Pakistan a great destination for many tourists around the globe.

Regaining Its Reputation as a Tourist Destination

In the 1970s, Pakistan was a tourist hotspot and until the mid-90s, hotels were booked a year in advance. All this had suffered due to instability in the region. The government and the local people, realizing the negative impact that the political volatility has had on tourism, are working hard to revive tourism in Pakistan.

The Pakistani tourism industry, partnered with security agencies and private companies, has improved greatly. According to Jovago, the top hotel booking and e-commerce site in Pakistan, hotel bookings have increased by 80-90 percent in 2017, compared to the bookings in the previous years. This not only means greater revenue for the hotels and other local businesses but also a significant contribution in the GDP of the country.

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) estimated that the total contribution of tourism toward Pakistan’s economy was about $19.4 billion or 6.9 percent of the GDP, in 2017. Within a decade, this is projected to rise to $36.1 billion.

Improving tourism in Pakistan is perhaps one of the most viable ways to bring about a more realistic perception of the country’s landscape and population. Pakistan has a lot to offer. It is a county of cultural riches ranging from Gandharan relics to tombs from the Mughal era. It is a country of raging rivers and vast lengths of serene deserts. But, probably most importantly, Pakistan is a country of generous and warm people, who would invite their guests into their homes and serve them with the best food and comfort they can provide.

– Fariha Khalid
Photo: Unsplash

ecotourism in sri lanka
Elephants, whales, dolphins, eagles and mangrove forests are just a few aspects of Sri Lankan nature that give rise to the increasing popularity and benefits of ecotourism in Sri Lanka.

Tourism in Sri Lanka

Tourism, in general, is rapidly increasing in Sri Lanka. The surge in number of tourists seeking Sri Lanka’s nature brought initial exploitation and misuse of nature by locals trying to capitalize on the quickly accelerating business. However, ecotourism in Sri Lanka and efforts from others inspire more protection and the growth of sustainable tourism.

While further improvement efforts are still needed, nature is now more recognized by Sri Lankan locals and government as a valuable resource that needs protection and intelligent management. Only this kind of treatment will continue bringing income and other benefits.

The number of tourists visiting Sri Lanka hovered around 200,000 to 500,000 per year for the past three decades. However, in 2011, that number raised to about 850,000 tourists, which reached beyond two million tourists in 2016. While the number of tourists visiting Sri Lanka has drastically increased in the past few years, the average length of stay has consistently remained the same since at least the 1970s – about 10 nights.

A Nation’s Economy

Those 11 days and 10 nights of tourists pouring their money into Sri Lanka’s economy combined with the drastic increase in number of tourists in the past few years has caused the tourism sector to become an important core of Sri Lanka’s Foreign Exchange (FE) earners. Ranking third in 2016 behind worker’s remittances at 29 percent and textiles/garments at 19 percent, tourism brought 14 percent of Sri Lanka’s FE earnings.

Undoubtedly, tourism is becoming an increasingly important and beneficial part of Sri Lanka’s economy that helps to reduce poverty and empower local communities. The surge in tourism presents economic benefits, stark challenges and sustainability issues as businesses seek to capitalize.

Elephants

For example, elephants are one of the major tourist draws, and they have been (and some still are) horribly abused by Sri Lankan locals trying to make a profit from tourists. Many tourists are not aware of the extreme suffering captive elephants undergo in the businesses offering elephant rides.

Some good news is that many local Sri Lankans, international animal protectors and ecotourists are trying to put an end to the suffering of elephants in Sri Lanka’s tourism industry while also providing alternative tourism income. There are now sanctuaries for elephants to rescue the creatures from abusive businesses and provide acreage and veterinary care for the rescued elephants to heal and retire.

The Sri Lanka Wildlife and Conservation Society (SLWCS) is a non-profit organization working to bring harmony between humans, elephants and nature in Sri Lanka. SLWCS focuses on sustainable economic development, conservation and field research. New Life Elephant Sanctuary (NLES) is a project of SLWCS, with goals of providing medical care and protected nature habitat for rescued elephants, educating people and transforming tourism into a co-existence format that doesn’t hurt the elephants.

Ecotourists are drawn to spending their money on visiting wildlife sanctuaries such as NLES rather than abusive businesses. As general tourism and ecotourism in Sri Lanka grows, so do organizations such as SLWCS, regulations and improvements in environmental management.

Mangroves

Mangrove ecosystems also provide an option for the development of sustainable ecotourism in Sri Lanka. Although Sri Lanka’s mangrove ecosystems were hit hard during the 2004 tsunami, local communities, experts and organizations work to restore them.

Mangroves provide locals with tourism income as they continue to heal from tsunami damage. The trees not only provide opportunity for sustainable tourism income, but they also offer a habitat for unique species and act as a buffer protection shield for inland Sri Lanka against tsunamis and other storms.

Exclusive Economic Zone and the DWC

In addition to nature that can be used as economic resources within the country, Sri Lanka also has sovereign rights to an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) — an area that includes 510,000 square kilometers of ocean extending 200 nautical miles beyond its shore.

It is now illegal in Sri Lanka to go whale or dolphin watching without paying a park fee for a permit from the Department of Wildlife and Conservation (DWC). Also, since 2013, fishing licenses are now required for any fishing activities, and registration certificates must be obtained for any boats intended as fishing vessels.

Prioritization of Both Tourism and Nature

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) also helps Sri Lankans deal sustainably with issues connected to its increasing numbers of tourists and urbanization. In September 2017, USAID granted $625,000 to organizations in Sri Lanka for proper waste management, including recycling and to “create livelihood and income generating opportunities such as composting and the sale of recyclable and reusable plastics.”

Overall, initially poor management of the surge of tourism and mishandling of nature in Sri Lanka led to eventual increase in protections for animals, conservation of land and more sustainable ways to share nature with tourists. While continued and expanded efforts are still needed, increasing conservation efforts from locals, assistance from USAID and eco-friendly choices of ecotourists are helping Sri Lankans realize longer-lasting economic benefits of their sustainable tourism and nature.

– Emme Leigh
Photo: Flickr

Reasons for Indonesia’s Resilience
Indonesia is a beautiful country home to over 18,000 islands, the komodo dragon, jungle elephants, beautiful beaches and incredible volcanoes. Its beauty brings tourism and natural resources, but there is still high poverty rates that the Indonesian government is determined to decrease. Despite challenges of poverty and natural disasters, here are the main reasons for Indonesia’s resilience.

Indonesia Learns from the Past

Indonesia is particularly exposed to natural disasters such as volcanoes, flooding earthquakes and tsunamis. Over the last ten years Indonesia has undergone multiple earthquakes with over a 6.0 magnitude. Of the more recent earthquakes, the most devastating was one that hit Sumatra at the end of September 2009 with a 7.6 magnitude that caused over a 1000 casualties.

The history of natural disasters coupled with a high risk of more to come has fortified the Indonesian government to be ready for any future events. In April of 2012, Indonesia’s National Tsunami Warning Center alerted the Banda Aceh community of a tsunami threat.

Luckily the earthquake did not create a tsunami, and the alarm went off as intended, but misunderstood and confused procedures lead to panic and disorder. However, events like these contribute towards finding the holes, implementing solutions and ultimately, fixing the problems. Many locations like Banda Aceh have now marked evacuation routes and built safety shelters.

Fighting Poverty

At 10.2 percent, Indonesia’s poverty rate is the lowest it’s ever been. With a population of about 261 million, the fourth largest in the world, Indonesia still hosts over 26 million people living below the poverty line. However, the nation’s standard of living and social assistance increased over the last twenty years.

In particular, the poverty rate dropped about 5 percent over the last ten years. The National Development Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro acknowledged the need for further improvement and hoped to see the rate drop to under 10 percent in the near future.

Growing Tourism and Economic Strength

With so many beautiful attributes, it’s not hard to believe that Indonesia’s tourism rose from a little over 12 million tourists in 2015 to over 14 million in 2017. The growing tourism industry goes a long way towards helping Indonesia make comebacks.

Even when the worldwide slowdown hit after 2011, Indonesia still received an increasing number of foreign tourists — 7.65 million in 2011, 8.04 in 2012 and 8.8 million in 2013. 

Indonesia has the tenth largest economy in the world for purchasing power. The nation’s gross domestic product grew from $861.3 billion in 2015 to $932.3 billion in 2016.

This bounce-back occurred after a dip in the GDP output but was still an overall increase. The government is still looking for ways to strengthen the economy, such as outing corruption by strengthening the legal framework or improving infrastructure by decreasing fuel and electricity subsidies.

Looking at the Long-Term Goal

Powerful changes, such as those listed for the building economic strength, will help to make Indonesia more attractive for foreign investment. However, some changes — such as cutting fuel subsidies — can result in a short-term struggle causing many citizens to become dissatisfied.

If the country can make it past the initial difficulty, the eventual removal of the subsidies will lead to long-term gain. Indonesia’s ability to recognize what sacrifices will lead to longevity is one of many reasons for Indonesia’s resilience, and a hopeful sign for the future. 

– Natasha Komen
Photo: Flickr

Tourism Alleviates Poverty
Tourism is one of the fastest growing economic sectors; in fact, the number of international travelers hit 1 billion in 2012. That same year, tourism accounted for 9 percent of global GDP and 5 percent of global exports. This rapid growth has raised the question of how and whether tourism alleviates poverty. Salli Felton, the acting chief executive of the Travel Foundation, stated that tourism is “the largest transfer of resources from rich to poor.”  It may be the largest, but is it the best?

Tourism, The Industry

Tourism as a method of economic growth and poverty alleviation has advantages and disadvantages. In the most direct way, tourism can help to create jobs for low skilled workers. The tourism sector was responsible for over 260 million jobs worldwide in 2010—about 1 in 11.

These jobs in the tourism industry also help reboot other sectors of the economy, in turn creating indirect employment: 1 job in the tourism field generates roughly 1.5 additional jobs in other related areas such as construction, utilities, textile, transport and agriculture. The vast array of goods and services that tourism requires — infrastructure, roads, power, water, airports, hotels and resorts, restaurants, entertainment — leads to a more dynamic and wider economy at large.

Tourism’s great appeal for developing countries lies in its accessibility for communities often detached from other means of economic development i.e. island nations and rural areas. In fact, tourism is one of the 5 largest sources of exports for 69 developing countries, and the largest source for 28.

Tourism’s Attraction and Reliability

Many island areas hold draw for tourist activity—beautiful beaches, warm weather, and rich culture—but lack the connectivity to grow in other ways. On some island states, tourism is responsible for nearly 25 percent of the nation’s GDP. However, if not introduced in a sustainable way, it is not the case that tourism alleviates poverty or even helps to develop a country’s economy.

Often, tourism is not a reliable source of revenue as it is extremely sensitive to environmental and political fluctuations. Tourist towns are also susceptible to seasonal demand, making consistency difficult to achieve.

Many instances of tourist expansion come at the expense of local populations and can lead to exploitation. For instance, competition over resources between locals and tourist may ensue, as well as ecological degradation and loss of cultural tradition or heritage. In some cases, developing countries turn towards importing food, equipment, labor and other goods to meet the expectations of vacationers; as a consequence, these actions redirect revenues away from the local community.

Making Tourism Sustainable

In order to combat the negative effects of tourism, growth must be sustainable—that is, activities must be beneficial to the people of the host country. Sustainable practice can be ensured on a number of levels.

Governments can become involved in regulating environmental impacts and incentivize locally-sourced resources and labor. Large resorts can also partner with local communities. For instance, the Ritz Carlton hooked up with nearby organizations on children’s issues, hunger and poverty across their numerous locations.

Finally, tourists themselves can research which hotels or resorts are affiliated with sustainable certification programs and/or have local residents as staff. Tourists can also get outside of hotel and resort walls to use their purchasing power to help the economy by eating local, shopping local and using local guides.

If implemented in a sustainable manner, tourism alleviates poverty and lessens hardships associated with poverty related issues. However, due to the inconsistent nature of activity, tourism is not a catch-all response to poverty eradication, but rather a step in the right direction.

– Jessie Serody
Photo: Flickr

Medellín’s Transformation
In 1993, Colombia had the highest homicide rate in the world at 420 per 100,000 people, making it one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Medellin was said to be the most dangerous city in Colombia during this time, but has gone through great changes in the past two decades. Medellín’s transformation is an inspiring model for many cities previously affected by violence and war.

Danger of Medellín

In the 1980s, Medellín was considered to be one of the most violent cities in the globe. In fact, TIME Magazine named Medellín the most dangerous city in the world due to the high crime and murder rates in 1988.

At the time, Medellín was home to Pablo Escobar’s cartel and cocaine empire. There was a lack of government control of the city and crime rates exponentially increased. Additionally, the nation was also affected by the internal conflict between Colombia and the internal guerilla groups. In 1991, the city experienced 6,349 killings, bringing its annual rate to 181 per 100,000 people.

Transformation of Medellín

Since then, the city has put in place many violence prevention programs, invested in social entrepreneurship, created effective public transportation, transformed public spaces and improved some of the worst neighborhoods severely affected by the internal war.

In the past 20 years, homicide rate has been cut by 95 percent and the poverty rate by 66 percent.  Now, the annual rate of killings per year is fewer than 50 per 100,000 people and it contributes more than 8 percent of Colombia’s GDP, as its second largest city.

Forty percent of Colombia’s exports now come from Medellín. Additionally, 9 out of the top 50 medical facilities in the Americas are located in Medellín. In 2012, Medellín was even named the most innovative city in the world by the Urban Land Institute. Medellín’s transformation began with its public transportation system. The first metro ride in Medellín took place in 1995, and since then, it has become the most effective public transportation system in Colombia.

Transportation in Medellín

Additional lines were added and the cable car were built in the 2000s. The transportation project in Medellin connected the entire city, including slums previously neglected by the government. Additionally, escalators were built to facilitate access for people in the slums — citizens in areas such as Comuna 13 used to walk 1,300 feet, but due to the transportation advancements, they came to experience further integration with surrounding areas.

Such developments allowed many living in poor areas outside of the city to take on jobs in the city center, and shortened the commute time for all people in Medellín. To this day, the metro and its stations are still very clean, safe and well maintained within the city.

Social Entrepreneurship and Social Change

Medellín’s transformation is also largely due to its investment in education and social programs. Medellín is known for its investment in social entrepreneurship. A part of revenues earned by the city is invested in organizations such as Ruta N, which work to promote social innovation and technological development.

People in poor areas are also encouraged to start their own businesses, shop, or cafe; such business endeavors are facilitated by entrepreneurial development centers that provide cheap credit loans. Medellín’s transformation ignited economic growth and rapid change for the city by becoming an international hub for business, innovation and tourism.

Such developments have shown that areas affected by violence can change for the better through investment in urban development and innovation.

– Luz Solano-Flórez
Photo: Pixabay

Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan addresses poverty
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has introduced an ambitious restructuring and development plan called Vision 2030. This plan was first released by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and King Salman in April 2016. Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan addresses poverty by working to boost female participation in the workforce, reforming the health and education system and reducing the national unemployment rate.

The goals also include diversifying the Saudi economy, increasing life expectancy, achieving environmental sustainability and making Saudi Arabia a tourist-friendly destination, among others. These are five of the many ways that Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan addresses poverty.

How Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 Plan Addresses Poverty

  1. Empowering the Nonprofit Sector
    The best way that Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan addresses poverty is by setting up a regulatory framework that strengthens the nonprofit sector by offering government support and incentives for wealthy families to contribute, and increasing the number of government projects that generate a social impact. The kingdom currently has fewer than 1,000 nonprofits, which contribute only 0.3 percent of the national GDP. The goal is to increase the sector’s contribution to GDP from less than 1 percent to 5 percent, and to rally one million volunteers for this sector each year, compared to the current average of 11,000.
  2. Increasing Women’s Rights and Participation
    The kingdom’s Vision 2030 economic reform plan sets out a goal to increase female participation in the workforce from 22 percent to 30 percent. Additionally, as a part of the kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan, the Saudi government now funds the education of more than 35,000 Saudi women around the globe. New jobs for women have also been created in the government and in the military. Empowering women and allowing them to participate in the workforce can help them provide for their family and be self-sufficient, thus helping to fight poverty worldwide.
  3. Reforming Education
    The kingdom will be investing in childhood education by reforming the country’s academic and educational system. The government has also made numerous scholarships available that are aimed at Saudi students wanting to attend top international universities. To further develop local educational opportunities, Saudi Arabia also aims to have at least five universities ranked among the top 200 in the world by 2030. To do this, the government plans on preparing a modern curriculum with rigorous standards and tracking its progress and improvement throughout the years. Additionally, it plans to work with the private sector to ensure that students are prepared for the job market in each sector. This will help fight poverty by increasing the opportunities available to Saudi students worldwide.
  4. Investing in Small Business and Enterprise
    Small and medium-sized enterprises are essential to economic growth since they create jobs and promote financial independence. However, these enterprises currently account for only 20 percent of the national GDP, compared to up to 70 percent in more developed economies. In order to increase investment in small and medium-sized enterprises, the government has created the SME Authority to encourage entrepreneurship and help create easier access to funding and remove burdensome legal and administrative obstacles that are preventing their growth and creation.
  5. Investing in Saudi Arabia as a Tourist Destination
    In 2018, tourists visas will be issued for the first time ever in Saudi Arabia. Previously, tourist visas could only be acquired by Muslims going on the Hajj. Additionally, the government is investing in several luxury hotels and facilitating access to heritage sites. This part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 addresses poverty because it will create jobs and increase the amount of money circulating in the Saudi economy.

King Salman described his mission by saying, “My first objective is for our country to be a pioneering and successful global model of excellence, on all fronts, and I will work with you to achieve that.” Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plans to accomplish this objective by alleviating poverty throughout the country.

– Luz Solano-Flórez
Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents SamoaLocated in the region of the world known as Oceania, the islands of Samoa make up a nation that has been able to successfully sustain its economy since gaining its independence from New Zealand in 1961. A nation known for its sacred family values, the island of roughly 195,000 citizens is largely dependent on its agricultural and fishing industries.

In recent years, the island nation has been highlighted in the media for its obesity epidemic, due to the nation’s low Per Capita Income of $5,965. This has caused many families to turn to cheap food products, which are usually high in calories, in order to survive. In spite of the nation’s ongoing struggle with its obesity issue, what may often be overlooked is how the media misrepresents Samoa.

History of Samoa: A Future with Promise

Samoa is a nation composed of citizens that have withstood colonization as well as threats from natural disasters, such as the 2009 earthquake in the Pacific that induced a tsunami. The nation’s current GDP is roughly $830 million, which is not a substantial amount of money for the economy.

However, in recent years, the nation has made several milestones that allude to economic progressions, such as joining the World Trade Organization. The nation has also advocated more for women’s rights by developing a quota system to ensure that more women receive the opportunity to participate in governmental affairs.

How the Media Misrepresents Samoa

Although Samoa has its domestic challenges to overcome, the island has long been producing some of the most talented athletes the world has ever seen. The media misrepresents Samoa by shedding light on the nation’s obesity epidemic, rather than on the athletic talent that has given a good reputation to the nation.

Samoa is referred to as “Football Island” because of the significant number of American NFL football players that come from there. Samoan men have been recognized for their athletic capabilities over the years and have been recruited to football and rugby teams in New Zealand, the United States and Australia.

Two such athletes are Jordan Cameron, who played for the Miami Dolphins, and Malcom Floyd, who played for the San Diego Chargers. Both men were nominated for the 2015 Polynesian Pro Football Player of the Year Award.

Women have also made their mark in the sports industry. Women athletes have made history for Samoa by winning coveted sports awards. One such award, achieved by Sergeant Latoya N. Marshall, was the Female Athlete of the Year award by the All-Army Sports Office.

Another internationally-recognized female athlete is weightlifter Ele Opeloge, who brought attention to Samoa over the years for her weightlifting performances in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Opeloge was awarded a silver medal for her performance in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and continues to receive recognition from the media for her achievements.

Tourism: A Promising Industry

Another industry that remains promising for Samoa is the tourism industry. The nation hosts a natural, tropical scenery that attracts people from all over the world, and according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Samoan tourism makes up roughly $207.5 million of the nation’s GDP and 132,000 tourists visited the island nation in the year 2013 alone.

Oceanian culture has also gained a wider international influence, an influence that has the potential to attract more tourists to the region over time. One recent example is with the release of the widely successful Disney film “Moana,” an animation about a figurative princess from the island of Tahiti that has grossed over $600 million.

As Samoa continues to rise above its struggles with domestic obesity, a weak economy and threats from nature, the nation shows great promise. Several industries have brought the nation positive recognition in the international media, overshadowing the multiple ways that the media misrepresents Samoa.

– Lois Charm
Photo: Flickr

Corruption often makes headlines when somebody writes about South Africa. Given the court case in progress against the country’s former leader, it’s not hard to see why. Added to past historical events, oftentimes the media misrepresents South Africa.

But there is more to South Africa than meets the media’s eye. It is a place with much to celebrate. Covering these points of pride is important for the morale of a country. Although the media misrepresents South Africa, some less-common stories with good news have made it through the cracks:

Selling Avocados in Record Numbers

For a country’s economy, agriculture is oftentimes a driving force. That’s why it is good news that South Africa is expecting to sell record numbers of avocados in 2018. After experiencing a drought in previous years, it comes as both good news and a pleasant surprise.

South Africa supplies a large number of avocados to European countries. Those in the country’s avocado industry hope to keep this market while opening up new ones this year.

Leading the way in Eco-Tourism

Tourists are taking advantage of the beautiful South African climate, and South Africa is taking advantage of the boosted audience for educating on water conservation. 

South Africa is a world leader in conserving water in tourism-related facilities. The industry takes small, powerful measures to conserve water in restaurants and hotels. These measures rub off on those that visit the country. While the media misrepresents South Africa, ecotourism speaks for itself.

Making Breakthroughs in Renewable Energy

Recently, South Africa signed several agreements to drive renewable energy forward. The plans include constructing a new solar plant that will provide sustainable power for hundreds of thousands of South Africans. An agreement like this comes as no surprise, given the country’s focus on conservation.

For the U.S., this news is a much more productive story to read than those of corruption. The supplier of the solar power plant, SolarReserve, Inc. is a U.S.-based company. The good news for South Africa is both an economic and environmental benefit in America.

Improving Women’s Rights

Countries across the globe struggle with pay inequality. The unfortunate reality is that women, on average, earn less for performing the same work as men. South Africa is not immune to this problem, but the country has made considerable improvements for women. 

By several measures, South Africa is making success in closing the pay gap. Women are being encouraged to take part in the business sector like never before. South Africa has been making steady improvement in this area as nearly one-third of the women in the country now have senior management roles.

Beyond this, women are engaging in entrepreneurial activity. Various programs help women to establish themselves and run prosperous businesses. When women’s lives improve, everyone wins. For women’s rights, the rest of the world could learn a lesson from South Africa.

Even though the media misrepresents South Africa, there is good news for this country spanning from women’s rights to avocados. Despite sensational stories of corruption, the real South Africa endures and its legacy will continue to endure regardless of news coverage.

That’s good news.

– Robert Stephen

Photo: Flickr

media misrepresents HaitiIn recent years, the typical media portrayal of Haiti has consistently conjured up a static image of a beleaguered nation where visible indicators of natural disaster, political instability and extreme poverty abound. Though this representation is not entirely false, it is incomplete. Haiti is well-deserving of a more fitting image that conveys its dynamism and development.

Withstanding trial and tribulation, Haiti is among the most resilient nations in the world. Like any other developing country today, Haiti is continuing to make progress despite setbacks along its way. The media misrepresents Haiti to be a place that is completely devoid of progress, forever stifled by unfortunate issues of circumstance. To the contrary, Haiti enjoys a stunningly beautiful landscape and is inhabited by hardworking, happy people with the resolve to pursue better lives for themselves and a better legacy for their country.

Education Reforms

Ensuring that children have access to quality education is an important investment in the development of any nation. Elizabeth King, former Director of Education for the World Bank, said it best: “The human mind makes possible all development achievements from health advances and agricultural innovations to efficient public administration and private sector growth. For countries to reap these benefits fully, they need to unleash the potential of the human mind. And there is no better tool for doing so than education.”

To this end, Haiti has made quality education a top policy priority over the last decade. The Global Partnership for Education granted $24.1 million in funding to improve primary education access, school performance and enrollment in Haiti.

In the last four years, Haiti has enrolled more than 73,000 students in primary education, built six additional classrooms, developed and employed more than 3,500 qualified teachers at the primary level and implemented a learning assessment system for primary education. Furthermore, the grant has helped increase student attendance to 83.5 percent in disadvantaged areas and made nutrition and health programs accessible to more than 100,000 children.

Agriculture

Suggesting that there is a dearth of economic stimulus is a particularly damaging way that the media misrepresents Haiti. It is true that many Haitians live on less than $2 a day, but economic opportunity continues to develop in the country to counteract extreme poverty.

With a climate that supports the cultivation of important cash crops like cacao and mango, as well as several staple crops, Haiti has a promising agricultural sector. USAID has worked with the country to develop sustainable agricultural techniques that increase production, improve food security and strengthen agricultural markets, ultimately increasing agricultural incomes and helping to develop and support small and medium enterprises to spur investment opportunity in the country.

Tech

Much of the media misrepresents Haiti by failing to cover recent tech advancements at work within the country. Surtab, Haiti’s answer to Apple and Samsung, has become a shining example of successful tech innovation in the country. Surtab develops and delivers a range of electronic mobile devices throughout the Caribbean and the African continent. The company employs a highly-skilled workforce, many of whom are women, and is helping to drive private sector development.

In June, Haiti will host its second annual Haiti Tech Summit, which will be attended by local and international industry leaders, digital marketers and innovators. Keynote speakers include lead developers from Facebook and Google as well as several notable figures from around the world. Aggregating some of the best tech thinkers and creators in the industry, the Haiti Tech Summit aims to accelerate local entrepreneurship and to bring global attention to Haiti’s emerging markets.

Tourism

The media misrepresents Haiti by suggesting that the country is too poor and too battered by earthquakes and hurricanes to be beautiful. The Dominican Republic and Haiti are co-located on the island of Hispaniola. They both boast beautiful beaches with glittering turquoise waters, rolling mountains and temperate, tropical weather, but only the Dominican Republic is celebrated as a place that’s worth visiting.

Despite unfair media portrayals, Haiti has been gaining traction over the last five years as a tourist destination. Haiti offers potential travelers breathtaking landscapes, complicated history and rich culture. Resort towns like Jacmel and Cap Haitien boast scenic coastal views, opulent dining and luxe accommodations that rival those of top beach communities around the world.

According to MSN, expatriate designer Victor Glemaud recently returned to Haiti after having left more than a decade ago. The country he came back to shattered his expectations: “What I was expecting from the media, and all the perceptions around the world about Haiti, were nonexistent. I saw the same vibrancy, the same resilience I remember from growing up. . . I was expecting devastation, and I didn’t see that.” Contrary to popular portrayals of the Caribbean nation, Haiti is a beautiful, thriving country.

– Chantel Baul

Photo: Flickr