USAID Programs in Timor-Leste
In 1975, Timor-Leste declared independence from Portugal. In the same year, Indonesia launched a military invasion and annexed the fledgling state. In 1999, 78% of Timor-Leste’s population voted for independence from Indonesia, and in 2002, Timor-Leste finally gained full independence. The nation’s road to independence was anything but smooth, especially considering that anti-independence Indonesian militias conducted a scorched earth campaign in 1999, which led to the deaths of 2,600 civilians and the displacement of 30,000 locals. Despite these setbacks, Timor-Leste has grown into a strong democracy with multiple peaceful transfers of power.

While Timor-Leste has consolidated its political institutions, the Global Hunger Index describes the hunger level in Timor-Leste as “serious” in 2021, ranking the nation 108th out of 116 countries in terms of hunger severity. In addition, Timor-Leste ranks 121st out of 190 countries in nominal GDP per capita at $2,377 as of 2017. USAID programs in Timor-Leste continue to support Timor-Leste’s democratic institutions while also working to address Timor-Leste’s economic and infrastructural setbacks.

USAID’s Tourism for All

Launched in 2018, USAID’s Tourism for All initiative aims to promote Timor-Leste as an internationally competitive tourism destination. The project goal is to “diversify [Timor-Leste’s] economy by promoting eco-friendly tourism based on the country’s rich heritage” and promote sustainable investments from the private sector by locals, international institutions and NGOs.

One accomplishment of the Tourism for All initiative in promoting sustainability and independence from assistance is training local Timor-Leste citizens. USAID gave 611 participants in the private and public sector more than 11,000 hours of job training in hospitality, tourism and food safety. This training aims to foster a new generation of Timor-Leste locals to continue sustaining Timor-Leste’s tourism industry independent of external assistance.

In 2019 and 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to Timor-Leste’s tourism industry. However, the local Timor-Leste “Ha’u Nia Timor-Leste” campaign and USAID’s Tourism for All initiative helped pivot Timor-Leste’s tourism industry from focusing on foreign tourism to placing a greater emphasis on domestic tourism.

This partnership is based on the idea of national love for Timor-Leste and solidarity with the struggling tourism industry in the face of the pandemic. USAID describes one of the objectives of this campaign as “inspiring Timorese people to engage in recreational travel on a more regular basis and to consider taking up leisure activities such as scuba diving.”

USAID Customs Reform Project

To address Timor-Leste’s financial issues, the USAID Customs Reform Project, which began in 2017, seeks to make trade easier with Timor-Leste by implementing standard customs clearance and transit procedures. This initiative has provided Timor-Leste with technical assistance and reformed Timor-Leste’s customs process to better facilitate trade and increase domestic revenues. One way the USAID Customs Reform Project is making transit into Timor-Leste more efficient is through the development of the Inter-Ministerial Despacho in 2019 to standardize and integrate the operating hours between customs authority and other government agencies.

To further facilitate transit into Timor-Leste, the Customs Reform Project has been implementing anti-corruption measures. In 2019, the USAID team began to develop training material for a Code of Conduct. Furthermore, during the same year, the USAID Customs Reform Project developed an Interests, Assets and Liabilities Declaration form that any customs authority staff must complete. These employees must declare their own and their direct family’s financial interests, assets, liabilities and any potential conflicts of interest. These drafted reforms intend to stifle corruption while ensuring the more efficient transit of goods in Timor-Leste.

Looking Ahead

USAID programs in Timor-Leste promote economic investment, anti-corruption measures and the elimination of unnecessary trade barriers. While Timor-Leste has come a long way since its independence from Portugal and Indonesia, economic issues and oil dependency still plague Timor-Leste. USAID programs in Timor-Leste continue to play an important role in addressing and mitigating these issues.

– Alexander Richter
Photo: Flickr

Iceland’s Tourism Industry
Iceland’s tourism industry is one of the country’s most dependable money-makers and job providers. Like many countries, Iceland’s tourism industry underwent severe economic losses and lacked new jobs and job security because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Bank of Iceland, Islandsbanki, released a report publishing its expectations for a significant resurgence in tourism for Iceland in 2022.

Tourism’s Importance to Jobs and Economic Growth in Iceland

Tourism provides 39% of Iceland’s annual export revenue and contributes about 10% to the country’s GDP. Iceland’s tourism industry accounts for 15% of the workforce. In 2017, 47% of Iceland’s newest jobs were in some way related to the tourism industry.

Iceland experienced a devastating financial crisis in 2008. Job availability dropped nationwide, the poverty rate increased and the GDP dropped dramatically in the following years. It took some forecasting, but the Icelandic government developed plans calling for the tourism industry to be the savior of the Icelandic economy.

To this end, the government established a brand new Tourist Control Centre, which coordinates the government’s work in tourism nationwide. It creates new typical tourist surveys and improved cooperation under the government’s four tourism ministries. The government also implemented efforts to track the most popular tourist destinations and receive input from tourists on how to improve their experiences at those destinations.

Iceland’s tourism is so popular that the government has had to devise limits on how long individuals can rent on Airbnb and on whom must receive limitations. Rental cars are similarly limited, with nearly 80% of tourists reported renting a car at least once during their visit to Iceland. The airfare to Iceland is one of the cheapest deals year-round.

The tourism industry has been primarily responsible for the economic boom that has occurred since 2012. The plans that the Icelandic government developed went into effect in Fiscal Year 2012 and involved the government’s expanding funding opportunities in the tourism industry.

Since the expansion of the tourism industry, the increase in job availability and economic growth, Iceland has made great strides in keeping the poverty rate low and the population of those at-risk of poverty lower than what was possible pre-2012.

Impact of COVID-19 on Iceland’s Tourism Industry

Iceland has the lowest poverty rate in the world, but the COVID-19 pandemic put this at risk. The international average for a country’s poverty rate is 11%, but Iceland has the world beat. The country’s poverty rate is at 4.9% and has been dropping since the expansion of the tourism industry.

Furthermore, there were an estimated 36 Icelandic citizens for every 1,000 who were at risk of falling into poverty in 2008, at the beginning of the economic crisis. Since then, the number rose briefly above 40 individuals then rose and fell for several years, but distinctly dropped in 2014. This coincided with the beginning of the full establishment and implementation of Iceland’s expanded tourism industry.

The pandemic’s impact on tourism left the country with another drop in jobs and an economic dip. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Iceland experienced a 10-month long halt in tourism. Iceland’s GDP dropped from $24 billion to $19 billion in one year largely because of the loss of tourism between 2019 and 2020, according to Data Commons.

Expected Resurgence in Iceland’s Tourism

As soon as it became feasibly safe, Iceland reopened its borders to tourists with clear instructions. First, it allowed tourists to travel to the country as long as they isolated themselves for 14 days prior to their trip and were able to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival in Iceland. Since then, Iceland has allowed its visitors to arrive without those other restrictions as long as the tourists are fully vaccinated and boosted against the virus.

The increase in Iceland’s tourism is not unprecedented. In 2018, the increase in tourism was 5.4% and in 2017, it was 24.1%. Icelandair, the main airline for travel to Iceland, has its own plan for balancing safety and getting as many tourists to Iceland as feasible in the works.

Iceland’s central bank, Islandsbaski is expecting a minimum of 1 million tourists to Iceland, but as many as 1.3 million may come. In November 2021, there were a meager 75,000 tourists for the entire month. However, this is more than 20 times the final tally for tourists for that month in the preceding year.

Even though tourism paused for the better part of a year, the tourism industry is ready and raring to go. Despite the pains of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Icelandic tourism industry will reopen in 2022 as much as possible and the economic boost to come from it is invaluable.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

The Maasai of KenyaWhen the COVID-19 pandemic decimated Kenya’s tourism industry and forced the closures of livestock markets, food insecurity became a reality for many of the Maasai people. In particular, the Maasai of Kenya tribe faces hunger during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Heart of Kenya’s Tourist Industry

Traditionally, the Maasai people’s pastoral life meant there was no need for the modernities of money. Cattle stood as a source of both food and currency, with Maasai livelihoods depending exclusively on the tribe’s “cattle economy.” However, as prolonged droughts ravage grazing lands and privatization and wildlife conservation lead to the displacement of the Maasai, the tribe has had to supplement its semi-nomadic lifestyle with income from tourists: selling souvenirs, conducting safaris and guiding tours of Maasai villages.

Visitors travel to Kenya from all over the world to witness Africa’s wild animals, and when it comes to spectacles, the Maasai of Kenya have an advantage. The majority of tourists flock to the Maasai Mara National Park to witness a yearly phenomenon known as the Great Migration — the largest animal migration on earth. Although much of the migration takes place from the Serengeti in Tanzania, the most sought-after scene for nature enthusiasts occurs when the animals cross the crocodile-populated Mara River into Kenya.

Severe Weather and COVID-19 Create a Food Crisis

Prior to 2020, tourism accounted for 10% of Kenya’s economy, employing more than 2 million citizens, many of whom “lost their jobs due to the pandemic.” In March 2020, after Kenya’s first report of COVID-19, President Kenyatta canceled “all international flights scheduled to enter the country,” allowing access only to Kenyans or foreigners with permanent residency. Although the government’s efforts proved crucial in preventing the spread of the virus at the time, the result was an 80% plunge in Kenya’s tourism during 2020, causing an economic loss of more than $1 billion.

Exacerbating circumstances further, flash flooding in April 2020 and severe hailstorms in September 2020 followed the collapse of tourism. The deadly storm patterns led to severe crop destruction, damaging homes throughout southern and eastern Kenya, including Narok county, home to the Maasai Mara National Park.

Despite standing as a hub for Kenya’s tourism, Narok county has an absolute poverty rate of 33.7%, with 12% of the population enduring food insecurity and 32.9% of children experiencing stunting. During the pandemic, when government mandates included the closures of livestock markets and the Maasai lost all income from tourists, hunger became a reality for many of the Maasai who also could not afford to purchase hygiene products such as soaps and hand sanitizers.

Nashulai Maasai Conservancy Supports the Maasai

The Nashulai Maasai Conservancy protects 5,000 acres of critical habitat and is the only conservancy that the Massai people entirely govern and run. During the COVID-19 pandemic, residents of Nashulai organized a crowdfunding plan and sought the help of Avaaz, an international advocacy campaign that promotes community-organized humanitarian movements.

The campaign mobilized 100,000 people who helped to pay ranger salaries and secure sanitation, medical supplies and food for communities living within the conservancy. Recognizing a need to reduce the Maasai’s reliance on tourism, Nashulai also began training people in farming, beekeeping and making hygiene products such as soaps and sanitary pads to sell at local markets.

The Maa Trust

The Maa Trust is a nonprofit organization that partners with nature conservancies in the Maasai Mara region to “increase the benefits of wildlife conservation to Maasai families.” The organization promotes sustainable businesses for Maasai women, such as jewelry-making and honey production. The organization also supports conservation education, builds schools and invests in clean drinking water, solar energy and alternatives to using firewood as fuel.

In April 2020, The Maa Trust partnered with the Mara Elephant Project to distribute food donations from the Sidekick Foundation to 637 Maasai families “in the Talek and Pardamat regions of the Maasai Mara.” The Sidekick Foundation is an international force that works both on the ground and politically to combat poaching, collaborating with organizations such as The Maa Trust and the Mara Elephant Project to protect elephants and aid local humanitarian efforts.

The Rotary Club of Nome Assists

In November 2021, the Rotary Club of Nome, Alaska, worked with local contacts in Narok, Kenya, to provide a month of food security to 450 residents in the Maasai village of Nkorkorri. The project to assist Nkorkorri village stands as part of the Rotary Club of Nome’s 75-year commitment to humanitarianism. The Rotary Club of Nome is part of a worldwide network of more than 1.4 million Rotarians who work together to reduce poverty, fight diseases, support local economies and protect the environment.  In an interview with The Borgen Project, club member Marcy O’Neil says that Nome Rotarians hope to turn this emergency donation into a long-term program.

Although tourism has helped the Maasai survive in a challenging economic landscape, the industry’s fall during the COVID-19-pandemic put a spotlight on the tribe’s increasing vulnerability. As a result, organizations are answering the call for help. Whether the support comes from near or far, ongoing efforts to assist the Maasai are crucial to ensure the tribe’s ability to survive while maintaining traditional values.

– Jenny Rice
Photo: Flickr

Wildlife Tourism in Africa
The World Travel and Tourism Council says that wildlife tourism is “tourism that involves watching and experiencing with wildlife in its own natural habitat.” Wildlife tourism is incredibly important in Africa; it makes up 36.3% of the continent’s travel and tourism economy. As home to arguably the most captivating and recognizable collection of wildlife on the planet, including elephants, lions, cheetahs and gorillas, it is no wonder that many tourists seek Africa as a place to get closer to nature.

Of course, the money that tourists spend can be transformative in places that do not and likely would not have much of an economy outside of tourism. In total, wildlife tourism directly contributes $29.3 billion to the African economy and employs 3.6 million people. Those numbers are more than twice as high when indirect effects factor in. For a continent that is lagging behind the rest of the world in reducing poverty and had 70% of the world’s poor in 2019, the influx of wealthy tourists from abroad is greatly desirable.

A Synergistic Match

In recent decades, many conservationists have come to realize the dual role that wildlife tourism can have in Africa. It can help protect its extraordinary wildlife and enrich the local communities near the protected areas where the wildlife lives.

Many rural populations in Africa are destitute and rely heavily on subsistence farming. For those who border the approximately 17% of lands in Africa that are designated protected areas, they need to have economic reasons to play a role in protecting those lands and the wildlife on them. The argument alone that such beauty should receive protection for future generations might sound good on principle but bears little weight to those who are struggling to survive in the here and now. On the other hand, wildlife tourism can provide them with significant economic opportunities.

In short, if tourism provides more economic opportunity than exploiting the land and wildlife would, then locals will work to protect the land and wildlife that generates the tourism. As a result, the key is making sure that a sufficient portion of wildlife tourism funds goes toward the local economy. Countries in Africa that want to create sustainable wildlife preserves need to create sustainable wildlife tourism that centers on equity for local stakeholders. This means making sure local workers receive fair pay, and that much of the tourism-generated fees and taxes go to local communities to fund health clinics, schools, infrastructure and social services.

The NGO Establishing Sustainable Tourism

The United Nations projects that “more than half of global population growth between now and 2050 is expected to occur in Africa.” The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), an NGO, believes this rapid growth will increase the difficulty of wildlife conservation because governments will feel pressured “to allocate more and more land for agriculture, livestock, human settlement, resource extraction and infrastructure.”

For its part, AWF has helped set up some nature conservancies in Africa that benefit local people. In Kenya, it helped Maasai tribal people set up land-lease arrangements outside of Amboseli National Park, effectively expanding the local protected area. The Tawi and Satao Elerai ecolodges operate in these conservancies and generate revenue for the Maasai people. Both provide funding for schools that should help empower girls in the highly patriarchal Maasai culture.

In Rwanda, AWF was instrumental in setting up Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, the country’s first community-owned lodge. Revenues from the lodge fund the SACOLA (Sabyinyo Community Livelihood Association) community trust, which has received nearly $4 million to date and has benefited more than 5,000 households.

Equity on a Continent Rich With Natural Treasures

These and other projects like them play an integral role in providing economic opportunity for rural people in Africa who border the continent’s many protected areas. Local people benefiting economically from conservation efforts strengthen conservation efforts. Those who would like to improve the balance between man and nature in Africa may have an interest in spending their tourist dollars at eco-friendly lodges.

– Jeramiah Jordan
Photo: Flickr

Tourism in TanzaniaTourism involves traveling to locations other than one’s usual environment to participate in activities of interest. Tanzania contains many tourist destinations, including Mount Kilimanjaro, Serengeti National Park and Zanzibar beaches. As such, tourism in Tanzania remains essential to the economy of the nation and has a significant impact in more ways than one.

Tanzania’s Poverty Statistics

With a population of approximately 55.6 million people, Tanzania has one of the world’s most impoverished economies despite its previously high rates of growth and remarkable tourism industry. Tanzania’s GDP growth rate decreased from 5.8% in 2019 to 2% in 2020, meaning that Tanzania’s growth per capita became unprecedentedly negative. Furthermore, the Tanzanian poverty rate was 25.7% in 2020, which means that almost 15 million Tanzanians could not afford some or all of their basic necessities.

The Impacts of COVID-19 in Tanzania

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 140,000 people in Tanzania lost their formal jobs in June 2020. Additionally, more than two million people with informal, non-farming jobs experienced a decrease in income. Because of these pandemic job losses, more than half a million people could be pushed below Tanzania’s poverty line.

Furthermore, Tanzania’s rapid population explosion during the pandemic has resulted in an increase in the number of citizens living under the poverty line. Tanzania’s poverty rate increased to nearly 2% in the past year, meaning hundreds of thousands of people have been pushed below the poverty line since the pandemic began. According to the World Bank, “[b]ecause a large share of Tanzania’s population is close to the poverty line, even a mild economic shock can push numerous households into poverty.”

Moreover, the pandemic has halted many businesses, especially in the tourism and manufacturing sectors. However, with the new development of the COVID-19 vaccine, many people are starting to travel again, which may indicate that an economic turn-around could be in Tanzania’s near future.

Tourism in Tanzania

According to University of Dar Es Salaam students Nathanael Luvanga and Joseph Shitundu, Tanzania’s tourism industry contributes to the alleviation of poverty. In their study, they examined three popular tourist attractions in Tanzania and how the qualities of those three locations helped alleviate poverty.

The students found that tourism in Tanzania creates employment for those who live in poverty, including jobs operating hotels, providing tours, working at stores and handcrafting goods to sell to tourists. Job creation in the tourism industry is decreasing poverty rates because the skills needed to obtain employment are not specialized. This means that with proper training, anyone can excel as a tourism industry employee.

The Benefits of Tourism

As a result of positive tourism in Tanzania, the country has observed an increase in the number of people acquiring income from tourism-related jobs. With tourism and travel rates beginning to increase again, many are hopeful that more job opportunities in the tourism industry will arise.

Moreover, tourism strongly correlates with national and even international capital, which opens many opportunities to benefit impoverished citizens and further reduce poverty rates. Tourism was Tanzania’s “largest foreign exchange earner,” the second-largest GDP contributor and the third-largest employment creator, per a World Bank report. With access to numerous foreign markets, Tanzania is able to create employment opportunities for the impoverished, preserve cultural traditions through tourism, expand efforts to further develop the country and decrease poverty rates.

Tourism Alleviates Poverty

More than two million people have visited Tanzania each year to view its exquisite scenery and learn about Tanzanian culture, but tourists are unaware of just how important their visits are to alleviating poverty. Tourism creates jobs for those living in poverty, allowing many impoverished Tanzanian people to provide for their families, and therefore, lift themselves above the poverty line. Additionally, tourism allows Tanzania to use foreign capital to boost its economy, contributing to a rise in its GDP. National and international funding gained from tourism allow an expansion in efforts to eliminate poverty in Tanzania and generates more unique opportunities to benefit the impoverished.

Lauren Spiers
Photo: Flickr

The Effects of WildfiresThe effects of wildfires are destructive, deadly and devastating. Additionally, they are becoming increasingly frequent. From the west coast of the United States to Australia and Russia, wildfires are spreading like never before, wreaking havoc and adding unparalleled burden to the countries’ poor.

The Effects of Wildfires

Wildfires burden society by depleting resources, burdening the economies and impacting citizens’ health. Wildfires force the evacuation of people and often destroy homes and valuables. The University of Oregon Scholars Bank states that a person needs an income of twice the poverty line to be fully capable of protecting oneself, family and assets from fires. Thus, these fires have a disproportionate effect on the poor.

Wildfires Cause Depletion of Resources

One way in which wildfires are destructive is the depletion of resources. The burning of forests destroys properties, trees, vegetation and wildlife. Wildfires often strip families of everything they own in a matter of minutes.

In addition, these fires deplete not only air quality but water quality as well. As wildfires burn, they contaminate the water in streams, lakes and reservoirs which limits access to clean water. Thus, the affected area’s drinking water and food supply are not usable. Limited food and water supplies make it harder for the poor to live.

Wildfires Cause a Decrease in Economic Stability

Wildfires take a large toll on an affected areas’ economic security by causing economies to close. As a result of closing the economy, tourism decreases. The effects of wildfires make areas untravellable as they pose a massive threat to people and destroy forests and hiking trails that often draw tourists. In addition, the economy slowed due to the destruction of resources.

This lack of tourism and loss of resources cause loss of income in affected economies. So, as income from tourism decreases, the number of available low-paying service industry jobs decreases as well. This causes those already living on or below the poverty line to face greater financial hardships as hours and jobs are limited. Furthermore, as fires destroy forests and trees, jobs in the logging or wood chipping industries run scarce.

Wildfires Cause Strain on Human Health

Furthermore, wildfires pose a great threat to human health as their smoke depletes air quality. This can result in reduced lung function, bronchitis, heart failure and asthma among other things. The effects of wildfires on mental and physical health are long-lasting. These effects on health disproportionately affect the poor as they often have limited access to affordable healthcare.

The Increase in Wildfires Worldwide

Wildfires know no bounds and have begun to spread with increased frequency to places that have little to no previous experience with them. Siberia, a tundra that has had limited prior experience with fires, is now struggling to put out a fire that has burned upwards of 6.5 million acres. 

Similarly, in 2020, Australia suffered devastating wildfires that burned 44.5 million acres and killed upwards of 30 people. It killed large amounts of wildlife and devastated their environment. Likewise, Australians are feeling the effects of wildfires in Australia today. The Australian government did little to curtail the devastation of wildfires which led to countless protests by citizens.

The Good News

The devastating effects of wildfires worldwide are far from gone. However, through the increase in aid and wildfire-related programs, the goal to limit drastic spreads and devastation is possible.

The United States developed many fire-related programs that created job opportunities focused on research, fighting and prevention methods and landscape rehabilitation. These programs aim to limit the level of devastation associated with wildfires. Additionally, the USAID also provided humanitarian support to Australia throughout its 2020 wildfires.

With increased research and fire-related programs in addition to global support during times of active burns, the devastating impacts of wildfires can reduce. Thus, they will lower the impacts on communities and preventing an increased burden on the poor.

– Lily Vassalo
Photo: Flickr

Rwanda’s Ecotourism IndustryThe Rwandan genocide in 1994 was a national tragedy resulting in an estimated 800,000 deaths in a period of 100 days. However, 27 years after the massacre, the small, landlocked nation of 12 million people is thriving. A mix of social and political factors has contributed to a thriving nation. Rwanda’s ecotourism industry also plays a significant role in alleviating national poverty.

A Closer Look at Rwanda

Over the past quarter-century, Rwanda changed its course, moving positively toward economic growth and increased prosperity. According to the World Bank, poverty in Rwanda declined substantially from 2001 to 2017, dropping from 77% to 55%. Since 1994, Rwanda has maintained political stability. Stability allowed the country to develop a cost-free and compulsory primary education system with “one of the highest primary enrollment” rates in sub-Saharan Africa.

The country instituted a universal healthcare program and made great strides in legislative gender equality. In 2019, women made up 61% of Rwanda’s parliament. The percentage of female parliamentary representation is substantially greater than most western democracies. Continued economic and social growth is necessary in order to continue poverty reduction progress.

The Role of Rwanda’s Ecotourism Industry

The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people and involves interpretation and education.” Ecotourism can be a tool to unite communities, build environmental awareness and grow underdeveloped economies across the world. Over the past 27 years, Rwanda capitalized on this opportunity and created a growing ecotourism industry.

Tourists flock to Rwanda to wander through hiking trails in the country’s four national parks. Others are drawn specifically to the bamboo forests where visitors can see mountain gorillas, an endangered species, in their natural habitat. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Rwanda is one of the fastest-growing tourist destinations in the world. The tourism sector in Rwanda is “more than 80% nature-based,” indicating that ecotourism forms a substantial part of the tourism sector.

Tourism in Rwanda

Rwanda’s tourism sector experienced its highest annual growth in 2019, netting more than $498 million and attracting an estimated 1.63 million tourists. For the past seven years, “tourism has been ranked as the first foreign currency earner in Rwanda,” contributing 14.9% of Rwanda’s GDP in 2018.

Rwanda’s tourism sector has increased jobs and significantly contributes to the overall growth of the country’s economy. Tourism in Rwanda employs more than 3% of the labor force. For the Rwandan government, tourism is a critical tool for alleviating national poverty, explicit in both policy and poverty reduction strategies. Not only does tourism create jobs but the wealth generated from a booming tourism industry can help facilitate a country like Rwanda in its ability to access clean water, reliable energy and sanitation services.

“Africa’s tourism industry continues to flourish and supports more than 21 million jobs, and for the developing countries, tourism is an enormous tool for sustainable development,” says Mukhisa Kituyi, former secretary-general of UNCTAD.

How COVID-19 Impacts Rwanda

Pre-pandemic, Rwanda was experiencing an economic boom. In 2019, the economy grew by more than 10%, on its way to grow further in 2020. Instead, due to COVID-19, Rwanda’s economy shrank, with a projected decrease in GDP of 0.2%. As a result of COVID-19, the World Bank projected that poverty rates would increase by 5.1%, placing an additional 550,000 Rwandans in poverty in 2021. Overall unemployment rose from 13% in February 2020 to 22% in May 2020 and 60% of workers who remained employed saw significant salary decreases.

As the pandemic forced global recessions and travel restrictions, Rwanda’s ecotourism industry took a major hit. Tourism was expected to decrease by more than 70% worldwide in 2020. Rwanda’s finance minister, Uzziel Ndagijimana, confirmed that in March and April 2020, the tourism industry missed out on roughly $10 million in revenue.

The Road to Rwanda’s Recovery

Since reopening in the summer of 2019, Rwanda’s growing ecotourism industry shows signs of recovery. While international tourism rates are down, domestic tourism rates are up in comparison to past years. According to Rwanda’s leading daily newspaper, The New Times, increased domestic tourism is expected to restore a revenue sharing program where the Rwandan government will redistribute the earnings from domestic tourism to communities living in and around the visited national parks. This policy is likely to enhance the growing ecotourism sector and aid communities that have suffered economically throughout the pandemic.

-Zoe Tzanis
Photo: Flickr

Safari Rally Can HelpThe Kenyan Safari Rally is a car racing event “first held in Kenya in 1953 to commemorate the coronation of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.” The Safari Rally became inactive for almost 20 years “due to concerns over safety, organization and finances.” Now, in 2021, the car racing event is making a comeback in Kenya. The event may be an important source of revenue for Kenya as it has the potential to increase tourism in the country. The revival of the Safari Rally can help Kenya since the country’s “economic outlook remains highly uncertain” due to COVID-19.

Impact of COVID-19 on Kenyan Tourism

From 2009 to 2019, the tourism sector’s GDP value in Kenya grew by about $4 billion. Since almost 40% of Kenya’s youth experience unemployment, a growing tourism industry has the potential to provide employment opportunities, thus reducing poverty in the country. International tourism in Kenya is more profitable than domestic tourism with arrivals of more than two million tourists between 2018 and 2019. However, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, pandemic-induced restrictions have limited the economic potential of tourism in Kenya.

As is the case for most countries, COVID-19 harshly impacted Kenya’s tourism and hospitality sector with a loss of more than $500 million in hotel revenue alone. Due to decreased travel in 2020, more than 36,000 airline workers in Kenya were at risk of unemployment. According to the World Bank, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed an additional two million Kenyans into impoverished circumstances due to job losses, wage cuts and reduced household income. The Safari Rally offers hope to a struggling Kenyan economy, providing a chance to revitalize the tourism sector after the harsh impacts of the pandemic.

How the Safari Rally Can Help Tourism

By hosting 24 foreign and 34 Kenyan drivers, the Safari Rally will boost not only international tourism but also domestic tourism. Domestic tourism is just as important as international tourism in preventing tourism-based economies from collapsing during the pandemic. The Safari Rally enables local Kenyan residents to travel to the race venues to support Kenya as domestic tourists.

The hospitality industry will see a rise in activity as sponsors and participants in the Safari Rally book hotels for accommodation. A Kenyan betting company, Betika, sponsors the event along with companies such as Toyota. The event will increase the prominence of Kenyan businesses harmed by the lack of sporting activities due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Additionally, the Safari Rally will give Kenyans a chance to boost their sporting culture and patriotism. The itinerary of the race consists of 18 stages that pass through key tourist attraction sites in Kenya. Locations such as Lake Naivasha and other wildlife conservancies give spectators and participants a chance to enjoy the sight of lions, leopards, giraffes and elephants, all while boosting the Kenyan economy.

The Road to Economic Recovery

While tourism may have been the worst-hit sector globally, for developing countries it may be a way to escape the economic impacts of the global pandemic. The Safari Rally can help Kenya by offering Kenya’s tourism sector an opportunity to recover, igniting economic growth and reducing poverty in the country.

– Frank Odhiambo
Photo: Flickr

Morocco's EconomyPreviously, a myriad of tourists had visited Morocco to explore its diverse culture, food, landscapes, history and people. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation has faced a devastating economic crisis. Without its regular influx of tourists or traveling diaspora, Morocco is in the depths of a recession for the first time since 1995. The government is working to ensure that Morocco’s economy can recover from the pandemic.

5 Ways Morocco’s Economy is Recovering

  1. The Mohammed VI Investment Fund: In November 2020, King Mohammed VI established a $1.6 billion economic plan to revive Morocco’s economy due to the economic crisis that the COVID-19 pandemic brought on. Shortly afterward, the International Finance Corporation, as part of the World Bank Group, officially announced its support for the Moroccan Ministry of Economy and Finance’s efforts to boost the country’s economy.
  2. Moroccan Transportation Companies Decrease Prices: In June 2021, King Mohammed VI announced that all transportation companies must make tickets more affordable for Moroccans living abroad. The announcement targeted airlines such as Royal Air Maroc, which dropped flight ticket prices by more than 50% globally. Within a few days of the announcement, flights were being booked much faster than before. During the first week of discounted airline ticket prices, 195,547 people traveled to Morocco.
  3. Other Discounts for Tourists: Airline discounts are not the only thing Morocco’s economy is relying on to attract travelers. All forms of transportation in Morocco, from car rentals to train and bus tickets, have decreased in price. Additionally, 30% of hotel prices have decreased.
  4. More Visitors: International travel restrictions drastically affected tourism, causing a 78% deficit in the sector’s revenue in the first quarter of 2021. In response, the Moroccan government established a new economic plan that specifically targeted revenue from tourism. Now, tourism is surging more than it ever has since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, 12 million tourists visited Morocco, half of whom were Moroccans living abroad. From June to September 2021, Morocco will see 72% of the visitors it saw in the same period in 2019, or around 3.5 million travelers.
  5. Rapid Tourism Sector Rebound: Morocco’s tourism sector suffered a loss of $7.2 billion in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic hit small businesses and tourism hotspots hard, especially during national lockdowns. However, these businesses are benefiting from the country’s new economic plan. Travel reopenings are also catalyzing Morocco’s economic recovery.

Laudable Economic Growth

Despite the effects of COVID-19 on Morocco’s economy, the World Bank ranked it 53rd out of 190 countries for ease of doing business in 2020, reflecting its laudable economic achievements within merely a decade. With King Mohammed VI’s plan in place, the country’s setbacks hardly seem significant. The restoration of Morocco’s economy is underway and the country’s effervescent tourism sector is back on the rise.

– Nora Zaim-Sassi
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Vaccination in San MarinoSan Marino is a small Southern European state surrounded by Italy. Despite having a small population of just 33,000 people and a mountainside location, the country is surprisingly one of the wealthiest in the world based on GDP per capita. San Marino acquires most of its wealth from tourism and the sale of local goods. However, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic nearly destroyed the country’s tourism industry. The campaign for COVID-19 vaccinations in San Marino will allow the economy to recover as industries begin to reopen, igniting economic activity.

The Impact of COVID-19

In terms of the poverty rate in San Marino, minimal data exists. But, like the rest of the world, San Marino’s economy has also experienced adverse impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, tourism rates decreased due to stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions. Before the pandemic, the small country averaged around two million tourists in 2019, a clear indication of the significant economic role of the tourism sector. With regard to COVID-19 rates, San Marino has confirmed 5,092 cases and 90 deaths. The campaign for COVID-19 vaccinations in San Marino has been successful due to small population numbers and a steady supply of vaccines.

COVID-19 Vaccinations in San Marino

All of San Marino’s people have either been partially or completely vaccinated against COVID-19. The country administered mostly Sputnik V vaccines after signing a deal with Russia. Starting May 17, 2021, San Marino is offering a COVID-19 vaccine holiday package to boost tourism with an incentive. The holiday package allows non-residents access to vaccines in San Marino by booking accommodation for a certain duration at one of 19 hotels.

“The initiative is open only to those coming from countries that Italy has opened up to for tourism.” Two separately administered Sputnik V doses are available at a cost of €50. To receive the second dose of the vaccine, tourists must return to the country and stay in a hotel for at least three days. This way, San Marino makes up for its loss of tourism revenue while helping to eradicate the virus with vaccines.

The Road to Recovery

More than 66% of the population has been fully vaccinated through the campaign for COVID-19 vaccinations in San Marino. With no patients hospitalized for COVID-19, the country is effectively controlling its COVID-19 infections. With an adequate vaccine supply to cover its population, San Marino has found an innovative way to put the vaccine surplus to good use while boosting the tourism industry. The COVID-19 vaccination holiday package in San Marino is a unique solution to ignite economic recovery in the country. The offer has caught the attention of tourists who trust in the efficacy of the Sputnik V vaccine. Through innovative solutions, San Marino is finding creative  ways to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic

– Matt Orth
Photo: Flickr