A sustainable tourism development project by the Alliance member, Open Africa in three provinces is cited to help address big issues facing South Africa – 70% unemployment in rural areas and amongst rural youth.
The project aims to introduce some innovative firsts to South Africa, namely transforming existing community-based tourism management structures into social enterprises, and integrating rural youth in the process, giving them hands-on business experience while harnessing their youthful energy.
The project, which will run in poverty nodes in the Northern Cape, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal, is being made possible by the vision and funding of the Embassy of Finland’s Local Cooperation Fund. The Industrial Development Corporation is a co-funder on the Northern Cape part of the project.
Over 18 years Open Africa has established a network of 62 self-drive routes that support 2 400 enterprises and 30 000 employees. Each route is managed by a community-based tourism structure called a Route Forum, but these require constant support and are not self-sustaining as they are currently dependent on volunteers. On average there are 40 participating enterprises per route, 20% of which are youth run, and in these areas rural entrepreneurs predominantly earn income of less than R50 000 annually. In many cases black women are stepping up to earn income for their families and can make up more than 60% of the entrepreneurs along the route.
Open Africa General Manager Francois Viljoen says: “By transforming the Route Forum structures from volunteer-based into owner-operated social enterprises they can become thriving self-sustaining businesses, driving route success. This will be possible because they will be incentivized to play a more effective role in marketing the Route and supporting emerging enterprises located along a route.”
The key objective for this project is to increase income and support to rural entrepreneurs by increasing the sustainability of six Route Forums through transformation, capacity building and support, while up-skilling and creating em
The project also aims to increase trade (customers) to rural entrepreneurs along the routes, potentially leading to increased sales and income for them. By collaborating in a tourism route structure, businesses assist one another through cross-marketing and by organising area/group activities such as tours, events and festivals.
As a result, tourists are expected to stay for longer due to new attractions and activities and spend more time and money in the area which will result in an estimated 10-15% growth, stimulating socio-economic development opportunities for local youth in the areas. Youth are migrating to urban areas to access jobs. This project presents an opportunity to meet the needs of the youth by training them to receive skills and experience, and potentially employment – a rural innovation.
Open Africa’s purpose is to increase income of rural entrepreneurs by building their capacity and connecting them to markets. Its model is based on using tourism as an economic platform for rural entrepreneurs, given the tourism potential of rural areas and that tourism is the world’s largest job creator.