The first ever United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Regional Congress on Women Empowerment in the Tourism Sector - Focus on Africa got underway in Accra on Monday, November 25, at an event that assembled women practitioners in the tourism industry from Africa and beyond to deliberate on the important role women play in shaping the continent’s development through tourism.
Also present was a high-powered delegation from the UNWTO led by its General Secretary Zurab Pololikashvili, Ghana's Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia .
For two days, some of the brightest minds in African and global tourism converged at the Accra International Conference Centre to discuss and answer tough questions that women in tourism and business generally are confronted with on the continent.
The host minister and the Minister of Tourism Arts and Culture in Ghana Barbara Oteng Gyasi, in her welcome address underscored the importance of the theme, "Building the Future Together".
"Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, this theme in my opinion validates the important facts and issues surrounding women in tourism and reflects a symbiotic relationship between women entrepreneurs and women in tourism and by extension, development.
“ We need to raise awareness about the impact women are making in the travel and tourism sectors and, more importantly, find pragmatic ways in which their roles can be further deepened to maximize the gains mentioned already" she stated.
The Minister added that the Congress on Women Empowerment has been a concerted effort that will help put tourism at the forefront of gender equality and women’s empowerment efforts across Africa.
The First Lady of Zimbabwe, Hon. Mrs. Auxillia Mnangagwa, Chair of the UNTWO Commission for Africa Zambia’s Tourism Minister, Roland Chitotela and the Secretary General of the UNWTO, Zurab Pololikashvili in their respective speeches also touched on the theme for the event and highlighted the need to promote women in the tourism sector in Africa.
Pololikashvili stated that the “UNWTO is firmly committed to breaking down the barriers women face in the tourism sector so that tourism may stay at the forefront of gender equality efforts here in Africa and across the world.
Delivering the keynote address Regional Director ai, UN Women Central and West Africa, Oulimata Sarr made a strong case for equal opportunities for women across the broad spectrum of things that are needed to help ladies succeed.
She mentioned for example that “there is nothing micro about financing women’s tourism businesses. We need credit lines, venture capital and a totally new perspective to expand women’s access to finance across the sector.”
The Vice President of the Republic of Ghana Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, revealed measures by the Ghana Government to streamline tourism related activities for both local and international tourists.
These measures include: The launch of the E-visa regime in the year 2020, the introduction of a Universal QR code to enabling the Ghanaian economy to become more cashless; The passage of the Creative Arts Bill (pending parliamentary approval) which will make provision for the establishment of the Creative Arts Fund to give financial support the Creative Arts, Tourism and Culture Sector in Ghana.
Bawumia opined that it was imperative that women are propped up in the tourism sector if Africa is to make headway in the attainment of the SDGs through tourism.
“To advance tourism’s contribution to the SDGs and achieving our common goal of gender equality, mainstreaming gender considerations across the tourism sector is extremely important,” he stated.
Key events that took alongside the two-day event were a Masterclass on Innovation in Tourism which was presented by UNWTO in partnership with IE Business School and Wakalua and facilitated by Natalia Bayona, the organisation’s Senior Expert on Innovation and Digital Transformation.
The second Meeting of the UNWTO Leadership Taskforce for Women Empowerment in Africa also was held where the Action Plan of the second Global Report on Women in Tourism which was launched at the opening day was endorsed.
Another highlight of the Congress was the presentation by three women-led startups at the Women Entrepreneurs Tourism Challenge. These coupled with four panel discussions, a welcome cocktail, Gala Night and a lot more ensured a very successful event.
The First Regional Congress on Women Empowerment in the Tourism Sector – Focus on Africa was organised by UNWTO and the Government of Ghana through the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture with support from the German Development Agency (Giz), Amadeus, the World Bank, UN Women, and IE University.
By: Samuel Obeng Appah