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20 best places to visit in sub-saharan africa.

Here are 20 of the best places to visit in Sub-Saharan Africa and why they are worth a visit.

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There are many beautiful things about Sub-Saharan Africa, which is a diverse region encompassing 46 countries in Africa south of the Sahara Desert. 

  Sub-Saharan Africa is home to some of the world’s most breathtaking natural wonders, including Victoria Falls, Mount Kilimanjaro, the Okavango Delta, and the Serengeti. The region is incredibly diverse, with more than 1,500 different languages spoken and a rich mix of ethnic groups, religions, and traditions. This diversity is reflected in the colorful festivals, music, art, and cuisine that can be found throughout the region.

Sub-Saharan Africa is renowned for its incredible wildlife, including the “big five” (lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, and Cape buffalo), as well as many other species that are unique to the region, such as giraffes, zebras, and wildebeest. Sub-Saharan Africa is known for its friendly, welcoming people who are eager to share their culture and traditions with visitors. The region’s warm hospitality and community spirit are legendary.

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It is home to some of the world’s most dynamic and rapidly growing cities, such as Lagos, Nairobi, Johannesburg, and Accra. These cities are centers of innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship, and offer a rich mix of cultures, cuisines, and experiences.

 Sub-Saharan Africa is a region of immense beauty, diversity, and potential. Despite the challenges it faces, it is a place of great resilience, strength, and hope. It is a region filled with diverse cultures, beautiful landscapes, and fascinating wildlife. Here are 20 of the best places to visit in Sub-Saharan Africa and why they are worth a visit:

Marrakech, Morocco 

Marrakech, Morocco

Known for its beautiful architecture, bustling markets, and delicious cuisine, Marrakech is a must-visit destination in North Africa.

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania 

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Home to a wide range of wildlife, including lions, elephants, and giraffes, Serengeti is one of the most popular wildlife destinations in Africa.

Kruger National Park, South Africa 

Kruger National Park, South Africa [Viator]

One of the largest game reserves in Africa, Kruger National Park is home to the “Big Five” (lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and buffalos) and is a great place for a safari.

Zanzibar, Tanzania 

Zanzibar, Tanzania

 A beautiful island off the coast of Tanzania, Zanzibar is known for its beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant culture.

Okavango Delta, Botswana 

Okavango Delta, Botswana

 A unique wetland system in the heart of the Kalahari Desert, the Okavango Delta is home to a diverse range of wildlife and is a great place for a safari.

Dakar, Senegal 

Dakar, Senegal

A vibrant city on the coast of West Africa, Dakar is known for its lively music scene, delicious cuisine, and rich history.

Lake Malawi, Malawi 

Lake Malawi, Malawi 

 A beautiful freshwater lake that is home to a wide range of fish species, Lake Malawi is a great place for swimming, snorkeling, and diving.

Lalibela, Ethiopia 

Lalibela, Ethiopia

Known for its incredible rock-hewn churches, Lalibela is a must-visit destination for history and architecture lovers.

Chobe National Park, Botswana 

Chobe National Park, Botswana 

 A beautiful national park that is home to a wide range of wildlife, including elephants, lions, and hippos.

Table Mountain, South Africa 

Table Mountain, South Africa 

A stunning mountain that overlooks Cape Town, Table Mountain is a great place for hiking and enjoying beautiful views.

Sossusvlei, Namibia 

Sossusvlei, Namibia 

A beautiful desert region that is home to some of the tallest dunes in the world, Sossusvlei is a great place for adventure and photography.

Stone Town, Zanzibar 

Stone Town, Zanzibar 

 A historic town that is known for its beautiful architecture and rich history, Stone Town is a must-visit destination on the island of Zanzibar.

Timbuktu, Mali 

Timbuktu, Mali

 A historic city that was once an important center of learning and trade in West Africa, Timbuktu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is worth a visit.

Giza Pyramids, Egypt 

Giza Pyramids, Egypt 

 One of the most iconic landmarks in Africa, the Giza Pyramids are a must-visit destination for history and architecture lovers.

Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya 

Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya 

A beautiful national park that is known for its pink flamingos, Lake Nakuru is a great place for bird-watching and wildlife viewing.

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania 

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania 

The tallest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro is a great place for hiking and experiencing the beauty of Tanzania.

Cape Point, South Africa 

Cape Point, South Africa 

 A stunning natural wonder located at the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula in South Africa with stunning views of the rugged coastline, cliffs, and sea. The drive to Cape Point is also scenic, with winding roads that offer breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, wildlife, and the mountains.

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa

Known for its beautiful beaches, stunning mountains, and vibrant culture, Cape Town is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Africa.

Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya 

Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Famous for its annual wildebeest migration, Masai Mara is one of the most beautiful wildlife reserves in Africa.

Victoria Falls, Zambia/Zimbabwe 

Victoria Falls, Zambia Zimbabwe 

 One of the largest waterfalls in the world, Victoria Falls is a breathtaking natural wonder that is sure to leave you in awe.

These destinations offer a variety of experiences, from stunning natural wonders to vibrant cultural cities, and are sure to provide visitors with unforgettable experiences.

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tourist attractions in sub saharan africa

Across Africa, Part 1: 10 Unmissable Sub-Saharan Travel Destinations

Daria Bulatovych Avatar

Daria Bulatovych

Embark on a journey through the wonders of Africa! With its rich tapestry of landscapes, cultures, and adventures, this vast continent offers an unparalleled array of travel experiences. Divided into Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, and Southern Africa, each region boasts its own unique charm and allure. We’ve already penned the Part 2 article on North Africa , showcasing breathtaking destinations that offer incredible diving, archaeological, historical, cultural, and scenic travel experiences.

Today, we set our sights on Sub-Saharan Africa, a realm brimming with extraordinary opportunities for exploration and discovery:

  • Explore our FAQ section to see if this vibrant region resonates with your travel interests.
  • Uncover the top destinations awaiting your discovery within Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Discover vital pre-travel info: safety, money-related, transportation, and other tips.

Table of Contents

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Common Queries Before Traveling to Sub Saharan Countries in Africa:

What is Sub-Saharan Africa? This is the region of the African continent that lies south of the Sahara Desert. It encompasses a diverse range of countries and ecosystems, including savannas, rainforests, deserts, and coastal areas.

How many countries are in Sub Saharan Africa? The region has 48 countries, including low-income ones like Malawi, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Rwanda, and Tanzania, as well as lower-middle-income ones like Kenya and Nigeria. It also has upper-middle-income nations like South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana, all providing great travel experiences covered in this article.

What are US citizens’ entry requirements? A US passport is necessary for travel to all African countries. Many sub-Saharan African nations require US citizens to get a visa. Do it beforehand, as obtaining a visa en route can be challenging or impossible. Arriving without a visa may result in denial of entry. Apply for a visa well in advance, with an average of two weeks recommended for each visa application. The embassy or consulate of the destination country is a reliable source for visa and entry requirements. Alternatively, you can use reputable visa-assistance services like VisaHQ . Learn general visa-related information for US citizens and how to easily use VisaHQ in this blog post . 

What are the most interesting places to visit in Sub-Saharan Africa? The region offers diverse and captivating destinations to explore, from iconic wildlife havens like Serengeti National Park and Maasai Mara National Reserve to the majestic Kilimanjaro. City enthusiasts will enjoy Cape Town’s offerings, while Sossusvlei beckons Instagram-photo hunters. Explore each of these attractions further in this post.

Which country to choose? To make an informed decision, it’s crucial to consider three key factors: 

  • First-time in Africa? If so, choose destinations with robust tourist infrastructure like South Africa or Kenya. For seasoned travelers, nearly every country is an option, except those in conflict zones or with health risks. They include Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Somalia, and Mali.
  • What weather type are you? In the region, the climate varies significantly. It’s typically extremely hot and dry throughout the year in the north (e.g., Namibia and Botswana).  Rainfall is abundant, leading to high humidity and warm temperatures year-round in the central and equatorial regions (e.g., Madagascar and Rwanda). In more temperate climates like South Africa and Malawi, there are distinct seasons, with hot summers and colder winters, along with moderate rainfall patterns. 
  • What type of vacation do you prefer? Consider the following destinations based on your interests. Botswana – for wildlife seekers. Ethiopia and Nigeria – for history enthusiasts. Namibia, Malawi, and Madagascar – for nature landscape enthusiasts. Want a three-in-one experience? No problem! Travel to South Africa, Kenya, and Tanzania. Combine wildlife viewing, cultural experiences, and relax on the beautiful beaches.

What to pack to travel to Sub-Saharan Africa? Essential items to pack for your African adventure include binoculars for wildlife spotting, lightweight cotton t-shirts, swimwear, and shorts. Remember, Africa’s weather can vary, so pack layers such as a waterproof rain jacket, thermals, long trousers, and woolen jumpers for colder temperatures, especially during winter when it can drop below freezing. Additionally, dress modestly to respect local customs and avoid drawing unnecessary attention to yourself, considering the prevalence of poverty in many areas.

map-of-sub-saharan-africa-desktop

Read also: Your Guide to Budget-Friendly and Comfortable Air Travel with Airlines Operating in the US

Top 10 Sub-Saharan Africa’s Travel Destinations

Choose to travel to Nigeria if you prefer:

  • Vibrant city life. Nigeria boasts dynamic cities such as Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt, known for their bustling markets, vibrant nightlife, and modern amenities.
  • Wildlife gems. Explore national parks and reserves, such as Yankari National Park, home to diverse wildlife species.
  • Historical sites. Nigeria is home to ancient civilizations and historical landmarks. They include the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sukur Cultural Landscape and the historic city of Benin.

General info:

  • Visa requirements: US citizens need a visa
  • Official language: English
  • Currency: Naira
  • Weather: tropical climate, wet and dry seasons
  • Main travel hub: Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city

From Lagos, travelers can easily access by a variety of transportation options:

  • Abeokuta: This city is renowned for Olumo Rock and other historic sites.
  • Badagry: This coastal town is known for its role in the transatlantic slave trade and historic landmarks.
  • Ibadan: Nigeria’s largest city by geographical area, with cultural sites and landmarks.
  • Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove: A UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its sacred forest and annual Osun-Osogbo festival.
  • Idanre Hills: Famous for its scenic beauty and cultural significance.
  • Lekki Conservation Centre: A nature reserve in Lagos, home to diverse wildlife and a canopy walkway.

2. South Africa

Choose to travel to South Africa if you prefer:

  • Comfortable travel. South Africa boasts well-developed infrastructure. This includes modern airports, transportation, roads, and accommodation options. 
  • Diverse attractions. Enjoy vibrant Cape Town and Johannesburg, iconic landmarks like Table Mountain and Robben Island, stunning coastlines for beach relaxation, wildlife safaris in Kruger National Park, and wine tours in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.
  • Ease of travel. South Africa’s tourism industry is well-established and tourist services are readily available.
  • Visa requirements: US citizens are allowed stays up to 90 days without a visa
  • Currency: South African Rand
  • Weather: Varied climate with dry and wet seasons
  • Main travel hub: Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city

From Johannesburg, travelers can easily fly to:

  • Cape Town: Known for landmarks like Table Mountain and Cape Point.
  • Kruger National Park: Home to diverse wildlife, including the Big Five.
  • Durban: A coastal city with stunning beaches, cultural diversity, and exquisite cuisine.

Destinations reachable by road travel:

  • Garden Route: A scenic coastal stretch along the southeastern coast of South Africa, offering picturesque landscapes, charming towns, outdoor adventures, and wildlife encounters. 
  • Pilanesberg National Park: A malaria-free wildlife reserve, offering safari experiences and opportunities to see the Big Five.
  • Drakensberg Mountains: A stunning mountain range offering breathtaking scenery, hiking trails, and outdoor adventures.

south-africa-travel-ovago

Choose to travel to Kenya if you prefer:

  • Wildlife safari. Kenya is home to some of Africa’s most famous national parks and reserves, including the Maasai Mara and Amboseli National Park.
  • Kenya migration safari. It’s an awe-inspiring natural phenomenon where millions of wildebeest, zebras, and other animals migrate across the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. To witness the migration, plan your visit from July to October.
  • Versatile travel experience. From admiring iconic Mount Kilimanjaro and Rift Valley, to hot air balloon safaris, hiking, camel trekking, and swimming in coastal areas like Diani Beach.
  • Visa requirements: US citizens must get an Electronic Travel Authorization
  • Currency: Kenyan Shilling
  • Main travel hub: Nairobi, Kenya’s largest city

From Nairobi, travelers can easily access by a variety of transportation options:

  • Amboseli National Park: Known for its stunning views of Mount Kilimanjaro and large herds of elephants.
  • Maasai Mara National Reserve: One of the most famous safari destinations in Africa, known for its abundant wildlife and the annual Great Migration Safari.
  • Lake Nakuru National Park: Famous for its flamingos, rhinos, and other wildlife species.
  • Tsavo National Parks: The largest national parks in Kenya, known for their diverse landscapes and wildlife.
  • Mount Kenya National Park: Home to the second-highest peak in Africa, Mount Kenya.
  • Nairobi National Park that offers a chance to see lions, giraffes, and rhinos against the backdrop of the city skyline.

4. Tanzania

Choose to travel to Tanzania if you prefer:

  • Tanzania’s great migration and safari adventures. Tanzania is home to world-renowned safari destinations such as the Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and Tarangire National Park. Witness the Big Five and the Great Wildebeest Migration, best observed from July to October.
  • Unique wildlife. Tanzania is also home to chimpanzees in Gombe Stream and Mahale Mountains National Parks, and the tree-climbing lions of Lake Manyara National Park.
  • Beach bliss. Tanzania’s coastline, including the island of Zanzibar, offers pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and opportunities for snorkeling, diving, and relaxation in tropical paradise settings.
  • Visa requirements: US citizens need a 3-month visa, available on arrival or in advance
  • Currency: Tanzanian Shilling
  • Main travel hub: Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city

From Dar es Salaam, travelers can easily travel by road, boat, or flight to:

  • Mikumi National Park that offers opportunities for wildlife safaris and is known for its diverse wildlife, including lions, elephants, and giraffes.
  • Selous Game Reserve that offers excellent game viewing opportunities, including boat safaris along the Rufiji River.
  • Bagamoyo , a historic coastal town with UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
  • Saadani National Park offers views of wildlife such as lions, elephants, and hippos against a backdrop of Indian Ocean beaches.
  • Zanzibar with its stunning beaches, historic Stone Town, and vibrant culture.
  • Kilwa Kisiwani: This ancient Swahili settlement is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

kenya-travel-ovago

5. Ethiopia

Choose to travel to Ethiopia if you prefer:

  • Off-the-beaten-path experiences. Ethiopia offers unique experiences that appeal to adventurous travelers seeking authenticity and cultural immersion. For example, visiting the Danakil Depression, a geological marvel characterized by its otherworldly landscapes, offers a truly unforgettable experience.
  • Historical attractions. Explore ancient civilizations, rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, ancient obelisks of Axum, and the historic city of Gondar.
  • Unique landscapes. Admire Simien Mountains, Danakil Depression, and the Rift Valley, offering stunning scenery and outdoor adventures.
  • Visa requirements: US citizens need to obtain an e-visa in advance
  • Official language: Amharic (most Ethiopians speak some English)
  • Currency: Ethiopian Birr
  • Main travel hub: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s largest city

From Addis Ababa, travelers can easily access by road or flight:

  • Lalibela: a famous rock-hewn church and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Bahir Dar: this city offers ancient monasteries, boat lake trips, and a bustling market.
  • The Blue Nile Falls: these waterfalls are a famous Ethiopia’s natural attraction.
  • Gondar: this city is known for its medieval castles and churches.
  • Awash National Park: it offers wildlife viewing and beautiful landscapes.

6. Madagascar

Choose to travel to Madagascar if you prefer:

  • Unique biodiversity. Many plant and animal species found nowhere else on Earth, including lemurs, baobab trees, and chameleons.
  • Landscape diversity. From lush rainforests and pristine beaches to spiny forests and otherworldly rock formations.
  • Adventurous travel. Madagascar offers a wide range of outdoor activities, including hiking, trekking, snorkeling, diving, and wildlife spotting. Explore national parks, dive in coral reefs, and relax on remote beaches!
  • Visa requirements: US citizens need to obtain a visa in advance or on arrival
  • Official language: Malagasy & French (English is not widely spoken)
  • Currency: Malagasy Ariary
  • Weather: Varied climates with notable wet seasons and significant rainfall
  • Main travel hub: Antananarivo, Madagascar’s largest city

From Antananarivo, travelers can easily access by road:

  • Andasibe-Mantadia National Park , known for its lush rainforests and diverse wildlife, including lemurs.
  • Antsirabe , a charming town known for its thermal springs, colonial architecture, and artisanal workshops.
  • Ranomafana National Park , famous for its biodiversity and the chance to see rare species of lemurs, chameleons, and frogs.
  • Morondava , a coastal city known for its stunning Avenue of the Baobabs and nearby Kirindy Forest.
  • Andringitra National Park , offering spectacular mountain landscapes, hiking trails, and the opportunity to see endemic wildlife.

madagascar-travel-ovago

Choose to travel to Malawi if you prefer:

  • Scenic landscapes. Malawi’s diverse landscapes include Lake Malawi, lush forests, rolling hills, and picturesque tea plantations. Visitors can explore national parks, home to diverse wildlife, including elephants, hippos, and antelopes.
  • Cultural experiences. Malawi has a rich cultural heritage with vibrant traditional music, dance, and art. Visit rural villages, attend cultural festivals, and interact with friendly locals.
  • Affordability. Compared to some other African destinations, Malawi offers relatively affordable travel options, including accommodation, food, and transportation.
  • Currency: Malawian Kwacha
  • Main travel hub: Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital

From Lilongwe, travelers can easily access by a variety of transportation options:

  • Liwonde National Park: Enjoy game drives, boat safaris, and walking safaris to see elephants, hippos, crocodiles, and a variety of bird species.
  • Zomba Plateau: Explore the plateau’s forests, streams, rock pools, and the historic Zomba town nearby.
  • Lake Malawi National Park: This UNESCO World Heritage Site encompasses a portion of Lake Malawi’s shoreline and islands, including the picturesque Likoma Island and Chizumulu Island.

Choose to travel to Namibia if you prefer:

  • Unique landscapes. Namibia boasts the Namib Desert, the world’s oldest desert, with towering sand dunes at Sossusvlei; the otherworldly landscapes of Damaraland; and the rugged beauty of the Skeleton Coast.
  • Wildlife and safari. The country offers excellent wildlife viewing opportunities, including the chance to see desert-adapted species such as elephants, rhinos, lions, and giraffes.
  • Remote and off-the-beaten-path. Want to escape the crowds and connect with nature? Choose Namibia! Compared to some other African destinations, this country offers vast stretches of wilderness and a sense of remoteness and solitude.
  • Currency: Namibian Dollar (NAD)
  • Weather: Varied climate with dry and wet seasons, mainly arid or semi-arid
  • Main travel hub: Windhoek, Namibia’s capital

From Windhoek, travelers can easily access by a variety of transportation options:

  • Sossusvlei and Namib-Naukluft National Park: Known for its towering red sand dunes, especially at Deadvlei and Dune 45, Sossusvlei is a must-visit destination in Namibia.
  • Swakopmund: This coastal town offers a blend of German colonial architecture, adventure activities, and stunning seaside landscapes. Visitors can enjoy sandboarding, quad biking, and dolphin cruises, and explore nearby attractions like the Skeleton Coast and Walvis Bay.
  • Etosha National Park: One of Africa’s premier wildlife reserves, Etosha National Park is home to a wide variety of animals, including elephants, lions, giraffes, and rhinos.

namibia-travel-ovago

9. Botswana

Choose to travel to Botswana if you prefer:

  • Wildlife and safari. Experience some of Africa’s best wildlife viewing opportunities, including sightings of elephants, lions, leopards, buffalo, and numerous bird species.
  • Cultural encounters. Botswana is home to diverse ethnic groups, including the San (Bushmen), Herero, and Batswana, each with their own unique cultures, traditions, and lifestyles. Learn about traditional customs, arts, and crafts, and participate in cultural experiences such as village visits and storytelling sessions.
  • Remote and untouched wilderness. From the unique vast salt pans of the Makgadikgadi to the rugged beauty of the Kalahari Desert, Botswana’s landscapes are non-pop, diverse, and awe-inspiring.
  • Currency: Botswana Pula (BWP)
  • Main travel hub: Gaborone, Botswana’s capital

From Gaborone, travelers can easily access by a variety of transportation options:

  • Chobe National Park , famous for its vast elephant herds and diverse wildlife, including lions, leopards, and hippos.
  • Moremi Game and Mokolodi Nature Reserves allow for spotting great landscapes and a wide variety of animals, including elephants, buffalo, giraffes, and numerous bird species.
  • Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is known for its vast wilderness and desert-adapted wildlife, including lions, cheetahs, and gemsboks.

Choose to travel to Rwanda if you prefer:

  • Mountain gorilla trekking. Rwanda is one of the best places in the world for mountain gorilla trekking, enabling us to see these endangered primates up close in their natural habitat.
  • Breathtaking landscapes. Despite its small size, Rwanda boasts stunning landscapes, including lush rainforests, rolling hills, and serene lakes. Enjoy scenic drives, hiking trails, and boat cruises.
  • Efficient infrastructure. Rwanda boasts modern roads, reliable transportation, and high-quality accommodations. You can explore the country comfortably and safely, with options for guided tours and self-drive adventures.
  • Official language: Kinyarwanda, French, English
  • Currency: Rwandan Franc (RWF)
  • Main travel hub: Kigali, Rwanda’s capital

From Kigali, travelers can easily access by a variety of transportation options:

  • Volcanoes National and Nyungwe Forest National Parks are famous for gorilla, chimpanzee, and golden monkey trekking, birdwatching, and scenic hikes.
  • Lake Kivu offers boat cruises, kayaking, swimming, and relaxation on its scenic shores.
  • Akagera National Park is known for its diverse wildlife, including elephants, lions, giraffes, zebras, and antelopes.

tanzania-travel-ovago

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General Sub-Saharan Africa’s Travel Tips:

  • Safety. Limit outdoor activities to daylight hours and avoid carrying valuables in your pockets to reduce the risk of pickpocketing, a common occurrence in many African cities. Be cautious of strangers offering tempting suggestions, as they may be scams aimed at extracting money. Get vaccinated before traveling to certain African countries and to check for health hazards at your destination before your trip.
  • Transportation. For efficient travel, conduct thorough online research before your journey to minimize waiting times at bus stations. Choose your transportation method based on your preferences, budget, and time constraints. In many African countries, various transportation options are available, including motorcycle taxis like Boda-Boda and Okada. Besides saving time, riding these taxis offers a captivating way to experience Africa’s vibrant urban environment.
  • Flights. Airfare to Africa can often come with a hefty price tag, but with Ovago’s budget-friendly flight options , you’ll have extra cash to splurge on exciting activities and unforgettable safaris during your trip.
  • Money-related tips. Consider bargaining when booking safari trips. Travel agencies often inflate prices, so it’s wise to compare offers from multiple agencies and negotiate for a lower rate. For handling money, ATMs are increasingly available in urban areas, but carry enough cash for remote countryside journeys. Banks offer the best exchange rates, so exchange money there. If needed, withdraw only a minimal amount at the airport and wait for better options elsewhere.

Embark on an unforgettable journey through Sub-Saharan Africa’s diverse landscapes and cultures! With Ovago’s affordable flight options , you’ll have more to spend on thrilling activities and safaris. Experience the wonders of Africa without breaking the bank.

Last Updated

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Sossusvlei, Namibia

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Ganvie, Benin

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Namaqualand, South Africa

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Tundavala Gap, Angola

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Yamoussoukro, Côte d'Ivoire

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Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia

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Praslin, Seychelles

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Table Mountain, South Africa

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Lake Retba, Senegal

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Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, Botswana

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Maletsunyane Falls, Lesotho

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Lake Malawi, Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania

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Tiébélé, Burkina Faso

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Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

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Franschhoek, South Africa

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Dougga, Tunisia

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Church of Saint George, Ethiopia

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Piton de la Fournaise, Réunion

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Great Mosque of Djenné, Mali

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Fez, Morocco

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Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique

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Nabiyotum Crater, Kenya

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Nile River, Aswan, Egypt

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Skeleton Coast, Namibia

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Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, Madagascar

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Le Morne Brabant, Mauritius

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Bwindi Forest, Uganda

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Johannesburg, South Africa

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Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

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Abuja National Mosque, Nigeria

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Sudd, South Sudan

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Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

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Bureh Beach, Sierra Leone

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Kakum National Park, Ghana

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Top Places to Visit in West and Central Africa

tourist attractions in sub saharan africa

Steve Duchesne/Getty Images

West Africa's best destinations include top attractions in Mali, Niger, Senegal, Ghana, Cameroon, and Gabon. West Africa is famous for its cultural diversity and rich history. Unique mud architecture and landscapes dominate Niger and Mali's major sights. Slave forts on Goree Island and along Ghana's coast attract many visitors. West Africa's national parks like Loango and the Sine-Saloum offer unique wildlife viewing opportunities. A trek up Mount Cameroon takes you to its highest peak.

Djenne, Mali

Djenne ( Mali ), founded in 800 AD, is one of sub-Saharan Africa's oldest cities. Situated on an island in the Niger River delta, Djenne was a natural hub for traders who shuttled their goods between the Sahara desert and the forests of Guinea. Through the years Djenne also became a center of Islamic learning and its market square is still dominated by the beautiful Grand Mosque. Djenne is located a few hundred miles downstream from Timbuktu.

The market in Djenne, held every Monday, is one of the most interesting and lively markets in Africa, and well worth planning your trip around.

The best time to go is at the end of the rainy season (August/September) when Djenne turns into an island.

Loango National Park, Gabon

Marketed as "Africa's last Eden", Loango National Park in Western Gabon is a relatively new eco-tourist destination. Loango is the only place in Africa where you can see whales, chimps, gorillas , and elephants in one park. In Loango you get to enjoy wildlife on the beach, Savannah, swamp and forest in a single day.

There is a main lodge in the park, and several satellite camps. Ideally, you should spend a minimum of 3 days exploring the various areas of the park, since it is so diverse.

Safari operators in Gabon include:

  • Africa's Eden
  • World Primate Safaris

Goree Island (Ile de Goree), Senegal

Goree Island (Ile de Goree) is a small island just off the coast of Dakar, Senegal's sprawling capital city. It's a haven of tranquility compared with the noisy streets of Dakar. There are no cars on the island and it is small enough to find your way around on your own.

Goree Island was a major slave-trading center. The island's main attraction is the Maison des Esclaves (House of Slaves), built by the Dutch in 1776 as a holding point for slaves. The house has been converted into a museum and is open every day except Monday. There are several other interesting museums to visit on the island, as well as a thriving little jetty lined with fish restaurants.

Bandiagara, Dogon Country, Mali

The Bandiagara escarpment in eastern Mali is home to the Dogon whose traditional homes are literally carved out of the cliffs. Some of the homes were built by the original inhabitants of this region, the Tellem , and are so high up, even rock climbers can't reach them. The escarpment runs for 125 miles and offers the visitor glimpses of unique villages, rich Dogon culture (including wonderful masked dances and art), and a stunning landscape.

Visitors to the region usually start off in bustling Mopti but you can also stay in Bandiagara at the unique Hotel Kambary. Walking with some decent shoes and a good guide is the best way to explore the region. The best time to go is from November to February.

Ganvie, Benin

Ganvie in Benin is a unique village built on a lake, close to the capital Cotonou. All of Ganvie's houses, shops, and restaurants are built on wooden stilts several feet above the water. Most of the people rely on fishing as their source of income. Ganvie is not the friendliest place to visit in Benin, but it makes for a fascinating day trip and it's a unique place.

To get to Ganvie, take a taxi to the edge of the lagoon in Abomey-Calavi and a pirogue will take you from there. Spend the day watching people shop, go to school, sell their wares -- all on boats.

There are a few basic hotels in Ganvie (also on stilts and made of bamboo) but most people just take a day trip from Cotonou.

Timbuktu, Mali

Timbuktu in Mali was a center of trade and learning during medieval times. Some buildings remain from its heyday, and it's still an important stop for salt caravans which travel from Taoudenni in the winter. Timbuktu is difficult to get to although the journey is half the fun. Ironically for a desert town, the most common way to get to Timbuktu is by boat down the Niger river.

Best time to go is during the Festival in the Desert in Essakane and also try and catch the festival, Curee Salee in Ingall, Niger across the border.

Coastal Forts, Ghana

Ghana's Atlantic Coast is lined with old forts (castles) built by various European powers during the 17th Century. Initially, the forts were used to store goods for export such as gold, ivory, and spices. Later the slave-trade turned many forts into prison dungeons. European powers fought among themselves for control over the forts and they changed hands numerous times over the next few centuries.

Two forts that shouldn't be missed are St George's Castle in Elmina and Cape Coast Castle and Museum. The castle was the headquarters for the British colonial administration for nearly 200 years.

Some of the forts have even been turned into guesthouses offering basic accommodation.

Sine-Saloum Delta, Senegal

The Sine-Saloum Delta lies in the southwest of Senegal. It's a large area of mangrove forests, lagoons, islands, and rivers. A highlight for visitors to this region is taking a boat ride up the rivers to spot pelicans and flamingos and enjoy the lovely fishing villages along the way. There are baobab trees, sandy beaches, and lots of forest animals including monkeys to enjoy.

Palmarin has some wonderful hotels to stay at. Check out the luxurious Royal Lodge or the Lodge des Collines de Niassam where you can sleep in a baobab tree house. Deeper into the mangroves, you can also stay at an eco-lodge run by several local villages, Keur Bamboung.

Mount Cameroon, Cameroon

Mount Cameroon locally known as Mongo ma Ndemi ("Mountain of Greatness") is West Africa's highest peak , standing at 4,040 meters (13,255 ft). Mount Cameroon is an active volcano, the last eruption took place in 2000.

There are several trails on the mountain. The oldest and steepest trail is the Guinness Trail named after an annual marathon race that used to be sponsored by Guinness Beer .

Porters and guides are compulsory on this 2-3 day trek. Basic huts and camps can be found on the main trails. The main route passes through farmland, rainforest, montane forests, savannah and finally, reaches the rocky summit.

Agadez, Niger

Agadez in Niger is often compared to Timbuktu. Both towns have rich histories as centers of trade and culture. Agadez is a fascinating town to explore and the gateway to the incredible Air Mountains and Tenere Desert.

Highlights include the Grande Mosque and Palais du Sultan. The Grande Marche is the liveliest place in town and offers the visitor a glimpse at the many cultures that coexist and trade here. You'll see Tuareg nomads selling camels and other livestock, Hausa merchants wearing long colorful robes and Fulani with large Chinese style hats. The old quarter of Agadez is filled with narrow streets lined with traditional mud houses and artisans making and selling their wares.

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2020 Travel Warnings for Countries in Africa

Guide to Île de Gorée, Senegal

Top 12 Places to Visit in the US

Top 10 Haunted US Destinations for the Halloween Lover

10 Best Things to Do in Ghana

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Science Says This Is the Perfect U.S. Road Trip

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Top UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Southeast Asia

The adventurous feet

African Landmarks: 20 Most Famous Landmarks in Africa You Need to Visit

Looking for places to visit in Africa? Here are the most famous landmarks in Africa that you should add to your bucket list.

Africa is indubitably the most diversified continent in the world!

From the amazing wildlife that everyone wants to experience, diverse people with a variety of customs and beliefs to incredible landscapes that are still virgin, Africa is a true gem that everyone should experience at least once.

However, it’s not just the incredible wildlife and scenery that it boasts, there are so many famous landmarks in Africa that leave travelers in awe.

Whether gifted by mother nature or human-made, these African landmarks will bring great travel memories that you’ll hold dearly throughout your life.

From the incredible wonders of the Giza pyramids in Egypt , the mighty smoke that thunders of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe to the longest river in the world – River Nile, here are the most incredible landmarks in Africa that you need to add to your bucket list .

Before you travel to Africa, check out these Essential Africa tips and these Africa backpacking tips to make sure that you’ve prepared well for your African safari.

Famous Landmarks in Africa

1. the giza pyramids, egpyt.

giza pyramids

It’s not surprising that the Giza pyramids are the first on the list of the famous landmarks of Africa.

With over 4,500 years in existence, these incredible Egyptian landmarks were initially constructed to be a resting place for the Pharaohs as they prepare for their afterlife since they believed that they would be gods in the next life.

Standing tall just outside Cairo , the Giza pyramids are the only remaining wonder of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.

The pyramids are not just popular in Africa but also one of the most visited historical sites in the world receiving over 14 million people per year.

On top of the 3 pyramids (The great pyramid of Giza, Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure) that stand in sheer eminence, you’ll be able to see the Great Spynthix of Giza that sits just right in front of the pyramids with the head of a human and the body of a lion.

A visit to the Giza Pyramids will take you back in the ancient times of Egypt and make you wonder how those big stones were carried and piled together to create the Pyramids that have excited everyone who hears or studies above them.

Even with contradicting or unclear studies on how the Giza Pyramids were constructed, they’re still Egypt’s main icon and an African landmark that tops almost all travelers’ bucket lists.

If you’re visiting Egypt, here is everything you need to know before your trip plus all the mistake you have to avoid while you’re there.

2. Victoria Falls, Border of Zambia and Zimbabwe

famous landmarks in Africa

Oh, Victoria Falls!! The smoke that thunders or Mosi-oa-Tunya as locally known!!

This magnificent natural landmark of Africa boasts itself as the largest waterfall in the world with a height of 108 meters (354 ft) and a width of 1,708 meters (5,604 ft).

The roaring sound made by Victoria Falls can be heard as far as 40 km away and the misty spray of the falling water rises 400 meters high creating a never-ending shower over the rain forest in Victoria Falls National park.

With all those amazing features, it’s not hard to see why Victoria Falls was named one of the seven natural wonders of the world and one of the must-have adventure experiences in Africa.

Standing above the Victoria Falls and admiring the thunderous yet calm natural wonder will show you exactly what David Livingstone, the first European to see the Falls saw and got blown away.

Though the Victoria falls can be gazed at from both the Zambian and Zimbabwean side, I recommend opting for the Zimbabwean side as that’s where you’ll be able to see almost 75% of the Falls.

You can read this post to find out other reasons why it’s better to experience the Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwean side.

On top of admiring one of the most impressive landmarks of Africa, there are also other things to do at Victoria Falls that will blow your mind.

From bungee jumping over the bridge, going for a bridge swing or a bridge slide, to swimming in the devil’s pool, visiting Victoria Falls will bring out your most adventurous side.

Related post: How to get to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe

3. Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

famous landmarks in Africa

Ever wanted to stand on top of Africa, then climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro will give you that opportunity.

Standing at 5,895 meters (19,341 ft) above sea level, Mt. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and also the tallest freestanding mountain in the world – no wonder it is referred to as the roof of Africa.

The most impressive feature on Mt. Kilimanjaro is the snow-capped peak where you’ll be able to literally see the entire Africa.

Even with its difficulty level, this African landmark receives over 300,000 hikers a year making it one of the most climbed mountains in Africa.

With the hike taking 5-9 days depending on the hiking route you take, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is the ultimate adventure for outdoor enthusiasts who want to see one of the seven summits of the world while enjoying an African safari.

Related post: 10 Best National parks you need to visit in Africa

4. Table Mountain, South Africa

African landmarks

Sitting at just 1,084.6 m (3,558 ft), Table Mountain in South Africa might not be as high as Mt. Kilimanjaro, but this flat-topped mountain that overlooks the beautiful city of Cape Town is a popular African destination receiving over millions of visitors per year.

With the incredible views that the Table mountain gives, it is the most photographed landmark in South Africa which makes it worth to be included on the list of the famous landmarks in Africa.

The summit of the table mountain can be accessed by either taking a cable car or hiking your way up to feed your eyes with the glory of cape town.

But since many people opt for the experience of cable cars, make sure that you book your online ticket early not to miss out on the day’s trip.

Other than taking amazing photos of Table mountain, Table mountain national park which harbors this landmark also houses one of the other South Africa’s major attractions, the Cape of Good Hope which is the most southern point on the entire African continent.

5. River Nile, Uganda, and Egypt

River Nile

If you’re looking for other natural landmarks in Africa to add to your bucket list, then River Nile is one of them.

With its source on Lake Victoria in Uganda , the river goes through a number of African countries especially those in East Africa and Egypt in North Africa.

River Nile is the longest river in Africa and indubitably the longest in the entire world with a length of 6,650 km (4,130 mi).

For a more up-close experience with the Nile, you’re better off visiting Uganda and see its real source or cruise on it in Egypt by booking a Nile River cruise.

Related post: 13 Safest countries to visit in Africa

6. Fish River Canyon, Namibia

fish river canyon, namibia

Located in the South of Namibia, the Fish River Canyon is the largest Canyon in Africa and also the second in the world just behind The Grand Canyon of northern Arizona in the United States.

The Fish river canyon is also the second most visited tourist attraction in the country making it one of the must-visit Africa landmarks.

Measuring 27 kilometers wide, 550 meters deep and 160 kilometers long, hiking the Fish River Canyon is considered to be the hardest hike in Africa by many hikers but also the most rewarding with amazing canyon scenery.

But do not let the toughness of the hike scare you from exploring this beautiful African landmark.

Atop the magnificent and breathtaking views, you’ll be able to soak yourself in the natural hot springs, swim in the long river, and gaze at the stars when night falls.

7. Avenue of the Baobabs, Madagascar 

avenue of the Baobabs

To locals, this is just a dirt road with Boabs lined side by side, but to travelers, it’s a picture-perfect destination.

Madagascar may not have been a popular destination before, but the Avenue of Baobabs has sold it to international travelers hence earning itself a spot on the Africa famous landmarks list.

What even makes these Boabs that are lined up on both sides of the road more interesting is that they have been in existence for over 2,800 years and approximate a height of 30 m (98 ft) – something you can’t easily find somewhere else.

With sunsets and sunrises being the prime time to see this incredible feature in the small town of Menabe in western Madagascar, the Avenue of the Baobabs has become an unofficial national symbol but also an official natural monument driving thousands of visitors every year.

Related post: 28 Things to know before backpacking Africa

8. Sahara Desert, Morocco

sahara desert in morocco

Being the largest hot desert in the World, the Sahara desert in Morroco is one of the best places to visit in Africa .

It’s the red soft sand, the thought of climbing the high dunes and watching the sunset over the desert that make the Sahara desert a popular destination in Africa.

Though there are a number of incredible sand dunes within the desert, the most popular amongst travelers is the giant Erg Chebbi sand dune .

Even though walking through the golden sand dunes is pretty amazing, the highlight of the Sahara desert visit is to ride on a camel during the sunset or sunrise as you climb up the dune.

The experience is out of this world making the Sahara desert one of the major landmarks in Africa that every traveler should visit at one point in life.

9. Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

ngorongoro crater lake

On top of having a huge concentration of wildlife in Africa , Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania is the largest caldera in the world occupying over a hundred square miles, 12 miles wide and 2,000 feet deep.

The crater later was a result of an eruption of a volcano which is believed to have been taller than the current Mt. Kilimanjaro or even the highest in the world.

A visit to the Ngorongoro crater won’t only treat you to incredible views of the caldera but also a chance to see the big 5 animals.

Related post: Things to know before going on an African safari for the first time

10. Makgadikgadi Pans, Botswana

landmarks of Africa

Located in North Eastern Botswana, Makgadikgadi Pans is the largest salt pan in the world covering an area of 30,000 square kilometers.

This salt pan that was as a result of Lake Makgadikgadi drying up hundreds of years ago is not just a single pan but rather a combination of many small pans.

Walking on the Makgadikgadi pans will give you an illusion of walking on a serene long endless beach as you appreciate the beauty that lives in Botswana.

On top of the many amazing things to do in Botswana , visiting Makgadikgadi pans will give you an opportune moment to sleep under the stars if you choose to go camping at any of those pans.

Related post: A 3 weeks road trip itinerary through Botswana

11. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Serengeti National Park is one of the famous landmarks in Africa

Serengeti National Park is one of Africa’s famous landmarks and home to the great wildebeest migration – so if you are looking for a dream safari in Africa, Serengeti is the place to be!

Derived from the Masai name “Siringit,” which means endless plains, the 14763 square km park is one of the best national parks in Africa for wildlife game viewing.

This UNESCO world heritage site is located in northern Tanzania and stretches to Southwestern Kenya. It hosts the largest mammal migration globally, making it an iconic national park and one of the seven natural wonders of Africa.

With over 1.8 million wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles that move from the northern hills to the plains in the south, seeing and hearing the movement will boggle your mind. It’s truly a breathtaking experience that you shouldn’t miss while on a safari in Tanzania .

It is also home to many wildlife species, including the big five, 500 bird species, and it’s the world’s largest lion sanctuary.

12. Blyde River Canyon, South Africa

Blyde River Canyon is one of the best African landmarks

Located in Mpumalanga province in South Africa, the Blyde River Canyon is the most beautiful African landmark in my opinion.

It is the 3rd largest canyon in the world and the world’s largest green canyon. Its lush green subtropical covering which dominates the canyon makes it stand out from the other canyons.

Measuring 26km long and 750meters, the spectacular geological formations of the canyon makes it incredibly beautiful and worth a visit.

Following the Panorama route will reward you with picturesque viewpoints with breathtaking backdrops with God’s window being the most famous viewpoint, followed by the highest peak known as Mariepskop and the three Rondavels, circular grass-toped peaks resembling a traditional house of native people.

With all that beauty, it’s not hard to see why the Blyde River Canyon is a famous landmark in Africa that should be on everyone’s travel bucket list .

13. Okavango Delta, Botswana

Okavango Delta is one of the famous landmarks of Africa

Okavango Delta in Botswana is one of the famous landmarks of Africa that attracts tourists from all over the world.

It is also the 1000 th UNESCO world heritage site and one of the seven natural wonders of Africa making it a must-visit destination that will give you an experience of a lifetime

Located in the North West of Botswana, Okavango is one of the largest inland deltas in the world.

The unique thing about this swampy inland delta is that it floods during Botswana’s winter dry months between March and August and does not flow into the ocean or sea but when the floodwaters come, it swells to nearly 3x its permanent size.

The stunning delta has over 150,000 islands both large and small in size. It is also home to thousands of wildlife and over 450 bird species which makes it a perfect destination for wildlife lovers.

You can see the Okavango delta like you would visit any of the tourist attractions in Botswana but the best way to explore this magnificent delta is by taking a water-based-safari using a traditional canoe known as the Mokoro .

14. Masai Mara National Park, Kenya

 Masai Mara National Park is one of the famous landmarks in Africa

Kenya is home to one of the famous African landmarks, Masai Mara National Park. This wildlife hub borders the Serengeti National Park in the southwest region of Kenya.

Just like Serengeti National Park, Masai Mara is a popular tourist destination because of its famous great wildebeest migration.

With the endless plains stretching up to 1510 square kilometers, the abundant wildlife, birds, breathtaking vista, and the rich Masai culture, Masai Mara gives an unmatched experience with an all-year-round game safari making it one of the best places to visit in Africa .

15. Sossusvlei, Namibia

Sossusvlei is one of the natural landmarks in Africa

Sossusvlei is one of the top Africa landmarks located at the heart of one of Africa’s largest National Parks, Namib Naukluft.

Best-known as Namibia’s most remarkable destination, it is surrounded by giant red dunes that offer a canvas of beauty that reconnects you with magical nature.

And on top of that, its dunes are some of the highest in the world with most of them above 200m.

Sossusvlei’s quintessential landscape with orange and apricot-colored dunes offers some of the best beautiful images reflecting morning and evening light.

Any trip to Namibia is incomplete without climbing the dunes as you’ll experience the serene beauty of a desert.

Namibia might be usually skipped by tourists but I hope that this famous landmark in Africa inspires you to visit the country.

16. Chefchaouen, Morocco

Chefchaouen is one of the famous monuments in Africa

Also known as the blue city, Chefchaouen is located in northern Morocco and nestled in the Rif mountains. It is a unique small-town ideal for history buffs.

Imagine walking in a city surrounded by strikingly varying shades of blue at every angle and side? Mindblowing, right?

Photography lovers will be fascinated by the impressive backdrop of powdery blue and white that results in phenomenal images.

The big question however is, what inspired the city to be painted blue? Interestingly, there are many theories to explain this.

Some believe that the blue color symbolizes the skies and heaven which serves as a reminder to lead a spiritual life.

Some say the nearby water bodies inspired the blue while others say that it repels mosquitoes and keeps their houses cool in the winter months.

But regardless of whichever theory is true, the fact remains that the blue color brings a magical experience which makes Chefchaouen one of the famous monuments in Africa.

17. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of the best Africa landmarks

 Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda is the most biologically diverse forest in Africa, with more than 160 species of trees and 100 ferns. It is also home to various bird species, butterflies, monkeys, forest elephants, and so many others.

Located in southwestern Uganda and covering 32, 000ha, the forest is known for its exceptional biodiversity.

Its natural beauty, ecological uniqueness, and the fact that it is home to half of the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population earned it a UNESCO world heritage site position and a feature on this list of Africa’s famous landmarks.

Bwindi forest is also mostly known for gorilla tracking with 19 habituated gorilla groups available for the fun and mind-blowing experience.

Imagine walking through the forest to track the gorillas with footprints, fresh feaces, broken branches arousing your excitement of finally seeing these incredible features!

18. Tsingy De Bemaraha National Park, Madagascar

Tsingy De Bemaraha National Park is one of the beautiful landmarks of Africa

Among all the Africa landmarks, Tsingy De Bemaraha has to be the most mind-blowing!

Located on the western coast of Madagascar, Tsingy is not your usual national park. Instead, it features unique geological formations making it a must-see site on your next visit to Madagascar.

If you’re wowed by nature, the breathtaking limestone formations with jagged peaks will give you goosebumps.

This UNESCO heritage site has a sheer diversity of landscapes with beautiful gorges, sweeping canyons, lakes, mangrove swamps, and grand waterfalls, giving it an unmatched beauty.

  Hiking and boat riding are some of the ways to explore this spectacular vista.

19. Lake Nakuru, Kenya

Lake Nakuru is one of the famous landmarks in Africa

Seated on the Great Rift Valley floor is the most famous lake in Kenya, Lake Nakuru. This beautiful lake is located in the southwestern part of the country and it covers 188 square kilometers.

It is renowned for its flocks of pink flamingoes that make the lake look like a thick pink border surrounds it from a distance.

If you’re a birder, lake Nakuru should be on your African bucket list . But apart from the flamingoes, there are other 400 species of birds to watch.

Lake Nakuru is also a wildlife haven with mammals like the Rothschild giraffe, black rhino, hyena, lions, and buffaloes.

Surrounded by bush and grasslands, the area has picturesque ridges, and it’s ideal for hiking, birding, picnicking, and game driving making it one of the top landmarks in Africa

20. Valley of the Kings, Egypt

Valley of the Kings is one of the historical monuments of Africa

Since no one can travel back in time to live a past era, visiting famous African monuments like the valley of the kings in Egypt provides a window to the past.

Located on the west bank of the Nile River near Luxor, this cultural site attracts many history buffs – both locals and tourists alike.

It is one of the manmade landmarks in Africa built by the ancient Egyptians as a burial place for the royal families.

Its unique collection of tombs makes it one of the world’s most magnificent burial grounds with over 63 tombs of ancient pharaohs.

So if you’re into history or you just want to learn more about Egypt, visiting the Valley of the Kings will be very rewarding for you.

Final Thoughts on The Famous Monuments of Africa

For many people, Africa is just a place full of bushes with no civilization but there is more to this 2nd-largest continent and that’s why I wrote this post to show you that Africa is so much more than that!

From captivating wildlife to historical sites, there is so much that makes Africa worth a visit.

Have you been to any of these famous African landmarks? Let me know in the comments below which one you loved the most.

And if you’ve not been to the continent yet, I hope that this list of the most famous African monuments and landmarks inspires you to finally make the journey and explore what Africa has to offer.

More posts to inspire you to travel to Africa

  • Safest African countries in Africa
  • The best African countries to visit
  • African safari packing list
  • Best tips for backpacking Africa
  • Things to know before traveling to Africa

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Sub Saharan Africa Tours & Vacations

Sub saharan africa small group tours & tailor-made vacations.

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SUB SAHARAN AFRICA VACATIONS AND TOURS

Beyond the sands of the Sahara lies an Africa of almost unrivalled majesty. Here, across the expansive savannahs of the Serengeti and the Masai Mara, and amongst the deltas and jungles of Botswana and the Congo, Mother Nature plays out her daily battle of survival against the raw magnificence of the African landscape...

Beyond the sands of the Sahara lies an Africa of almost unrivalled majesty. Here, across the expansive savannahs of the Serengeti and the Masai Mara, and amongst the deltas and jungles of Botswana and the Congo, Mother Nature plays out her daily battle of survival against the raw magnificence of the African landscape. These are some of the most exhilarating safari destinations on earth and yet, away from the open plains, Sub-Saharan Africa offers so much more. The surreal landscapes of Namibia’s Skeleton Coast and the golden, tropical hideaways of the Indian Ocean provide visitors some of the most unique and pristine natural environments anywhere in Africa, whilst Ethiopia’s rich vein of cultural heritage presents a fascinating mix of Christian, Muslim and African traditions that are unsurpassed anywhere else on the continent.

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Best places to visit in africa for 2023-2024.

Africa may not always register on the average traveler's radar, but those who visit have the chance to experience the perfect blend of ancient and modern, wild and urban, and East and West. From Cape Town's coastal beauty to Tanzania's game reserves, choosing your adventure on the second-largest continent can be difficult. To help you start planning, U.S. News ranked the best places to visit in Africa based on accessibility, affordability and the variety of things to do, as well as user votes and expert opinions. Help us choose next year's top spots by voting for your favorite destinations below. 

Serengeti National Park

Victoria falls, masai mara national reserve, kruger national park.

tourist attractions in sub saharan africa

If you're enamored with the prospect of coming face to face with elephants, giraffes, zebras and wildebeests, then a safari tour through Tanzania's Serengeti National Park is the bucket-list adventure for you. The price will be steep, but a journey here affords an unforgettable African savanna experience. To save some coin, book one of the park's campgrounds instead of staying at a high-end safari lodge or luxury tented camp. Plan on arriving in January or February (calving season) or between June and October (dry season and prime migration time) for the best game-viewing conditions.

tourist attractions in sub saharan africa

Outdoorsy types travel far and wide to admire this breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage Site. Straddling the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe in Mosi Oa Tunya National Park, Victoria Falls is roughly twice as deep and wide as Niagara Falls, making it one of the world's most jaw-dropping waterfalls . To see this natural wonder at its prime, plan a visit in April or May when the region's rainy season has concluded. Popular vantage points include the Knife-Edge Bridge, Livingstone Island and Devil's Pool. When you're not enjoying the view from above, go whitewater rafting in the Zambezi River to admire the falls from a different angle.

tourist attractions in sub saharan africa

Most tourists head to Tanzania to go on safari, but you'd be remiss if you didn't save time for the country's other must-see treasures. In addition to its animal-filled plains, Tanzania boasts otherworldly natural wonders, including red-hued Lake Natron, Ngorongoro Conservation Area's expansive crater and Mount Kilimanjaro – the tallest mountain in Africa (and largest free-standing mountain on Earth). For the ultimate adrenaline rush, book a climbing excursion up the continent's famous mountain through a local tour operator.

tourist attractions in sub saharan africa

Mauritius appeals to vacationers in search of a bit of everything. Though its main draws are its powdery sands and luxe beach resorts , this small island nation east of Madagascar also charms visitors with its mix of cultures; friendly locals; lively festivals and tasty teas and rums. After a day of exploring some of the island's nature reserves and soaking up the sun, retreat to one of its premier properties to savor fresh seafood while watching a traditional sega dance performance or the sun set over the Indian Ocean.

tourist attractions in sub saharan africa

Home to cheetahs, elephants, lions, wildebeests, hippos and more, Masai Mara National Reserve is one of Kenya's premier spots to see wildlife. Sign up for a safari to explore this protected area's 373,000-plus acres of rolling grasslands. (Tip: Look for companies with guides certified by the Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association.) For an extra dose of adventure, opt for a horseback riding excursion or hot air balloon safari. To increase your chances of spotting the big five (lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffaloes) and other migrating animals, time your visit between July and October during the Great Migration.

tourist attractions in sub saharan africa

Zanzibar offers something for everyone, whether you're in search of beautiful white sand beaches or an unforgettable adventure. After trekking to this Indian Ocean archipelago off the coast of East Africa, you'll instantly feel at ease as you lounge on quiet beaches like Matemwe and Kiwengwa. Next, visit UNESCO World Heritage-listed Stone Town, where you'll find the ruins of a 19th-century palace and a graveyard with ties to Zanzibar's former Arab royals. And no trip would be complete without taking a spice tour in the countryside and exploring Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park. As an added bonus, you'll find this is a surprisingly cheap tropical destination .

tourist attractions in sub saharan africa

A grouping of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles has long attracted those looking for a truly relaxing, off-the-beaten-path getaway. Spend your days lounging on pristine, crowd-free beaches like Anse Lazio and Anse Source D'Argent, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Or, head deep into the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Vallée de Mai nature reserve to gaze at its unique flora and fauna. Keep in mind that lodging here is expensive (especially at the luxury resorts), so it's best to save up and book in advance.

tourist attractions in sub saharan africa

With numerous hiking trails, miles of dramatic scenery and stunning beaches (including one with wild penguins), this South Africa hub caters to both adventurous and laid-back travelers. Getting to Cape Town won't be cheap, but your dollar will go far once you arrive. Make sure you take the aerial cableway up Table Mountain, visit Nelson Mandela's jail cell on Robben Island and explore the world-renowned Constantia Valley wine region. You'll also want to save time to trek through the Cape of Good Hope, which lies 40 miles south of Cape Town on the southern tip of Africa.

tourist attractions in sub saharan africa

Cairo can be overwhelming, as there's so much to see and do everywhere you turn. From Islamic Cairo's bustling Khan El-Khalili bazaar to the ancient Pyramids of Giza to the picturesque Nile River, you'll be immersed in this Egyptian city's history and culture before long. Though winter offers the most pleasant weather of the year (with daytime temperatures in the 60s and 70s), it's also the busiest season, so consider visiting in spring or fall when room rates are lower, temps are bearable and crowds thin out.

tourist attractions in sub saharan africa

Like other historic Moroccan cities, Marrakech buzzes with life: Performers vie for your attention in Jemaa El Fna (an open-air square in the heart of the Medina of Marrakesh) while vendors hawk aromatic spices, homemade textiles, ornate lanterns and more at the bazaars along the alleyways. When you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, unwind at a hammam, visit the Jardin Majorelle or head to a rooftop bar and relax before retiring to your riad. During your visit, keep an ear out to hear the striking tones of the nearby mosques' calls to prayer.

tourist attractions in sub saharan africa

You'll spot plenty of animals – ranging from lions to rhinos to elephants to giraffes – in this massive game preserve in South Africa. Kruger National Park's network of paved roads makes it easier to navigate than Serengeti, and it tends to be cheaper to visit. However, its popularity (especially from May to October, which are the best months for wildlife viewing) means you're more likely to encounter hordes of visitors during game drives. Consider visiting one of the park's private game reserves for a more exclusive experience, and to ensure lodging, flight and tour availability, you'll likely want to finalize your trip at least a year in advance.

tourist attractions in sub saharan africa

The habitat on the island of Madagascar is unlike any other in the world: Most of the landscape is unspoiled, giving visitors a chance to see animals in their natural environment. Travelers should look out for the country's signature animal: the lemur. Madagascar is home to more than 100 species of these creatures, as well as 11,000-plus plant species, including majestic baobab trees. Some of the best places to see wildlife and Madagascar's geological wonders include Isalo National Park and Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve. Be sure to save some time to island hop to Nosy Be for its world-class beaches.

tourist attractions in sub saharan africa

Despite its small size and landlocked location in southeastern Africa, Malawi draws visitors with its gorgeous lake, diverse wildlife and friendly people. At Lake Malawi, one of the deepest lakes in the world, travelers can enjoy water sports activities like kayaking and sailing, soak up some sun on a white sand beach or dive beneath the lake's surface to look for colorful cichlid fish. The tiny country also features nine national parks and wildlife reserves, making it an excellent less-crowded option for a self-drive or a guided safari. For the best wildlife viewing, arrive during the dry season, which lasts from May to October.

tourist attractions in sub saharan africa

Adventurous travelers who dream of spending their vacation surrounded by nature will love Botswana. A less crowded alternative to nearby safari destinations like South Africa and Tanzania, Botswana has a strong conservation focus and offers ample opportunities to spot rhinos, elephants and more in protected areas like Khama Rhino Sanctuary, Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reserve, the oldest reserve of the Okavango Delta. Plus, adrenaline junkies can participate in all kinds of heart-pumping activities, including quad biking, mokoro (canoe) safaris and helicopter tours.

tourist attractions in sub saharan africa

Kenya's capital city offers the perfect blend of urban pursuits and natural splendor. With museums highlighting its pre- and post-colonial heritage, bustling street markets and a thriving nightlife scene, Nairobi is a cultural hub. But its proximity to (and preservation of) wildlife is what makes Nairobi one of the world's most unique cities. The city boasts its own national park – Nairobi National Park, whose grassy plains host 100-plus mammal species including black rhinos – as well as wildlife conservation parks such as the Giraffe Centre and Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. What's more, scenery seekers can also visit the urban Karura Forest or hike the surrounding Ngong Hills.

Multi-Day Tours with Culture Trip

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tourist attractions in sub saharan africa

Morocco 11 Day s

Epic Morocco

Ancient cities, Atlas Mountains and Saharan dunes – meet the many faces of Morocco.

tourist attractions in sub saharan africa

Egypt 9 Day s

Ultimate Egypt

Explore the pyramids of Giza, cruise the Nile and visit the Valley of the Kings.

tourist attractions in sub saharan africa

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The ultimate Turkish itinerary, from the bazaars of Istanbul to the beautiful beaches of Antalya.

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Sub-Saharan Africa is the place to be if you want to experience raw nature.  It is home to a large variety of destinations, each of which with something unique to offer.  Some, like South Africa, get more attention than others, but this part of the world is so diverse that it is worth exploring more than one destination!

Some of the destinations can be dangerous and others are simply not very accustomed to tourists which can make it difficult to travel there so it’s important to do your research ahead of time and make sure that you stay safe and that you’re prepared for your trip.  Plan well and you will create memorable experiences!

Choose the destination that you want to get more information about in the list below: 

The destinations are ordered by popularity.

The Ultimate Travel Guide to South Africa by Travel Done Simple

More destination guides coming soon...

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6 Great National Parks to Visit in Sub-Saharan Africa

One of the greatest attractions in   Sub-Saharan Africa are their National Parks.

What’s always fascinated me is the abundance of species, the exotic flora, and the fact that you can get so close to the wild life leave many at a loss for words.

If you do get a chance to visit, give yourself ample time because some parks are so massive that you need at least a week to explore it entirely. But this is exactly where true adventure and excitement lie. There’s something utterly primal about waiting to spot massive, wild cats and huge predators of nature. It makes one feel really minute and insignificant in the scheme of life and the food chain!

Here’s 6 of my favourite national parks in Africa to visit..

1. Etosha National Park

Etosha National Park spans an area of 22,270 square km and gets its name from the large Etosha pan which is located within the park. The Etosha pan, 4,760 square km, covers 23% of the area of the total area of the Etosha National Park. This salt pan is so large it can be seen from space! The park is home to hundreds of species of mammals, birds and reptiles, including several threatened and endangered species such as the black rhinoceros. The park is located in the Namibia, Kunene region and shares boundaries with the regions of Oshana, Oshikoto and Otjozondjupa. Yet there is abundant wildlife that congregates around the waterholes, giving you almost guaranteed game sightings.

The specialty in Etosha is that you can use your own vehicle to explore and get a more personal encounter with the wildlife. And also you don’t have to take great pains looking forward to seeing animals here. It’s a good idea to set up camp and wait at the water holes – Okaukuejo Water Hole is famous for this as many animals meander here to quench their thirst at dusk. This is where you come across multiple species of animals, drawn towards the springs of life, so to speak.  You can even cool off at Halali camp and get in touch with the native culture which is also very exciting.

2. Okavango National Park

Okavango National Park

If you are willing to spend a night out, under the elements, waiting to spot wildlife then Botswana is definitely for you. This gem of the Kalahari Desert is proudly the world’s largest inland river delta and an incredible travel destination. The Okavango Delta (or Okavango Grassland) in Botswana is a very large, swampy inland delta formed where the Okavango River reaches a tectonic trough in the central part of the endorheic basin of the Kalahari. The 1000th site to be inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2014, the Okavango Delta is an important wildlife area protected by both the Moremi Game Reserve, on its eastern edge, and the numerous wildlife concessions within Ngamiland. An oasis in an otherwise dry environment the Okavango Delta is known for its superb wildlife, with large populations of mammals and excellent birding particularly in the breeding season.

It is home to many endangered species of mammals like the cheetah, white rhinoceros, and African wild dog. When you do spot them here, it will be a close-up personal encounter which will be unforgettable. There’s also a variety of bird species which adds color to the whole ambiance. The best way to explore the delta is on foot and by mokoro (dug out canoe) where polers guide you through the labyrinth of channels, standing like gondoliers at the rear of the boat. The Okavango is very good for birders as huge numbers of waterfowl and raptors reside here, but you also find elephant, zebra, buffalo, wildebeest, giraffe, hippo, crocodile, lion and kudu.

3. Ngorongoro National Park

Ngorongoro Conservation Area is in northern Tanzania. It’s home to the vast, volcanic Ngorongoro Crater and “big 5” game (elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino). Huge herds of wildebeests and zebras traverse its plains during their annual migration. Livestock belonging to the semi-nomadic Maasai tribe graze alongside wild animals. Hominin fossils found in the Olduvai Gorge date back millions of years.

Ngorongoro National Park

All the national parks in Sub-Saharan Africa are competitively different, wild, exotic and exciting. Ngorongoro is a unique wildlife reserve that will take your breath away with its beautiful setting. The place is a paradise for nature lovers.

Ngorongoro National Park 2

Ngorongoro Crater is a large un-flooded caldera formed from the explosion of a volcano million years ago. Get into a safari tour and encounter predators and other species wandering about including the Big Five. Watch majestic tuskers, black-manned lion kings and black rhinos gazing casually. What you can do here ranges from fun safaris or camping to thrill-packed mountain climbing. It is a must to visit when you are in Tanzania.

4. Serengeti National Park

Ah.. the great migration. Apparently the sight will leave you speechless. Serengeti National Park, in northern Tanzania, is known for its massive annual migration of wildebeest and zebra. Seeking new pasture, the herds move north from their breeding grounds in the grassy southern plains. Many cross the marshy western corridor’s crocodile-infested Grumeti River. Others veer northeast to the Lobo Hills, home to black eagles. Black rhinos inhabit the granite outcrops of the Moru Kopjes.

It is a place where the land moves on forever, so vast and so wild. Serengeti national park in Tanzania is world-famous for being one of the oldest ecosystems in the world. This is one of the national parks in Sub-Saharan Africa which is abundant with diverse fauna and flora. Here are some interesting things to do and see.

Serengeti National Park 2

Spend some time on game drives during the day, or catch nocturnal animals with a night drive. You can also have the choice exploring wildlife on foot or horseback which is pretty amazing. Another interesting sight to visit is the mountain-like rock formations known as Moru Kopjes.

Serengeti National Park

Most of all, prepare yourself to watch one of the best events in the natural world; the great migration. Serengeti is most special for the great migration of Zebras and Wildebeest during the times of short rains. It’s simply overwhelming to see massive herds of animals voyaging across. Also, remember to go beyond wildlife and visit a Maasai village to get in touch with the ethnic culture of the semi-nomadic villagers.

5. Virunga National Park

Just like many national parks in Sub-Saharan Africa, Virunga is also blessed with a surrealistic, magical ambiance. But the top attractions here go beyond just nature. Virunga in Congo prides themselves for being home to the last mountain gorillas in the world. Trek and meet the mountain gorilla family in Virunga who are intelligent and very good-natured. The constant watchful mothers and the mischievous little ones will never cease to delight you. Complement this journey with a trek to discover chimpanzees.

tourist attractions in sub saharan africa

Then head for something surprisingly wonderful … find yourself trekking the amazing Nyiragongo Volcano which is the world’s largest lava lake. Get absorbed in hearing and seeing the bubbling of lava with a peek at the lake. And when you make it to the summit of Nyiragongo, you will experience the most spectacular view ever. At dawn or dusk, it’s even more amazing.

6. Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. It covers an area of 19,485 square kilometres (7,523 sq mi) in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga in northeastern South Africa. To the west and south of the Kruger National Park are the two South African provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga. In the north is Zimbabwe, and to the east is Mozambique. It is now part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a peace park that links Kruger National Park with the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, and with the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique. The park is part of the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere an area designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as an International Man and Biosphere Reserve. This place is definitely a ‘big deal’ if you catch what we’re saying.

Kruger National Park

The world’s largest rhino population is here and this might be your last chance to spot these endangered animals as a herd. And to take it to the next level of wildlife, Kruger offers impressive live action like the famous lion-buffalo-crocodile battles. Since this is one of the most massive national parks in Sub-Saharan Africa, you will have to give it few days of camping and lodging. This is the most exciting part where you can observe the routine animal behavior which is a once in a lifetime experience.

It’s not just exploring wildlife that will fascinate you, but being one with the wildlife. You get to watch the best of animals gaze around, hunt for sport and then doze off. There are luxury lodges, or self catering lodges so pick your style of stay really. Its high density of wild animals includes the Big 5: lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalos. Hundreds of other mammals make their home here, as do diverse bird species such as vultures, eagles and storks. Mountains, bush plains and tropical forests are all part of the landscape.

And these are the Sub-Saharan Africa National Parks that we highly recommend you visit, if you ever get the chance!

About the Author : This article was written by Raeesha Ikram, savvy travel blogger at asabbatical.com , a personal travel blog of Adrian Sameli. To connect with Raeesha, follow her on Facebook . All photos in this post, are credited to her.

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What Are The Ecotourism Options In Sub-Saharan Africa?

Published: November 14, 2023

Modified: December 28, 2023

by Raynell Starkey

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Introduction

When it comes to sustainable travel, exploring the rich biodiversity and cultural heritage of Sub-Saharan Africa can be an incredible journey. From breathtaking landscapes to diverse wildlife, this region offers numerous ecotourism options that allow travelers to connect with nature and contribute to local conservation efforts.

Ecotourism, also known as sustainable tourism, focuses on minimizing the negative impacts of tourism on the environment and promoting the well-being of local communities. It aims to create a positive and immersive experience for visitors while supporting conservation initiatives and preserving the natural and cultural heritage of the destination.

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to some of the most iconic and pristine natural areas on the planet, making it an ideal region for ecotourism adventures. From the vast savannahs of Kenya and Tanzania to the rugged landscapes of South Africa and Botswana, there are numerous destinations that showcase the beauty and biodiversity of the continent while promoting sustainable practices.

This article will highlight some of the top ecotourism options in Sub-Saharan Africa, providing insights into the unique experiences and conservation initiatives found in each destination. Whether you are a wildlife enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply seeking a meaningful travel experience, these ecotourism options will inspire you to explore the sustainable side of Africa.

Considered one of Africa’s premier ecotourism destinations, Kenya offers a diverse range of experiences for travelers seeking to immerse themselves in nature and wildlife conservation. From the world-famous Maasai Mara National Reserve to the picturesque Amboseli National Park, Kenya is home to some of the most iconic and biodiverse landscapes on the continent.

In the Maasai Mara, visitors can witness the annual wildebeest migration, a spectacle where millions of herbivores cross the Mara River in search of greener pastures. This natural wonder not only offers an incredible wildlife viewing experience, but also supports local communities through sustainable tourism practices.

For those interested in community-based ecotourism, a visit to the Maasai Mara isn’t complete without engaging with the Maasai people. Many lodges and camps in the area have established partnerships with local Maasai communities, providing opportunities for cultural exchanges, traditional dances, and visits to Maasai villages. These initiatives help to preserve the Maasai culture while providing economic benefits to the community.

Another highlight of ecotourism in Kenya is the conservation efforts dedicated to protecting endangered species such as the black rhino and African elephant. The Ol Pejeta Conservancy, located in the Laikipia County, is a prime example of successful wildlife conservation. Visitors can participate in game drives, guided walks, and even have the opportunity to witness the conservation work being done to protect and rehabilitate these majestic animals.

In addition to the remarkable wildlife experiences, Kenya boasts stunning landscapes such as the Great Rift Valley, Mount Kenya, and the white sandy beaches of the Kenyan coast. These areas also offer ecotourism opportunities, including hiking, bird watching, and marine conservation projects.

It’s important to note that practicing responsible tourism is crucial for the long-term sustainability of ecotourism in Kenya. Choosing accommodations and tour operators that prioritize sustainable practices, minimizing waste, and supporting local conservation initiatives can make a significant difference in preserving the natural beauty and culture of this incredible destination.

Tanzania, located in East Africa, is renowned for its stunning landscapes, vibrant wildlife, and commitment to sustainable tourism. With iconic destinations such as the Serengeti National Park, Mount Kilimanjaro, and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania offers a wealth of ecotourism opportunities.

The Serengeti National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is famous for its annual wildebeest migration. This incredible natural phenomenon attracts visitors from around the world who come to witness the dramatic river crossings and the interactions between predators and prey. In addition to the migration, the Serengeti is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including lions, elephants, giraffes, and zebras, providing visitors with unforgettable safari experiences.

For those seeking a more active adventure, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, is a popular choice. Aspiring hikers can choose from several different routes, each offering unique landscapes and challenges. Responsible tourism is highly encouraged on the mountain, with strict regulations in place to minimize the impact on the fragile ecosystem.

Another must-visit destination in Tanzania is the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which includes the world-famous Ngorongoro Crater. This large volcanic caldera is a haven for wildlife, with a high concentration of animals inhabiting its lush grasslands. Visitors can enjoy guided game drives while also learning about the cultural heritage and conservation efforts of the Maasai people, who live in the surrounding areas.

Tanzania also boasts a stunning coastline along the Indian Ocean, with pristine beaches and marine conservation projects. The island of Zanzibar, known for its white sandy beaches and clear turquoise waters, offers a unique blend of cultural experiences and eco-friendly accommodation options. Visitors can explore the historic Stone Town, visit spice plantations, and engage in responsible snorkeling and diving activities to discover the diverse marine life.

In recent years, Tanzania has made significant strides in promoting sustainable tourism practices. Several eco-lodges and camps have emerged, implementing initiatives such as solar power, water conservation, and community engagement. Local communities are actively involved in ecotourism projects, with a focus on preserving cultural heritage and promoting economic empowerment.

Tanzania’s commitment to sustainable tourism ensures that visitors not only have incredible wildlife encounters and memorable experiences, but also contribute to the long-term conservation and development of the country.

South Africa

South Africa, known as the “Rainbow Nation,” is a diverse country that offers a wide range of ecotourism experiences. From the iconic Kruger National Park to the breathtaking landscapes of the Cape Peninsula, South Africa is a paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers.

Kruger National Park, one of the largest game reserves in Africa, is home to the famous Big Five – lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, and buffalo. Visitors can embark on guided game drives or self-drive safaris to explore the vast savannahs and witness the incredible biodiversity of the park. In addition to wildlife conservation, the park also focuses on community development and sustainable tourism initiatives, ensuring that local communities benefit from tourism activities.

The Cape Peninsula, located in the Western Cape province, offers stunning coastal landscapes, diverse marine life, and unique flora. The Table Mountain National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must-visit destination, with opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, and enjoying panoramic views of Cape Town. The Cape Floral Kingdom, one of the world’s smallest but most diverse, is also a highlight, showcasing rare plant species found nowhere else on earth.

For those seeking a cultural and historical experience, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the KwaZulu-Natal province, offers a unique blend of wildlife sightings and cultural encounters. Visitors can witness the annual turtle nesting season, embark on guided boat tours to explore the wetlands, and learn about the Zulu culture and heritage.

South Africa is also known for its commitment to marine conservation. In areas such as the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, visitors can engage in responsible whale watching, shark cage diving, and marine wildlife conservation projects. These activities not only provide thrilling experiences but also contribute to ongoing research and conservation efforts.

In recent years, there has been a rise in community-based ecotourism initiatives in South Africa. Many lodges and accommodations are owned and operated by local communities, providing opportunities for cultural immersions and supporting sustainable development in rural areas.

With its diverse landscapes, abundance of wildlife, and commitment to sustainability, South Africa offers endless opportunities for travelers to connect with nature, contribute to conservation efforts, and experience the rich cultural heritage of the country.

Botswana, a landlocked country in Southern Africa, is known for its pristine wilderness areas, diverse ecosystems, and commitment to sustainable tourism. With a low population density and vast expanses of untouched landscapes, Botswana offers incredible ecotourism opportunities.

The Okavango Delta, one of the world’s largest inland deltas, is a major highlight of ecotourism in Botswana. This unique ecosystem supports a rich diversity of wildlife, including elephants, lions, hippos, and countless bird species. Visitors can explore the delta on traditional mokoro canoes or embark on guided safari drives, enjoying unparalleled wildlife encounters while supporting local communities and conservation initiatives.

Another must-visit destination in Botswana is the Chobe National Park, renowned for its high concentration of elephants and other game species. The park offers both land-based and river-based safaris, providing visitors with the opportunity to witness the incredible wildlife from different perspectives. Sunset cruises on the Chobe River are particularly popular, offering breathtaking views and the chance to observe animals in their natural habitat.

Botswana is also home to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, a vast wilderness area that showcases the unique ecosystem of the Kalahari Desert. Visitors can witness a variety of desert-adapted wildlife, including the elusive black-maned Kalahari lions and meerkats. The reserve provides opportunities for guided walks with San Bushmen, providing insights into their traditional hunting and gathering techniques and the delicate balance between human communities and wildlife conservation.

Additionally, Botswana is at the forefront of sustainable tourism practices. Many safari lodges and camps in the country are built using eco-friendly materials and run on renewable energy, minimizing their carbon footprint. These accommodations often collaborate with local communities, creating employment opportunities and supporting community development projects.

Botswana has also implemented conservation initiatives such as anti-poaching efforts and wildlife research programs. The revenue generated from ecotourism plays a crucial role in funding these initiatives and preserving the country’s natural heritage.

By visiting Botswana’s exceptional wilderness areas and engaging in responsible and sustainable tourism practices, travelers can contribute to the conservation of this remarkable country while enjoying unforgettable experiences with Africa’s iconic wildlife.

Namibia, located in Southwest Africa, is a country known for its striking landscapes, diverse wildlife, and strong commitment to sustainable travel. With its vast deserts, rugged coastlines, and unique wildlife, Namibia offers a truly remarkable ecotourism experience.

The Namib Desert, one of the oldest and driest deserts in the world, is a major attraction for visitors seeking a unique and otherworldly experience. The towering sand dunes of Sossusvlei, with their vibrant colors and dramatic shapes, provide a stunning backdrop for photographers and nature enthusiasts alike. Exploring the desert on guided tours or self-drive journeys allows visitors to marvel at the desert-adapted wildlife, including oryx, springbok, and the elusive desert-adapted elephants.

Namibia is also home to Etosha National Park, a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. This vast park, centered around the Etosha salt pan, offers excellent game viewing opportunities, with sightings of lions, elephants, rhinos, and other iconic African species. Visitors can stay at lodges located both inside and outside the park, contributing to local conservation initiatives and enjoying guided safari drives and nature walks.

Another highlight of ecotourism in Namibia is the conservation efforts dedicated to protecting endangered species. The NamibRand Nature Reserve, a privately owned reserve, is renowned for its conservation programs, particularly for cheetahs and desert-adapted black rhinos. Visitors can participate in tracking activities, learning about the challenges faced by these species and the efforts being made to ensure their survival.

Namibia’s commitment to sustainable tourism is further reflected in community-based initiatives. The Himba and San communities, known for their rich cultural heritage, often welcome visitors to learn about their traditional way of life. Staying in community-run lodges or participating in cultural tours provides economic benefits to these communities and promotes cultural appreciation and understanding.

Namibia has also made significant strides in eco-friendly practices within the tourism industry. Many lodges and camps are powered by renewable energy sources, utilize water-saving initiatives, and implement responsible waste management practices. These efforts help minimize the environmental impact of tourism and support Namibia’s goal of becoming a leader in sustainable travel.

By exploring Namibia’s stunning landscapes, engaging with local communities, and supporting environmentally responsible tourism practices, visitors can play a vital role in preserving the country’s unique natural and cultural heritage for generations to come.

Zambia, located in Southern Africa, is a hidden gem for ecotourism enthusiasts. With its vast wilderness areas, abundant wildlife, and commitment to sustainable tourism, Zambia offers a truly immersive and eco-friendly travel experience.

One of the highlights of ecotourism in Zambia is the South Luangwa National Park. This park is renowned for its walking safaris, allowing visitors to explore the African bush on foot, guided by experienced and knowledgeable guides. This unique experience provides a closer connection to nature, allowing for a deeper understanding of the ecosystem and its inhabitants, including elephants, lions, leopards, and a variety of bird species.

The Lower Zambezi National Park is another must-visit destination in Zambia. Situated on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River, this park offers incredible opportunities for canoeing safaris and boat cruises, providing a unique perspective on the wildlife and breathtaking landscapes. Visitors can witness elephants bathing in the river, hippos wallowing, and enjoy sightings of leopard and wild dog, making it a haven for wildlife enthusiasts.

Zambia is also home to Victoria Falls, one of the most iconic natural wonders in the world. Located on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, this magnificent waterfall offers a range of adventure activities such as white-water rafting, bungee jumping, and helicopter rides. Sustainable tourism practices are promoted in the area, with efforts to minimize the environmental impact and support local communities through responsible tourism initiatives.

Community-based tourism is prevalent in Zambia, with many lodges and accommodations owned and operated by local communities. This creates opportunities for cultural exchanges, traditional village visits, and crafts markets, providing economic empowerment to the local population and preserving traditional ways of life.

Zambia also boasts several conservation initiatives aimed at protecting endangered species and their habitats. The Kafue National Park, one of the largest national parks in Africa, houses a variety of wildlife, including cheetahs, wild dogs, and elephants. The park works closely with local communities to promote wildlife conservation and provides employment opportunities through eco-tourism activities.

When exploring Zambia, it is important to choose eco-friendly accommodations that prioritize sustainability and support local conservation efforts. This includes opt for lodges and operators that implement responsible waste management, support renewable energy sources, and engage in community development projects.

By visiting Zambia, travelers can not only experience the beauty of its untouched wilderness and rich wildlife but also contribute to the preservation of its natural heritage and assist in the sustainable development of local communities.

Zimbabwe, located in Southern Africa, is a country with a rich cultural heritage and diverse natural landscapes, making it a prime destination for ecotourism. From the majestic Victoria Falls to the vast Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe offers a wealth of sustainable travel experiences.

Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, is a major highlight of ecotourism in Zimbabwe. Visitors can witness the awe-inspiring sight of the Zambezi River plunging into the gorge, creating a breathtaking display of mist and rainbows. Besides enjoying the natural beauty of the falls, visitors can engage in various activities such as guided walking tours, river rafting, and scenic helicopter flights. Zimbabwe’s commitment to sustainability is evident in the management of Victoria Falls, with efforts to minimize the impact on the environment and support local communities.

Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe’s largest game reserve, is teeming with wildlife. With its diverse ecosystems, including grasslands, woodlands, and seasonal wetlands, Hwange offers incredible opportunities for game drives and walking safaris. Visitors can expect to encounter elephants, lions, buffalo, and a wide variety of bird species. The park also has initiatives in place to support local communities and conservation efforts, ensuring a balance between tourism and the preservation of wildlife habitats.

Mana Pools National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is another must-visit destination for ecotourism in Zimbabwe. Situated on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River, this park is known for its picturesque floodplains, woodland, and diverse wildlife. Visitors can explore the park on foot, accompanied by professional guides, providing an intimate experience with nature and offering opportunities for close encounters with elephants, hippos, and numerous bird species.

Community-based eco-tourism initiatives are thriving in Zimbabwe, with many communities actively involved in the conservation and management of natural resources. By visiting community-run lodges and engaging in cultural activities, visitors can directly contribute to the well-being of local communities and learn about their customs and traditions.

Zimbabwe has made significant progress in sustainable tourism practices, including wildlife conservation, community empowerment, and eco-friendly initiatives. Many lodges and camps operate in an environmentally conscious manner, utilizing renewable energy, practicing responsible waste management, and supporting local social development projects.

When visiting Zimbabwe, it’s essential to select tour operators and accommodations that prioritize sustainability and responsible practices. By doing so, travelers can enjoy the incredible beauty of Zimbabwe’s natural wonders while making a positive impact on the environment and supporting the conservation efforts and well-being of local communities.

Madagascar, the world’s fourth-largest island, is a biodiversity hotspot and a paradise for nature lovers. With its unique ecosystems, endemic wildlife, and commitment to sustainable tourism, Madagascar offers a one-of-a-kind ecotourism experience.

One of the top attractions in Madagascar is its lush rainforests. The Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, located in the eastern part of the island, is renowned for its rich biodiversity and fascinating wildlife, including lemurs, chameleons, and a variety of bird species. Visitors can embark on guided hikes, night walks, and lemur encounters, providing an opportunity to witness these charismatic creatures up close while supporting local conservation efforts.

Another must-visit destination is the Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Known for its unique karst limestone formations, this park offers stunning landscapes and rare plant species. Exploring the Tsingy requires a sense of adventure, as visitors navigate through narrow canyons and rope bridges, providing an exhilarating experience while preserving the delicate ecosystem.

Madagascar is also home to numerous marine ecosystems, making it a perfect destination for snorkeling, diving, and exploring coral reefs. The Nosy Be Archipelago and the Mitsio Islands offer pristine beaches, clear turquoise waters, and vibrant marine life, including turtles, dolphins, and colorful fish. Responsible snorkeling and diving practices are strongly promoted to protect these fragile environments.

Madagascar’s commitment to sustainable tourism is evident in its community-based initiatives. Many lodges and accommodations in rural areas are owned and operated by local communities, providing economic benefits while preserving cultural heritage. Visitors have the opportunity to interact with local people, learn traditional customs, and support local crafts and products.

Conservation efforts are also a priority in Madagascar, with various organizations working to protect the island’s unique wildlife and habitats. These initiatives focus on reforestation projects, the conservation of endangered species, and the education of local communities on the importance of sustainable practices.

Visiting Madagascar with a responsible and sustainable mindset is crucial. Choosing eco-friendly accommodations, respecting wildlife and natural habitats, and supporting local communities through responsible tourism practices will help ensure the long-term preservation of Madagascar’s exceptional biodiversity and cultural heritage.

Mozambique, located on the southeastern coast of Africa, is a hidden gem for ecotourism enthusiasts. With its stunning beaches, diverse marine life, and unique wildlife, Mozambique offers a range of sustainable travel experiences.

The Bazaruto Archipelago is a marine paradise that attracts visitors from around the world. With its pristine white sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant coral reefs, it offers excellent opportunities for snorkeling, diving, and marine conservation. Visitors can explore the underwater world teeming with colorful fish, turtles, and even encounter the majestic whale sharks, the largest fish in the ocean. Responsible diving practices are encouraged to protect the fragile marine ecosystem and ensure its preservation for future generations.

Gorongosa National Park is another must-visit destination for ecotourism in Mozambique. Once devastated by civil war, the park has undergone extensive conservation efforts and is now a success story in wildlife restoration. Visitors can witness the remarkable recovery of the park’s ecosystem, which is home to a wide range of wildlife, including elephants, lions, hippos, and diverse bird species. Guided safaris provide an opportunity to learn about the park’s conservation initiatives and the collaborative efforts to protect and restore its biodiversity.

Mozambique is also known for its rich cultural heritage, with diverse ethnic groups and traditions. The island of Ilha de Mozambique, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers a glimpse into the country’s colonial history. Visitors can explore the narrow streets, visit historical landmarks, and engage with the local community, contributing to sustainable tourism and supporting cultural preservation.

Community-based tourism initiatives are prevalent in Mozambique, particularly in rural areas. There are numerous lodges and accommodations owned and operated by local communities, offering a chance to experience local culture, participate in traditional activities, and support community development projects. Visitors can immerse themselves in the daily lives of local people, learn about their traditions, and contribute to their livelihoods.

Mozambique is making significant strides in sustainable tourism practices. Many eco-lodges and resorts implement environmentally friendly initiatives, such as solar power, water conservation, and recycling programs. These establishments often collaborate with local communities, providing training and employment opportunities, thus promoting sustainable development.

When visiting Mozambique, it is important to respect local customs, traditions, and the natural environment. By choosing responsible and sustainable tourism practices, visitors can help preserve the country’s incredible natural beauty, protect its diverse wildlife, and support the well-being of local communities.

Exploring the ecotourism options in Sub-Saharan Africa is not only a remarkable travel experience but also an opportunity to contribute to the conservation of the region’s natural and cultural heritage. From Kenya’s Maasai Mara to the pristine landscapes of Botswana and the unique biodiversity of Madagascar, each destination offers a distinct and captivating ecotourism experience.

Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, there is a growing commitment to sustainable tourism practices. From community-based initiatives that empower local communities to conservation efforts that protect endangered species and their habitats, these regions are striving to balance the preservation of their natural resources with the economic benefits of tourism.

When planning an ecotourism trip to Sub-Saharan Africa, it is essential to choose responsible and sustainable accommodations and tour operators. Supporting eco-friendly practices, engaging in cultural exchanges with local communities, and respecting the natural environment are crucial steps toward ensuring the long-term preservation of these incredible destinations.

By participating in ecotourism activities, travelers have the chance to witness the beauty and diversity of African landscapes, encounter iconic wildlife, and immerse themselves in the rich cultural heritage of the region. At the same time, they can leave a positive impact on the environment and support local communities, ensuring that future generations can continue to enjoy the wonders of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Whether it’s witnessing the wildebeest migration in Kenya, exploring the unique ecosystems of Madagascar, or embarking on a walking safari in Zambia, the ecotourism options in Sub-Saharan Africa offer a mix of adventure, conservation, and cultural immersion. These experiences not only create lasting memories for travelers but also contribute to the preservation of this incredible region’s natural treasures.

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Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is for those looking to leave the tourist trails behind and experience nature in its rawest form.

Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa are famed for their remarkable array of wildlife. Your clients can enjoy spotting the Big 5 from their luxury lodge accommodation, or going on game drives as part of a budget safari. For the more active there are treks to Africa’s highest peak, Mt Kilimanjaro or opportunities to take in the incredible views from atop Namibia’s famous sand dunes. And let’s not forget seeing gorillas in the wild in Rwanda and Uganda.

Whatever your brand’s niche, we can create differentiated, value-for-money product perfectly pitched to your clients.  Whether your clients want an overland journey through Malawi or just to take time out on Mozambique’s beaches, our African offices will use their expert local knowledge to design and operate a unique itinerary for your brand.

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Top 10 African countries with the most developed travel and tourism sectors in 2022

South Africa's tourism sector is experiencing a shift from foreigners to domestic tourists

  • The World Economic Forum (WEF) has released the Travel and Tourism Development Index (TTDI) 2021 report.
  • According to the report, the sub-Saharan Africa (Africa) region has had the greatest improvement in performance globally since 2019.
  • The report also highlighted that Africa had the fastest improvement in ICT readiness, making it easier to provide digital Travel &Tourism services.

Two years after the deadly global pandemic, the travel and tourism industry is already showing signs of recovery in many parts of the world. This was revealed in the recently released World Economic Forum (WEF) Travel and Tourism Development Index (TTDI) 2021 report.

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The 2021 edition of the index assesses 117 economies, identifying key factors in enabling the sustainable and resilient growth of travel and tourism economies. The index also provides a strategic benchmarking tool for businesses, governments, international organisations and others to develop the Travel &Tourism sector.

Let's look at the leading SSA countries in the Travel & Tourism Development Index 2021.

Top 10 Sub Saharan-African countries with the most developed travel and tourism sectors in 2022

1. Mauritius

Global ranking - 62nd

2. South Africa

Global ranking - 68th

3. Botswana

Global ranking - 76th

Global ranking - 78th

5. Tanzania

Global ranking - 81st

6. Cape Verde

Global ranking - 82nd

Global ranking - 88th

Global ranking - 89th

Global ranking - 98th

Global ranking - 101st

Highlights of WEF's Travel and Tourism Development Index (TTDI) 2021.

According to the report, Sub-Saharan Africa (Africa) has had the greatest improvement in TTDI performance since 2019, with 17 out of the 21 regional countries covered by the index increasing their TTDI scores. However, the report noted that the region still lags behind other regions, undermining its great potential as a T&T economy.

The top scorers in Eastern, Southern and Western Africa are Mauritius, South Africa and Cape Verde (82nd), respectively. However, the report ranks South Africa as the African county with the largest T&T economy.

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Spotlighting Sustainability: Urban Tourism in Sub-Saharan Africa

Photo: iLab/CSIS

Photo: iLab/CSIS

Commentary by Judd Devermont and Marielle Harris

Published November 17, 2021

In the 10th edition of Talking Urban Futures in Africa, Judd Devermont and Marielle Harris sit down with Regis Musavengane, Pius Siakwah, and Llewellyn Leonard to discuss why urban tourism is unique from general tourism in sub-Saharan Africa and why African governments should develop policies that reflect this distinct subset. Judd, Marielle, Regis, Pius, and Llewellyn discuss examples of urban tourism in the region; how sustainable urban tourism takes into account the impact on economy, environment, and community; and how governments can foster genuine inclusion—not just tokenistic participatory approaches. Finally, they explore how U.S. policymakers can engage urban tourism issues in sub-Saharan Africa, including through skills sharing, governance support, and real commitment on climate change goals. Regis, Pius, and Llewellyn are authors of the recent book, Sustainable Urban Tourism in Sub-Saharan Africa (Routledge, 2021).

  • Regis Musavengane is a political ecologist, tourism and conservation geographer, and a faculty member at the Midlands State University, Zimbabwe, Department of Tourism, Hospitality and Leisure Sciences. He is a research associate at the Department of Environmental Science, School of Ecological and Human Sustainability, University of South Africa (UNISA).
  • Pius Siakwah is a development and resource geographer, with interest in natural resource governance, energy, and tourism, and a research fellow at the Institute of African Studies (IAS), University of Ghana.
  • Llewellyn Leonard is an environmental sociologist and professor at the Department of Environmental Science, School of Ecological and Human Sustainability, UNISA.

The discussion, moderated by Judd Devermont and Marielle Harris, has been edited for purposes of brevity and clarity.

JD: Regis, can you give us a working definition of urban tourism? How would you distinguish urban tourism from other types of tourism in sub-Saharan Africa?

RM: Urban tourism is a type of tourism that takes place in urban settings. It is distinct from rural tourism, which takes place on the outskirts of cities or in unpopulated areas. Traditional tourism includes extraordinary events not necessarily part of people’s daily lives (e.g., visits to beaches or mountains), whereas urban tourism may include daily lived experiences such as conferences and concerts.

Urban tourism often takes place in cities’ central business districts. In Johannesburg, South Africa, tourist activities are centered in Gold Reef City or Sandton. All across the region, conferences, weddings, and even sporting events are organized in three- to five-star hotels. It's very rare to find these hotels in rural areas, so everyone will drive or fly into the city to partake in these types of activities.

Township tourism is another form of urban tourism. It is particularly popular in South Africa and Kenya. Tourists will visit the densely populated communities such as Soweto in Johannesburg, Khayelitsha in Cape Town, or Kibera in Nairobi. Tourists will utilize local food outlets and tourist facilities located in the townships or slums. African townships and slums contain rich historical information that may be of interest to both domestic and international tourists.

In other countries in the region, some tourists visit the densely populated markets and slums to see the living conditions of the ordinary populace, not the plush areas of the city that are similar to other parts of the developed world. Although this tourism may sometimes be exploitative—and tourists may look down on these populations—it draws more attention to the lived conditions of the poor and may ultimately translate into policies to tackle poverty.

Urban residents with formal businesses benefit from urban tourism. Those residents in the informal sector can also benefit through selling souvenirs or other small items to tourists who travel to urban areas.

MH: What is the difference between sustainable and unsustainable urban tourism?

PS: Sustainable urban tourism considers the economy, the environment, and the community. It is inclusive, leveraging sociocultural systems to promote visits from tourists. An example of sustainable tourism is the Chale Wote Street Art Festival in Accra, Ghana, where local and international artists and citizens help to paint murals on Accra’s streets. Unsustainable urban tourism, on the other hand, compromises the social and cultural values of communities, as well as the environment, for material gains and gentrification.

RM: In addition, Cape Town, South Africa, developed responsible tourism guidelines in 2002. Most establishments in the city, such as hotels and event tourist adventures, are “green certified” or “responsible tourism certified.” This means they are buying green equipment and taking into account the realities of poor people living in the vicinity. When touring the Western Cape’s wine route area, for example, tourists are encouraged to donate to the poor and toward wildlife. Cape Town is actually a blueprint for responsible tourism practices here in Africa. Sustainable urban tourism has the potential to mitigate urban poverty and urbanization-related risks.

MH: That is super interesting. Can you tell us more about how African governments can best navigate urban tourism and address environmental, social, and political risks?

LL: Unplanned urban growth is a major problem within Africa and contributes to much of the urban risk. Poor governance structures and a lack of capacity also contribute to this risk. There is a need for governments to properly understand urban risks in the context of tourism.

There is a lack of policy regarding sustainable tourism. South Africa has been the powerhouse in this area, but it is the exception. Most African countries lack urban sustainability policies and end up prioritizing macroeconomic top-down development initiatives that benefit the elite and exclude marginalized populations from urban spaces. There needs to be a strong approach by governments and the private sector to actually include the vulnerable groups in development design and decisionmaking processes. So it's actually about moving away from poor governance to enabling good governance.

There needs to be genuine inclusion of vulnerable groups to inform decisions. We do not need a tokenistic participatory approach as we've sometimes seen. It's about emphasizing accountability, transparency, fairness, and the rule of law. The final point in governance I think is for government to enable reflexive governance—more reflection on its own practices and processes. And there are structures and power relations that will have an impact in terms of how we move toward sustainable urban tourism and the need to address corruption and nepotism.

JD: How should U.S. policymakers pay attention to urban tourism? How should they prioritize it as something distinct from tourism in general?

RM: When African governments are making decisions and budget allocations, there is no way they can exclude the issue of tourism. Look at the impact of Covid-19 on the tourism sector. So many economies are suffering because of reduced travel due to lockdowns. Politics cannot be ignored in African tourism, and the U.S. government should pay attention to these trends when thinking about its foreign policy and aid relationships.

PS : There must be a difference between U.S. policy toward tourism in general and urban tourism in particular. Urban tourism should address the lived experiences and the daily struggles of the urban poor. Policies should integrate the urban poor into the urban space instead of excluding them through urban redevelopment and gentrification practices. For example, if the United States wants to meet the needs of a specific population—urban citizens—through development interventions, it must take into account the unique opportunities and challenges related to urban tourism. Most of these urban poor live in spaces that lack social services like roads, and an increasing upper and middle class also need some of those services. Policies and interventions should not facilitate the dispossession of the poor’s already fragile homes and economic activities.

For example, the U.S. government provided funding to Ghana through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). Part of the funding was used to construct roads in urban spaces with the aim of improving the movement of people. One of the highways—the N1—divided the urban area without the necessary road safety architecture, which would have included a bridge connecting each side. People who must cross this road to meet their daily needs have been killed in road accidents as cars speed in the area. In the future, the United States should insist that local communities are responsible for helping design urban interventions.

LL: I think we need to understand that we're living in a global society and a global economy. The United States, in a way, will need to take responsibility. If I take the issue of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, the United States is one of the biggest emitters. And vulnerable populations in Africa are some of the hardest hit by climate change, particularly for coastal and urban environments on the continent.

There is a need for the United States to recognize the world as a global nation and that pollution knows no boundaries. U.S. choices impact the entire world. The United States needs to take responsibility to actually assist in making African cities more resilient to climate change, which may include assisting in terms of governance and setting up certain governing structures.

And, as I mentioned before, we lack the capacity, skills, and expertise. If you go to an African government department and say, "Who's your climate change expert who works on tourism?” you wouldn't be able to get a positive response, because the skills are not there. Skills sharing can happen through the African Union, and the United States can also play a role.

Judd Devermont is the former director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. Marielle Harris is the research associate with the CSIS Africa Program.

Commentary  is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).

© 2021 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. All rights reserved.

Judd Devermont

Judd Devermont

Marielle harris, programs & projects.

  • Urbanization in Africa

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Tourism-induced emission in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Panel Study for Oil-Producing and Non-oil-Producing countries

  • Research Article
  • Published: 31 January 2022
  • Volume 29 , pages 41725–41741, ( 2022 )

Cite this article

tourist attractions in sub saharan africa

  • Festus Victor Bekun   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-0464-4677 1 , 2 ,
  • Bright Akwasi Gyamfi 3 ,
  • Ruth Oluyemi Bamidele 4 &
  • Edmund Ntom Udemba 5  

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The tourism industry is undoubtedly among the largest contributors to economic growth and employment generation in most economies of the world, and Africa is not an exception as outlined by World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Thus, many countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are paying more attention to tourism development as alternative growth path to boost their economies. However, the tourism-induced growth is not void of its environmental issues. To this end, this study using recent econometrics analysis explored the nexus between tourism arrival GDP growth, urbanization, carbon dioxide emission, and foreign direct investment for oil and non-oil sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) countries, that is, to ascertain the real impacts of tourism and FDI on the environmental performance of the regions. Empirical results show that tourism, GDP growth, and FDI dampen the quality of the environment. For instance, a 1% increase in tourism activities worsens the quality of the environment by 1.09%. Interestingly, renewable energy shows statistical strength to improve environmental quality. The causality analysis resonates with the outcomes of the regression by giving credence to one-way causality between tourism and carbon dioxide emission. A similar trend of causality is seen between FDI and carbon dioxide emission and urbanization and carbon dioxide emission. Thus, as a policy prescription, strict environmental guidelines and regulations are necessary for controlling the unhealthy and undue economic activities that are suspected to impact environment negatively.

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Introduction

Africa is one of the regions of the world with a steady and fastest tourism growth before the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. According to World Trade and Tourism Organization (WTTO, 2019) and the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO, 2020), the continent actually recorded a growth of 4% in 2019 the same as Europe, but even ahead of the USA that recorded just 2% growth in the same period. Moreover, the sector also generated 1 out of every 10 jobs created in the same year across the globe including 19.5milion jobs in sub-Saharan Africa in the same year 2013. Tourism growth also added US$170.7billion to the GDP of the continent in the same year (UNWTO, 2020; Yusuf, 2016 ). This is also alluded to in the context of the EU by Adedoyin et al. ( 2021a , 2021b , 2021c ) in their investigation of the linkages between economic complexities, a thriving and competitive tourism industry and environmental consequences within the EU. The authors stressed the huge economic benefits of tourism industry to the EU economic growth and development, which includes job creation, increased foreign exchange earnings, and GDP growth among others.

However, the tourism industry had been repeatedly identified as one of the major contributors of between 5 and 8% to the global carbon emission and by implications to global warming, especially since the tourism industry is known to be highly energy dependent across its value chain and sectors, such as the hotel and accommodation, aviation and airline, food and beverages, and tourism attractions (Adedoyin et al. 2021a , 2021b , 2021c ; UNWTO, 2020; WTTC, 2019; Alola & Alola, 2018 ). Adedoyin et al. ( 2021a , 2021b , 2021c ) argued that many tourist destinations are now known to be highly susceptible to different effects of climate change as a result of tourism activities Hence, the contribution of tourism to economic growth as well as the negative effect on the environment in many countries across the globe is well documented in the literature and has generated the concept of tourist carbon footprint (TCF) due to the escalation in energy consumption with environmental degradation as one negative consequences increase in tourism and tourist activities (Adedoyin et al. ( 2021a , 2021b , 2021c ; Adedoyin, & Bekun, 2020 ; Adedoyin et al. 2021a , 2021b , 2021c ; Gao, & Zhang, 2019 ; Qureshi et al., 2019 ; Lasisi et al., 2020 ; Gyamfi et al., 2021a ; Sharif et al., 2020 ; Baloch et al., 2021 ). Yet, Adedoyin et al. 2021a , 2021b , 2021c argued that the level of economic complexities vis-à-vis knowledge, skill, and sophistication in methods of production and delivery of goods and services helps in reducing the negative impact on the environment.

Findings, however, reveal that most investigations relating to this study focused mainly on developed economies in Europe, America, and some Asian countries (Adedoyin et al. 2021a , 2021b , 2021c ; Adedoyin, & Zakari, 2020 ; Balsalobre-Lorente, & Leitão, 2020 ; Ozpolat et al., 2021 ; Shaheen et al., 2019 ) with little searchlight on sub-Saharan Africa.

Meanwhile, a number of studies indicated that the general increase in energy consumption and improvement in economic growth on the continent of Africa are often with some levels of environmental consequences (Ssali et al., 2019 ; Hanif, 2018 ; Zaidi, & Saidi, 2018 ). That notwithstanding, the actual connection and implication between tourism-led growth, energy consumption (renewable and nonrenewable), and environmental pollution such as carbon emission are not receiving enough attention in the extant literature. The few pieces of available evidence of such studies are often on the Southern African subregion (Sarpong et al., 2020 , and Lee & Brahmasrene, 2016 ), or on other variables on sub-Saharan Africa in general, while some particularly focus attention on oil-producing countries on the continent and comparison between the oil-based emission and tourism-linked C0 2 emission.

Therefore, this study intends to fill this existing void particularly on the relationship between tourism-led growth, energy consumption in terms of renewable sources on the one hand, and fossil fuel-based energy usage on the other, and the effect on the environment in a panel of sub-Saharan African context. The focus is on a panel of some identified major tourism destinations in sub-Saharan Africa from 2008 to 2018, with evidence of increased international tourist’s arrival in recent decades, increased GDP, as well as a reasonable level of energy mix and consumption in order to probe cointegration among the stated variables and environmental pollution caused particularly by greenhouse gas (GHG) emission. Similar investigations had been carried out on other countries and regions such as the UK, EU, and Asia and from the perspective of the role of research and development in environmental sustainability (Adedoyin et al., 2021 ; Adedoyin and Bekun, 2020 ; Adedoyin, & Zakari, 2020 ; Shittu et al., 2021 ).

The contribution of this study includes the fact that it further expands our understanding of the actual causality between tourism and energy consumption pattern (renewable and non-renewable energy consumption), and CO 2 emission and global warming as it relates to the continent of Africa. In other words, the novelty of this current study is that it raises and highlights the argument that the type of energy being consumed either fossil fuel or green or renewable energy sources matters in terms of the causality between energy consumption and carbon emission and tourism activities. Empirical findings according to Adedoyin & Zakari ( 2020 ) revealed that most investigations on this topic in relation to Africa majorly focus on total energy consumption with positive impact on economic growth in most cases, without accounting for any differences that might occur in C0 2 emission levels where renewable energy consumption is significant in the totality of energy consumed. Most economies across the globe are on a perpetual route for alternative growth path. Among the prominent growth path are Solow growth model which considered capital and labor as key growth determinants. More recently, the tourism-led growth hypothesis (TLGH) emerged in the extant literature which outlined the pivotal role of tourism arrival to economic growth. The current study is built on the intuition that increase or high influx of tourism activities, especially for SSA, is on the high. To this end, we make the assertion that international tourism arrival will induce an increase in energy demand for tourism activities and by extension induce environmental degradation, especially consumption of energy from fossil fuel base. This twin growth catalyst of tourism and energy consumption has its environmental consequences (Ozcan et al., 2021 ; Katircioglu, 2014 ). Further backing for the current study stems from the tourism-induced environmental degradation hypothesis which is based on the trade-off between economic growth and tourism on environmental quality. Our study is distinct by the consideration of both non-oil- and oil-dependent countries of SSA countries for the first time in the extant literature by addition of control variables such as FDI and urbanization to explore theme. Thus, our current study augments the EKC framework with tourism and additional macroeconomic variables for more robust inferences for the study area in a linear fashion without consideration for quadratic form. The implication of this is that it will inform policy-makers in both the tourism sector and those in charge of the general economy in various countries in the region to identify the areas they need to focus their policy direction on sustainability, economy, and tourism. This is also germane and contributes to the ongoing debate on combating climate change and global warming using increased renewable energy consumption as against fossil fuel sources across the globe as corroborated to by Adedoyin et al. ( 2020a ). Furthermore, scholars can use the findings from this study to further substantiate appropriately and generalize the impact of tourism-led growth hypothesis and the nexus between it and carbon pollution in the African context.

The remaining segments of this study are organized as follows: The next section is dedicated to the review of existing and relevant literature on the subject matter; section three is on methodology, followed by section four that presents the findings and discussion, while section five is on conclusion, implications, limitations, and suggestions for further studies.

Review of Existing literature

Unarguably, empirical evidence suggests that energy consumption rate is analogous to the rate of economic development in any country from the global North to the global South. Hence, the higher the energy poverty and lower energy consumption rate a country is, the higher the poverty rate and poor economic growth and development in such countries and vis-à-vis. Yet, regulatory environment and economic policy uncertainty are also found to either mitigate or complicate the situation (Adedoyin et al., 2020a ; Adedoyin et al. 2021a , 2021b , 2021c ; Adedoyin, & Zakari, 2020 ; Aslan et al., 2021 ; El Menyari, 2021 ). In a study involving global top ten tourism destinations, Adedoyin et al. ( 2021a , 2021b , 2021c ) opined that effective implementation of environmental and renewable energy policies plays a huge role in taming the negative impact of energy consumption on environment. While alluding to this narrative, Adedoyin et al. ( 2021a , 2021b , 2021c ) suggested that Japan is capable of achieving her target of cleaner environment and an increase in greener energy consumption in the complex economy if attention is given to policies that dissuade fossil fuel energy consumption while promoting cleaner energy, and economic growth and complexities. This also aligns with findings by Adedoyin et al. ( 2020a , 2020b ) on the BRICS countries where stringent energy and environmental regulatory framework curb environmental degradation as they opened up for economic growth and development was recommended by the authors.

Similarly, and as earlier noted, the tourism industry is no doubt one of the largest energy-consuming industries and also a huge contributor to national GDP and employment generation in most countries of the world, and Africa is not an exception. Thus, many developing countries including those in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are also paying more attention to tourism development to boost their economies. The extant literature substantiates this claim, and especially on the connection between tourism-led economic growth, and other variables including energy consumption, energy mix, foreign direct investment, and environmental pollution and degradation (El Menyari, 2021 ; Ssali et al., 2019 ; Alola & Alola, 2019 Hanif, 2018 ; Zaidi, & Saidi, 2018 ; Adedoyin, & Bekun, 2020 , Gao, & Zhang, 2019 ; Qureshi et al., 2019 ; Sarpong et al., 2020 ; Lee, & Brahmasrene, 2016 ; Mensah et al., 2019 ), although a plethora of studies focused mainly on advanced and industrialized economies such as the UK and EU (Adedoyin et al. 2021a , 2021b , 2021c ; Lasisi et al 2021 ; De Vita et al. 2015 ; Iwata and Okada, 2013 ; Katircioglu et al., 2014 ; Nissan et al., 2011 ).

Unfortunately, there was a dramatic and almost spontaneous downward trend in the growth from Q1, 2020, after the confirmation of the deadly corona virus in many countries of the world, and the non-medical containment measures (border closure, lockdown, shutdowns, flights restrictions, etc.) by March 2020 in many countries, which marked the beginning of a new era not only in tourism, but also in world history, also known as the ‘new normal’ (BBC News, 2020; UNWTO, 2020; IMF/WEO, 2020; Ozili and Arun, 2020). Nonetheless, despite the above glooming picture of tourism in the year 2020, the projection is that by the middle of 2021, tourism will bounce back, though with the caution that it might take up to 2 ½ to 4 years before we can see tourism returning to the 2019 level (UNWTO, 2020). Conversely, the inadvertent drastic reduction in energy consumption and emission due to lockdowns, restriction of vehicular and human movement, etc., lead to emergence of clearer skylines, cleaner air and environment in many global cities including the hitherto reputed most polluted cities in the world such as Delhi, Beijing, Tokyo, and many European and American cities. Apparently, this signals a positive and new hope for what is possible if the global business community is willing and intentional to tackle environmental pollution, reduce emission, and mitigate climate change by replacing energy consumption from fossil fuel sources and other sustainable practices in the tourism value chain and other energy-intensive industries across the globe.

Thus, with or without this pause occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative to understand probe and expand the ongoing debate on the causal link between the tourism-led growth hypothesis, energy consumption (renewable and nonrenewable energy use), etc., and the environment, especially the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission as it relates to sub-Saharan Africa which so far is less researched. It is useful to find out if there is any positive correlation and or cointegration between the TLGH, the type of energy use, and environmental pollution in Africa.

In light of the above, as noted by Adedoyin and Bekun ( 2020 ) and the World Trade Organization (2018), the tourism industry in the last few decades that accounted for 8% of the global CO 2 emission had overtaken the construction industry to become one of the largest environmental polluters in the world as of 2019. Thus, the causal link between tourism industry, energy use, and GHG emission was established in most of the EU-28 countries between 1995 and 2014 by Balsalobre-Lorente & Leitão ( 2020 ), but the increased use of renewable energy in some EU countries reduces the environmental impact. Findings also revealed that economic advancement in production technology, knowledge and skill in highly developed economies, alongside right economic, energy, and environmental policies are useful tools in curbing environmental pollution and climate change while still enjoying the economic benefits of tourism activities (Adedoyin et.al. 2021a , 2021b ). Shaheen et al. ( 2019 ) also confirmed the correlation between an increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) as a result of tourism, energy use, and CO 2 emission, and Ozpolat et al. ( 2021 ) tourism and CO 2 emission, in a panel of top 10 tourism-induced economies. The authors reaffirmed that there is a direct increase in energy consumption as international tourism arrival increases, and consequently, a direct negative impact on the environment. Another investigation by Adedoyin et.al. ( 2020a , 2020b ), in a panel involving the BRICS states, revealed the linkage between coal rent, economic growth, and environmental pollution, while Ozturk ( 2016 ) and Aslan et al. ( 2021 ) probed the connection among tourism, energy consumption, economic growth, and environment in a panel of 34 developed and developing countries in Europe including Turkey and Russia, and a panel of the Mediterranean countries, respectively.

Meanwhile, findings on a few investigations directly on sub-Saharan Africa that factored in other variables other than tourism and/or energy use also revealed the causality between GDP and the environmental pollution. Some of the available pieces of evidence that excluded tourism in their variables often focus either on all or on some other variables such as FDI, energy use, and CO 2 emission or environmental pollution in general. Example includes Zaidi & Saidi ( 2018 ) on health expenditure, economic growth, and environmental pollution, Bataka ( 2020 ) on globalization and environmental pollution, Hanif ( 2018 ) on economic development, fossil fuel and clean energy intake, and urban settlement on carbon emissions. Others that alluded to these findings are Ssali et al. ( 2019 ) ecological emission, economic development, energy utilization, and investment from oversees, and Mitchell et al. ( 2019 ) pollutant emissions from improved cook stoves of the type used in sub-Saharan Africa. Hanif ( 2018 ), for instance, argued that Madagascar, Nigeria, Mauritius, Ghana, Uganda, Cameroon, and particularly South Africa are among the highly ranked developing countries in relation to pollution and CO 2 and GHG emissions in sub-Saharan Africa. Findings further revealed that this increase in environmental pollution is the cause of several devastating biological damages, by implication leading to about half a million death on yearly basis in sub-Saharan Africa according to World Health Organization ( 2016 ). Simultaneously, the available evidence, however, suggested both positive and negative correlation and or cointegration between CO 2 and GHG emissions and other environmental pollutions, and energy consumption, GDP, FDI, and TLGH (Bataka, 2020 ; Ssali et al., 2019 ; Zaidi, & Saidi, 2018 ).

Apparently, there is a dearth of panel studies so far with particular attention to SSA on environmental pollution that incorporates the causal link between it and tourism, economic growth, and energy use variables. Among the few available is Lee & Brahmasrene ( 2016 ); the authors probed the tourism effects on the environment and economic sustainability of sub-Saharan Africa, yet this does not include urbanization as a variable. That notwithstanding, the authors further analyzed the topic from the perspectives of oil-producing and non-oil-producing nations on the continent. Their findings indicated a highly significant direct impact of tourism and energy use on economic growth, while it concurrently suggested that tourism, energy use, and economic growth have positive and highly significant impact on carbon emissions in countries in the panel. Furthermore, the Lee & Brahmasrene posit that other variables but not tourism have effect on environmental pollution in oil-producing countries in sub-Saharan Africa, whereas in non-oil-producing economies, it is tourism and energy use and not economic growth that is implicated in CO 2. The very recent one is a separate panel of four North African countries of Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria by El Menyari ( 2021 ); tourism was discovered to have no negative impact on environmental pollution in the panel countries, whereas electricity consumption does, indicating that the main source of electricity is unclean and nonrenewable sources in the countries are investigated.

Based on the foregoing, there is a need to further probe the cointegration, causality, and correlation between tourism, GDP, energy use, and carbon emission including urbanization, in a panel of tourism-induced economies in sub-Saharan Africa over a period of time. Therefore, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, this study is the first one to incorporate GDP, energy use (renewable and fossil fuel sources), oil-producing and non-oil-producing countries, and urbanization into the investigation of the impact of tourism industry on the environment, especially on carbon dioxide and GHG emissions in a panel study on SSA context. Notably, according to Yusuf, 2016 and UNWTO 2020, the top tourist destinations with the highest tourist receipts in Africa are Egypt, South Africa, and Morocco; the others are Kenya, Gambia, Tunisia, and Namibia. However, for whatever reasons, Egypt and Tunisia are not regarded by the international community as part of SSA; rather, they are referred to as North African countries. Nonetheless, for the purpose of this study, these three countries are not only some of the top tourism destinations in Africa, they are also oil-producing countries; hence, they fit into this panel and are therefore included in this investigation. Other countries with reasonable tourism receipts and available data, either they are oil or non-oil-producing nations including Nigeria, Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mauritius, Senegal, Cameroon, Mauritania, Tanzania, etc., are also included in this panel study.

Sequel to the above, this study intends to probe the following hypotheses: H1: Does tourism induce environmental pollution in Africa? H2: Does tourism and energy use impact differently on pollution in oil-producing countries and non-oil-producing nations in Africa? H3: Do tourism and renewable energy sources indicate cleaner environment in non-oil-producing SSA countries? The next segment in this paper presents and discourses the methods and econometrics and various tests adopted to probe, analyze, and present this investigation.

Hence, given the overwhelming mix of evidence in the literature, understanding the significant factors that affect environmental degradation in a rapid era of tourism is considered essential. As such, this study provides a clearer empirical analysis of the subject matter within the contest of the sub-Saharan Africa economies. Moreover, this study is divided into three sections, i.e., oil countries, non-oil countries, and combination of both oil and non-oil countries.

Methodology, Model, and Data

Methodology.

To identify the right analytical technique(s) to employ, the authors used the cross section dependency (CD) test. The outcome from the CD test helps in either going for the first-generation or second-generation panel data econometric technique. The analysis will be bias, meaningless, and inconsistent if CD test is not carried out (Dong et al. 2018 ; Nathaniel et al., 2020 ). To make sure the mentioned problems do not occur, the authors employed three CD tests which are the Pesaran ( 2007 ) CD test, the Pesaran ( 2015 ) scaled LM test, and Breusch-Pagan (1980) LM test for the sake of robustness check. More attention was placed on the Pesaran ( 2007 ) scaled CD test and Breusch-Pagan (1980) LM because of how our dataset is shown, i.e., the cross sections (N) number figure is larger than that of the time frame (T). The CD test equation is shown in Eq.  1 :

However, from Eq. ( 3 ), \(\mathrm{P}={\left.\left( \frac{2}{N(N-1)}\right.\right)}{\sum }_{i=1}^{N-1}{\sum }_{j=i+1}^{N}Pij\) , where \(Pij\) is the pairwise cross-sectional correlation coefficient of the residual from the ADF regression. T and N are the sample and panel scope separately.

Panel stationarity technique

The proof of CD make in the estimation brings out inefficiency in the first-generation stationarity technique (e.g., Im et al., 2003 ). Therefore, the authors employed a second-generation stationarity technique (CIPS) to solve the problem of inefficiency in the estimation. From the Pesaran ( 2007 ), the CIPS stationary test estimation is shown as

Thus, φit, xit, Δ, T, as well as εit denote the intercept, analysis factors, variance operator, time span, as well as disturbance term correspondingly. A second-generation cointegration test is performed in the proximity of first differences stationary variables, to assess the long-run effects of the factors under consideration.

Panel cointegration estimation

The findings are related to the Westerlund ( 2007 ) experiment to obtain proof of cointegration between the parameters. The error rectification method (ECM) of the estimation is shown as

Thus, δt = (δi1, δi2)′, dt = (1, t)′, and ϕ are the vector of parameters, deterministic mechanisms, and the error correction parameter correspondingly. To identify cointegration existence, four tests were carried out. These four tests were built on the OLS technique of ϕi in Eq.  3 . Group mean statistics was made up of two out of the four estimations and shown as

Thus, \(^\wedge\propto i\) is denoted by \(SE(^\wedge\propto i)\) as the standard error. The semiparametric kernel technique of \(\propto i\left(1\right)\) is \(^\wedge\propto i(1)\) . Two of the four remaining panel mean estimations proof that the entire panel is cointegrated as shown as follows:

Ordinary Least Square (OLS) and Quantile Regression (QR)

The analysis uses the technique for OLS and QR. The existence of cointegration assesses a long-term connection utilizing the OLS econometrically rational. They use the OLS with standard errors made by Driscoll and Kraay ( 1998 ). This method allows (1) heteroscedasticity, (2) serial interaction, and (3) cross-sectional dependency to be considered. Nevertheless, the QR was the chosen statistical tool based on its superior to the OLS for different reasons . The standard circulation as well as the zero mean approval of the OLS error concept is rather unrealistic, since there may be multiple distribution models for socioeconomic measures (De Silva et al. 2016 ). The QR reinforces this deficit (Salman et al. 2019 ; Nathaniel et al., 2020 ). The methodology (QR) does not presume the function of the period (Zhu et al. 2016a , 2016b ). In the case of outliers (Bera et al. 2016 ), forecasts remain robust. No predictions for distribution (Sherwood and Wang, 2016) have been made. The technique for QR is shown as

where x is the exogenous factors, while y is the endogenous factors. The equilibrium place and disruption word of the explicit vector are θth and μ simultaneously. We use the contingent quantile regression that explores the effect of the regressors to be used in our econometric analysis on the foundation of the preliminary factors values. In the past, the QR technology was utilized in Hübler ( 2017 ), Xu & Lin (2018), Nathaniel et al. ( 2020 ), and other studies.

The STIRPAT structure is the foundation of this analysis. The STIRPAT hypothesis notes that the destruction of the ecosystem is both economic and social.

From Eq.  5 , I is a pointer of ecological deprivation, while P, A, and T represent inhabitants, wealth, and innovation correspondingly. φ1—φ3 as well as μ are the factor evaluators and the error term correspondingly. T may be broken down based on the purpose of the study (Bello et al. 2018 ; Anser 2019 ; Nathaniel et al. 2020 ). Based on the analysis of Solarin and Al-Mulali studies ( 2018 ) and Nathaniel et al. ( 2020 ), I, in this analysis, is identified as environmental factors as stated earlier. From a different perspective, P and A are denoted by economic sustainability and tourist arrival, respectively. Based on the work of Gyamfi et al. 2021b , 2021c as well as Bamidele et al. 2021 , the authors then adopted gross domestic product (GDP), foreign direct investment (FDI), renewable energy (REC), non-renewable energy (NREC), and urbanization (UB) as a proxy T. The extended layout is shown as

By taking the logarithm of each of the variables, the formula is further formulated as

where TA, FDI, GDP, REC, NREC, and UB denote tourist arrival, foreign direct investment, economic growth, renewable energy consumption, non-renewable energy consumption, and urbanization. I, on the other hand, represents the environmental indicator used in this analysis and, thus, CO 2 emission. To analysis the impact of TA, FDI, GDP, REC, NREC, and UB on I at the selected quantile level, the authors formulated Eq. ( 8 ), which is shown as

whereas the remaining variables maintain their original description, CO 2 represents CO 2 emission. For the explicative variables, the reference point is τ . Q τ corresponds to the τ th distributional point regression analysis that can be determined using the formulae in Eq. ( 9 ):

where q, T, N, and Ħ it stand for the number of quantiles, years, cross sections, and weight of the ith country in the ith year, respectively. The sub-Saharan Africa countries were for this analysis and were divided into twofold, i.e., 14 oil-producing and 27 non-oil-producing countries summing up to a total of 41 (list of countries in the Appendix Table 10 ) from the period of 1995 to 2016. The period of time for this analysis was based on the availability of data. The time period was sorely based on data availability. All data utilized in this analysis were obtained from World Development Indicators (WDI, 2020). All variables expect FDI were transformed to logarithm in this analysis. As Table 1 gives a summary of the description of the variables, further discussion on the variables of interest is made. The methodological sequence is appended in Fig.  1

figure 1

Analysis Flowchart

Carbon dioxide emissions per capita (CO 2 )

This variable is used as the dependent variable in the model as the proxy for the environment. The unit of measurement of carbon dioxide emissions is metric tons per capita. The apriority expectation of this variable can either be positive or negative. A positive change in carbon dioxide emissions would suggest environmental degradation whereas the negative change indicates environmental sustainability. Carbon dioxide is takes the largest percentage among the greenhouse gas emission components at about 70 percent. This justifies the reason of chosen carbon dioxide emissions as environment indicator. Also, for a vivid and insightful study of this particular topic, it is vital to adopt carbon dioxide emission as a measure of environment.

Income (GDP)

This variable is used as an explanatory variable to proxy for economic growth across the countries under consideration. The income values are transformed from the local currencies to the dollars of the USA by applying the current exchange rate. A positive change in the income values of the sub-Saharan Africa economies would indicate economic growth. In extension of the instance of GDP as the total value of goods and services produced in a country in a given year, the activities that are involved the totality of GDP impact the environmental performance of any country. Theories (such as EKC) have revealed the pattern of relationship that exists between economic growth (GDP) and the environment. The patterns could be U-shape. Inverted U-shape or even N-shape points toward what happens to environmental performance at any given stage of economic growth. This justifies why we chose economic growth (GDP) as among the explanatory variables.

Tourist Arrivals (TA)

This is another independent variable that is proxied for tourism. This tourism variable measures the number of international tourists who visit and stay within the confines of tourist establishments. A positive change in tourist arrivals signifies gains from tourism, while a negative change indicates that tourism has no significant benefit. The tourism sector and its management involves utilization of energy to run the industry both in transportation of the tourists and in entertainment of the tourists through hotels and holidays management. These activities involve high utilization of energy which impact the environment (mostly negative due to fossil fuels). This is why the tourism arrival is considered essential to this study.

Fossil Fuel (NREC)

This is one of the explanatory variables in the model that is proxied for a non-renewable source of energy as well as a control variable in the model. Fossil fuel of energy consumption is a composition of the following products: natural gas, oil, coal, and petroleum. A positive change in the fossil fuel value with regards to a priori expectation would imply a detrimental effect on the environmental sustainability of the panel countries. The economic activities of sub-Saharan countries are highly dependent on fossil fuels energy utilization which has serious environmental implication.

Renewable energy (REC)

This is one of the explanatory variables in the model that is proxied for a renewable source of energy as well as a control variable in the model. Renewable energy consumption is a composition of all the renewables, namely solar, wind, hydro, tidal, geothermal, and biomass energies. A shift from fossil fuels to alternative source of energy (renewable) tends to reduce the negative implication of fossil fuels to the environmental performance. Utilizing renewable energy source as one of the explanatory exposes the effect of renewable energy on economic and environmental performance of the region.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

This variable is used as an explanatory variable to proxy for investment from oversees into the countries under consideration. Foreign direct investment is the net inflows of investment to acquire a lasting management interest (10 percent or more of voting stock) in an enterprise operating in an economy other than that of the investor. A positive change in the FDI values of the sub-Saharan Africa economies would indicate economic pollutant Hallo, while a negative will indicate pollutant heaven hypothesis (PHH). Due to less rigid laws and regulations of the region against the foreign investors, the foreign investors tend to engage on some economics practices (such as engaging carbon-intensive mechanism through adopting fossil fuel energy source) that are unfriendly to the environmental performance of the region. It is vital to capture the impact of the activities of foreign investors through FDI.

Urbanization (UB)

This variable is used as an explanatory variable to proxy movement from rural areas to the urban areas within the countries under consideration. Most economic activities (industrial and manufacturing, social gathering, and other functions) take place in the cities with higher population than rural areas, hence the reason for choosing the urbanization as among the explanatory variables.

Empirical results and discussion

This section presents the interpretation of result and discussion of empirical findings. We set off with preliminary analysis of basic summary statistics and correlation analysis. Table 2 provides both oil and non-oil blocs. The results show that most series under investigation for combined blocs are negatively skewed and all series show heavy tail as reported by Kurtosis with magnitude more than 2. Subsequently, the pairwise correlation analysis shows more glimpse into the series a nature of relationship as reported in Table 3 . The pairwise correlation shows strong statistical relationship between GDP growth and tourism, which gives credence to the tourism-induced GDP growth. However, we also observed FDI–growth relationship. Interestingly, we can see a positive statistical relationship between tourism and economic growth. Similar statistical relationship is observed between FDI and CO 2 emission. These relationships between macroeconomic indicators and CO 2 emissions are instructive for the government officials in the investigated blocs. It is worthy to note that pairwise analysis is not sufficient to substantiate any claim given the weakness in the test. Thus, this study proceeds to explore more econometrics analysis to explore the relationship between the outlined variables.

Subsequently, this study investigates the effect of common shows among the investigated countries under review as presented in Table 4 . The cross-sectional dependency test is necessary to avoid pitfall of spurious regression and policy guidance by extension. Furthermore, the cross-sectional test support models either first- or second-generational estimators. In our case given, we reject the null hypothesis of no-cross-sectional dependency. We advance with second-generational estimator. Table 5 shows both first- and second-generational unit root for the investigated variables. In Table 6 , we present the Westerlund cointegration test. The results show long-run equilibrium (cointegration) relationship between our study variables over the sampled period for both oil and non-oil countries in sub-Saharan countries.

Discussions

After the confirmation of the existence of cointegration in all the groups, which points toward a long-run relationship among the selected variables, we proceed with the explanation of the findings from the regressions as shown in Table 7 . The explanation is based on both ordinary least square and quantile regression for a robust check, but our emphasis is on the outcome of quantile regression. From the non-oil countries group, a positive and statistically significant relationship is found between tourism arrival and carbon emission (environmental degradation) both in OLS and all the quantiles except the median (50 th quantile) that shows insignificant positive (negative relationship) influence of tourism arrival on environment quality which may be the increasing number of tourists within these countries that affect transportation which is the biggest component that increases tourism–emission mix. Tourism arrival exerts a stronger negative influence on the environment quality in the 75 th –90 th quantile with the largest coefficient (0.0923). This shows that a 1 percent point increase in tourism arrival will cause a 0.0923 percent point increase in carbon emission (decrease in environment quality) across the non-oil countries. This suggests that the presence of the tourists and their activities in the non-oil sub-Saharan Africa is unfriendly to the environment performance in the region. An insight is given toward the possibility of reversing this trend from the finding from the median (50 th quantile). This shows that an increase in tourism arrival has the possibility of remedying the environmental degradation. This could be possible with strict implementing and monitoring of environmental regulations void of corruption by the government officials in the affected region. This supports the finding by Udemba ( 2019 ); Sarpong et al. ( 2020 ); Gyamfi et al. ( 2021a , 2021b , 2021c , 2021d , 2021e ), and Bamidele et al. ( 2021 ). A statistically significant positive relationship is found between FDI and carbon emission both in OLS and across the entire quantiles except the 90 th quantile that shows a negative relationship with emission. This depicts a negative impact of foreign investors on the environment management of the non-oil region of sub-Saharan Africa. Basing on the quantile (5 th ) with the highest influence of carbon emission with regards to its coefficient, a percent point increase in FDI will lead to 0.058 percent increase in degradation of non-oil sub-Saharan African countries’ environments except quantile (90 th ) which shows a negative significant relationship at 0.0510 percent which might result in that at this level, the policymakers have taken note of the harm FDI that is causing to the environment, resulting in implementing strong regulations and policy to control. The other outcomes indicate that foreign investors are flaunting the environmental regulations in the various countries of their economic activities base. FDI can either be positive or negative in sustainable development as it concerns environmental effects. The controlling and determinant force behind its environmental and economic impact is the effectiveness of government officials to implement and monitor the adherence to environmental laws. It is a well-known fact that advanced countries are keen and strict with environmental regulations and this does not augur well with some of the indigenous investors who will now consider developing economies as a substitute in performing their economic activities under the auspices of globalization and economic integration Most developing countries including sub-Saharan African countries are known with laxity in implementing sustainable policies, and this has resulted in foreign investors exploring the loopholes in the laws to the detriment of the environmental quality. This supports the findings by Gyamfi et al. 2021d , Udemba, 2019 , Sarkodie and Strezov, 2019 , Zhang and Zhang 2018 , and Balsalobre-Lorente et al., 2018 . A positive relationship is found between economic growth, non-renewable energy consumption, urbanization, and carbon emission. Economic growth exerts intense negative influence on the environment of the non-oil region in the 75 th –90 th quantiles at 0.77 and 0.92 percent point, respectively, while fossil fuels and urbanization exert negative stronger influence on the environment of the non-oil region in the 50 th –75 th (0.1685 and 0.1588) and 25 th –50 th (0.4469 and 0.5642) quantiles, respectively. It is important to mention here that urbanization displays a significantly negative relationship with carbon emission in the 90 th quantile which is a good story for the non-oil region. This is a good sign that urbanization will impact favorably to the environmental performance. These findings reflect the characteristics of developing economies that depict maximum efforts put in pursuit of economic growth at the expense of environment performance, and massive rural–urban migration that most times leave the urban areas in environmental mess if necessary environmental measures are not taken. These findings support the findings of Bekun et al. 2021a , 2021b , 2021c ; Onifade et al. 2021 ; Udemba, 2019 ; Bekun et al., 2019 ; Shahbaz et al., 2010 ; Shahbaz et al., 2013 ; and Guangyue and Deyong, 2011 . A statistically significant negative relationship is found between renewable energy consumption and carbon emission. This depicts a positive impact of renewable energy consumption on the environmental quality of the non-oil region. This is in line with the theory and authors expectation. This finding supports the findings by Bekun et al. ( 2019 ), Gyamfi et al ( 2021e ), Steve et al ( 2021 ), and Aseidu et al. ( 2021 ). The findings according to the OLS-cum-quantile regression on oil countries are similar to those of the non-oil countries except in few cases with varying coefficients. The coefficients of the economic growth and FDI in all the quantiles of oil countries show that economic growth and FDI exert stronger negative influence on environment than those of non-oil countries. This is expected of the analysis because the oil countries have high tendencies of attracting greater percentage of foreign investors both in the form of transnational corporations and on individual basis who are players in oil businesses. The economic activities in the oil countries are equally expected to be greater than those of the non-oil countries considering the influx of foreign investors due to the availability of oil resources. Considering the development history of the region, most of the oil-dependent countries in the African region tend toward an increase in economic growth because of resource revenue which does not necessarily mean good livelihood of the masses.

However, the findings from both OLS and quantile regression of the combined data of both regions (oil and non-oil countries in sub-Saharan Africa) attest to the findings from the individual regions. The findings are really interesting with some levels of similarities with individual regions but on a varying degree in the coefficients and the amount of negative relationship that exists among the selected variables. A mixture of negative and positive relationships existed between tourism arrival, urbanization, and FDI and carbon emission for the case of non-oil countries. Specifically, a negative relationship is found between tourism arrivals, urbanization, and FDI and carbon emission in 50 th quantile of tourism arrival, 90 th quantile of urbanization, and 90 th quantile of FDI, respectively. The same scenarios occurred in the combined regression in the case of tourism arrival, FDI, and urbanization in greater dimension. Thus, a negative relationship occurred between tourism arrival, urbanization, and FDI and carbon emission in the 5 th , 25 th , 50 th for the case of tourism arrival and across all the quantiles for the case urbanization, and in the 25 th quantile for the case of FDI. The OLS findings for the both variables show a negative relationship between tourism arrival, urbanization, and carbon emission. The findings that hinge on tourism arrival, FDI, and urbanization are a good story for the regions, especially the non-oil region. This is a pointer toward maintaining a good environment with good policies framed around the tourism arrival, urbanization, and FDI.

Robustness Result

For robustness purposes, the fully modified lease square (FMOLS) proposed by Pesaran et al. ( 1999 ) was utilized and the outcomes affirm that of the quantile regress utilized for the study. For both non-oil and oil countries, it was observed that tourism, economic growth, FDI, energy use, and urbanization all increase emission within these countries, while renewable energy intake decreases pollution. However, in the combined countries, tourism, economic growth, FDI, and energy use increase pollution, while renewable energy intake and urbanization decrease pollution for the countries as highlighted in Table 8 .

Granger causality estimation and analysis were equally performed for forecasting and robust check on the results from the both OLS and quantile regression. Most times after the confirmation of cointegration and long-run relationship, granger causality is advised to be estimated in support of the findings of the regression. Granger causality estimate was done for the three groups (oil, non-oil, and combined), and the results are shown in Table 9 as follows: Unidirectional transmission is found passing into carbon emission from tourism arrival for oil countries, from FDI to carbon emission for non-oil countries and combined group, from economic growth to carbon emission for non-oil countries and combined group, from renewable energy use to carbon emission for non-oil countries, from carbon emission to renewable energy use for the combined group, from urbanization to carbon emission for non-oil countries, and from carbon emission to urbanization for the combined group. Furthermore, bidirectional transmission is found between renewable energy use and carbon emission for the oil countries, and between urbanization and carbon emission for the oil countries. The findings from the granger causality attest to and support the regression results, hence unidirectional causal transmission from both tourism arrival and FDI to carbon emission, bidirectional causal transmission between renewable energy use and carbon emission, and between urbanization and carbon emission. This shows the tendency of tourism arrival, FDI, urbanization, and renewable energy consumption impacting favorably on the environment of the regions in this study.

Concluding remark and policy implications

This is an inclusive panel studies of the sub-Saharan African countries’ environmental performance under tourism growth and FDI growth policies. Emphasis is laid on tourism and FDI because sub-Saharan African countries are considered new tourism and FDI routs with regards to her richness in both cultural heritage and resources endowments. We apply different scientific approaches such as OLS, quantile analysis, and Granger causality in this study to ascertain the real impacts of tourism and FDI on the environmental performance of the regions. Our findings and justifications are based on the outcomes of the three mentioned approaches. Findings from OLS and quantile regressions revealed a mixed impact of both policies (tourism and FDI) on the environmental performance of the studied region. Hence, a negative and positive influence is recorded, but drawing from the findings in the combined regression, we conclude that tourism and FDI policies have tendency of impacting favorably on the environment of the regions in our studies if regulations are implemented and monitored without biasedness from the government officials.

Following the findings from our study, the following policies are recommended for the countries of the sub-Saharan Africa. Strict environmental guidelines and regulations are necessary for controlling the unhealthy and undue economic activities that are suspected to impact negatively on the environment. Emission target is worth implementing in the industrial areas to reduce the emission from the urban areas. The defaulters will be made to pay a bit extra tax. Financing and decentralizing the energy system to a more renewable energy source will be a great advancement into decarburizing and achieving some level of green economy in the region. Countries of the region are encouraged to embark on massive sensitization of the masses on the importance of healthy environment so as to reduce some activities with high tendencies of affecting environment negatively. Public transport system should be introduced and maintained to discourage the excessive usage of automobile that run on fossil fuels which will reduce excessive emission from the automobiles.

Furthermore, our findings on the breakdown of foreign production have no substantial ramifications for the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, as previously stated. State governments in sub-Saharan Africa should strive to match the criteria of the global market in order to avoid being considered pollution hot spots. For example, increasing the entry barrier to dirty industry, regulating the export of pollution-producing items, and stimulating the development of new export competitive advantages are all possible. In addition, the countries of sub-Saharan Africa must gradually and efficiently adjust the economic growth trend in order to achieve balanced and stable progress through supply-side reform.

Additionally, decision-makers in sub-Saharan Africa’s countries should promote sustainable and cleaner energy sources for economies in order to reduce the continent’s dependency on fossil fuel emissions. This can be accomplished through the effective use of renewable energy’s environmental attributes (such as solar, wind power, and hydraulic energy, among others).

Conclusively, this study has implication to other developing countries, especially the ones close to the sub-Saharan regions. Also, the topic can still be investigated with other variables such as institutional quality to have insight into the effectiveness of government regulation on the environmental performance of the region.

Availability of data and materials

The data for this present study are sourced from the World Development Indicators ( https://data.worldbank.org/ ). The current specific data can be made available upon request, but are available and downloadable at the earlier mentioned database and Web link.

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Festus Victor Bekun

Department of Economic Security, South Ural State University, 76, Lenin Aven, Chelyabinsk, Russia, 454080

Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Cyprus International University, Via Mersin 10, Nicosia, North Cyprus, Turkey

Bright Akwasi Gyamfi

Faculty of Tourism, Eastern Mediterranean University, Via Mersin 10, Famagusta, Northern Cyprus, Turkey

Ruth Oluyemi Bamidele

Faculty of Economics Administrative and Social Science, Istanbul Gelisim University, Istanbul, Turkey

Edmund Ntom Udemba

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The first author (Dr. Ruth Bamidele) was responsible for the conceptual construction of the study’s idea. The second author (Prof. Dr. Edmund Utom) handled the literature section, while the third authors (Dr. Bright Akwasi Gyamfi) managed the data gathering and preliminary analysis and Dr. Festus Victor Bekun is responsible for proofreading and manuscript editing.

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Bekun, F.V., Gyamfi, B.A., Bamidele, R.O. et al. Tourism-induced emission in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Panel Study for Oil-Producing and Non-oil-Producing countries. Environ Sci Pollut Res 29 , 41725–41741 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-021-18262-z

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Received : 03 August 2021

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Published : 31 January 2022

Issue Date : June 2022

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-021-18262-z

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tourist attractions in sub saharan africa

Global tourism soars, but pre-pandemic levels mask uneven recovery

I nternational tourist arrivals and the overall contribution of the travel and tourism sector to the global economy are projected to reach pre-pandemic levels in 2024, according to a new World Economic Forum study. This optimistic outlook is fueled by the lifting of Covid-19 travel restrictions and a strong desire to travel after years of limitations.

Topping the 2024 list of economies are the United States, Spain, Japan, France and Australia. The Middle East had the highest recovery rates in international tourist arrivals (20% above the 2019 level), while Europe, Africa and the Americas all showed a strong recovery of around 90% in 2023.

These are some of the top findings of the Travel & Tourism Development Index 2024 (TTDI) , a biennial report published in collaboration with the University of Surrey, which analyses the travel and tourism sectors of 119 countries around a range of factors and policies.

"This year marks a turning point for the travel and tourism sector, which we know can unlock growth and serve communities through economic and social transformation," says Francisco Betti, head of the global industries team at the World Economic Forum.

"The TTDI offers a forward-looking window into the current and future state of travel and tourism for leaders to navigate the latest trends in this complex sector and sustainably unlock its potential for communities and countries across the world."

Post-pandemic recovery

The global tourism industry is expected to recover from the lows of the Covid-19 pandemic and surpass the levels seen before the crisis. This is largely being driven by a significant increase in demand worldwide, which has coincided with more available flights, better international openness, and increased interest and investment in natural and cultural attractions.

However, the global recovery has been mixed. While 71 of the 119 ranked economies increased their scores since 2019, the average index score is just 0.7% above pre-pandemic levels.

Although the sector has moved past the shock of the global health crisis, it continues to deal with other external challenges, from growing macroeconomic, geopolitical and environmental risks, to increased scrutiny of its sustainability practices and the impact of new digital technologies, such as big data and artificial intelligence.

In addition, labour shortages are ongoing, and air route capacity, capital investment, productivity and other sector supply factors have not kept up with the increase in demand. This imbalance, worsened by global inflation, has increased prices and service issues.

TTDI 2024 highlights

Out of the top 30 index scorers in 2024, 26 are high-income economies, 19 are based in Europe, seven are in Asia-Pacific, three are in the Americas and one (the United Arab Emirates) is in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA). The top 10 countries in the 2024 edition are the United States, Spain, Japan, France, Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom, China, Italy and Switzerland.

The results highlight that high-income economies generally continue to have more favourable conditions for travel and tourism development. This is helped by conducive business environments, dynamic labour markets, open travel policies, strong transport and tourism infrastructure, and well-developed natural, cultural and non-leisure attractions.

Nevertheless, developing countries have seen some of the greatest improvements in recent years. Among the upper-middle-income economies, China has cemented its ranking in the top 10; major emerging travel and tourism destinations of Indonesia, Brazil and Türkiye have joined China in the top quartile of the rankings.

More broadly, low- to upper-middle-income economies account for over 70% of countries that have improved their scores since 2019, while MENA and sub-Saharan Africa are among the most improved regions. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the only high-income economies to rank among the top 10 most improved economies between 2019 and 2024.

Despite these strides, the TTDI warns that significant investment is needed to close gaps in enabling conditions and market share between developing and high-income countries. One possible pathway to help achieve this would be sustainably leveraging natural and cultural assets – which are less correlated with country income level than other factors – and can offer developing economies an opportunity for tourism-led economic development.

"It’s essential to bridge the divide between differing economies’ ability to build a strong environment for their travel and tourism sector to thrive,” says Iis Tussyadiah, professor and head of the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Surrey.

"The sector has big potential to foster prosperity and mitigate global risks, but that potential can only be fully realised through a strategic and inclusive approach."

Source: ©Blazej Lyjak via

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