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Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Responsible Cruising in West Africa

Cruise tourism is a billion pound industry focusing on offering quality services to their guests whilst visiting exotic locations with beautiful sceneries. A recent report from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) estimated that cruise tourism in Europe alone generates goods and services worth more than €32bn and provides over 311,512 jobs.

However, over the past few years, this industry has been increasingly criticised for its irresponsible practises and the negative effects that the itinerant boats have on the natural heritage they ‘cruise’ through. Even though the cruise industry has made a significant effort to reduce their negative impact on the environment, according to a presentation I witnessed by Jamie Sweeting, Vice President of Environmental Stewardship and Global Chief Environmental Officer for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, it does not seem that they have concrete policies to provide benefits for local communities in destinations, when I asked the question.

Over the past few weeks, a number of articles have appeared in the digital press about the increasing move of cruise companies towards less explored shores, diversifying their ports of call and using alternative itineraries to break from the norm. Some of these destinations found in West Africa, such as Senegal, Sierra Leone and Ghana are familiar to us at West Africa Discovery.

Let’s take an example of responsible tourism cruising in West Africa to explain how responsible tourism practises can be used to benefit local communities in destinations whilst respecting the local heritage and at the same time provide a positive and unique experience for the tourists participating.

In Senegal, on the west coast of West Africa, a small ship offers its passengers an unforgettable cruising experience along the Senegal River. The trip begins in Dakar where the tourist will be able to experience the vibrant and colourful scenery of a West African capital from which an overland journey will be undertaken to the Jazz Capital of West Africa, Saint Louis. From there, the trip diverts inland to a point where the 6 day cruise will begin. A beautifully refurbished Cruiser, which has been doing this journey for 50 years, will be waiting. Through this cruise, the passenger will learn about Wolof, Tukolor and Moore cultures and will witness the magnificence of the local natural heritage in the Parc Oiseau de Djoudj , the world’s third most important breeding grounds for migrating birds. Each day there will be a stop off in villages or visits old French Forts, gardens in the desert, or the birding reserve. Throughout the trip the passenger will be given a thorough history of the region both colonial and tribal.

“How may this cruise differ from the others? How does it make a difference?” you may ask. Well, Senegal is a great example of modern vibrant, open and progressing West Africa. Tourism has helped fuel their boom but, as with its neighbour The Gambia, it has often been package based holidays around the stunning coast. This type of mass tourism gives very little positive cultural interaction.

This trip however aims to show the participant modern Senegal, by spending some time in Dakar, and then to learn about the historic and cultural background in Saint Louis, followed by a cruise through some of the regions very different cultures. The Cruiser itself has been making the journey from Saint Louis to Podor for over 50 years. In the last decade it was fully refurbished and is now back in action providing an important and much loved communication link along this stretch of the Senegal River. Different communities who live along the river will be visited and they all benefit greatly from their links with the cruiser.

The cruiser is run by a local Senegalese company based in Saint Louis and has long established links with the communities visited on the cruise.

Furthermore, the cruise passes through the world’s third most important breeding grounds for migrating birds thus raising awareness towards the importance of natural conservation to show that this location, used for millennia by various species of birds, is extremely important for the survival of our planets feathery friends.

As you may have gathered, not only does this type of tourism offer the tourist a first-hand insight into the local heritage of a destination visited, thus offering an added value to what has become, from my point of view, a bland industry, but it also aims to give back to the local communities who live along the itinerary. In a region such as West Africa, which is fragile in terms of being easily influenced from outside sources, responsible tourism can offer much needed benefits to local communities as well as reducing the negative effects that tourism can have on local natural, cultural and social heritages.

For more information on the responsible cruising experience mentioned above, click here.

To discover more responsible tourism holiday ideas in West Africa, click here.

For more information, don’t hesitate to contact us by emailing info@westafricadiscovery.co.uk.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Good Luck Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria!

Out of the six African teams in the World Cup this summer, four are from West Africa. It is the first time that the World Cup has been held on the African continent, and it would be a momentous occasion for its people and African football if one these teams could go all the way. West Africa is a dominant force in African football and regularly produces stars that play for top European clubs. We took a look at the four teams from West Africa and their chances of success in this World Cup.


Also know as the Indomitable Lions, a tribute to their habit of grinding out results, Cameroon have long been flag bearers for Africa on the world stage since their first world cup in 1982.

Cyprian, one of our tour operators in Cameroon feels confident;

“I am almost sure that Cameroon can get to the second round at the world cup, but we still need discipline in the team to produce good results.

Our super star Samuel Eto’o has had some arguments with the management. If this is resolved then he will be explosive at the world cup and his performance could help Cameroon to the quarter finals at least. That is my forecast, anyway, let’s wait and see!”

With a group including the Netherlands, Denmark and Japan it will be challenging, but not impossible. They must find a way of getting the best out of Samuel Eto'o to progress.

Côte d’Ivoire

In Côte d’Ivoire everyone is wearing orange – the colour of the strip of their national team, The Elephants. Hopes have been dampened by the fact there’ll be no Didier Drogba, but they're managed by Sven-Goran Eriksson who may have a trick up his sleeve (some England fans may disagree!).

I read that one hundred Côte d’Ivoire fans are heading to South Africa on an all-expenses paid trip to watch their team. The country's national supporters club, the National Elephants Supporters Committee, drew the 100 names from their membership. Anyone with a $4 membership was included in the draw, touted as a way to thank ordinary fans who would never be able to afford the trip to the World Cup. A local tour operator is offering a similar trip for about $4,000. Whilst this is a nice gesture and will be a great trip for these fans, it highlighted to me how unattainable it is for a lot of local fans to attend the World Cup.

Côte d’Ivoire seems to be attracted to the ‘group of death’ with the best teams in major tournaments. This time round is no different with a group including Brazil, Portugal and North Korea. There will be a chance for the talented Aruna Dindane and Salomon Kalou to make their mark, and the side has strength in holding midfielder Yaya Touré. Sven Goran-Eriksson needs to improve the underachievement of a team beaten by Algeria in the quarter finals of the Africa Cup of Nations.


The Black Stars’ appearance at the World Cup in 2006 finally brought international recognition to a team that has long been one of the greats of Africa but somehow never qualified for the big event. They did well in the last finals in Germany with an adventurous style that won them many fans, but ending up losing to Brazil in the second round with key players missing.

Manuel our local expert in Accra says;

“We have hopes Ghana will do well in the Group stage to progress. 2006 was Ghana’s first time at the World Cup and we finished the group stage second. So I am expecting the same this time around!”

Their group includes Australia, Serbia, and Germany. Kevin Prince-Boateng's decision to play for his parents' country of origin means he could face his brother, Jerome, who has been selected by Germany where they were born. Michael Essien is injured so there is little star quality but their powerful style could be troublesome to other teams in their group.


This will be the Super Eagles fourth appearance in the World Cup. Meetings with Ghana in the Africa Cup of Nations have thrown up some epic games, although the Nigerians have lost the last two in the latter stages of recent tournaments. A meeting in the quarter final would be an epic encounter and sure to split the local South African support.

Nigeria will face Argentina, Greece and South Korea in their group. They have suffered a blow with Chelsea midfielder Mikel John Obi ruled out through injury, but with a squad largely drawn from top clubs it should be a confident team. Nigeria will be looking to their gifted attackers Obafemi Martins and Yakubu for goals.

Group B: Argentina/Nigeria/South Korea/Greece

Group D: Germany/Australia/Serbia/Ghana

Group E: Netherlands/Denmark/Japan/Cameroon

Group G: Brazil/North Korea/Côte d'Ivoire/Portugal

Visit the Fifa website for full group listings and fixtures.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

The World Cup: Local enthusiasm! Local benefits?

With just over a week to go, millions of people around the world will be watching their team in South Africa competing for the ultimate prize in football, the World Cup. But for many, particularly in Africa, this world cup has taken on greater significance. When South Africa was chosen to host the 2010 World Cup, it was hailed as a chance to 'give something back' to Africa. However, will the biggest event on Earth benefit some of the planet's poorest people?

The event could provide many benefits to local communities through local trade. However, according to an article in The Independent, informal traders who are a crucial part of African economy have been banned from around the 10 stadiums, reducing their chances to gain from the increased tourism. Creating more jobs for local people is also in question. The future of a project to set up public bus transport is in doubt because the government is cautious about standing up to South Africa's powerful minibus-taxi industry.

There are also question marks over Fifa's internet ticketing system that has left most of the continent unable to buy seats. Fifa kept ticket sales online until 15 April when poor sales forced them to open ticketing booths in the host country. Even though there will be a record six African teams in the finals; South Africa, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Nigeria and Algeria, only 11,000 African fans outside South Africa have purchased tickets. Should there have been more effort to include the fans of these countries?

As well as low ticket sales, especially in the northern hemisphere, tourism visitor figures for the World Cup have been revised down to 200,000 – about the same number of people that visit South Africa during an average summer season from November to February. Local airlines and hotels have cut prices for the coming month, and local businesses are worried about the lack of financial benefit the event will bring.

However, there is some good news. Fifa president Sepp Blatter, in an interview, said that the event is about "giving back to Africa what the continent has given world football through its players.” During a press conference, the organisation pointed to the "centres for hope" - 20 football academies that it will build after the cup. These could provide opportunities to African youth to develop themselves not only in football, but also through education. Examples of how successful these academies can be are The Craig Bellamy Foundation set to open this September in Sierra Leone, and the Right to Dream Academy in Ghana.

Elsewhere, organisations such as Oxfam are trying to use this world Cup and football to connect people around the world. Their new campaign calls on fans to upload a video of their tricks to the website, www.dontdropaid.org. The campaign calls on governments not to drop the ball on overseas aid, which helps to pay for kids to go to school and for medicines and bed-nets that save the lives of millions of people who would otherwise die from HIV or malaria.

Charles Bambara, a former player in the Burkina Faso premier league who works for Oxfam in West Africa, said: “Across the continent, from Algeria to Zambia, football brings a massive ray of hope to people’s lives. We want to tap into all of that energy to say: don’t drop the ball, don’t lose sight of the goal, which is to end poverty and make life better for the world’s poorest people.”

However, despite the event being marred by controversy, one thing is for sure, this event will unite Africans from all over the continent during the World Cup. Voice of America spoke to Ben Owusu from the Ghanaian community in South Africa. He says that Africans will be uniting behind an entire continent;

“We all are coming together this time around to support that particular African team that is playing that day. To come together is the only way we are going to come close to winning the Cup. Whatever African team does well, it will be a victory for the whole of Africa. This is Africa’s World Cup.”

“Brazil, Italy, England and Germany and all those other fancy teams must realize when they land here in South Africa that they are not only playing single African countries," he said. "They must know that they are playing against an entire continent, with its population of one billion firmly behind it … the Cup should remain in Africa.”

This is going to be a very exciting month for the players and fans from the four West African nations playing in the tournament. We will update you with information on the Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria teams over the next week for the build up to the big event. For more information on West Africa, or to discover how you can be a part of the World Cup by visiting the continent yourself, visit West Africa Discovery.