Enclave tourism in the Okavango Delta marginalize communities
A new study has demonstrated that tourism industry in the Okavango is pre-dominantly foreign owned, and that the local people have been severely marginalized.
Figures indicate that 81.5 percent of the tourist facilities in Maun and in the Okavango Delta have foreign influence in which 53.8 percent are 100% foreign owned.
The study has further revealed that enclave tourism in the Ngamiland district is rife but the downside of it is that locals are economically and politically marginalized and have no control over natural resource management and conservation.
Weekend Post has learnt that much of the land and its natural resources that are the main tourist attractions are owned and controlled by private tour operators or by the government.
When addressing the Botswana symposium on wetlands and wildlife 2015 recently, Professor Joseph Mbaiwa, of University of Botswana revealed that the development of ‘enclave tourism’ is one of the major problems affecting the growth of tourism in the Okavango Delta. He described enclave tourism as tourism that is concentrated in remote areas in which the types of facilities and their physical location fail to take into consideration the needs and wishes of surrounding communities. Such tourist facilities are characterized by foreign ownership and are designed to meet the needs and interests of foreign tourists.
Mbaiwa explained that in the Okavango Delta, the type of tourism that has so far developed is characterized by tourist facilities such as hotels, lodges and camps that are also foreign owned and controlled.
It is has been further revealed that 81.5 percent of the tourist facilities in Maun and in the Okavango Delta have foreign influence in which 53.8 percent are 100% foreign owned. Citizens and expatriates are reported to jointly own about 27.7 percent of them while only 18.5 percent are 100% owned by citizens.
Another study shows that about 95 percent of the accommodation and transport sectors in Maun have foreign involvement, with 60 percent of them being 100% foreign owned, 35 percent of them jointly owned between locals and expatriates with only one percent being 100% locally owned.
Data from the licensing office in the Department of Tourism indicate that in the year 2000, out of 103 tourism-related businesses registered and operational in Maun and in the delta, 16 (15.5%) were citizen owned, 36 (35%) jointly owned (between Botswana and non-citizens) while 51 (49.5%) were non-citizens owned. This suggests that 87 (84.5%) of the tourism-related companies registered in Maun and operational in the Okavango region have direct foreign involvement.
Tawana Land Board indicates that in a total of 15 concession areas under its custody in the Okavango Delta, four (26.7%) were leased to citizen companies, six (40%) to jointly owned companies (between citizens and non citizens) and five (33.3%) to non-citizen companies. This means 73.3% of the non citizen companies operate in 11 concession areas, excluding those controlled by the central government and also leased out to operators.
Prof Mbaiwa revealed that local people in Ngamiland indicated that there was a general assumption that the delta had been taken from them by government and given to foreign tour operators. He added that as a result, citizens view the approach negatively because they perceive the domination by non-citizens as ‘selling out’ of their resources. Mbaiwa revealed that the suspicions and mistrusts between the local communities and tour operators in the Okavango Delta have since developed into another problem of racism between the two groups.
The Ministry of Wildlife, Environment and Tourism, Department of Labour and Home Affairs and the Ngamiland District Council has confirmed these reports of racism, Weekend Post can reveal. It is reported that the racism in the tourism industry between the local black population and white tour operators was confirmed to be in existence by 53% of the managers and 73% of workers in safari camps and lodges in the delta and 60% of the managers and 47.6% of workers in tourism-related industries in Maun.
Mbaiwa explained that the racism was characterized by failure on the side of tour operators to employ local people in top management positions, hence the assumption that management positions in the tourism industry were reserved for expatriate workers. He added that part of it was due to the unpleasant working conditions for local workers in the delta like working long hours without compensations, poor accommodation in camps, and unfair dismissal of local workers and the use of abusive language often used by employers towards local workers.
According to Prof Mbaiwa, Botswana’ Tourism Policy of 1990 is to blame for the development of enclave tourism in the delta. The policy, he revealed it emphasized the promotion of high-cost–low-volume tourism. He explained that the strategy was adopted to raise the needed revenue for the industry to sustain itself. Mbaiwa argued that as a result, from 1990 there has been a shift from encouraging casual tourist campers in favour of tourist who occupy permanent accommodation. Mbaiwa added that the policy also presumed that low volumes of tourists are more consistent with the need to protect the environmental basis of the industry.
“The Tourism Policy was implemented through targeted marketing and imposition of high fees for the use of public facilities. High-spending tourists have as a result been encouraged to visit the Okavango Delta while low-budget tourists are indirectly being discouraged by the high fees charged,” he posited.
Mbaiwa highlighted that enclave tourism is characterized by high prices charged in tourist facilities and services, such prices become unaffordable to the majority of the local people. He showed that in the Okavango Delta on average a tourist is expected to pay 400 US dollars as accommodation charge per night in a tourist camp or lodge and a one hour flight in the Okavango Delta costs on average about 220 US dollars.
“These charges make the Okavango Delta a very expensive resort area for locals to visit. Rich foreign tourists from North America and Western Europe therefore mostly use the Okavango Delta,” the professor said.
He also stressed that low level of Botswana’s economic development and a great deal of capital needed for tourism development and high levels of management in the tourism sector also contribute to tourism in the Okavango Delta being under the control of foreign investors. He highlighted that the facilities are operated with minimum commercial trading including local agriculture and social links with existing local communities.
“This situation therefore made it possible for a lot of money that is paid for tours by visitors to never arrive in the Okavango or Botswana, since bookings is mostly done outside Botswana either in Johannesburg, America or Europe. The exclusive nature of tourism in the Okavango Delta has tended not to be of direct benefit to the people of Ngamiland District as much of the tourist revenue is not retained in Ngamiland or in Botswana,” he decried.
Mbaiwa warned through quoting other environmental experts about the dangers enclave tourism could bring to the Okavango Delta. He explained that operators have the tendency to desire maximized profit within a short period of time even at an environmental cost. He cautioned that once the resources are depleted, tour operators and tourists usually re-locate elsewhere where there is a tourism boom and the cycle starts all over again.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.