When I speak of Africa, I speak of sprawling cities, majestic mountains, the Sun, the oceans and white sand beaches. I also speak of the ancient pyramids of Egypt, gorillas in Rwanda and the point at which the ocean meets the desert in Namibia. If I were to describe Africa in one word, that word would be a Yoruba or Swahili or Ndebele word – languages often so condensed and descriptive, they do justice to the object of description. For instance, one of the largest curtains of falling water in the world – straddling the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia – is aptly called Mosi – oa – Tunya by those whose heritage is built around the waterfalls. Mosi – oa – Tunya translates to ‘the smoke that thunders’ and presents a much more factual and poetic description of the falls compared to the colonial name – Victoria Falls.
This is what happens when Africans explore Africa and share their own stories: we elucidate in a manner that only an insider can. This is exciting because as more people explore the continent for themselves, certain trends emerge, creating a cycle that will do wonders for cross-cultural integration and intra-African tourism.
There has never been a time in history more saturated with African storytellers, exploring their corners of the continent and sharing these stories with the world. What’s incredible is that the most successful travel bloggers have carved a niche for themselves, exposing the nitty gritty of travel to their specific audience. From adventure bloggers in Nairobi to luxury bloggers in Marrakech, there’s someone out there doing the groundwork to help African travel better. Don’t be fooled by the seeming over – accessibility of the blogging trade – many top bloggers write with the precision of a journalist and the wordplay of a trained writer. Now, the world is paying attention.
In June, I was invited on to the news for a live feature on BBC. My trending maps and stories caught the attention of the show’s producers and became a pretty pivotal fulcrum for discussing ease of travel across our beautiful continent. Now, I produce a new interactive map every two months showing Africa in a light that was previously unseen – languages of Africa, names of taxi buses, and so many more.
Tour Companies and Technology
In 2016, I noticed that travel across Africa can be difficult, expensive and riddled with many disjointed booking processes. Also, there was a severe lack of travel packages that allow individuals and corporate entities reach their travel goals at low costs and with minimal effort towards the planning process. On Independence Day of the same year, I took the bold step to close this gap in the travel space. This is is how our travel experience company – TVP Adventures – was born. Since then, we have brought over 1000 dreams to life through an online platform where people can book travel experiences across Africa without the hassle of planning trips.
At the same time, several tour operating companies have emerged and we are quickly building a network of tour operators that will deliver experiences to the increasingly empowered, curious and adventurous populations of Africa. This is enabled by technology. Technology is more than just a cool tool, it has become the critical tool for connecting travelers across Africa and simplifying access to tour packages, flights and hotels.
If African travel will truly succeed, there must be policy developments to help shrink the borders between countries. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD, between 1995 and 2014, the number of inbound tourists in Africa more than doubled. Only about 25% of this growth was accounted for by Africans. This is changing. The disjointed air routes and trade networks are being replaced by ‘one-Africa’ style policies such as the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) which is expected to drastically reduce prices of flight tickets within the continent and enhance connectivity in Africa. This follows changes by several African countries which have relaxed visa rules for citizens of the continent.
My Africa is an unraveling riddle and the opportunities for exploration and business are endless.
‘Funmi Oyatogun is a vibrant explorer and travel entrepreneur at TVP Adventures; a company focused on leading people to their dreams by designing creative and meaningful travel experiences within Africa. She is also an experienced travel writer whose stories are focused on breaking through African borders, uncovering the historic stories of her people and places, and presenting first-hand information about tourism and adventure opportunities. She has been featured on the BBC, CNN Africa, Arise TV and many more renowned platforms. Follow her on Twitter (@funmioyatogun).