Thematic area: Tourism Forum; Community Based Tourism and the Regional Integration.
In collaboration with Uganda Community Tourism Association (UCOTA), Kenya Community Based Tourism Network (KECOBAT) participated in Zinduka festival 2014 which was scheduled for November 6th to 8th under a theme: People’s Voices, Sustainable Development. The celebrations took place at Sheikh Amri Abeid Karume stadium in Arusha where 11 conveners attended with various themes aimed to enhance the livelihoods of East African Communities. Five East African countries including, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania were represented by various organizations and artists.
The chairperson organizing committee, Mr Kepta Ombati giving his opening remarks, highlighted that after the inaugural festival last year, participants were unanimous on the need to make Zinduka Festival an annual event. The organizers promised to hold the second edition this year (which this report is about), again in Arusha, a city resonating so well with the collective efforts of the people for regional integration and Pan-Africanism. Zinduka Festival is a celebration of our individual and collective achievements of our industry, creativity and cultures. But it is also a statement of our commitment to actively participate in and work towards an East African Community in which every voice counts.
The event was officially opened by Dr. Richard Sezibera, the General Secretary, East African Community in Arusha and addressing the audience, He depicted the opportunities and benefits of communities working together in East Africa to have a collective intervention to various challenges including employment opportunities, knowledge exchange for best practices implementation, enhance trade and business ventures, promoting the region as a tourist destination among others that would solve problems mitigating the acceleration of sustainable development.
Different conveners in respective groups discussed various thematic areas in development and Kenya Community Based Tourism network (KECOBAT) together with Uganda Community tourism Association (UCOTA) convened tourism forum where Community Tourism in East Africa was represented and discussed.
Community Based Tourism and the Regional Integration.
Brief introductions were given about UCOTA/ KECOBAT also referring to TANAPA who all represent the Community Based Tourism (CBT) initiatives and discussions were directed to explain community tourism and the role of Community Based Tourism Enterprises (CBTEs) in enhancing East African Communities through ensuring that benefits from tourism sector are integrated in the focal point of transforming livelihoods of communities. CBT in the regional integration will pose various benefits and opportunities where marketing East Africa as a single destination with single visa will smoothly enable different visitors be at liberty to explore various tourism products in East African communities. Product diversification including implementation of Homestays, agro tourism, Culture and heritage, youth and sports among others were presented by KECOBAT as one of the tourism products to benefit East African communities. Also following various presentations and discussions, East African Community integration will be a strong vehicle for strengthening and enhancing community development through:
- Wider market and collective marketing of community tourism products
- Increased voice and power for community based tourism advocacy in designing of policies accommodating community interests in development.
- Ensuring collaborative efforts to solve various community challenges encompassing socio-economic and information technology improvement.
- Mutual knowledge exchange resulting from wider scope knowledge sharing platforms. Benefits from success stories among East African communities will create enabling environment and enhance promotion of diverse cultural setting and community attractions.
Therefore various concerns from stakeholders in the tourism Value chain at various levels would be integral part in participation to promote tourism in East Africa including what community leaders can do locally and regionally to stimulate CBT and keeping its relevancy in the integration as key community contacts to ensure optimum community participation in endeavors for them to realize their benefits of implementing East African Community Integration.
Focusing on thematic area of tourism forum, Zindika Festival which is held annually aims at the implementation of East African Community integration and this will greatly promote local/ or domestic tourism where different communities will eagerly visit new places in the region for both study purposes and curiosity thereafter implement the best practices in relation to the activities supported by diverse resources, interactions and professional partnerships in their respective communities. This will also offer an opportunity to Community Based Tourism (CBT) to diversify their products to suit the trend of consumer priorities in tourism enterprises to make the region a leading tourism destination.
Conclusively, East African Community integration will provide a recognized forum to promote and advance community tourism development and other products including wildlife through collaborative efforts in advocating for community interests and harnessing different marketing strategies to promote various tourism products at both regional and international markets. Strong collaborations with grass root communities need to be enhanced for effective and relevant service delivery in addressing community hindrances for socio-economic and technological advancement to realize total livelihood transformation among East African communities.
By Godfrey Habumuremyi