Amsterdam, Barcelona, community, Destination development manager, Familiarity, Ghana, Kejetia, lectureship, London, poverty reduction, President, Reflexivity, Research, Robben Island, social and economic inequalities, Table Mountain, Tourism, tourism destination, Tourism Management, Tourism-poverty nexus, tourists, University of Cape Town, University of Lincoln
Just three nights ago, I had the experience of being called out as a Ghanaian. As I made my way out of Rondebosch Mall to catch a taxi home in the evening, I briefly exchange “the nod” with two guys. Now, “the nod” is a greeting phenomenon that is often played out between ‘black’ people especially when in a different country other than their own. I mean I don’t give “the nod” to every person I meet on the hot streets of Kejetia in Ghana for example. However, if I find myself in London, Amsterdam or Barcelona and I meet a fellow ‘dark coloured’ African then I happily give “the nod”. Sometimes it feels almost instinctive and second nature. It’s a covert language, a form of saying, “I see you bro” or “I acknowledge our shared situation in a foreign country”. But I digress from the original story. So I give these two guys “the nod” and then one of them approaches me and asks with great conviction, “Are you Ghanaian?” and then I said “yes”. He tells me he is called Alidu and that he is also Ghanaian and that he could tell that I am Ghanaian because we have a shade darker skin tone than our South African brothers. Moreover, he added, I look like former president John Agyekum Kuffour. This is actually not the first time I have heard about my likeness with the former president. Maybe I should also become the President of Ghana. The point is, I was happy at this random encounter of being called out as a Ghanaian by another Ghanaian. I remember in my Cape Chronicles II, I mentioned how I walk on UCT campus hoping to see a familiar face and calling out to or being called out by someone I know from time past. It kind of began to happen but sadly at the end of my stay.
In the two weeks since my double Cape Chronicles III and IV, a lot of water has passed under the bridge. I have had a good interviews and meetings and interesting conversations over tea and coffee. Progress have been made in my thesis writing project and meeting the goals of the research visit. All in all, I managed to write three new chapters of my thesis during my stay in Cape Town. This is in addition to reworking the first 4 chapters in response to comments from my supervisors. I now leave here with Chapters 1-7 drafted and cleaned out have arrived with only Chapters 1-4 with pending comments. Now I can give my brains a short break before churning out my last chapter. Only then will the long road towards submission by October/November, 2016 really begin after I get to see all the red pen markings and comments on the thesis from my supervisors. For now I feel like I achieved almost all of the objectives I set for myself 5 weeks ago when I headed down to the Mother city. I have carried out the exploratory research set out in my funding proposal through the interviews and informal conversations I have had with university researchers, taxi drivers, shop keepers, tour guides, and entrepreneurial photographers at tourist attractions among others. Now I know more than before I came about tourism in Cape Town and how its role in economic development and poverty reduction is perceived in some quarters. The interview I had with the Destination Development Manager of the City of Cape Town was particularly useful. It shed new light on how to (re)view aspects of my PhD thesis. He made the subtle yet important distinction between benefiting from tourism and benefiting from tourists.
Sometimes communities get to benefit directly from tourism and indirectly from tourists when people are employed in businesses outside of the community but catering to tourists. While it will be ideal to have many communities benefit directly from tourists this is not always possible in the short term. Nonetheless, communities can benefit from tourism and tourists if their products are brought to the established route frequented by tourists. This might be an easier option in the short term than the difficult option of trying to (re)direct tourists away from key attractions towards far off communities with few attractions. In the context of the Elmina 2015 Strategy, the goal was to get benefits to the community by redirecting tourists to go through the more of the community and not just visit the Elmina Castle. This did not work out quite well because it is difficult to shift tourists away from established routes to new places in the short term. Instead of setting up a craft market away from the established route as was the case of the Elmina 2015 Strategy, it might perhaps have helped if the produce of the community and the market was rather brought up to the noses of tourists by setting it up right in front of the Elmina Castle. I can hear cries of commodification of a tragic past but how can we help communities taste the benefits of having a UNESCO World Heritage Site on their doorstep? It is such a delicate balance to achieve.
So then, this is how it all comes to an end, suddenly! Even as I beginning to feel some small sense of belonging through my network of taxi driver friends, the familiar faces of staff in Pick n Pay and those at KAUAI, the brevity of time has caught up with me. This is surely not goodbye but more of a “see you later”. My time in Cape Town seem to have whistled by just when I was beginning to enjoy being a proper tourist and visiting the sights and sounds of the city. It has been a pleasure and a joy to have had this opportunity to see, experience, learn and connect with a lot of what was on offer here. I am satisfied with what I was able to do and not able to do. Now I can look forward to the flashes of memory and reflection of my time in Cape Town that will invariably come upon me once I get into the new routine of my lectureship position in Tourism Management at the University of Lincoln – which I officially start this Monday 22nd August, 2016….whew!