The contribution of wildlife to the economies of Sub Saharan Africa


To what extent does wildlife contribute to the economies of Sub Saharan Africa, through tourism, legal trade and consumptive use (legal hunting)?


There are numerous studies analysing wildlife watching tourism, however, there is limited data and literature on the overall figures of wildlife watching tourism and its economic impacts, and hence these are difficult to quantify. There is also limited data and evidence on the exact economic contributions of consumptive wildlife tourism in Sub Saharan Africa, such as trophy hunting and legal trade in skins. From the studies found, the contribution of trophy hunting to Sub Saharan countries’ GDPs is small but it may play a significant role in supporting conservation efforts. Despite limitations in measuring the economic value, tourism is a principal export for many African countries and a significant source of foreign exchange. Although the economic importance of tourism in Africa and the continent’s share of the worldwide tourism market are relatively modest, tourism numbers and expenditure has been increasing steadily there over the last 20 years (see section 2). Wildlife watching tourism is one of the main tourism products for Africa and as such a key contributor to the continent’s socio-economic development.

Key findings

  • The total contribution (including indirect and induced impacts) of travel and tourism to Sub Saharan African GDP was US$ 108.0bn (7.1% of GDP) in 2016, and this is forecast to rise by 4.8% pa to US$ 178.5bn (7.3% of GDP) in 2027.
  • In 2016, the total contribution of travel and tourism to employment, including jobs indirectly supported by the industry (for example through construction of hotels), was 6.0% of total employment in Sub Saharan Africa (15,770,500 jobs). This is expected to rise by 3.2% pa to 22,361,000 jobs in 2027.
  • International visitor numbers to Sub Saharan African countries is steadily increasing.
  • USA and UK remain top sources of tourists to Sub Saharan Africa, however, the importance of China as a source market of tourism is growing.
  • A typical wildlife watching tour costs on average US$ 433 and captures an additional US$ 55 in out-of-pocket expenses per person, per day.
  • The average length of stay for a typical wildlife watching tour is 10 days.
  • A total of 14 countries are generating an estimated US$ 142 million in entrance fees for protected areas.
  • Numerous animal species are already subject to a managed trade in Sub Saharan Africa which, in many cases, is sustainable (e.g. crocodile skins, zebra skins).
  • Good evidence and data on the economic significance and conservation benefits of hunting in African countries is limited, polarising a fractious debate and making it difficult to fully evaluate the overall effect of trophy hunting.


Suggested citation

Price, R.A. (2017). The contribution of wildlife to the economies of Sub Saharan Africa. K4D Helpdesk Report. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.