Coping with Strangers in Africa: Tourism, Politics and Development in South-Western Ethiopia

Date: Oct, 2011
ODID Working Paper No. 191
Author(s): Tamas Regi (University of Sheffield/Sheffield International College)

According to a report, made for the UK Department for International Development (DFID): 'among the top 40 recipients of DFID bilateral aid, tourism is significant' (DFID, 1999: 9). However, while the tourism sector increasingly contributes to most developing countries' GDP it does not necessarily mean that international tourists also foster microeconomic stability. Local perceptions of tourism and development often alter from the supra regional political and economic views.

This article explores how tourism, as a new source of wealth, is perceived in a small scale localised community and how this view differs from the national rhetoric and practice of national development plans in Ethiopia. The paper discuses how relatively new forms of contacts give ground to emerging political institutions that begin as tentative interest groups and become protagonists in local politics. I analyse a process that I documented during a one year long anthropological fieldwork among the Mursi, a South Ethiopian pastoral society, wherein daily encounters challenged local groups' decision making processes, compel them to form new allies, cooperate and collaborate in a different way that they practiced before.

ODID Author(s)