Sun, Sand, Sex, and Safari The Interplay of Sex Tourism and Global Inequalities in Africa’s Tourism Industry

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Sitinga Kachipande


Despite the increasing visibility of sex in Africa’s tourism industry, the continent is typically neglected in global narratives about sex tourism. The quintessential image of sex tourism is that of Global North tourists traveling to “exotic” locations in the Global South such as East Asia, Latin America, or the Caribbean. Yet, Africa has been experiencing a growth in sex tourism bolstered by an increase in globalization-led tourism development. The continent was identified as the second-fastest growing tourism region in the world in 2019—after the Asia Pacific region—with an estimated 67 million visitors annually, and some of those tourists are bound to engage in sex tourism. Literature examining the global inequalities that inform sex tourism in the African economy using the perspectives of dependency theories and postcolonial theories is sparse but warranted. Expanding on these critiques of the politics of race, class, gender, and imperialism, this article explores interactions between Global North sex tourists and Global South hosts in the sex tourism industry in Africa. The article contends that the tourist gaze on sex workers in Africa’s sex tourism industry is informed by representations of Africa and African sexuality in pop culture rooted in the colonial project and by contemporary power imbalances in the global tourism industry, which organizes raced, gendered, and classed tourist experiences.

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