South Africa: LGBT inclusion for better African economies

Kholekile Mnisi is a marketing communications specialist, blogger, writer and gender activist.

Modern African states are neglecting the economic costs of homophobia at their own peril.

In addition to the institutionalised homophobia in the modern African context, there is a disregard for the economic contributions and benefits that the decriminalisation and inclusion of the LGBT community may have for African economies.

Institutionalised discrimination is bad for people and for societies. This has been proven in many African states where homosexual men are jailed and lesbian women face corrective rape.

From a reasoned view point, modern African economies disregard the truth that homophobia results in losses amounting to hundreds of millions of revenue a year.

Economically, homophobia disempowers people who could be contributing to the socio-economic progression of African countries. For example, in some countries those who identify as LGBT have no access to basic government services such as healthcare, protection by law and social status, to mention just a few.

While “Pink Currency” and “Pink Capitalism” are a reality at the international market level, evidence of such in Africa is difficult to find. Very few if close to no studies have been conducted that gauge the LGBT community’s capacity to acquire and retain jobs, how long they last in the jobs and why they end up losing jobs.

Skills shortage is a harsh and highly debated reality in African economies. A viewpoint that many do not consider is that skilled LGBT individuals would rather take their skill to overseas markets that are more inclusive and gender neutral. Significantly, this hampers the GDP outputs of countries that are not accepting of the LGBT community.

Legislation in most African countries is also discouraging gay tourism. As a result, gay people would much rather take their Pink Currency elsewhere. There is a huge amount of revenue from the Pink Market that is lost for nations in Africa that have criminalised homosexuality.

As proof points, progressive nations such as the Spanish have seen the economic and social benefits of tapping into and embracing same-sex populations.

Spain, which in 2005 became the third European nation to legalise gay marriage – after Belgium and the Netherlands – solidified its reputation as a holiday destination where the LGBT could feel comfortable and accepted. As a result, LGBT tourism rose; with LGBT guests adding roughly US$6.8 billion per annum to the inclusive Spanish economy. LGBT people spend approximately 30 per cent more than conventional tourists in Spain, as reported by government estimates. The African economy is missing this opportunity.

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