The Role Higher Education Plays towards the Development of Sustainable Socio-Economic Opportunities for Mapungubwe World Cultural Heritage Site Communities



Using Mapungubwe World Cultural Heritage Site as a case study, this paper investigates the role academics at Higher Education Institutions (heis) can play in facilitating the development of a more holistic approach to cultural heritage tourism (cht). cht is presented as a vehicle that can be utilised by higher education institutions within protected heritage areas towards mitigating poverty alleviation and socio-economic development, which contributes to addressing Sustainable Development Goals (sdgs) 1, 8 and 11. A sequential mixed method was adopted for this study. Focus groups were conducted with 15 participants using a semi-structured
interview guide. The researcher also administered a survey of 100 questionnaires. Content analysis and spss were used to analyse the data. The key finding is that community engagement initiatives of heis could play an important role in socioeconomic development. However, it is essential to involve different stakeholders in order to effectively identify socioeconomic opportunities aimed at addressing the primary needs of the communities. Stakeholders’ involvement in decision-making processes about community development projects is vital because imposing development upon communities could result in disputes and withdrawal of community
support. In the Mapungubwe area, heis, through community education, engagement and involvement in socio-economic development projects from an initial stage could contribute towards achieving sustainable socio-economic opportunities and in this way accelerate the implementation of sdgs. This study highlights the value of community engagement projects as potential drivers of a holistic approach to cht and the drive towards more sustainable management of cultural heritage sites.

Keywords: cultural heritage tourism, community development and engagement, Mapungubwe World Cultural Heritage Site, higher education, Sustainable Development Goals

Author Biography

Lombuso Precious Shabalala, University of South Africa, College of Economic and Management Sciences

Dr Lombuso Precious Shabalala is a lecturer in the College of Economic and Management Sciences at the University of South Africa.  Her focus area is Cultural Heritage Tourism.  She holds a PhD from the University of the Witwatersrand. She made history for being the first nGAP Lecturer hosted by the University of Mpumalanga to complete and graduate with a PhD. She is a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society.  She is an emerging researcher, who is actively involved in community engagement and enjoys working with students.  She successfully established and maintained relations and partnerships with stakeholders, which includes traditional leaders, business owners, government organisations/parastatals, including tourism educators. She has presented papers in both local and international conferences; and reputable publishers such UNESCO UNITWIN Network (Culture, Tourism, & Development) published some of her work.  She recently contributed a chapter in an ebook published by Springer. She has reviewed conference papers and a book chapter. Her collaboration institutions includes University of the Witwatersrand and University of Zululand.  In addition, she holds a vast of experience in the tourism sector.



Ayoo, C. (2007). Community-based natural resource management in Kenya. Management of Environmental Quality: An International Journal, 18(5):531-541.

Carruthers, J. (2006). Mapungubwe: an historical and contemporary analysis of a World Heritage cultural landscape. Koedoe, 49(1):1-13. ISSN 0075-6458.

Chirikure, S., Manyanga, M., Ndoro, W. and Pwiti, G. (2010). Unfulfilled promises? Heritage management and community participation at some of Africa’s cultural heritages sites. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 16 (1-2):30-44. DOI: 10.1080/13527250903441739.

Department of higher education and training. 2013. White paper for post-school education and training. ISBN: 978-1-77018-713-9.

Department of Science and Technology. (2019). White paper on Science, technology and innovation. Available from: . Access date: 12 November 2019.

Department of Tourism. (2012). National Heritage and Cultural Tourism Strategy. Available from: . Access date: 14 July 2019.

Department of Tourism. (2011). National Tourism Sector Strategy 2016-2026. Available from: . Access date: 02 February 2018.

Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. (1996). White paper on Tourism. Pretoria: Government Printers.

de Wet. S. (2018). The basic needs theory for community development. Research Gate, 1-14. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.11882.98243.

Jimura, T. (2019). Heritage management and conservation activities at World Heritage Site. CAB International, 20-33. DOI: 10.1079/9781786392688.0020.

Kurin, R. (2004). Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage in the 2003 UNESCO Convention: a critical appraisal. Museum international, 56(1-2):66-77. .

Keitumetse, S.O. (2014). Cultural Resource as Sustainability Enablers: Towards a Community-Based Cultural Heritage Resources Management (COBACHREM) Model). Sustainability, 6:70-85. DOI: 10.3390/su6010070.

Landorf, C. (2009). A framework for sustainable Heritage Management: Study of UK Industrial Heritage sites. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 15(6):494-510.

Limpopo Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (2018). Background. Available from: . Access date: 14 April 2018.

Lopez-Guzman, T. and Santa-Cruz, F.G. (2016). International tourism and the UNESCO category of intangible cultural heritage. International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research, 10(3):310-322.

Prideaux, B., Timothy, D.J. and K. Chon. (2008). Themes in Cultural and Heritage Tourism in the Asian Pacific Region. Routledge, USA and Canada. ISBN 10: 0-415-36673-9.

Schoeman, M.H. and Pikirayi, I. (2011). Repatriating more than Mapungubwe human remains: archaeological material culture, a shared future and an artificially divided past. Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 29(4): 389-403. 

Shabalala, L.P. (2020). Perspectives on the role of Cultural Heritage Tourism in Community Development in South Africa: A study of Mapungubwe World Heritage Site in Limpopo Province, unpublished thesis, Turnitin repository database, University of Mpumalanga, South Africa.

South African National Parks – Mapungubwe National Park. (2014). Available from: Access date: 04 November 2017.

South African Local Government Association. (2011). National Development plan Vision for 2030. Available from: . Access date: 14 April 2018. ISBN: 978-0-621-40475-3.

Tshiala, M.L., Olwoch, J.M. and Engelbrecht, F.A. (2011). Analysis of Temperature Trends over Limpopo Province, South Africa. Journal of Geography and Geology, 3(1):13-21.

UNESCO. (2007), “UNESCO-EIIHCAP regional meeting”, Safeguarding Intangible Heritage and Sustainable Cultural Tourism: opportunities and Challenges, UNESCO, Paris.

United Nations (2015). Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Available from: . Access date: 02 October 2019.

University of Victoria research groups. (2012). Complexity Science in brief. Available from: _brief.pdf . Access date: 12 May 2018.




How to Cite

Shabalala, L. P. (2023). The Role Higher Education Plays towards the Development of Sustainable Socio-Economic Opportunities for Mapungubwe World Cultural Heritage Site Communities. Academica Turistica - Tourism and Innovation Journal, 16(1). Retrieved from



UNESCO UNITWIN Conference Papers