Repositioning culture and tourism in a diversified economy
A News Analysis by Rotimi Ijikanmi, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
The sudden and sustained decline in the price of petroleum, the mainstay of the nation’s economy, has been impacting negatively on the country’s revenue base.
As predicted by a former Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the decline has led to massive depreciation of the currency, a shortfall in foreign reserves and a huge growth in deficits.
The development has also brought about a situation in which many of states, outside the oil producing region, are now finding it difficult to pay workers’ salaries.
Lai Muhammed, Culture Minister
For the nation to get out of the quagmire, President Muhammadu Buhari recently declared that his administration would take urgent steps to diversify the national economy and initiate the productive development of various sectors of the economy.
Buhari asserted that the diversification of the Nigerian economy was long overdue, as continued reliance on proceeds from crude oil exports had always made the economy vulnerable to shocks.
The culture and tourism sector has since been identified as one of the sectors that could serve as veritable sources of revenue for the government in its economic diversification programme.
Olumo Rock , Abeokuta
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said that the Federal Government had identified arts, culture and tourism sectors as some of the sectors that would be the focus of its economic diversification programme.
Mohammed recently said in Lagos: ``As you are very much aware, this administration is diversifying the economy away from oil, which for many years has been the mainstay of our economy.
``Among the sectors that have been identified as veritable sources of revenue for the nation are the arts, culture and tourism sectors.
``This is why we, in the ministry of information and culture, are working hard to move these sectors from the margins to the mainstream and ensure that the rural poor, in particular, are factored into the sectors’ architecture.’’
Conscious of the potential challenges facing efforts to reposition these critical sectors and the need to carry along strategic stakeholders in the reform process, the minister said that the government would convene a National Summit on Culture and Tourism, with a view to charting the way forward.
Mohammed underscored the Federal Government’s determination to ensure that the culture and tourism sectors became money spinners for the country.
``We are, however, aware that similar efforts had been made in the past, without an appreciable result.
``The difference, this time around, is our commitment and the different milieu provided by the national imperative to diversify the economy, amidst the crash in the price of oil,’’ he said.
He said that the summit, which would hold from April 27 to April 29 with the theme, ``Repositioning Culture and Tourism in a Diversified Economy’’, would be declared opened by the President, who was also the Special Guest of Honour.
The minister said that the summit would focus on the creative sector and its roles in creating the necessary enabling environment and fillip for local industries to become economically viable.
He said that the summit would forge solid public-private-partnerships and collaboration, with a view to creating employment opportunities and promoting sustainable grassroots development in the culture and tourism sector.
According to him, efforts will be made to explore ways of transforming heritage sites, museums and galleries into avenues for employment and wealth generation.
He said that the gathering would also re-examine cultural education, with a view to expunging negative cultural practices, youth restiveness and delinquency.
Besides, Mohammed said that there would be coordinated marketing and promotion of Nigeria as a tourism destination as well as the development of a research and statistics mechanism that was vital national development efforts.
On cultural diplomacy, the minister said that the summit would devise strategies for the use of culture as a potent tool for dispute resolution, peace-making and creating synergy within and outside the country.
Mrs Ayotunde Adesugba, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, said that festivals, traditional cottage industries, including arts and crafts; bronze and brass works; pottery; leather works; tie and dye weaving and raffia works, among others, would be critically examined for employment generation purposes.
She said the Nigerian movies, music, fashion and attires, as well as indigenous cosmetics would also be examined, with a view to repositioning them for wealth creation.
Adesugba said that the summit would look into how to develop the five tourism clusters, which had been identified in Nigeria’s National Tourism Master Plan.
The tourism clusters include the Conference Capital (FCT, Nasarawa, etc.); Sahara Gateway (old Kano’s city wall, dyeing pits, etc.) and Scenic Nature (Museum and traditional architecture)
The others are Atlantic Gateway (Olokola Resort) and Tropical Rainforest (Obudu Ranch resort).
Mr Nkanta Ufot, Director of International Cultural Relations, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, said that the summit which would hold at the Congress Hall of Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, would feature presentations by culture and tourism experts.
He said that papers would be presented by a Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, former Secretary of National Council of Arts and Culture, Frank Aig-Imoukhuede and former Gov. Donald Duke of Cross River.
Obudu Ranch, Cross Rivers
Mrs Bolanle Austen-Peters, Founder of Terra Kulture, and Chief Tomi Akingbogun, President of Fed¬eration of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), are also among the resource persons.
It will be recalled that Duke, as Cross River governor, created the Obudu Ranch International Mountain Race, which has grown to become one of the most famous mountain running competitions in the world.
He also initiated Tinapa Resort project to boost business and tourism in the state.
Besides, Ufot said that Professors Mabel Evwierhoma, Umar Buratai, Ahmed Yerima, Sunnie Ododo, Tracie Utoh-Ezeajugh and Sule Bello; Dr Paul Adalikwu, Chief Tope Awe and Dr Franklin Adejuwon were some of the discussants and contributors expected at the summit.
He said that the summit would feature a gala night, cultural performances by the National Troupe of Nigeria and a tour of cultural and tourism sites in Abuja.
Stakeholders have described the decision to convene the summit as ``apt, timely and a step in the right direction’’.
This is because the consensus of opinion is that if the potential of Nigeria’s culture and tourism sectors is properly harnessed and developed, the sectors can contribute a lot to the national economy.
For instance, Mr Charles Folayan, a tourism expert, said that if properly developed, the tourism and hospitality sector, which currently contributed a meagre 1.5 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (PDP), could facilitate Nigeria’s economic survival.
Folayan, the Public Relations Officer of Hospitality and Tourism Management Association of Nigeria (HATMAN), said that government only have to review the sector and have the political will to implement innovative and transformative policies.
``It is no longer news that many countries of the world generates a larger percentage of their revenue from the hospitality and tourism industry, but the case is not the same in Nigeria, in spite of our clement weather that is suitable for visitors and the relative peace in most states.
``We have population of over 150 million people, with many tourism sites, rich cultural heritages and festivals, capable of providing jobs and generating revenues.
``If these are well-handled and good policies are put in place by government, the tourism sector will contribute immensely to the country’s economy, particularly through income tax, property tax and duties on commodities and services rendered to tourists,’’ he said.
Another tourism expert, Mr Zubairu Abubakar, nonetheless, insisted that ``without the government leading the approach, private investors will not show adequate interest in tourism’’.
He stressed that culture and tourism could be powerful drivers of national economies if they were well-developed, packaged, harnessed and promoted.
Abubakar reiterated that the government must exhibit enough will and commitment, while formulating pragmatic policies that would improve the culture and tourism sectors.
He urged the government to collaborate with the private sector to develop reliable statistics, empirical data and knowledge that would portray Nigeria as a veritable tourist destination.
``With its vast landmass, physical features, rich cultural diversity and numerous wildlife species, Nigeria clearly has several advantages over several other countries.
``Nigeria, with its over 250 ethnic groups, has ample opportunities for cultural tourism, in terms of historical sites, annual traditional festivals and folk arts, such as crafts, carvings, and sculpture,’’ he added.
All the same, tourism experts insist that concerted efforts should be made to elicit tangible investments in Nigeria’s tourism infrastructure so as to develop the sector and enhance its contributions to the national economy. )
**If used, please credit the writer as well as News Agency of Nigeria