So much have been said about diversifying Nigeria’s economy just to meet up with the tag “giants of Africa”.
Infact, the word “diversification” is being used practically in every sentence made by government officials, economists, while the Nigerian on the streets has seen it as a cliche one must use when making comments or statements regarding the economy.
The word diversification in the financial context refers to the process of allocating funds in a way that reduces the exposure to any one particular asset or risk.
A common path towards diversification is to reduce risk or volatility by investing in a variety of assets or sectors like Real sector, manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, etc.
However my concern is the latter…a long neglected Tourism sector, which in other climes is a major source of revenue. Take for instance African countries like South Africa, Tanzania, Ethiopia or even Kenya, these countries don’t have crude oil yet as ordinary as the tourism sector is they rely on it for the generation of revenue.
To my question which forms the fulcrum of this article, do we still have a tourism sector in Nigeria? Many of you reading this, will keenly agree that tourism in Nigeria is living in a past glory, with efforts to revive the troubled sector by successive government have not yielded positively as expected.
As long as I can remember, the drive to diversify the nation’s economy which started long during the era of former President Olusegun obasanjo, of course then there was a boom in sales from crude and as such no one thought of diversifying or even boosting the tourism sector.
For the records, Nigeria’s local tourism is worth over $4 billion annually which can be plough back into the economy to sustain its growth and expansion.
In a recent forum, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed said tourism is generating 1.5% to the country’s GDP, rather than 7% and above, an affirmation to the dead state of that sector.
According to him, one of the major factors limiting the boosting of the nations’ tourism is lack of infrastructure, while some tourists’ centres in the country are not attractive and inaccessible due to lack of good roads and other element needed to operate the centres efficiently.
Other challenge which is militating against the sector’s growth is the need to improve the country’s visa regime to help attract foreign tourists, willing to invest in the country.
To diversify the economy, Nigeria requires knowing the amount it needs to invest in order to increase the Internally Generated Revenue in the culture and tourism sector.
There are hundreds of beautifully abandoned tourist sites scattered across the 36 states of the federation, that only need to be brought to live by activities. For now, one doesn’t know the fate of tourism in the North East, following the devastation caused by the Boko Haram insurgent. However, things or activities can be re-awaken eventually if the Nigerian military sustain its mop-up activities.
Special attention should be paid to the capacity building of culture and tourism managers in a deliberate effort to revive the nation’s creative arts to boost tourism and create employment for Nigerians, particularly the rural dwellers.
Also working with various local and international partners, map our creative arts, by which I mean pottery, weaving, dyeing, sculpturing, etc, with a view to reviving them massively through capacity building for those involved and the provision of loans.
In the long run, I believe this will not only create hundreds of thousands of jobs, thus keeping our people meaningfully engaged, it will also become money spinners for the economy and stem the rural-urban migration.
Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Mohammed, in a summit to rekindle the passion for the sector, had identify the non-involvement of local communities in the tourism and culture architecture as one of the banes of the sector and promised to reverse the trend through the training of the locals on specific skills that will enable them to participate actively in the tourism and culture economy.
In addition, he said a multi-sectoral approach is critical in order to address the multifaceted challenges facing the sectors, while giving an assurance that the present Administration has mustered the political will to tackle those challenges.
BY: Imoh Edet
Twitter: @ImohRich|LinkedIn: Imoh Edet