By Olukayode Kolawole
Nigeria is blessed with rich natural resources. These resources have, no doubt, contributed meaningfully to the economic growth and development of the country. While some of these resources have been reproduced into things of greater value, such as gold and PMS, DPK, AGO and LPFO products, others are being preserved as tourism attractions for indigenes and foreigners alike. The likes of Olumo Rock in Abeokuta, Zuma Rock in Niger, Obudu Mountain Resort in Calabar, Awhum Waterfall in Enugu, The Giant Footprint of Ukhuse Okein Edo and Alok Ikom Moliths in Cross River are few examples of natural resources turned tourism sites.
Tourism is a very competitive industry – although not much of the competition has been seen in Nigeria – and the competitive advantage becomes unnatural if it’s largely driven by science, technology, information and innovation. We must manage our resources better and pair our tourism products with man-made innovations. Nigeria’s tourism should focus on increasing its standards on infrastructure, accommodation and services. We must get these things right for tourism to grow. We also need to package tourism for Nigerians in Nigeria, the return on investment from traditional source markets will remain low as this market is sensitive. Intra-country tourism can grow double digit if well harnessed.
It becomes especially important for our government to develop infrastructure, develop incentives for tourism investment, build convention centres through Public Private Partnerships, fund tourism promotion better, conserve our natural resources by launching anti-poaching campaign and increase enforcement and invest in quality education and tourism training. Our focus should be to develop strong public institutions in the country that will outlive our leaders/political parties; we should divorce politics from development; and we must exorcise the demon of corruption and embrace fiscal discipline – the misuse of public resources is indeed appalling.
Much has to be done by the private sector. It needs to improve its services and products, embrace innovation, explore new markets and promote multi-cultural packages. It should finance and equip its membership organizations, most of which are poorly funded and staffed hence ineffective. Let’s look inwardly and get our own people to consume our tourism products such as booking a hotel through an online platform like Jumia Travel; a lot more revenue will be generated from intra-country tourism patronage.
Intra-country and intra-continent trade is not yet popular among the African countries. While trade is recognized as the gateway to development, the statistics on intra-country trade has been very unimpressive, compared to the developed countries. In 2014 in Europe, for example, 69% of exports were to other countries on the continent. In Asia, that figure stood at 52% and in North America at 50%. Africa had the lowest level of intra-regional trade, at just 18%. Someday – just someday, we will achieve eureka!