Getting grips with certain developments and happenings in Nigeria nay African tourism market calls for tenacity of purpose and discipline. There is no denying the fact that the movements of persons, goods and services particularly from Nigeria across the Africa continent is being met with some form organized resistance and diplomatic shenanigans.
From Benin, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Kenya, Egypt and South Africa, Nigerian business persons, goods and services are subtly restricted and some form of organized protests, some leading fatal infractions targeted at Nigerians.
Indeed, most of these sad incidents ambushed diplomatic table talks of regional and intra African trade agreements and dreams for single currency on the west coast including visa regimes. In the overall trade regime, Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa calls shot on volumes of business generated and also have the capacity to absorb positive vibration based on population, desire to provide the widest spectrum of market indices and verifiable resources.
Last week, Nigeria joined other 54 African countries to power the Africa Continental Free Trade zone initiative with a combined GDP of three trillion dollars and trade deals that is more competitive and ambitious than most free trade blocs elsewhere in the world.
The AFCFTA deal could generate the need to cut tariffs for goods from others within the bloc yet certain measures already rearing its heads calls for better understanding and interpretation to guide particularly, the Nigeria tourism trade market. My intervention is premised on the fact that there is a huge gap of knowledge between Nigeria government and the private sector tourism and travel trade players, which leaves less desirable outcomes.
There is no denying fact that while other African countries speedily interpret regional or continental policies and domesticate same to protect, guide and establish their private sector players, Nigeria on the other hand, leave their players to swim in confusion, outright embarrassment and uncertainty.
On AFCFTA for instance, Ghana emerged as the headquarters of this continental trade initiative with added advantage of being the bastion of travel and tourism economy to the bargain. This is despite empirical submissions that Nigeria is the biggest generating tourism market in Africa, with its travel trade economy generating about 503 billion Naira last year on International tickets sales alone.
On flights into Nigeria, over twenty international airlines flies into Nigeria with some having between two to five frequencies into Lagos and Abuja with full inbound and outbound passengers, a premium confirmation of the lucrativeness of Nigeria aviation sector. Significantly, a regional airline operative, Africa World Airlines (AWA) flies into Nigeria for about 198 times in a month, a mouth-watering flow to a possible positioning of Nigeria as the aviation hub on this part of the continent.
While one is still at loss and trying to figure how AFCFTA could benefit our travel and tourism community, South Africa came with visa regime providing Ghana with visa free status while Nigeria was left to contend with rip offs of its citizens wishing to do business and sundry holiday services businesses in South Africa. The show of shame of obtaining South Africa visa in Nigeria now logs about three months with return messages of about 60% rejections, leaving our travel trade/tour operators with frustrations and poor sales.
This xenophobic travel restrictions across Africa against Nigerians presents a challenge to the AFCFTA agenda as movements of persons, goods and services is germane to a true Africa integration. Apart from visa restrictions targeted at the Nigerian business persons and migrant goods and services providers including manpower, a fearful figure of about 130 Nigerians killed in South Africa in the past few months must be interrogated within the context of AFCFTA reality.
Am aware of some Nigerian private sector initiative to drive west coast and inter-African travel and tourism integration and which certain challenges driven by irritations to Nigeria’s aggressive business presence seems not captured. The sociology and political content is far from been spelt out and with no government finger pushing a verifiable input and support.
Saturday, I had provoked a thought on a collective response on the Whatsapp group platform of an industry trade association over the South African government gift of visa free status to Ghana and few that responded, called for a boycott of South Africa tourism destination services in Nigeria. Sadly, Nigerians do not usually agree on organized protests or boycotts affinities as we are easily divided and individualistic in negotiations and bargainings.
The failings and weaknesses are largely employed to divide our ranks, makes us slaves in our economy to which we hold the ace, so to premise any response to the challenges inherent in the AFCFTA blueprint must grow a united front.
As I write, no organized tourism body in Nigeria has seen the handwriting on wall, which leaves a huge gap of uncertainty in understanding the making of AFCTA, the challenges of growing restrictions of visa grants to Nigeria and the various irritations against Nigerian business communities across Africa.
From experience, am aware that most members of the national assembly not excluding the leadership do not have any progressive insight about the importance and reality of presence of the Nigerian tourism business and its benefits. Here in lies the urgent need to drive a collective strategic intervention so as to prepare our various travel tourism SMS’s to gain from AFCFTA.
However, I am at cross-roads on which government organ (s) are responsible to interpreting and educating Nigerians on AFCFTA and why it is taking a crab-like process to situate the full picture of AFCFTA as it concerns the various segments of the Nigerian business community? Can Nigeria do things differently for once with AFCFTA? We are waiting.