NTTS 2023: AfCTAA will boost inter-African trade, promote tourism, transportation

Posted on: March 12, 2023, by :

Aare Abiodun Odusanwo is the President of the Institute for Tourism Professionals of Nigeria (ITPN), and also the head of the organising committee of the annual National Tourism and Transportation Summit(NTTS). The committee is currently preparing for the sixth edition in April.
Odusanwo, in this interview, spoke to Africa Travel Herald on the coming NTTS and other issues in the tourism and transportation industries. Excerpts:

We are set for the sixth edition of the National Tourism and Transportation Summit (NTTS). In the last couple of years, the focus has been more international (Africa) than national (Nigeria). Do we now do a name change of the summit?
We actually considered that. In fact, in one of the editions, I think the third or so, we proposed changing it to international because, really, tourism itself is international. You now look at transport generally, there is element of international in it. But then, we will have to look at that thoroughly may be to make it Tourism and Transportation International Expo, or maybe International Tourism and Transportation Expo. We actually have a patent on these names. But it has now grown to have international flavour to it. We have many embassies in Nigeria taking part; we have many international organisations taking part. And in particular, we are actually focusing, yet again this year, on the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTAA), and which in its self is international.
It is something we are going to consider. We have been known with that title, we will actually look at it, certainly not for this sixth edition.
In the last two editions, the focus has been on AfCTAA…
Yes, in the fourth and fifth edition, I know that in the sixth edition, a different gamut of AfCTAA is being considered.
In the fourth and fifth editions, we looked at AfCTAA, but this time we are now bringing in trade, which was not included in the previous editions. We now look at it, what is going to boost AfCTAA is the inter-African trade, inter-African production and consumption, which would now affect tourism and transportation. Because we have rally been focusing on tourism and transportation, we now felt that really, we cannot look at those two isolation. The idea of AfCTAA is to promote inter-African trade, it will now enable us to sident the appeal, while we still look at the tourism and transportation aspect of it.

Looking at the topics in the last two editions, one could expect a higher level of bilateral and multi-lateral interests from other member states of the African Union (AU), is there efforts towards bringing them in…?
In fact, there are so many intitutions established for the actualisation and implementation of the agreement. what we are now doing to bring in some of these national and international institutions.
I was in Accra last year, interestingly enough, we were in Accra, the secretariat of AfCTAA was next to where we were. We used the opportunity to invite, I think, the secretary general of AfCTAA. They will be coming in this year. We invited them last year but the letter went to the Ghana AfCTAA intead of the Africa secretariat, because they are all in the same building.
We are also working on bringing in the Africa Development Bank (ADB), and bringing in more of all those intra-African institutions so that they can let people understand the role they are playing and their own mandate.
What we did also was to make sure we bring in different agencies and organs of government. What we are also going to do is to get the AU and organs within the AU more involved this time around. We will also try and bring in a bit of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as well. Then we can see how to further existing discussions.
What we are also trying to do is to do our research and find out what other fora that AfCTAA is being discussed, because we are not the only one focusing on it.
We started with tourism and transportation. There are other aspects of trade and industry, looking at different aspects of it. We will see how we can invite them in to take part so that the outcome of their deliberations at different times can now be brought to bear, since we cannot keep on reinventing the wheels.
In the last six years, we have very illuminating papers coming out from the summits, looking back, how would you describe the impact on NTTS in the light of the reasons for coming up with the conference?
The last few years have been interesting generally in the world. We had COVID 19, we have had other things, but we have never cancelled any edition. What we are trying to do this year is to do a compendium for the first five editions. We want to compile and see what has actually been discussed and what are the effects those events have had.
Last time around, apart from the private sector, we had 34 MDAs in the inter-ministerial organising committee. In addition to that, what this has done for us, is that we now have a focal person from these MDAs that would see how they could now implement the outcome, particularly as it affects there own agency. So, that is how we can now begin to see the implementation of such outcomes of the summits. And we have been successful, so much so that to some MDAs, they now have the summit as one of their listed annual events. I believe it is captured in one or two agencies’ budgets. Over the years, we have establisheed rapour with some agencies, whereby we have some focal persons for liaising and discussing.
Through the summit, we have now been included as key stakeholders in many other agencies, other sectors like aviation, transportation, works and so on. When they now organise their programmes, they invite us as key stakeholder. This would not have happened without the summit.
Before the summit started, people were seeing tourism as that distant industry which they may or may not have a lot to do with. But as a result of the summit, we have made so many organisations, institutions and agencies see that yes, they have a role to play.
For example Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), before, they believe that they have little to do with tourism. Now they can see their relevance to tourism. Ditto for customs. As far as they were concerned, they were to just look into what comes in, now they have become more tourism aware. An interesting one is the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS)…
They have been very active …
Through the summit, they now have better understanding of why they are important to the tourism industry. How their working with the tourism industry will be of benefit to them even to the point of helping them achieve their mandate. Because one, in order to control immigration, you need to work with those who have got premises like the hotels, most immigrants stay there. So, there is that need for collaboration. Even then, they are there to promote inter-Nigeria movement. If they don’t encourage movment of persons, they have less work to do. They also need to make sure they don’t discourage legitimate travellers from coming into the country.
They have now realised that one, for them to actually go and expand, they need to work with the tourism industry. Two, the last one we did, which has actually gone across now, is that they say, listen, whenever you have this your major event, we are going to give you a desk, or somebody will dedicated to welcome your internationa l visitors.
To have a seamless entry…
Yes, and even those that are coming in, let us know where they are coming from, we will write to them and they will make their coming in seamless.
Through that kind of collaboration, we have always had somebody from the organising committee from the NIS, and when that person is transferred, another person normally replaces him or her.
So, these are some of the benefits of the summit. Yes, it is going to take a long time for some of the outcomes of the communiques to be implemented, but as we are going slowly and gradually, we are going to be achieving that.
Let’s talk about the tourism industry. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) in some of its releases, talked about the tourism industry coming back to its pre-COVID 19 level, how would you assess the Nigeria tourism industry at this time?
Interesting enough, the idea for NTTS actually comes from the former UNWTO Secretary General, Taleb Rifai, when he was looking at bringing together tourism and aviation. It was he that actually started the issue of aviation and the tourism sector. There are a meeting between UNWTO and ICAO that I actually said, okay…He saw the link between tourism and ICAO. I now decided to expand it. As at that time in Nigeria, we only had ministry of transportation. It was after that they now divided the ministry. Having started to do that, we now said how then can we work within the banner of UNWTO? The ministry seems to have hijacked the relationship between the UNWTO and the country. They see themselves more as the UNWTO and our ministry. The UNWTO really, much as Nigeria as a country is a member, its effect on tourism would have been more with the the private sector. I think it is probably, I won’t say lack of understanding, but the UNWTO has been seen largely as working with the ministry.
Rather than the private sector…
Yes. Also, maybe, the industry (in Nigeria), has not understood that role of taking their time to understand the role of the UNWTO in terms of national tourism promotion and development, because a large chunk of UNWTO’s work is to promote tourism within the country, because it is an international agency for which Nigeria is a member, then whatever they are doing needs to come through the ministry. It is now the job of the private sector to now work with the ministry because tourism is private sector driven.
There is the issue of not having proper synergy between the ministry in charge of tourism and the private sector tourism practitioners. How has this impacted on the development of tourism in Nigeria and how can it be improved upon?
They way it can be improved upon is to have a dedicated team of persons within the ministry, with good understanding of the role of the UNWTO, and understand that the role of the ministry is anchoring and coordinating. Such desk or persons within the ministry, now need to establish communication lines with all those organisations and agencies. They should not just focus on when one UNWTO conferences are coming up. No, it is to look into the work of the UNWTO in other countries, and to see how the UNWTO has been able to make impact in tourism development in those economies; to see how agencies of government have been able to coordinate things.
I remember long time ago… I think it was an FTAN event, NTIFE, long time ago, somebody came in from, is it ministry of national planning, another one came from FIRS, the man said that listen, tourism is not given a pride of place because we don’t have data. We don’t have enough information to capture its impact on the economy. The person was surprised by the some the figures tourism was producing. There are some sectors of less relevance that are given more prominence when it comes to national planning than tourism…
It still boils down to same question-how can the ministry in charge of tourism have a better working relationship with the private sector which seems not to be there at this moment?
I think it is a matter of understanding and perception of their roles. If they see their role as that organ of government to coordinate, to anchor, to engage and coordinate with other key stakeholders outside the government circle…you see, you carry out your activities based on the perception. If they now realise that this thing they could only do it if they bring them along. Also, bringing along the private sector is just bringing them along for the sake of it, you need to understand what role they need to play. You need to understand how. That is why sometimes when it is said that they don’t carry us along, I ask, between government and you, what is your understanding of being brought along? What role do you think you can play in that activity? Private sector, what is your understanding of what UNWTO is required of you? As private sector, what is it that is expected of you apart from the fact that you are, for example, a hotelier?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *