Excerpts from interview with Daily Independent Foreign Correspondent, Uchendu Precious in 2014
Could you please tell us about your role as Nigeria’s permanent representative to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)?
My experience as Nigeria’s permanent representative to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) with headquarters here in Spain has been an enriching and highly fulfilling one This involves a lot of travel to different destinations to promote tourism as a fundamental pillar of regional integration not only in Africa but the rest of the world and raise global awareness of tourism as an engine of social and economic development, job creation, investment promotion and currency generation. This is very important to Nigeria especially now that the current administration is trying to diversify the production base of our country’s economy from oil to sustainable sectors.
Our government has also realized that travel and tourism holds the key to this much needed diversification of our economy and consequently it has been positioning measures to promote the tourist industry as an alternative source of foreign exchange, and of course through this diversification, travel and tourism is expected to continue gaining considerable recognition as an important tool of stimulating rapid economic growth in Nigeria.
Last year, the UNWTO Commission for Africa was held in Tunisia but in the year 2012 it was held in Nigeria, Akwa Ibom state to be precise and the major players and International stakeholders within the global tourism sector from different countries converged in Nigeria.
And we know that in the next seven years Nigeria would have created more than 150,000 jobs in tourism.
At the UNWTO, we are trying to promote better training facilities, travel and tourism culture, to encourage tour guide operators, and we really want to promote International best practices for the hospitality industry in Nigeria.
We recognize the urgent need to diversify our economy due to the declining prices of crude oil in the global economy. We must find alternative sources. This underscores the exigency to make our country a sustainable investment destination by promoting its tourism potentials. We continue to highlight to member states of this organization Nigeria’s economic growth potentials as well as our vast oil resources, much improved political landscape and the various reform plans that have been put in place by the present administration.
The government has also made it clear that missions should try and encourage foreign investment into Nigeria especially in the non-oil sectors of the economy such as, solid minerals, agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, transportation and construction. In pursuance of this agenda, Our Embassy here hosted the recently concluded, NIMAD 2013. With the theme, “Translating Market Opportunities Into Robust Trade”.
During this business forum, we were able to link up Spanish businessmen with their Nigerian counterparts as well as provide them with an overview of the legal and regulatory frameworks applicable to doing business in Nigeria. We reiterated the fact that Nigeria has become a favorite investment destination for any investor desiring a good profit and business friendly environment.
We were also able to disseminate to potential Spanish investors on the advantages of investing in Nigeria and our generous tax incentives in addition to allaying their security concerns. A major selling point is the fact that this administration has championed expedited business registration measures that have made the process of registering businesses less cumbersome.