By Mary BASSEY, Senior Investigator Correspondent, Lagos/
LAGOS- NIGERIA’s foreign earnings could receive a boost if its tourism potentials were harnessed to the optimum said former Director General of the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency NAMA, Nnamdi Udoh.
To the ex-NAMA boss, all 54 economies of Africa have a collective Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 2.5 trillion US Dollars, making it the 8the largest economy in the world, behind India; adding, “Africa with 1.3 billion potential customers makes the Continent’ much more attractive to investment both from within and outside the Continent’.
According to him, “With Nigeria’s very rich tourism environment is enough to attract Nigeria billions of US Dollars in foreign currency in line with the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTA).
He poke ahead of the 4th edition of the National Tourism Transportation Summit slated for 15th to 16th of November, 2021 at the International Conference Centre Abuja. Udoh noted that the figure is enough to encourage business people to make the required investments necessary to sustain economic growth and create the much needed job opportunities which Nigeria and the whole of Africa as a continent badly needs.
The National Transportation Tourism Summit and Expo is instituted and convened by the Institute for Tourism Professionals of Nigeria (ITPN) in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Tourism, the Federal Ministry of Transportation as well as the Federal Ministry of Aviation as an annual event that focuses attention on the inter-play and connectivity between tourism and transportation.
The theme of the expo, “ TOURISM TRANSPORTATION CONNECTIVITY: Leveraging the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Regime for Economic Sustainability is coming at a period the continent is coming together to promote free trade within the continent that is capable of enhancing air transport and tourism not only in Nigeria but Africa as a whole.
Continuing, Udoh disclosed that “The African Union is gradually making great strides towards achieving and making sense of the wisdom behind this famous adage in its efforts to liberate Africa from colonial demarcations; saying, “Apart from the physical barriers put in place by Africa’s colonizers, there are other intangible barriers, which have been existing and still continue to be of great hindrance to Africa’s emergence if not brought down.
“The African Union’s recent actions of putting into place an African Continental Free Trade Area – ACFTA and the Single African Air Transport Market – SAATM are giant steps towards recognizing the over 1.3 billion inhabitants in the continent as one people, one market, one geographical space, and one nation, provided Africans see and reason into this together”.
Speaking further, the ex-NAMA boss said, “The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, revealed that the African Continental Free Trade Area goes beyond free trade in a broader sphere as it will establish free movement and investments across Africa.
“In March 2018, at the historic meeting of the African Union in Kigali, Rwanda, member states agreed to create an African Continental Free Trade Area. Subsequently, 52 of 54 African Union member states signed up to the agreement, representing a remarkable degree of consensus across the continent.
“Following an opinion poll survey carried out in November 2018 by the Rockefeller Foundation, over 2000 citizens across the continent confirmed that an impressive 77% of Africans believe that the Continental Free Trade Area Agreement represented an important step forward.
“But what does this agreement exactly mean in practice and how will it affect us, especially with regards to the aviation sector in Africa?
“To make this happen, the physical movement of people and goods can’t be ignored. In fact, it is the principal catalyst that will act as evidence of the existence of a free trade zone.
“Therefore, aviation practitioners and the sector as a whole cannot be ignored. Serious considerations have to be given and put in place by governments, civil society, and regional institutions to assist and resolve all aspects hindering the aviation sector to thrive for full and better implementation of ACFTA and SAATM.
“Africa is a big continent. You could fit the US, China, and Europe into the continent and still have space to spare. But in economic terms, individual countries are still very small. Take Ghana and Rwanda for instance, these are some of the fastest-growing economies in the world.
“But in terms of size, they’re ranked 82nd and 139th respectively, out of 211 economies in the world following the IMF rankings this 2019. This matter because small economies often struggle to attract the most needed investments.”
Reacting, an Air Transport specialist and a former Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mr. Richard Aisuebeogun said with AfCFTA, It becomes easier for airlines to grow in Africa just like what is obtained in the entire continent of Europe; saying, “There is virtually no part of Europe that you cannot fly into from one particular spot because you have airlines crisscrossing the entire continent of Europe.
“We know that is not the case in Africa. I don’t want to go deep into that. We have talked about it for over 30 years. The challenge of flying across Africa is a major challenge. If we find it as a major challenge to fly across Africa or within Africa via intra-Africa transport system, then, you can imagine how it is going to limit the economic development of the region”.
“I keep saying that in all the interviews I have granted and in my presentations in the last two years. We need to have citizens travel cards that enable us to go to South Africa, Banjul, Nairobi, Cairo without any limitations for legitimate reasons to do business that will engender economic growth of Africa and its citizens, business that will create wealth, business that will reduce poverty, business that will reduce unemployment and that is what Africa Continental Free Trade would do and I keep saying it that this can only be successful when we have SAATM to complement.”
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