Director General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mrs. Sally Uwechue-Mbanefo has identified tourism as a sector that could give Nigeria’s economy the paradigm boost away from the total dependence on a dwindling oil sector.
According to Mbanefo, what the country needs now is to increase its production capacity by investing in sectors that are labour intensive like tourism, agriculture and manufacturing.
She made this assertion known during the 7th Annual National Conference of the Academy for Entrepreneurial Studies, Nigeria (AES) held recently at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs in Lagos with the theme: “Nigeria Beyond Oil”.
She highlighted the role of government through her corporation to market Nigeria as a foremost destination for business, sports, religious, leisure and cultural tourism. Sighting that the current administration’s change agenda, has provided the right platform to attract the much needed investment into tourism ventures. She also said the contributions of tourism activities which range from transportation (carhire, buses, trains and airplanes) to accommodation facilities (hotels, motels, guest inns) and food (bukkas, restaurants) have not been properly captured in the statistical data of Nigeria as defined by UNWTO criteria, saying that “if this is done, the huge earnings of tourism sector will be seen and government, donor agencies, Nigerian and internal business owners will be convinced to fund and invest in the sector”.
She explained that the tourism value chain that cuts across all sectors of the economy has the potential to create the most employment opportunities, grow small and medium scale enterprises, reduce poverty and foster encourage social integration
Promoting and preserving our tourist and historical sites and assets she said will empower local communities, states where they are located which would reduce rate of urban migration.
Mbanefo further said that tourism is the greatest employer of labour in the world, as one in every eleven jobs is a hospitality employee, so we must not under estimate the power of tourism to generate revenue and boost the Gross Domestic Products (GDP) of any economy.
The event had various speakers from both the government and private sector, who presented papers focused on the need for economic diversification from oil dependence as captured by the conference theme.
Speaking earlier, Director General of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Mr. Remi Ogunmefum said that “the future is bright for Nigeria, with abundant human and natural resources.
He harped on the relevance of manufacturing to the economic growth of the Nigerian economy, stating that interest rates on credit facilities must be reviewed to make facilities accessible and profitable for Nigerian entrepreneurs.
Lagos State governor, Akinwumi Ambode, represented by his Commissioner for Wealth Creation and Employment, Mr. Babatunde Durosimi said, “my administration’s commitment to wealth creation and youth empowerment initiatives is a top priority of our programmes’, He also pledged to support the goals and aspirations of AES to enhance good governance and economic development in Nigeria.
Dr. Nike Akande, former Minister of Industries and Chairman AES Excellence Club in her speech said that despite the setback Nigeria is witnessing due to over dependence on oil over the years, the future looks good for the country.
Speaking earlier the registrar of AES Mr. Paul Umukoro emphasised on the need to shift attention from oil. He noted that part of the problems bedevilling the country has been lack of transparency and saving culture.
“A country with a large deposit of gold and the oldest forest in the world has no business with poverty if we properly explore and harness our endowments to unravel the economic challenges that befalls us, he said”, he said.