Stakeholders in the tourism and transportation industry have called on the federal government to improve on its policies and infrastructural facilities to enable the country harness business opportunities created by the new African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) that became active this year.
This was the key position of the participants at the fourth National Tourism and Transportation Summit (NTTS) held this week in Abuja.
The two-day summit with the theme ‘Tourism Transportation Connectivity and Partnership: Leveraging the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Regime for Economic Sustainability’, had experts from the different sectors of the tourism and transportation industries speak on how the AfCFTA agreement which offers free movement of goods and people across 54 African countries offers business opportunity to Nigerians and its impact on the countries’ economy.
Key areas in which Nigeria could improve upon to gain from AfCFTA formed the focus of papers presented at the summit. Among these topics that summit focused on include: Getting value of Money in AfCFTA regime; Professionalism of Tourism Transportation Professionals in AfCFTA Regime; The Role of Gate Keepers in the AfCFTA regime, and many others.
The summit was declared open by Vice President Yomi Osibanjo who was represented by the director general of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC).
Chief Abiodun Odusanwo said this year’s summit has become necessary to look into the whole gamut of the new AfCFTA regime and how Nigeria and Nigerian businesses can take advantage of the new regime in Africa to grow their businesses and improve the country’s economy.
In his message at the summit, Director General of Nigerian Institute of Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR), Alhaji Nura Kangiwa said: “When AfCFTA regime takes off, it is expected to boost trade and activities in the travel industry requiring the services of professionals of the industry to deliver quality services to the large customers population of African continent.” He said in line with the mandate of the institute, NIHOTOUR plans to provide high and middle level cadre of manpower personnel that would effectively service the industry bearing in mind that the AfCFTA regime would create enormous demand of services of the industry.
The director general of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Sir Joseph Ari said tourism and transport connectivity are critical issues and that there was need to develop programmes of inter-ministerial cooperation between the bodies responsible for tourism and transportation. This, he said, would improve and strengthen the basic conditions for sustainable development of the two industries.
He said further, “Among the catalysts National Development Plan (2021-2025) is infrastructural development whereby the rail and road transportations will be given due attention. When bad roads are fixed, transportation will be enhanced, farmers will be able to transport their wares to their required locations, resulting in doing business with ease. Other issues such as food, inflation, hikes in transport fares, etc, will equally be addressed…”
Participants at the end the summit released a
communiqué. while appreciating the importance and advantage of AfCFTA to trade, business and free movement of person, the summit expressed fears that the country could become a dumping ground for sub-standard products. There was also the fear that some foreign companies, taking advantage of the AfCFTA, could swallow Nigeria’s local small scale industry.
The NTTS participants also noted that there seems to be more unskilled manpower than the skilled in the tourism industry. Therefore, there is the fear of professional jobs being taken over by nationals of other African countries. There is also the fear of brain drain because most businesses are not ready to pay.
As a way of preparing the country for the AfCFTA regime, the summit participants called for the necessary agencies of government to develop curriculum in the sector that would be of international standard; also that there are no acts of parliament empowering the professional bodies to regulate the practice of professionals in the transport and tourism industry
Participants in the NTTS 2021 also made some recommendation which include that the country technological system for profiling visitors coming into the country.
The laws for quarantine and certification of the agricultural products should be firmly enforced; more sensitization should be done on the requirements for veterinary import/export permit; strong advocacy by tourism stakeholders to push for a legislative act for industry regulation, among other requests.
The final day of the summit also saw the induction of different categories of members into the Institute for Tourism Professionals.