Nigeria’s vast and rich cultural heritage should be strategically repositioned to partner tourism as its driver to lift the Nigerian economy. Tourism cannot effectively flourish without the cultural components. The desire to position culture and tourism as the lever of Nigeria’s economic growth and development rests with the Ministry of Information and Culture as it must plan to mainstream both sectors into a monolithic entity to galvanize national economic development. The effort is in line with the understanding that no nation can really excel without the inclusion of its cultural and tourism parameters in state affairs. Fortunately for the Ministry, cultural tourism had long been identified as Nigeria’s area of high comparative advantage.
Nigeria stands a great chance of surviving the current economic meltdown facing the entire globe if it could focus more on cultural tourism. To this end, Nigeria can forge a solid partnership with symbiotic foreign countries for culture and tourism in developing and marketing their potentials to boost patronage of local and foreign tourists. If collaboration and partnership are cultivated between performing artistes, museums and states that are blessed with natural and cultural endowments, the resultant cultural tourism synergy will be presented as exciting performances at vital tourist destinations across the country. As a significant tourist destination, museums are the cultural central and memory bank of any nation, including Nigeria.
If well-developed and well-equipped, museums serve as both a significant source of a nation’s “living history” and a destination honeycomb, attracting tourists to whom we will sell our culture. Thus, the symbolic relationship between culture and tourism, if well managed, could be channeled to broaden the country’s economic base as well as provide employment for the teeming population of Nigerian unemployed youths. Museums provide vital information and entertainment to visitors as they embody the cultural heritage of a people, which foreign tourists are usually interested in exploring. History, culture and museum studies should be introduced to our elementary and secondary schools syllabus. Both tourism and culture are foreign exchange earners for several countries of the world. It is high time Nigeria joined those countries with the rich cultural tourism heritage at her disposal lying largely untapped.
According to Wikipedia (Free Encyclopedia), countries that made so much money from tourism in 2015 include: U.S.A, $177.20 billion; Spain, $65.20 billion; China, $ 56.90 billion; France, $55.40 billion; Macau, $50.80 billion; Italy, $45.50 billion; United Kingdom, $45.30 billion; Germany, $43.30 billion; Australia $42.20 billion; Hong Kong $41.30 billion and Thailand $38.40 billion. In Africa, South Africa grossed $35.00 billion; Morocco $34.00 billion; Namibia $33.80 billion; Kenya $32.00 billion; Tunisia $31.80 billion while Nigeria trailed with a depressing $2.79 million earning! Indeed, Nigeria ranks 131 out of 141 countries with tourism competitiveness index in 2015. We are still miles away from the countries that make the money from tourism development in terms of naira and dollars from 2015 to the present.
Creative Enterprise As A Tool For Sustainable Development
Cultural industries have been optimally and gainfully harnessed by most countries of the world, especially Europe, America and Asia to uplift their economic development. In this regard, Nigeria must encourage the production, organisation and vibrant marketing of its creative enterprises in arts and crafts industry and make them a major player in the national economy of the country. As the world economy is receding, there is the urgent need for Nigeria, indeed, African nations, to pay greater attention to the development and creation of new markets for their culture and creative enterprises.
Cultural industry is people-oriented, as it includes the making of handicrafts by the rural dwellers. In this regard, government should support and encourage the programmes and activities of this industry as it boosts the economic base of rural dwellers and discourages rural-urban drift.
The private sector too should diversify its strategies and invest in the country’s creative industry, not only to provide a vibrant market for our cultural enterprises, but also to confirm Nigeria’s creative and cultural leadership on the African continent. The art and craft market will contribute significantly to Nigeria’s quest to tap from the abundant resources from cultural industries for use in addressing some of the nation’s challenges, especially in the area of wealth creation, poverty alleviation and employment-generation for youths in rural populations.
The creative enterprise can aid development, if the Federal Government utilizes the creative industry of the economy in order to boost the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). For example, in Britain, the creative industry gives 40 per cent to the government because the British Government invested in them. If the Federal Government of Nigeria could do the same here, in the next few years, the creative industry would do much better than the oil and gas industry.
Securing Our Future
In securing our future, Nigeria should harness her cultural resources and revitalise them and teach them to her children in schools because our education curriculum does not teach, promote or sustain our cultural heritage. We should develop a sense of pride in ourselves and in our culture as a people, and become self-sufficient. We should learn from the Asian Tiger countries that, in spite of modernisation and Christianity and Islam stick to their culture and traditions and, therefore, are advancing faster than African nations. For example, we were at par with some of these Asian Tiger countries at independence in 1960, but now they have outstripped us and we have become consumers of their products. We pride ourselves in wearing their lace and silk products while our own textile factories are grinding to a halt. No nation can really develop without drawing from its culture and traditions. Our cultural socialization must be emphasized for our future development.
Art is everywhere; culture is enormously available; we are immensely endowed in tourism. But what are lacking in contemporary Nigerian artistic and cultural landscape are the managerial functions of planning, organizing, leading, controlling and effective leadership and coordination of the available massive cultural materials in the country. Therefore, to secure our future, the following steps must be taken:
• If Nigeria’s vast arts, culture and tourism heritage are properly controlled and effectively managed, they can collectively become the driver of not only our national economic development through creation of employment opportunities for our unemployed youths, but also serve as catalyst for national integration.
• Repositioning of Nigeria’s culture will power the branding of the Nigerian project through the use of our creative industry, performing arts, visual arts, film and home video (Nollywood) to improve and sustain our image and identity at home and abroad. Culture is the bedrock of human civilization without which no nation can make economic, social and political advancement. In this regard, the Nigerian government should make arts, culture and tourism priority areas in the nation’s economic development projects.
• To use Nigerian arts, culture and tourism as instruments of economic development, job creation and poverty eradication. Cultural industries should be set up in each of the 774 local government council areas in the country to empower unemployed rural dwellers. Through these cultural and creative industries, the government would be able to reach the grassroots for their cultural conscientisation and re-orientation programmes in the country. More cultural festivals should be introduced to the national cultural tourism calendar; and women crafts creative enterprises in all the 774 local government council areas in the country should be well organised and properly managed with appropriate marketing strategies.
• There is the urgent need for a meaningful and sustainable financing of the cultural development by the government and financial institutions, and multinational organisations in Nigeria. The arts, culture and tourism sector has been denied government attention and financial empowerment. If properly funded, the creative and cultural industries would enhance and strengthen the growth of the economy as well as contribute to stem youth restiveness and criminality. In repositioning culture to shore up national revenue base, government must come up with sound strategies for funding and marketing for promoting and selling cultural tourism products in Nigeria.
• The Nigerian government should include art education in the school curriculum. This will help to build students’ characters through arts participation in schools. Taking part in arts, culture and history curricula in schools will help in building the self-confidence and strong personality of students.
• The Nigerian government should embark on an aggressive attitudinal change campaign that will benefit the people through educational reform at all levels from the primary school to the university level, as a way of re-moulding the character of the younger generation.
• Cultural tourism calendar of events across the country should be developed to serve as a guide to both local and foreign tourists. A National arts competition among secondary school students should be instituted soon. As a matter of urgency, we should revive and speak our native languages to our children because our languages embody our culture. If our native languages die, our culture will die a natural death with it.
• Awodiya is a Professor of Theatre Arts, Department of Theatre & Mass Communication, University of Benin
Originally published by The Guardian of May 1, 2016.