“We need to escalate consciousness about the place of tourism as an economic sector, [and] the potential that it has in Africa’s largest market to create wealth, jobs, and to generally help in the enhancement of infrastructure,” Nigeria’s minister of tourism and culture Edem Duke told CNBC Africa.
“It is that agenda that we have brought to the Nigerian Stock Exchange today. From the sentiments that have been expressed, it is perhaps overdue that Nigeria must look beyond oil and develop a new economy where foreign exchange is spent and nothing is taken away.”
Tourism is the second largest global economic earner, and a number of Africa’s nations are already tapping into the vast sector’s potential.
The role of the private sector in tourism and culture is significantly beneficial, and public sector such as government ministries can make an equal contribution.
“There is definitely bound to be a synergy, because tourism is the sector that benefits from linkages in security, linkages in agriculture, in aviation, and virtually every sector is critical,” Duke explained.
“We’re beginning to do that because we now have a transformation agenda which says that government is no longer going to be depending on one sector for its revenue. It’s going to take advantage of the sheer creativity that has been unleashed by our young men and women who make up about 60 per cent of our population.”
Nigeria’s tourism and culture sectors are well-positioned to harness skilled and unskilled potential as a means of creating employment. This is instrumental to decreasing unemployment figures in the country. In 2011, Nigeria’s unemployment rate on a national level stood at 23.9 per cent.
“In the direct employment figures, we are struggling with inadequate data and statistics. We are beginning to situate the employment data in the fact that 60 per cent of our population, the ability for them to find opportunities to express themselves and make money for themselves, is great,” said Duke.
“Employment oftentimes is aggregated purely based on white collar jobs, how many people are working, in what ministry. The informal sector in Nigeria has not been adequately captured in terms of employment that is self-generated.”
Exploring culture as enterprise will be a key focus area for the ministry in 2014.
About 12 cultural industries around eight states in Nigeria have already been formed, with plans to grow the enterprise beyond 16 states. This is expected to benefit populations in rural communities in the creative sector.
“We’re also looking at using culture as a soft power to advance on diplomacy around the world. We’ve opened a Nigerian cultural centre in Brazil, China, we’re opening one in South Africa and one in Trinidad and Tobago,” said Duke.
“We’re already planning to work with the British Council to map the cultural industries in 2014 and have a major outreach in 2015.”