Perspective: Beyond the Oil Econony: The Diversification Option for Nigeria

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Full text of the speech by the Director General, NCAC, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, on how culture, film industry and the huge tourism potential of Nigeria can, contribute to the way nation’s economy.
1.0 Introduction
“I wish to welcome stakeholders in the Arts, Culture and Tourism sector and members of the Mass Media to this interactive session. The purpose of this meeting is to exchange views, opinions, knowledge and experiences on how this very important sector can be strengthened as a vehicle for creating wealth and driving sustainable economic development of Nigeria.
In the wake of the current economic realities and with the breakdown of the covid-19 pandemic globally, nations of the world are exploring various means of growing their economy. With the rich and diverse cultural resources of Nigeria and given the abundant tourism resources, it stands to reason that if we must diversify our economy, we have to look outside crude oil which is the current major foreign exchange earner, and focus on Arts, Culture and Tourism as one of the key players in our economic development.
It is in the light of the above that I have convened this meeting as the Director-General of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) and the President of the World Craft Council (WCC) African region, so that we can brainstorm and cross-fertilize our experiences on the way forward for the next four years and beyond. Essentially, this platform provides opportunity for us as stakeholders to re-strategize and set a new agenda for our sector.
The near total dependence on crude oil exportation as the source of our foreign exchange earnings has greatly slowed down the pace of development in other sub-sectors of the economy such as Agro-Allied Industry, Manufacturing, Solid Minerals, and the service industry, among others.
The progressive fall in the prices of petroleum products and its attendant shock on the economy of Nigeria has made it highly imperative for Nigeria to pursue a sustained process of economic diversification, if we must attain the much needed economic stability and development. It is now clear to all that Nigeria can no longer continue to depend solely on crude oil exportation. This meeting is highly desirable as a platform for engendering national discourse on the options available to Nigeria as we seek to attain national development.
Permit me to point out that I had alerted Nigeria a long time ago on the dangers of our over-dependence on oil. While serving as the Director-General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation between 2006 and 2013, my policy thrust was encapsulated in the slogan “oil is good, but tourism is better because oil is exhaustible while tourism is sustainable and environment friendly”. At the leadership conference held at the International Conference Centre on April 28th, 2009, I had the privilege of speaking on the topic “Beyond Oil: Diversification Options. In that paper, I drew attention to the need for Nigeria to begin to look outside oil in her quest for development. I also shared these thoughts at the ECOWAS Congress on Sports Development in West Africa, held in Abuja on August 10th to 11th, 2011.
Today, I will re-echo the views I have always shared on the need for us to drive the economic diversification process using the rich resources in Arts, Culture and Tourism. Before I discuss these in details, let me give a brief background of the evolution of Nigerian economy over the years.
2.0 Nigeria Economy Before the Advent of Oil
The pre-oil Nigerian economy was based on Agriculture. During the 19th century when Great Britain was transiting from Agriculture-based economy to Industrialization, Nigeria thrived on its strong Agriculture based economy. In the 1950s and early 1960s, Agriculture retained its position as the biggest contributor to the Nigerian economy. By 1959, Cocoa had become Nigeria’s biggest single foreign exchange earner. Nigeria was also one of the three largest producers of groundnut in the world at that time. There was a high production of both cash and subsistence crops like rubber which accounted for about 6% of the total exports in the late 1950s; coffee, cotton, guinea corn, beans, yam, maize, cassava and rice. The Mining, Manufacturing, Commerce, Trade and the services sector accounted for about 25%.
Before 1970, Agriculture contributed more than 75% of Nigeria’s export earnings. Since then, however, Agriculture has stagnated, partly due to government neglect, poor investment and ecological factors such as drought, flooding, disease and reduction in soil fertility. By the mid-1990s, Agriculture’s share of the nation’s export had declined to less than 5%, thus giving way to crude oil as the mainstay of the economy.
3.0 The Discovering of Oil
The 1950s can generally be regarded as the decade of major Petroleum discoveries. The discovery of oil in commercial quantity in Oloibiri in 1956 was a major economic breakthrough for Nigeria. From a modest beginning in the 1950s, oil production accelerated rapidly in the 1950s. The increase in the demand for oil was a great boost to Nigeria’s economy at a time when its traditional cash crop income was decreasing due to a fall in the World Market price.
In 1974, after the first oil price increase, Nigeria was producing 2.2 million barrels of oil per day. The 1970s was a period of significant boost in the nation’s economy arising from the oil boom.
While the prices and production of oil dropped dramatically in the 80s Nigeria again experienced a windfall in crude oil exportation during the Gulf War. Ever since, the nation’s economy has remained largely crude oil dependent.
4.0 The Danger of Mono Product Economy
For about five decades or more, crude oil exploration and exportation have dominated Nigeria’s economy.mother While in most other oil producing countries, crude oil exportation provides the needed revenue for developing and strengthening other sectors of the economy, it would appear that the discovery of oil in Nigeria has come with its attendant woes. This is because the Nigerian oil wealth has tended to becloud our sense of initiative and economic vision, while promoting a national culture of unbridled corruption, laziness, opportunism and primitive acquisitive tendency. Apart from the effect of near total neglect the oil economy has had on other critical sectors, the fluctuation in the world prices of petroleum products has continued to pose great threat to the stability of our economy, thus making effective planning on a sustainable basis extremely difficult. For example, while the International price of crude oil rose to over a 100 dollars per barrel in 2013, it came down to as low as 28 USD dollars per barrel in 2016 far below the 38 USD per barrel budgetary benchmark for the 2016. Today, the current price of crude oil stands at 64.90 USD dollar per barrel which is ahead of the 2021 budgetary benchmark of 40 dollar.
The forgoing goes to underscore the compelling need for diversification as the only way for a sustainable economic development in Nigeria.
5.0 Culture, Tourism and Economic Development
Culture has to do with the sum total of the beliefs and ways of life of a people in a given society. It includes their customs and costumes, their language, festivals, food, folklores, dance, drama, songs, arts, artifacts and so on. There is an intricate relationship between Culture and Tourism. This is because Culture provides the basic content for Tourism.
In fact, there can be no sustainable Tourism without a strong cultural content, as almost all Tourism activities are Culture based.
A cursory look at Tourism-rich economies like the United Kingdom, Israel, China and France reveals a common and consistent pattern of Culture-based Tourism with Culture being the single biggest motivation for Tourism.
In Europe, the role of Culture in development shows that the arts enrich the social environment with stimulating or pleasing public amenities. In the same vein, China and Australia have underscored the fact that the Culture and Tourism Sector contributes to economic development by facilitating creativity, innovation and self-reflection and as such recognizes culture as a key component of society’s wellbeing. In fact, cultural industries have become for China, the base station from which it develops and updates its technological advancement and wellbeing.
Nigeria is known to be one of the most culturally diverse nations of the world. It has over 250 distinct ethnic groups, each with unique Culture and cultural products. The rich and diverse cultural assets of Nigeria have the capacity of sustaining a robust Tourism industry and driving the process of socio-economic development if adequately explored. In what follows, attempt shall be made to explain some aspects of Nigerian culture that could serve as key drivers of sustainable tourism and the economic development of Nigeria if fully harnessed.
Cultural Festivals
Nigeria has rich and fascinating cultural festivals. Many of these festivals are already in the world cultural map and are attracting the patronage of international audience. Some of the prominent festivals in Nigeria include Osun-Osogbo Festival in Osun State, Eyo Festival in Lagos State, Argungu and Nwonyo Fishing Festivals in Kebbi and Taraba States respectively, Pus Kat and Bit Geomai Festivals in Plateau State, New Yam Festivals in various parts of South Eastern Nigeria, the Durbar in the Northern part of Nigeria, Boat Regatta in South-South and the National Festivals of Arts and Culture (NAFEST) the annual Cultural festival of the National Council for Arts and Culture.
It is important to note that festivals events serve as a catalyst that attracts recreation seekers to destinations This’d great Tourism potential. This means that visitors are likely to spend more days in a given destination when attracted to the cultural festivals in that destination. This long stay helps to improve their revenue base of the people thereby also impacting on the local economy.

For a nation as large as Nigeria with rich and diverse culture, one festival per state would go a long way in attracting tourists into the country thereby contributing to the development of the economy through spending in hotel lodging, patronage of local cuisines, transportation, purchase of arts and crafts products among others. Accordingly, the National Council for Arts and Culture is developing a festival calendar to enable tourist know when to take holidays in Nigeria and savour the rich cultural manifestations it has to offer.
Nigeria Music and Songs
Another related product of our Cultural industry that can be harnessed and developed to boost arrivals is our Traditional Music. The people’s art is an integral part of their daily activities. This rich cultural heritage, which includes myths, legends folklores and traditional music are cherished within Nigeria and in other parts of the world. The unique selling point of our indigenous music as a tool for Tourism lies in their flavour and the Nigeriansness of their rendition. This peculiar and distinctive feature of our traditional music has attracted tourists from far and wide. If greater and more conscious efforts are made to harness and develop this aspect of our heritage, it could serve as a major driver of our Tourism industry.

It is noteworthy that Nigerian music is about the most popular in the world. From Fela’s Afro beat, through Sir Ebenezer Obey, Chief Sunny Ade to the most recent 2 Face, Wizkid, Burna Boy, Nigeria boast of musical icons of international repute. For example, Burna Boy, a Nigerian musical artist recently won the best global musical album 2021 (23rd Grammy Award) with the album titled Twice As Tall. In the same vein, Wizkid has also recently won the best musical Video in his song with Beyonce titled Brown Skin Girl. The above underscores the global exploits Nigerian musical artists are making and the popularity and patronage of their musically worldwide. Sustained musical concerts in the ambience of Nigerian cities could attract the music loving world to Nigeria and serve to impact on our economy positively.

Nigeria Film Industry
The Nigerian Film Industry is one of the fastest growing in Africa. In fact, it is the 3rd most popular in the world coming after Hollywood of America and Bollywood of India.
The increasing popularity and patronage of Nigerian films among African countries make the Nigerian film industry a potential foreign exchange earner for the country. What is required is for the Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board and other regulatory agencies to ensure that the contents of Nigerian Films project our rich cultural heritage and sell the best of Nigeria. With Funding, assistance from government, more appropriate packaging, marketing and promotion, the Nigerian film industry promises to contribute significantly to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Nigerian Arts and Crafts Products
Almost every community in Nigeria has an area of specialization in at least one Arts and Crafts product. The beauty is that these cultural products are spread in various specialties across the length and breadth of Nigeria. That there is a growing market for Nigerian Arts and Crafts products cannot be over-emphasized. The National Council for Arts and Culture is actively promoting and marketing these products to both domestic and international consumers through the international Arts and Crafts (INAC) Expo, the National Festival ofway Arts and Culture (NAFEST), various skills Acquisition Centre across the country and other marketing strategies.

In the last one year, Skill Acquisition has become a major form of their Council’s programmes. The essence is to develop among Nigerians, especially the unemployed youths and indigent women, skills in the areas of arts and crafts that would make them self-reliant members of the society. It is my conviction that if value is added to Nigeria arts and crafts products in the areas of processing, packaging, promotion and marketing, they could become a major source of revenue generation for Nigeria. Tourists to Nigeria would not only be spending their money on accommodation, transportation and feeding, significant amount of their spending would also be on these products. Similarly, they could also serve as a major source of foreign exchange earnings for Nigeria.

Nigeria Indigenous Cuisines
Nigeria has a variety of delicacies and nutritious foods made from fruits, vegetables, meat and seafood. There is a lot of interest in Nigerian food as illustrated in cooking programmes on televisions, radios and cookbooks. It is therefore not surprising that specific forms of food consumption have also become important part of Tourism. Food has tended to be at the centre of the tourist’s experience; as part of the overall hospitality service that is provided for travellers. Food has increasingly become a focal point for travel decision making and the hallmark of attraction to a number of destinations around the world. It is therefore an enterprise that can boost tourism and generate wealth.

Nigeria cuisine could contribute towards making the country a preferred destination if efforts are aggregated from all directions in strengthening the food industry. Nigerian cuisine can be made a brand known and sought after by people all over the world like the Chinese Restaurant. Our food definitely has a wide range of culinary wonders to offer the world. It should be well processed and packaged in ways that are attractive such that tourists would have a desire to experience our cuisine and thus a motivation to travel to Nigeria.
6.0 Tourism As a Critical Economic Subsector
Tourism is a remarkable economic and social phenomenon of the 21st Century service led economy. According to the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization (UN-WTO), International tourism arrivals shows an evolution from less than 25 million arrivals in 1950 to 66 million in 1999, corresponding to an average annual growth rate of seven percent. It has been projected that International tourism arrival would increase from 56.4 million in 1995 to 1.5 trillion in 2020. Similarly, earnings from International tourism is expected to increase from about USD 477 billion in 2000 to about USD 2.0 trillion in 2020.
Tourism is the highest employer of labour in the world. According to Knox and Marston, “tourism is the largest global industry in terms of employment and revenues. One estimate suggests that one of every 15 workers worldwide is engaged in transportation, feeding and otherwise serving tourists”. The NTWG Report corroborates this position when it submitted that one of the most immediate benefits of tourism is its ability to create employment and to cater for both the skilled and the unskilled. The NTWG Reports states:
Environmentally, tourism, when properly development and managed, can serve as a mechanism for protecting natural environment; preserving historical and archaeological and religious monuments; and stimulating the practice of local cultures, folklores, traditions, arts and craft, and cuisine. And economically, tourism brings many benefits to the Central Government, local authorities as well as private sector through the generation of foreign revenue, financial returns on investment, taxation on tourism and tourism products and linkages to other level industries such as agriculture and fisheries. NTWG, (2009:11)
The implication of the forgoing is that the ripple effects of tourism can be seen in every sector of the society: Economic, Social and Environmental. It is therefore clear that if we get tourism right, it will not only engender sustainable economic growth, it will also lead to the creation of employment, eradication of poverty and empowerment of the people both the educated and the skilled, the uneducated, unskilled as well as the semi-skilled members of the society. In what follows, we shall be examining the Nigeria tourism assets that could be developed to drive the nation’s 21st century non-oil economy.

7.0 Potentials in Nigeria Tourism
With a landmass of over 923,000 sq. kilometers stretching from the Atlantic Coast and the Rain Forest in the South through the Savannah to the semi-arid region in the North, Nigeria is a fascinating topography magnificently blessed by nature. The diverse ecosystems, manifesting in varying climatic zones, network of rivers, lakes, beautiful beaches, awesome caves, warm and cold springs and waterfalls all add to the beauty glamour and verdancy of Nigeria’s natural environment.
With over 350 ethnic groups, Nigeria is the most plural and most culturally diverse nation in black Africa. The richness of her natural environment and her culture and the diversity of her people readily make Nigeria a potential tourist destination of choice in Africa. Some of the potentials in Nigeria tourism are in the following areas:
Ecotourism
Nigeria has great Ecotourism resources. These include wildlife zones that have been created and protected as National Parks, Games Reserves and Sanctuaries. There are 36 Games Reserves in Nigeria, established for protection, preservation and conservation of wildlife. Seven of these have been upgraded to the status of National Parks. These are: Okomu National Park in Edo State, Old Oyo National Park in Oyo State, Oban National Park in Cross River State, Kainji Lake National Park in Niger State, Gashaka Gumti National in Adamawa and Taraba States, Kamuku National Park in Kaduna State and Chad Basin National Park in Borno State.
Each of these National Parks has unique fauna and flora resources which offer spectacular experience to the tourists. It is pertinent to point out that the Federal Government has already put in place appropriate machinery for developing the ecotourism components of these Parks with a view to making them more attractive to tourist and more viable as sources of revenue generation as is the case with National Parks in other parts of Africa like Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa. Some other attractions include Olumo Rock in Ogun State, Idanre Hills in Ondo State, Mambilla Plateau in Taraba State, Obudu Cattle Ranch in Cross River State, Zuma Rock in Niger State, the numerous Cold and Warm Springs, Waterfall, Caves and so on. Resorts and other conference facilities could be developed around these sites. This would generate employment and enhance business activities while facilitating the economic growth and development both locally and nationally. Package tours could also be conducted to these destinations by tour operators with experienced tour guides, thus generating employment and creating income in the local communities.
Cultural/Historical
As stated earlier, Nigeria is a multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic, multi-religious and multi-cultural nation state with over 350 distinct ethnic nationalities. Each of these ethnic groups has its unique cultural heritage, thus making Nigeria the most culturally diverse nation in black Africa.
Nigeria is generally known to have the most fascinating and most colourful cultural festivals in the whole world. These cultural festivals are expressed in songs, dance, drama, incantations and so on. Festivals are an integral part of Nigeria’s culture, depicting the country’s customs and tradition in a very colourful way. These offer tourists unique opportunity to sample Nigerian culture in its pure and undiluted form.
In fact, Nigeria has comparative advantage over other African countries in cultural tourism. Many of the cultural festivals in Nigeria have gained International prominence and have continued to capture the fancy of international audience.
Organized cultural festivals in Nigeria are a major source of tourist flow in the communities where they are held. With the influx of tourists, come very high commercial activities that impact positively on the life of the communities. As the hub of cultural tourism in Africa, Nigeria can use cultural festivals as a vehicle for fast-tracking the development of tourism and stimulating rapid economic growth of the nation.
Religious Tourism
Nigeria is increasingly becoming a hub of religious tourism in Africa. A lot of religious activities take place in a regular basis in Nigeria. Many of these religious events draw participants from different parts of the world. Some good examples are the Annual Conventions of the Living Faith Church and the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Lagos. For instance, the annual Living Faith Convention draws participation from over 56 countries of the world. The participants come from both Africa and other parts of the world such as the United States of America, Canada, Malaysia, Denmark, France, Australia, among other countries. Similarly, a lot of domestic and international tourists throng into Apostle T.B. Joshua’s Synagogue Church of All Nations, Lagos, for worship and deliverance on a regular basis. This and many other religious events have made Nigeria one of the most prominent destinations of religious tourism in Africa.
With the growing popularity of religious activities in Nigeria, particularly their spiritual potency in healing, deliverance and other miracles, religious tourism in Nigeria has the potential of taking us close to the huge economic benefits Israel and the Middle-East are deriving from the sub-sector.
Conference Tourism
A lot of international conferences are going on in major cities of the world. Key attractions to conference tourism are security, facilities and accessibility. Nigeria is also investing hugely in the infrastructural development of its major cities.
Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital City is one of the fastest growing modern cities in Africa. The regular hosting of National and international events in Abuja makes the city an important conference tourism destination. Forsuccessfully example, in 2003, Nigeria successfully hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM) in Abuja. The nation has also successfully played host to several other world, Regional and sub-regional events such as African Union and ECOWAS Heads of Government Meetings.
In addition to Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Kano, Kaduna are also important cities for conference tourism in Nigeria.
With sustained and aggressive campaigns, drawing attention to the world class conference facilities in Nigeria, our nation is sure to take the lead in Conference/Business Tourism in Africa.
Beach Tourism
Nigeria has over 700 kilometers coastline covered with unpolluted sand beaches. Prominent among the beaches in Nigeria are bar-Beach, Lekki Beach, Badagry Beach, Eleko Beach, Keyetoro Beach, La-Campaign Tropicana Beach all in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Bonny Beaches in Rivers State; Ibeno Sand Beach in Akwa-Ibom, to mention but a few. These beaches have become centres of attraction to tourists who visit them for recreational purposes. They offer huge opportunities for the development of Beach Tourism in Nigeria.
The implication of the above is that a lot of potentials abound in the Nigerian Tourism Industry which can be harnessed to drive the diversification of our economy.
8.0 It is possible: The Dubai Example
The story of the dramatic transformation of Dubai into the fastest growing city in the world is a clear indication that with proper planning, clear focus and commitment, nothing is impossible. Prior to its discovery of oil in 1966, not much was known about Dubai. The very first record of Dubai was in 1799 and it was dependent of Abu Dhabi until 1833.
Sheikh Saeed bin Makhoum bin Hasher Al Makhoum who ruled Dubai from 1912 to 1958 is generally regarded as the father of the state. Prior to the discovery of oil, Dubai’s economy was driven by the Pearl Industry. Dubai suffered economically after the 1920 due to the collapse of the pearl Industry, the Great Depression of the 1930s and during the World War II. Until the surge of oil in the 1960s, Dubai was characterized by political instability and merchant unrest.
In the 1930s, the Trucial Coast of Dubai was characterized by great poverty, resulting primarily from a decline in pearl trade. With the ascension of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed al Makhoum to the throne in 1958, the process of massive expansion of Dubai had begun. The dredging of Dubai creek in 1963, enabling any vessel to duck at the port, caused the gold re-exports market to take off. This effectively established Dubai on a sound economic footing. With the discovery of oil in 1966 and the first shipment in 1969, the future of Dubai was secured, and its ability to dictate policy in later years to the UAE assured.
Today, Dubai which was a remote and obscure desert, has transformed into a vibrant, modern, business city. Virtually every sector has been reinvented by oil wealth, thus transforming Dubai into a state with massive, modern and state of the art infrastructure. Dubai has become known for its successful building projects, including the Burj Al Arab, the world’s tallest Free Standing Hotel, the Palm Island, a construction of three artificial Islands in the shape of a palm, the World Islands, massive man-made archipelago Island in the shape of the world and Burj Khalifa, which is the world tallest man made structure, among others.
The IPS Creek Tower will be 1,300 metres upon completion in 2021. Dubai has the largest construction sites in the world with 148 sky-scrappers and 912 high rise buildings. The biggest shopping mall in the world is also in Dubai with stalls totaling 1,200.
Dubai has long planned ahead for a post oil economy. Judiciously utilizing the revenue from oil, it has expanded and strengthened trade and commerce, the traditional base of her economy. Oil now accounts for less than 5% of its GDP. As a centre of commerce, it is the melting port for goods from Europe, Asia, USA, Latin America and even Africa. The French suit, Swiss wrist watch and Yoruba adire are all available in Dubai. It is also a tourist destination of first class standard. Dubai plays host to some of the best hotels and attraction sites in the whole world. Less than 15% of Dubai’s population is Arab. Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladesh account for 65% of Dubai’s population. The implication is that Dubai is a melting pot for all nations of the world, for commerce, tourism and hospitality.
The lesson for Nigeria is that now that the oil wealth is with us, we should strategically deploy it to develop other sectors of the economy, especially Arts, Culture and Tourism as Dubai did some years ago.
9.0 The MICE Strategy
The acronym MICE stands for Meeting, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions. Today, MICE is driving Tourism growth in Africa. Many nations are investing in Conference facilities and other incentives like accommodation and transportation to enable them bid for the hosting of major events around the world like meetings, conferences and exhibitions. Efforts are also being made by states and nations to package and promote events to deliberately attract tourists to destinations. Such events which have the potential of attracting visitors to a destination include music, movies, religion, fashion, tourism, financial services, sports, among others.
Nigeria has comparative advantage over other African nations in most of these components of MICE. One beautiful thing about MICE is the fact that it is usually an obligatory travel. People would naturally not be disposed to visiting a destination will be forced to do so if they are really devotees or members of an organization whose events hold in that destination. For example, you need to be a lover of Lagos State to attend the annual Holy Ghost Convention of The Redeemed Christian Church of God which holds in Lagos every year, if you are a staunch member of the Redeemed Church.
Rivers State is one of the States in Nigeria that have used the MICE strategy to great advantage. The state has hosted important national and international events including NBA Conference, meeting of Nigerian Traditional Rulers, West African Traditional Wrestling Tournament, Guild of Editors Conference. The National Festival of Arts and Culture, a festival which brings all the states of the federation together was hosted by Rivers State in 2018. Having just commissioned a State-of-the art multi-purpose conference centre, Rivers State is set to be the hub of cultural event in Nigeria. Other states of the country are encouraged to also develop their infrastructural facilities to enable them take advantage of the opportunities offered by MICE.
10.0 Recommendations
All the private sector stakeholders like National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) Nigeria Association of tour Operations (NATOP) Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria (FTAN), Association of Journalist of Entertainment and Tourism (ANJET) should work together with government institutions such as National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR), Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) to drive the process of development of the sector.
These stakeholders should periodically meet to brainstorm and review the policy document for driving the development of the sector.
A definite policy framework should be evolved by government for the funding of the sector. This could be An Endowment for Arts, Special Intervention fund with the Central Bank of Nigeria or Bank of Industry in line with global best practice.
The blueprint developed by the Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, led implementation committee for the Creative Industries should fully implemented.
There should be a calendar of festivals in Nigeria drawn on the basis of their clusters to enable Tourist Plan for their visits. In the same vein, skill acquisition centres already established by the National Council for Arts and Culture should be fully funded and equipped to train Nigerians on the production of Arts and Craft products. The NCAC crafts village should be developed as a one stop shop for the sale of Arts and crafts products. It should also serve as the National Centre for Leisure and Recreation.
The entertainment industry which is already making waves worldwide should be further boosted both with loan at concessionary interest rate and by sustained marketing and promotion of its products.
Finally, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, this sector belongs to all of us. We are all joint stakeholders in the Arts and Culture sector in Nigeria. It is therefore our collective responsibility to ensure that the sector takes its pride of place in the Nigerian economy. I urge us to work together to synergize, to always share ideas and experiences on the best practices in the sector. Countries like China, India, Dubai, Brazil and South Africa that are reaping from the huge benefits in the Arts, Culture and Tourism sector today started like us. They did not have better resources than us. It is the vision, the passion and the commitment that makes the difference. It is not too late to start now.BEYOND THE OIL ECONOMY: THE DIVERSIFICATION OPTION
FOR NIGERIA
1.0 Introduction
I wish to welcome stakeholders in the Arts, Culture and Tourism sector and members of the Mass Media to this interactive session. The purpose of this meeting is to exchange views, opinions, knowledge and experiences on how this very important sector can be strengthened as a vehicle for creating wealth and driving sustainable economic development of Nigeria.
In the wake of the current economic realities and with the breakdown of the covid-19 pandemic globally, nations of the world are exploring various means of growing their economy. With the rich and diverse cultural resources of Nigeria and given the abundant tourism resources, it stands to reason that if we must diversify our economy, we have to look outside crude oil which is the current major foreign exchange earner, and focus on Arts, Culture and Tourism as one of the key players in our economic development.
It is in the light of the above that I have convened this meeting as the Director-General of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) and the President of the World Craft Council (WCC) African region, so that we can brainstorm and cross-fertilize our experiences on the way forward for the next four years and beyond. Essentially, this platform provides opportunity for us as stakeholders to re-strategize and set a new agenda for our sector.
The near total dependence on crude oil exportation as the source of our foreign exchange earnings has greatly slowed down the pace of development inor other sub-sectors of the economy such as Agro-Allied Industry, Manufacturing, Solid Minerals, and the service industry, among others.
The progressive fall in the prices of petroleum products and its attendant shock on the economy of Nigeria has made it highly imperative forand Nigeria to pursue a sustained process of economic diversification, if we must attain the much needed economic stability and development. It is now clear to all that Nigeria can no longer continue to depend solely on crude oil exportation. This meeting is highly desirable as a platform for engendering national discourse on the options available to Nigeria as we seek to attain national development.
Permit me to point out that I had alerted Nigeria a long time ago on the dangers of our over-dependence on oil. While serving as the Director-General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation between 2006 and 2013, my policy thrust was encapsulated in the slogan “oil is good, but tourism is better because oil is exhaustible while tourism is sustainable and environment friendly”. At the leadership conference held at the International Conference Centre on April 28th, 2009, I had the privilege of speaking on the topic “Beyond Oil: Diversification Options. In that paper, I drew attention to the need for Nigeria to begin to look outside oil in her quest for development. I also shared these thoughts at the ECOWAS Congress on Sports Development in West Africa, held in Abuja on August 10th to 11th, 2011.
Today, I will re-echo the views I have always shared on the need for us to drive the economic diversification process using the rich resources in Arts, Culture and Tourism. Before I discuss these in details, let me give a brief background of the evolution of Nigerian economy over the years.
2.0 Nigeria Economy Before the Advent of Oil
The pre-oil Nigerian economy was based on Agriculture. During the 19th century when Great Britain was transiting from Agriculture-based economy to Industrialization, Nigeria thrived on its strong Agriculture based economy. In the 1950s and early 1960s, Agriculture retained its position as the biggest contributor to the Nigerian economy. By 1959, Cocoa had become Nigeria’s biggest single foreign exchange earner. Nigeria was also one of the three largest producers of groundnut in the world at that time. There was a high production of both cash and subsistence crops like rubber which accounted for about 6% of the total exports in the late 1950s; coffee, cotton, guinea corn, beans, yam, maize, cassava and rice. The Mining, Manufacturing, Commerce, Trade and the services sector accounted for about 25%.
Before 1970, Agriculture contributed exports than 75% of Nigeria’s export earnings. Since then, however, Agriculture has stagnated, partly due to government neglect, poor investment and ecological factors such as drought, flooding, disease and reduction in soil fertility. By the mid-1990s, Agriculture’s share of the nation’s export had declined to less than 5%, thus giving way to crude oil as the mainstay of the economy.
3.0 The Discovering of Oil
The 1950s can generally be regarded as the decade of major Petroleum discoveries. The discovery of oil in commercial quantity in Oloibiri in 1956 was a major economic breakthrough for Nigeria. From a modest beginning in the 1950s, oil production accelerated rapidly in the 1950s. The increase in the demand for oil was a great boost to Nigeria’s economy at a time when its traditional cash crop income was decreasing due to a fall in the World Market price.
In 1974, after the first oil price increase, Nigeria was producing 2.2 million barrels of oil per day. The 1970s was a period of significant boost in the nation’s economy arising from the oil boom.
While the prices and production of oil dropped dramatically in the 80s Nigeria again experienced a windfall in crude oil exportation during the Gulf War. Ever since, the nation’s economy has remained largely crude oil dependent.
4.0 The Danger of Mono Product Economy
For about five decades or more, crude oil exploration and exportation have dominated Nigeria’s economy. While in most other oil producing countries, crude oil exportation provides the needed revenue for developing and strengthening other sectors of the economy, it would appear that the discovery of oil in Nigeria has come with its attendant woes. This is because the Nigerian oil wealth has tended to becloud our sense of initiative and economic vision, while promoting a national culture of unbridled corruption, laziness, opportunism and primitive acquisitive tendency. Apart from the effect of near total neglect the oil economy has had on other critical sectors, the fluctuation in the world prices of petroleum products has continued to pose great threat to the stability of our economy, thus making effective planning on a sustainable basis extremely difficult. For example, while the International price of crude oil rose to over a 100 dollars per barrel in 2013, it came down to as low as 28 USD dollars per barrel in 2016 far below the 38 USD per barrel budgetary benchmark for the 2016. Today, the current price of crude oil stands at 64.90 USD dollar per barrel which is ahead of the 2021 budgetary benchmark of 40 dollar.
The forgoing goes to underscore the compelling need for diversification as the only way for a sustainable economic development in Nigeria.
5.0 Culture, Tourism and Economic Development
Culture has to do with the sum total of the beliefs and ways of life of a people in a given society. It includes their customs and costumes, their language, festivals, food, folklores, dance, drama, songs, arts, artifacts and so on. There is an intricate relationship between Culture and Tourism. This is because Culture provides the basic content for Tourism.
In fact, there can be no sustainable Tourism without a strong cultural content, as almost all Tourism activities are Culture based.
A cursory look at Tourism-rich economies like the United Kingdom, Israel, China and France reveals a common and consistent pattern of Culture-based Tourism with Culture being the single biggest motivation for Tourism.
In Europe, the role of Culture in development shows that the arts enrich the social environment with stimulating or pleasing public amenities. In the same vein, China and Australia have underscored the fact that the Culture and Tourism Sectoreconomics contributes to economic development by facilitating creativity, innovation and self-reflection and as such recognizes culture as a key component of society’s wellbeing. In fact, cultural industries have become for China, the base station from which it develops and updates its technological advancement and wellbeing.
Nigeria is known to be one of the most culturally diverse nations of the world. It has over 250 distinct ethnic groups, each with unique Culture and cultural products. The rich and diverse cultural assets of Nigeria have the capacity of sustaining a robust Tourism industry and driving the process of socio-economic development if adequately explored. In what follows, attempt shall be made to explain some aspects of Nigerian culture that could serve as key drivers of sustainable tourism and the economic development of Nigeria if fully harnessed.
Cultural Festivals
Nigeria has rich and fascinating cultural festivals. Many of these festivals are already in the world cultural map and are attracting the patronage of international audience. Some of the prominent festivals in Nigeria include Osun-Osogbo Festival in Osun State, Eyo Festival in Lagos State, Argungu and Nwonyo Fishing Festivals in Kebbi and Taraba States respectively, Pus Kat and Bit Geomai Festivals in Plateau State, New Yam Festivals in various parts of South Eastern Nigeria, the Durbar in the Northern part of Nigeria, Boat Regatta in South-South and the National Festivals of Arts and Culture (NAFEST) the annual Cultural festival of the National Council for Arts and Culture.
It is important to note that festivals events serve as a catalyst that attracts recreation seekers to destinations with great Tourism potential. This means that visitors are likely to spend more days in a given destination when attracted to the cultural festivals in that destination. This long stay helps to improve the revenue base of the people thereby also impacting on the local economy.

For a nation as large as Nigeria with rich and diverse culture, one festival per state would go a long way in attracting tourists into the country thereby contributing to the development of the economy through spending in hotel lodging, patronage of local cuisines, transportation, purchase of arts and crafts products among others. Accordingly, the National Council for Arts and Culture is developing a festival calendar to enable tourist know when to take holidays in Nigeria and savour the rich cultural manifestations it has to offer.
Nigeria Music and Songs
Another related product of our Cultural industry that can be harnessed and developed to boost arrivals is our Traditional Music. The people’s art is an integral part of their daily activities. This rich cultural heritage, which includes myths, legends folklores and traditional music are cherished within Nigeria and in other parts of the world. The unique selling point of our indigenous music as a tool for Tourism lies in their flavour and the Nigeriansness of their rendition. This peculiar and distinctive feature of our traditional music has attracted tourists from far and wide. If greater and more conscious efforts are made to harness and develop this aspect of our heritage, it could serve as a major driver of our Tourism industry.

It is noteworthy that Nigerian music is about the most popular in the world. From Fela’s Afro beat, through Sir Ebenezer Obey, Chief Sunny Ade to the most recent 2 Face, Wizkid, Burna Boy, Nigeria boast of musical icons of international repute. For example, Burna Boy, a Nigerian musical artist recently won the best global musical album 2021 (23rd Grammy Award) with the album titled Twice As Tall. In the same vein, Wizkid has also recently won the best musical Video in his song with Beyonce titled Brown Skin Girl. The above underscores the global exploits Nigerian musical artists are making and the popularity and patronage of their music worldwide. Sustained musical concerts in the ambience of Nigerian cities could attract the music loving world to Nigeria and serve to impact on our economy positively.

Nigeria Film Industry
The Nigerian Film Industry is one of the fastest growing in Africa. In fact, it is the 3rd most popular in the world coming after Hollywood of America and Bollywood of India.
The increasing popularity and patronage of Nigerian films among African countries make the Nigerian film industry a potential foreign exchange earner for the country. What is required is for the Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board and other regulatory agencies to ensure that the contents of Nigerian Films project our rich cultural heritage and sell the best of Nigeria. With Funding, assistance from government, more appropriate packaging, marketing and promotion, the Nigerian film industry promises to contribute significantly to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Nigerian Arts and Crafts Products
Almost every community in Nigeria has an area of specialization in at least one Arts and Crafts product. The beauty is that these cultural products are spread in various specialties across the length and breadth of Nigeria. That there is a growing market for Nigerian Arts and Crafts products cannot be over-emphasized. The National Council for Arts and Culture is actively promoting and marketing these products to both domestic and international consumers through the international Arts and Crafts (INAC) Expo, the National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST), various skills Acquisition Centre across the country and other marketing strategies.

In the last one year, Skill Acquisition has become a major form of the Council’s programmes. The essence is to develop among Nigerians, especially the unemployed youths and indigent women, skills in the areas of arts and crafts that would make them self-reliant members of the society. It is my conviction that if value is added to Nigeria arts and crafts products in the areas of processing, packaging, promotion and marketing, they could become a major source of revenue generation for Nigeria. Tourists to Nigeria would not only be spending their money on accommodation, transportation and feeding, significant amount of their spending would also be on these products. Similarly, they could also serve as a major source of foreign exchange earnings for Nigeria.

Nigeria Indigenous Cuisines
Nigeria has a variety of delicacies and nutritious foods made from fruits, vegetables, meat and seafood. There is a lot of interest in Nigerian food as illustrated in cooking programmes on televisions, radios and cookbooks. It is therefore not surprising that specific forms of food consumption have also become important part of Tourism. Food has tended to be at the centre of the tourist’s experience; as part of the overall hospitality service that is provided for travellers. Food has increasingly become a focal point for travel decision making and the hallmark of attraction to a number of destinations around the world. It is therefore an enterprise that can boost tourism and generate wealth.

Nigeria cuisine could contribute towards making the country a preferred destination if efforts are aggregated from all directions in strengthening the food industry. Nigerian cuisine can be made a brand known and sought after by people all over the world like the Chinese Restaurant. Our food definitely has a wide range of culinary wonders to offer the world. It should be well processed and packaged in ways that are attractive such that tourists would have a desire to experience our cuisine and thus a motivation to travel to Nigeria.
6.0 Tourism As a Critical Economic Subsector
Tourism is a remarkable economic and social phenomenon of the 21st Century service led economy. According to the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization (UN-WTO), International tourism arrivals shows an evolution from less than 25 million arrivals in 1950 to 66 million in 1999, corresponding to an average annual growth rate of seven percent. It has been projected that International tourism arrival would increase from 56.4 million in 1995 to 1.5 trillion in 2020. Similarly, earnings from International tourism is expected to increase from about USD 477 billion in 2000 to about USD 2.0 trillion in 2020.
Tourism is the highest employer of labour in the world. According to Knox and Marston, “tourism is the largest global industry in terms of employment and revenues. One estimate suggests that one of every 15 workers worldwide is engaged in transportation, feeding and otherwise serving tourists”. The NTWG Report corroborates this position when it submitted that one of the most immediate benefits of tourism is its ability to create employment and to cater for both the skilled and the unskilled. The NTWG Reports states:
Environmentally, tourism, when properly development and managed, can serve as a mechanism for protecting natural environment; preserving historical and archaeological and religious monuments as well as positioning cultures, folklores, traditions, cuisine, arts and craft.”                  Contact us: just_tours@yahoo.com

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