As African Union (AU) and its 55 Member States look to how best to implement the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), Wanle Akinboboye, president, La Campagne, has called for the setting up of Africa Continental Tourism Agenda (AfCTA) to drive the process of making Africa a thriving destination.
Speaking on the need to make AfCFTA work, which since it came into being in 2020, is yet to receive the welcome impact, Akinboboye, who through his Continent Building Initiative has done extensive work in the development agenda of Africa, using tourism, arts, culture, entertainment and security, as his fulcrum, noted that Africans must understand themselves and the importance of travelling within the continent.
According to him, tourism is the vehicle, which will make trade on the continent as envisaged by AU through AfCFTA, to be effective, as trade is embedded within tourism.
Therefore, he called on AU to immediately set up what he termed as Africa Continental Tourism Agenda (AfCTA), which is in sync with AfCFTA but devoted entirely to the promotion of tourism within the continent.
‘‘What Africa needs to develop is to set up the African Continental Tourism Agenda (AfCTA) that will encourage and give free access to Africans to travel within the continent. Not for the purpose of trade alone but purely for tourism, to engage in all forms of tourism activities ranging from leisure, adventure, education, culture, entertainment, and business to ecotourism,’’ he said.
He insisted that it is the tourism agenda that would explode the trade (AfCFTA) agenda and not the other way round as it is presently. To drive home the point, he made reference to Dubai, which he said is the most successful destination in the world today.
Dubai’s success, he said, hinged on the fact that it first created a tourism model as its focal point to drive its trade and today it has one of the most thriving economies in the world weaving around tourism.
Read also: AfCFTA: Harnessing the opportunities for economic growth
He also pointed to the numerous tourism activations such as the yearly Dubai Shopping Festival and Dubai Expo, which he said are conceived as tourism projects but the hidden agenda is that of promotion of trade and boosting of its economy.
Another example is also the East Africa Tourism project, which has seen countries such as Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania promoting tourism among themselves and a single visa policy to drive tourism traffic.
To achieve Dubai’s model in Africa, Akinboboye said AU must come up with a strategic plan that is entirely focused on tourism, saying that; ‘‘we have to be intentional about focusing on our tourism as Dubai has done. This means that both the private and public sectors must close ranks and work closely on it.’’
On why AfCFTA has not yet hit the bull’s eye, he said: ‘‘My position is that everybody coming to this AfCFTA comes from a background of myself and I, me, me and me,’’ lamenting that the reason trade is not growing in Africa is because an African businessman will prefer to trade with a Chinese businessman rather than a fellow African.
‘‘When you come with such a mindset, it is going to be me, me and not trade, trade. Bringing our tribalism, nepotism and hypocrisy into AfCFTA will not make it work,’’ he said.
He further decried the concept of individualism that has made Africans not to progress beyond the level it is today, saying; ‘‘individual country is looking at how to take advantage of AfCFTA instead of countries working together to make it work and not closing our borders against each other as Nigeria did over two years ago.
‘‘It is working together that will make AfCFTA work. If one country is doing well in one area, such a country should be encouraged while such a feat is replicated across the continent,’’ he said. He further noted that the concern of Africans should be how to create destinations across the continent for the advantage of the continent and its people.
It is in this regard that he is calling for African Continental Tourism Agenda (AfCTA), which he said would properly focus and guide in a more formal and structured manner the development and promotion of tourism. With this, he said ultimately trade, which would then boost the economy of the continent, would be fostered.
According to him, if this is done then there would be no need for smaller countries to be afraid of bigger countries taking advantage of them. Rather it would boost the confidence of each country to strive for development and not to compete with each other as the case presently is.
For Akinboboye, having AfCTA will certainly be a great boost and a vindication of his stance of championing African continental engagement over the years.
Over the years, Akinboboye has engaged in the single-minded agenda of developing Africa through his Continent Building Initiative, using Motherland Beckons as a multiple purpose vehicle for it, as it has given birth to different activations such as La Campagne Tropicana Beach Resort, Destination Grand Bassam in Cote D’ Ivore, Destination Goree Island in Senegal, Destination Akosombo in Ghana and has gained traction over the last three decades.