Wednesday, January 26, 2022
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    UPDATED: Average Afro-Diaspora Tourists Spend $1,850 Per Visit as Ghana Economy Profits Billions of Dollars, But Nigeria Disappoints…

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    Naija247news Editorial Teamhttps://www.naija247news.com/
    Naija247news is an investigative news platform that tracks news on Nigerian Economy, Business, Politics, Financial and Africa and Global Economy.

    Last summer in Ghana, Tiffany Heard followed her guide to his hometown of Kumasi. There, in a courtyard in the country’s second largest city, as locals chanted and sang, the 34-year-old travel planner from California waited for her new name.

    The ceremony was simple but significant. Names connect Africans with place and family; the absence of a name represents the absence of a history. When names were taken from slaves, individuals were severed from their ancestry. So for a black American to be named in Ghana was to be reattached to a community.

    In front of the Kumasi queen mother, a chief, the elders, and a host of locals, Heard was introduced to her African name: Akua (“Wednesday,” the day of her birth) Konadu (the name of the local family chosen for her to join). The five others in her group each received their own new name.

    “It was definitely a special moment for everybody,” says Heard. “To feel like I’ve reconnected, I’ve come back home.”

    What is the Year of Return?
    That reconnection was what Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, had in mind when he announced that 2019 would be a “Year of Return.” The tourism initiative invited black people from across the diaspora to return to the African continent in 2019 to mark the 400 years since slave ships leaving West African coasts had carried their ancestors to the Americas.

    Many of those ships would have left from what is now Ghana. The region was at the center of the slave trade; Portuguese-built castles along the coast imprisoned captured Africans before sending them shackled and bare across the Atlantic.

    For black Americans, a return to Ghana is a trip back to where the atrocities of African-American slave history began.

    Beyond Year of Return

    Ghana saw 500,000 foreign visitors by the year’s end.

    International arrivals to Ghana increased 18 percent last year, according to Barbara Oteng-Gyasi, minister for tourism, arts, and culture. In 2019, Ghana saw nearly $1.87 billion in tourist revenue. Travel to Ghana specifically by U.S. citizens increased by 26 percent from January 2019 to September 2019, according to Ghana Immigration Services.

    Nigeria disappoints

    In Nigeria, the main sites commemorating the slave trade are three small museums along a road in the coastal town of Badagry is marred with abandoned expressway construction which has left the residents, international investors and foreign Afro tourists uninterested in finding their ancestry roots through
    Abandoned Badagry tourism infrastructure.

    Artifacts including chains used to shackle slaves are spread across the museums, two of which are small single-story buildings with corrugated iron roofs.

    Foreign tourists are rare at the site, and a large proportion of visitors are schoolchildren on tours. The poor state of local roads, dotted with potholes, make it hard to visit Badagry: The 65-kilometer (40-mile) journey from the country’s largest city, Lagos, takes around three hours.

    “As far as I know, only Ghana has made such a significant effort in terms of programs and activities,” said Shanelle Haile, a doctoral student at Brown University in Rhode Island who was in Ghana to study diaspora engagement surrounding the anniversary.

    “Now that we’re here and we’ve done the events and the activities, it’s really moving and it’s a powerful experience,” she said. “I just hope that more African Americans learn and hear about it.”

    Cut of from neighboring countries

    The Lagos-Badagry Expressway is the local name for the Nigerian section of the Trans–West African Coastal Highway.

    The expressway connects Lagos, Nigeria with Dakar, Senegal.

    Extensive reconstruction of the Lagos portion of the expressway began in 2010.

    When those renovations are completed the Lagos portion of the expressway will be widened from four lanes to ten lanes for road vehicles and a new mass transit line will operate in the median.

    Two of the expressway’s lanes are intended to be exclusively used by the Lagos Bus Rapid Transit System.

    Badagry is a place for tourist attractions and it served that purpose when the road was good, but today, no tourist dares venture into that trip because it will end in regrets. What we have today cannot encourage anyone to go for tourism in Badagry.

    “Initially, the maximum time one would spend travelling on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway was 40 minutes, but now, one would spend between five hours to six hours to go through the road. This has really affected economic activities,” David had said.

    Cancelled bookings
    Joy lit up Idris Amao’s face as he saw Osho and I approaching Mobee Relics Museum where artefacts such as shackles and chains used on slaves are kept. I reckoned with his elation when he said I was the first tourist he received that day and in the last two weeks.

    Like Osho, he blamed the low patronage on the deplorable state of the expressway worsened by restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “It is the poor condition of the road that scares people away from Badagry to see what we have,” Amao, the museum’s curator, remarked soberly.

    “Many schools had cancelled their bookings for excursions because of the road. Some schools would reach out to us for enquiries but would later say they cannot take their pupils through the road. This problem started about five years ago but COVID-19 came and worsened the situation.”

    Amao consequently led me into the gallery where I saw a set of heavy neck-locks usually tied round the necks of slaves arranged in a single file.

    “The chain was always around their necks for 18 hours every day,” Amao said as he began to show me each of the relics.

    “The mouth lock was fixed into a slave’s mouth to prevent them from communicating with one another while working on farms. The hand chain was used to tie two or three kids together to prevent them from disturbing their parents while working on the farm,” he explained.

    I was also shown a piece of iron with which European slave masters inscribed their names on captives after the object was heated, a bowl where slaves dipped their mouths to drink after returning from farms, and a cannon gun – a cylinder-like weapon that fired projectiles using the explosive pressure of gunpowder. “Europeans gave out a small cannon gun in exchange for 40 human beings while a big one exchanged for 100,” Amao concluded.

    Drop in patronage
    The frustration etched on Rev. Dainel Hudonu’s face was palpable. A supervisor and tour guide at the first storey building in Nigeria, he relived how the terrible condition of the expressway had paralysed tourism at the national heritage site.

    Completed in 1845, the monument comprising six bed rooms, two living rooms and four stores, birthed Christianity in Nigeria.

    He stated, “The road has affected tourism in many ways. Our major visitors are schools on excursion and foreigners. Many of them have stopped coming because of the bad road.

    “Not long ago, a school from Abeokuta (Ogun State) cancelled their trip. They left Abeokuta around 6am but they did not get to Badagry at 3pm. They had to return home because they wouldn’t have enough time for the tour and they didn’t plan to sleep over in a hotel.

    “We appeal to the government to speed up the reconstruction of the road so that tourism in Badagry can boom again. About seven years ago, between 5,000-7,000 tourists visited this monument annually. Now, we hardly record 200 people in a year.”

    Among others, Hudonu showed me frames of Agia Tree, where Christianity was first introduced in 1842 by Reverend Thomas Freeman, the first western education teacher in the first primary school in Nigeria named Nursery of Infant Church located at the site.

    Completed in 1845, the monument comprising six bed rooms, two living rooms and four stores, birthed Christianity in Nigeria.

    He stated, “The road has affected tourism in many ways. Our major visitors are schools on excursion and foreigners. Many of them have stopped coming because of the bad road.

    “Not long ago, a school from Abeokuta (Ogun State) cancelled their trip. They left Abeokuta around 6am but they did not get to Badagry at 3pm. They had to return home because they wouldn’t have enough time for the tour and they didn’t plan to sleep over in a hotel.

    “We appeal to the government to speed up the reconstruction of the road so that tourism in Badagry can boom again. About seven years ago, between 5,000-7,000 tourists visited this monument annually. Now, we hardly record 200 people in a year.”

    Among others, Hudonu showed me frames of Agia Tree, where Christianity was first introduced in 1842 by Reverend Thomas Freeman, the first western education teacher in the first primary school in Nigeria named Nursery of Infant Church located at the site.

    I was also shown Missionary Cemetery where 230 missionaries were buried, Bishop Ajayi Crowther Bible’s store, his personal room, where he reportedly translated Bible from English to Yoruba and the first missionary well, the only drinkable water in the town then dug in 1842 and later renamed Miracle Well.

    Massive loss

    Time was 3.40pm when Osho and I got to the Badagry Heritage Museum managed by the Lagos State Government. It is said to be the oldest administrative block in Nigeria built in 1863 during the British colonial era to serve as the district officer’s office.

    The building was vacated in 1958, two years before Nigeria’s independence, and used for different administrative purposes before it was eventually converted to a museum in 2000.

    “Badagry signed the slave trade abolition treaty with the British government in 1853 though it still continued illegally before it was finally abolished. The museum is seen as an attempt by the state government to recapture that history so that the heritage will not be lost,” the curator, Peter Mesewaku, said.

    He was willing to share the history behind each of the items in the gallery but time was fast running out. Another four-hour strenuous journey through the expressway had already filled my mind like a plague.

    “It is an understatement to say that the state of the road is affecting tourism in Badagry,” Mesewaku chuckled. “Accessibility is a key factor in tourism because whatever you put in a destination, if it is not accessible, it amounts to waste. Tourism is our own oil in Badagry and if you take accessibility from it, then you have taken the soul of the industry.”

    Mesewaku said about a decade ago, between 150,000 to 200,000 tourists both from within and outside the country visited Badagry every year. The figures roughly translated into N1.2bn-N1.6bn in revenue going by the N8,000 fees I paid or N2.050bn-N3bn at the rate of N15,000 Osho usually charges per individual.

    Mesewaku added, “Badagry used to be a thriving tourism destination where both local and international tourists visited frequently. But today, it’s a different story entirely. Coupled with COVID-19, the patronage has reduced drastically. We now record about 20,000 tourists annually.

    Tourism and Nigerian economy

    Tourism is said to be the third-largest sector in international trade, accounting for 10.4 per cent of the global gross domestic product and supporting 313 million jobs worldwide, according to a 2018 joint statement issued by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, the World Trade Organisation, the World Travel and Tourism Council and the International Trade Centre in Geneva, Switzerland.

    In 2014, WTO noted that the tourism and hospitality sector was one of Africa’s greatest assets with a market worth $50bn and $203.7bn untapped market potential.

    Records from Knoema, world data atlas, showed that the travel and tourism sector contributed 5.1 per cent to Nigeria’s GDP in 2016 and increased to 5.4 per cent in the following year. The figure dropped by 0.4 per cent in 2018 and picked to 5.1 in 2019.

    Also, between 2015 and 2017, Nigeria’s international tourism receipts – expenditures by international inbound visitors – recorded consistent growth at $461,000, $1.088m and $2.615m respectively. The earnings however slumped to $1.977m in 2018 and further slid to $1.471m in 2019, according to Knoema.

    In a February 2021 report, Statista, one of the world’s largest statistics portals, revealed that Lagos State made a $800m direct tourism contribution to the country’s GDP in 2006, $2bn in 2016 and projected an increase to $3.4bn by 2026.

    The Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, told Sunday PUNCH that the government was making efforts to develop infrastructure on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway to boost tourism and create employment opportunities.

    He said, “We are bent on seeing to the completion of that road. It is an ambitious project and we have to do it because our blue line rail (from Marina to Okokomaiko) is passing through that road. The rail line will be completed by December 2022.

    “We are also building two jetties in Badagry to serve those who want to travel by water and about 14 new boats will soon be launched. Tourism potential of Badagry is huge. We are collaborating with private sector to give the slave trade relics in Badagry a new phase. We are also doing something about other major tourist attractions in Badagry so that youths can find jobs.”
    A Professor of Archaeology and Tourism Studies at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Ifeyinwa Emejulu, lamented that the government was paying lip service to tourist attractions in Badagry and other parts of the country.

    “If we are serious about tourism in Nigeria, we won’t be talking about the bad road. Tourism is a viable means of diversifying the economy. We have sites that should be earning us revenue but the government is not serious about tourism,” she maintained.

    Small businesses suffer

    Femi Matthew is a boat operator who drives tourists to Gberefu Island almost on a regular basis. But he has been idle in recent times, enduring the pain of low patronage.

    “I used to carry a lot of people to Gberefu Island,” he said, relishing the booming days when he made brisk money from the job. There were some days I realised N40,000 taking tourists across the water to the Point of No Return. Now, I hardly make N10,000 in a month.”

    The Chief Executive Officer of a bar located on the Badagry waterfront, Olaide Osoba, also said that tourism activities in the community had reduced, thus affecting his business.

    “The expressway is bad and there is a significant reduction in patronage. Water transport should be well developed to provide a reliable alternative,” he added.

    For Mrs Ayobola Ogabi, who runs a restaurant on Joseph Dosuwe Street, it is a double-edged impact – dwindling customer base on one hand and high prices of food items on the other.

    “The road is really affecting my business. When it was relatively good, white people on tourism visits came to eat here but we no longer see them even before the pandemic.

    “Drivers do not want to bring goods to Badagry and they always charge high fares. They complain that their vehicles get spoiled on the road. Now prices of drinks and other food items are higher than what it is in the city,” Ogabi, who is well known as Iya Sulia, stated.

    As of 5.15pm, four of the six sites on my list had been covered. As much as I would have loved to visit the remaining two, dusk was fast setting in. I left Badagry at 5.25pm and took Igbo Elerin axis to beat some of the bad portions and make the journey less stressful.

    I got home at 9.10pm, too tired to mesmerise my family with some of the beautiful memories at the sights.

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