Harnessing Nigeria’s Tourism, Culture, and Creative Industries for Economic Growth

By Samuel Okocha

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In 2022, Nigeria hosted the world at the first United Nations World Tourism Organization, (UNWTO) Global Conference on Tourism, Culture and the Creative Industry. The event at the National Theatre in Lagos marked the first time the country played host to such a high-level conference on tourism. Indeed, the conference opened new vistas in Nigeria’s tourism industry.

According to the World Bank, tourism was the world’s largest service sector before the COVID-19 pandemic—providing one in ten jobs worldwide.

With thousands of tourist centers in Nigeria, the country has a lot of potential to explore in tourism. The Yankari Game Reserve in Bauchi State, described as one of the most popular game reserves in West Africa, speaks volumes of such potential.

With an endowed geographical landscape comprising coastal beaches, mountains, historical monuments, wildlife, UNESCO-approved heritage centres, and diverse culture, Nigeria should be able to carve a niche in global tourism.

In a country blessed with a young, vibrant, and socio-culturally diverse population, Nigeria cannot talk about tourism without talking about culture and, indeed, the creative industry.

With more than 250 dialects and ethnic groups, Nigeria is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. That diversity with abundant human and natural resources, serves as a focal point in harnessing opportunities in tourism and the creative industry.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) report shows that Nigeria’s creative sector consists of five sub-sectors: media and entertainment, beauty and lifestyle, visual arts, as well as tourism and hospitality.

In 2022, Nigeria’s creative sector made $4.2 billion, as reported by Jobberman, the country’s premier recruitment service. This indicated that beauty and lifestyle led the performance table with $2.1 billion. Media and entertainment made $1.5 billion, visual arts made $400 million, and tourism and hospitality made $200 million.

The numbers in total fell short of the $9 billion projected revenues for 2022, indicating the country’s potential in that sector that remained untapped.

Indeed, while Nigeria’s creative sector has become a thriving industry driven by young and talented individuals, the sector has room for growth.

The creative sector with already notable milestones was possible based on the improving access to technology which made Nigerian movies and music get markets across the globe. These opportunities made music stars like Asake keep emerging, selling out concerts abroad, and earning valuable foreign exchange for the country.

It is clear as projected by Jobberman that the creativity industry has the potential to create an additional 2.7 million jobs in the next 4 to 5 years. The value chain within the tourism, culture, and creative industry undoubtedly with a lot of potential for increased investments, job creation, and foreign exchange earnings.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and biggest economy, must work the talk to make that potential a reality for the expected accelerated development of the emerging sector.

Nigeria should improve its abilities to provide needed security and relevant infrastructure to attract tourists to the country’s tourism sites while providing an enabling business environment for investments to pour into the creative industry that would open new opportunities for the youth for a better future.