Tourism is expected to be a major item on the agenda of talks to take place soon in Abuja, Nigeria, aimed at formalizing a new Jamaica-Nigeria bilateral agreement between the two nations.
Previously set for earlier this year, the talks were postponed due to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic but with a direct air link now open between the two countries, Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett and Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Hon. Geoffrey Onyeama are expressing optimism of it happening soon.
“For many years, we have been looking at formalizing a new bilateral agreement between Jamaica and Nigeria; now the contents of that are being put together. We were to have had a meeting in Abuja in April of this year; it didn’t happen because of Covid but is expected to happen soon,” said Minister Bartlett following a closed door meeting with Minister Onyeama at the Round Hill Hotel in Montego Bay last night. He is hoping “that in the frame of all of that will be discussions with regards to tourism collaboration between the two countries.”
The Tourism Minister identified marketing through the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) as well as product development and destination assurance strategy developed by the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), presented to the world as a new way of dealing with post-Covid tourism, as possible points of collaboration for which a technical corporation agreement can be arrived at.
Also on the cards is the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre, which was established by Jamaica to assess, forecast, mitigate and managing risks related to tourism resilience, caused by various disruptive factors. “We have already established a satellite in Kenya for East Africa and we really would love to have one established in either Abuja or Lagos for West Africa,” said Minister Bartlett. An arrangement is already under consideration and will be pursued involving the University of the West Indies (Mona), which hosts the resilience centre in Jamaica, and a university in Nigeria.
Minister Onyeama concurred that “We now have the framework in place to strengthen the cooperation and to take it to another level and we are going to pursue that. Covid has delayed it but it has not stopped it so we are going to cooperate in different areas, in trade, agriculture, sports, you name it, and really fuse the two countries and our peoples together.”
He stated that Jamaica “has a comparative advantage in tourism, which plays an enormous role in the economy, job creation and so on, so we really feel that we would like for you to share that experience with us. We believe it will be a game changer. We’re looking at diversifying our economy; we’ve depended too much on oil and the petroleum sector and there are gold mines out there in other sectors that can really transform our economy and provide jobs for our teeming population of 200 million.”
The Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister said his country had a youthful population with most being in the age range of 30 years “so we believe with our brothers and sisters in Jamaica that we can transform the future of both of us into real wins. We’re looking at prosperity for our people and we believe that this partnership can deliver that for our two countries.”
He also expressed an interest in learning about Jamaica’s culinary strategy. “Nigeria has a wide variety of dishes and we were told that your ackee was voted by National Geographic as the world’s second best national dish, so I think there’s some knowledge that you have there that we also want to tap into,” he said.
On December 21, the historical link between Jamaica and Nigeria was strengthened with the first non-stop flight from Lagos landing at the Sangster International Airport. Among those on board with the Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister was Jamaica’s High Commissioner to Nigeria, His Excellency Esmond Reid. Last night he said this direct flight “is the beginning of a transformed relationship, not just for Jamaica-Nigeria, but for Africa and the Caribbean and Jamaica stands ready to play a central role in that partnership.”