Wish you were here! Says Nigerian minister: Chief Edem Duke (pictured below) cuts an impressive figure as Nigeria's tourism minister. He is tall, imposing and at least on the day of his meeting with New African, was wearing a Stetson hat. This is a man with a sense of image and style. Just as it is true of the man, so it is true of the message. Nick Kochan reports.

Author:Kochan, Nick

Edem Duke wants to present Nigeria as a country of multiple interests and heritages that will interest tourists from many destinations and with many convictions. He believes Nigeria has a lot to offer, given its diversity of religions, tribal stories and environmental geographies. The only problem, for this persuasive master salesman of his country, is that his own colleagues have not given tourism the professional treatment it deserves. Now, he intends to bring that to his ministry.

He says: "We need to communicate the fact that tourism, culture and national orientation is as professional as medicine and engineering, that it has the intellectual components, that it uses itself as development, that it engages science, evaluation, technology and ICT, so that our colleagues in other ministries and those who are responsible for appropriating money for the growth and development of ministries and agencies will not look at tourism as a poor intellectual cousin of other ministries. These to me are critical for the take-off of the sector. So there is a knowledge gap and this we are addressing".

The language of professional management comes easily a man who headed up publi affairs at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, before moving on to the hotels and tourism sector, where he was a highly successful entrepreneur. Indeed, he still owns hotels. So this is a man who knows how to make things work. The country's tourism sector will test his skills.

He says of his own skills and career, "I have operated in corporate Nigeria at a very high level including in the private sector and I understand the institutional requirements of administering, of being in a business, department or ministry. So, my own plan, having developed the agenda, was to forward it to departments and agencies via the ministry. We now need to communicate our agenda to the economic management team, to the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of National Planning, the budget department.1' Duke believes tourism will only obtain the priority it requires, if its proponents actively communicate its importance and needs. Historically, tourism has lagged behind in priority and prestige, he says.

Indeed, Duke says he has actively tried to interest the President in the importance of the tourism opportunity. Its contribution to GDP can be greatly enhanced with further investment. The impetus for the new and more confident tourism sector envisaged by the minister will have to come...

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