Lai Mohammed: Creative industry, tourism, culture ‘critical to diversification of our economy away from oil’




I am most delighted to address this very important gathering and to
thank you all most sincerely for honouring our invitation to the
First-ever United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Global
Conference on ‘Linking Tourism, Culture and the Creative Industries:
Pathways to Recovery and Inclusive Development’.

Lai Mohammed

2. Your presence here today confirms the passion and the zeal of the
stakeholders to move these sectors forward. I am glad to see many
important personalities, experts, professionals and distinguished
industry representatives. Tourism, culture and the creative
industries, which are the focus of this conference, play critical
roles in the economies, prosperity and growth of many countries

3. The purpose of this conference is to fast-track our objective of
transforming the tourism sector into a preferred sector, and the
creative industry into a creative economy. That is the overarching
objective, against the background of the government’s intention of
supporting and facilitating an enabling environment for the true
business growth of tourism and the creative industry.

4. The hosting of this conference is a strong affirmation of
Nigeria’s position as a trusted business hub, and a safe harbour for
capital, talent and intellectual property. In the lead-up to the
conference, Nigeria hosted the 2022 UNESCO Media and Information
Literacy Week in Abuja, from 24th to 28th October 2022. Through the
progressive scaling-up of our MICE events (with MICE here standing for
Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions), we intend to build
public confidence and increase our operational readiness to host
international events. The hosting of these events in quick succession
by the Nigerian government is also a testament to the increasing
readiness, safety and security of our cities to play host to global

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5. This conference is very important in the history of the UNWTO and
Nigeria, because it marks the very first time that the organization,
in a single forum, is bringing together the three inter-linked sectors
of tourism, culture and the creative industries to highlight their
fundamental importance as effective tools for inclusive development
and drivers of sustainable growth. For Nigeria, the conference, which
has drawn participants from many member states of UNWTO, industry
players, international organizations, the academia and the media,
among others, presents an ideal opportunity to showcase our rich,
diverse and unparalleled tourism and creative assets, to do some
networking, learn new things and share knowledge.
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6. One of the key goals of this conference is to bring to the fore
sustainable solutions and innovative policies for the development and
enhancement of the symbiotic potentials of tourism, culture and the
creative industry. I am really excited about this conference and its
deliverables in highlighting and promoting these inter-linked sectors
that are sustainable and inclusive. Today, more than ever, tourism and
the creative industry, due to their economic viability, are in the
global spotlight and have their place at the forefront of national and
international development agenda. The creative arts is estimated to
generate annual revenue of over 2 trillion US dollars and accounts for
over 50 million jobs worldwide. According to a recent IMF report, the
entertainment and creative industry in Nigeria, which in the last
decade have experienced massive growth and international recognition,
account for 1.45% of Nigeria’s GDP. In 2021, the number of annual film
production stood at 2,500 with a projection of 22 million US Dollars.
The revenue from music is estimated at 73 million US Dollars (with
annual growth rate of 13.4%). In a similar vein, fashion contributes
over 6.1% to global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), averaging between 2%
and 7% of national
GDP around the world. These sectors contribute to the growth,
resilience and recovery of the economy of societies and well-being of
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7. Prior to Covid-19, travel and tourism had become one of the most
important sectors in the world economy, accounting for 10 percent GDP
and more than 320 million jobs worldwide. However, the global pandemic
led to the loss of millions of jobs, as it affected micro, small and
medium sized enterprises. The good news is that the recovery of the
travel and tourism sector is well underway. According to the latest
UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international tourism got back to 60%
of pre-pandemic levels between January and July 2022. It said
international tourist arrivals almost
tripled from January to July 2022 (+172%), compared to the same period
of 2021. This means the sector recovered almost 60% of pre-pandemic
levels. The steady recovery reflects strong pent-up demand for
international travel as well as the easing or lifting of travel
restrictions to date (over 86 countries had no COVID-19 related
restrictions as of 19 September 2022), the barometer showed.
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8. Your Excellencies, this meeting provides an excellent opportunity
to discuss ways and means to promote intra-Africa travels and tourism,
leveraging on our vast and unique resources and our number, for mutual
benefit to all member states. It is my expectation that this meeting
will also serve as a platform towards establishing stronger linkages
and functional collaboration among member states in order to realize
the potentials which the continent is endowed with.

9. This conference will equally provide the stakeholders the
opportunity to discuss linkages and opportunities between tourism,
cultural and the creative industry, and engage in business-focused
discussions, with a view to initiating private sector-led growth and
development of tourism and the creative Industry. It is also a
platform to dialogue and engage with key industry personnel on the
business of the creative sector, while addressing key issues affecting
the sectors such as
investment, capacity-building gaps, product development, marketing and
digitalization; Intellectual property rights, piracy, education,
poverty, power supply, security, access to finance, distribution
infrastructure, technical competence, film content, multiple taxation
and multi-level regulation, among others.

10. On our part, we have long identified the creative industry,
tourism and culture as sectors critical to the diversification of our
nation’s economy away from oil. We regard the creative industry as the
new oil. But now, when added to tourism and culture, we see these
three sectors as not just the new oil, but also the new gold! This
realization explains why we have paid much attention to the sectors.
We have given much visibility to our cultural sector, and one of the
fallouts of this is our successful campaign to repatriate our
much-coveted artefacts, which were looted and taken to different parts
of the world. Hundreds of these timeless works of art are currently
being repatriated to Nigeria, in a reflection of our successful
campaign. We have brought our creative industry to the front burner of
our economy, highlighting the contributions of music, film, fashion,
gastronomy, etc to the national economy. Of course, culture and
creative industry are drivers of tourism. We have been resourceful in
driving our Digital Switch Over (DSO) in broadcasting, knowing how
critical this is to the creative industry. And we have breathed life
into the hub of our arts and entertainment, the National Theatre,
which is getting its first makeover in over 40 years, thanks to a
collaboration between the Federal Government and the private sector,
specifically the Bankers’ Committee, which has injected $100 million
into the renovation efforts. The outcome is what you see today – an
iconic edifice reclaiming its lost glory. And this is just the first
phase. When completed, there will be four new hubs for music, film,
fashion and IT – and a new dawn for cultural tourism, arts and

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11. Your Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, as the
significance of the creative economy continues to grow, important
synergy with tourism is emerging, offering considerable potential to
grow demand and develop new products, experiences and markets. These
new links are driving a shift from conventional models of cultural
tourism to new models of creative tourism based on intangible culture
and contemporary creativity. There are clear and strong intersections
between the sectors. The creative innovation fuels new models of
cultural consumption, and explores the wide range of technical and
allied industries that scaffold the tourism and creative industries.

12. Learning from the pandemic, I think we can and should seize the
long-term opportunities offered by the creative economy, which is very
often underestimated in terms of impact on sustainable growth, impact
on jobs and impact on the development of societies. A very important
dimension of tourism and the creative economy is that they are sectors
that employ more young people than any other field, and this is why we
believe that tourism and the creative industry are at the heart of
pandemic recovery plans, and why the UNWTO is committed to placing the
sectors high on international agenda.

13. With our safe travel and safe event protocols, we are
determined, as a country, to strengthen our position as a key business
hub in the region. We welcome local and global guests to meet and
connect in Nigeria, while enjoying a seamless and safe end-to-end

14. Finally, we need a better understanding of the economic impact
of these inter-linked sectors, as well as of the impact on GDP and on
jobs, because very often people do not realize that these sectors can
be more important than many heavy industries, and they would never
guess that those jobs were created by the cultural sector. So, we need
to put the numbers on the table, with a view to having an
international roadmap to better support tourism and the creative
industry, and national strategies for the countries that are engaged
in this area.

15. On this note, I welcome you all once again, and I thank you for
your kind attention.


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