By Frank Meke
My sister, Mrs Susan Akporiaye, President National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies ( NANTA), believes so much in Africa. She loves the continent and her people,the culture and hospitality.
Mrs Akporiaye is the mother Thereza of a united nations of African tourism and so engrossed in it and there’s nothing anyone can do to change her mind, particularly about Africans loving Africa. Susan Akporiaye is Africa tourism centric, obsessed, and passionate about a pan African cultural tourism renaissance.
When she conceived the Africa to Africa Tourism agenda immediately after the covid pandemic, her mind was centred on Rwanda. I was on her team to Rewand Air office in lagos to birth the idea.
She also took her Africa to Africa Tourism initiative to Egypt Air, and the whole idea is to process inter African tourism opportunities through air transportation ecosystem.
There’s no denying the fact that it is easier to travel around Europe than within Africa, a continent simply blind to its huge cultural tourism economy and political correctionness.
As a tourism evangelist and jihadist, with love and not a gun to execute her Africa to Africa Tourism agenda, Mrs Susan Akporiaye, bidded her time, after the African airlines, became roadblocks rather than encouraging her dream .
She wept! But her heart of love for the continent, her people, the culture, and Africas’ diverse, very inspiring moonlight stories kept her going.
Mother luck came her way when South Africa Tourism saw the greatness and future in her dream and promised support. At indaba, Durban, last year, her idea gave birth to Tour OPERATORS Union of Ghana, validating the tempo.
This is a tourism coup of sort, Nigeria, Ghana, and South Africa , powering collaborations with each other. Trust South Africa, not Nigeria or Ghana, on issues of tourism evangelism. They are consistent but on commitment, the cryptic spirit of the black man reigned strong.
South Africa took the continental tourism flag, promised to hoist it where everyone will see it, where the world will see the future Africa cultural tourism partnership but there was a k leg, a lacuna, a stopage time upheaval, and the faith in new Africa to Africa Tourism agenda, shaken.
Whodunit! Nigerian delegates over 200 across the six geopolitical zones cried blue murder. Na who die?
The embassy of South Africa in Nigeria became the albatross instead of the flavour. As I write from my hotel room in Johannesburg, my ear is full from the lamentations of those denied visa, mostly on flimsy excuses which European embassies would never contemplate.
Why encourage the people to visit South Africa, why lead Africa Tourism by the nose, why stand in gap when you know you can’t carry the burden, when your battery is dead and cannot no longer lit the way, why, why, why, the people lament, Nigerian travel professionals cried, why ?
Like the wife of Pontius Pilate, sleep escaped me through the night. Susan Akporiaye on my mind, put to pressure beyond measure, voice gone hoarse pleading with distraught members for calm.
Though the Abuja embassy of South Africa, delivered almost all nanta delegates from the city, the high blood pressure experienced by the zonal leadership, will take a wash on the Jordan River to cure, unfortunately Jordan is not in South Africa.
Lagos and Portharcourt delegates, and I mean over a hundred of them, denied visa, won’t ever touch South Africa Tourism on their tourism marketing magic box. The reasons were obvious and honestly to think that the embassy leadership or South Africa Home Affairs Ministry, failed to take into consideration the huge impact of lost spending on hotels, shopping and post conference return visits from attendees denied visa, is worrisome.
More troubling for me is the future sustainability of the Africa to Africa Tourism agenda and to which South Africa through its visa regime seemed to have bungled, daring to ignore the tourism message which it has preached across the continent.
It is oxymoronic and in bad faith. On arrival here, I went to the giant statue of late Oliver Reginald kaizana Tambo at the airport to report South Africa.
I will do the same to late Nelson Mandela at sandtone. This is not the Africa of our dream. Why must other nations find it easy to visit Africa and we can not guarantee the same to our people.
Why must we stand by and look to see other people immerse themselves in our history and culture, yet we build walls against ourselves? Who do we harness and distribute among our rural poor, the three trillion dollars embedded in Africa intercontinental free trade regime ?
Why create artificial blockade, deny our people entry to our homes , to diversity of our rich culture yet sit across tables to sing Africa unite!.
My heart bleeds for many travel professionals who wanted to be here to witness the birth of Africa to Africa Tourism initiative, but could not make not because they are not Africans but because we sell wholesale, discouragement and despair as visa.
In spite of how we may feel about this sad development, one still believes that South Africa can get it right if it is willing to. To Susan Akporiaye, be strong , there are African nations, that may help you sing a new song.