Repositioning Culture and Tourism in a Diversified Economy

Prof. Sule Bello

Department of History

A.B.U., Samaru-Zaria


Nigeria’s efforts at transforming and developing itself, since its independence in 1960, have in the main tended to be unsuccessful. At the heart of this failure lies the inability of the country to transform itself from a colonial mono-economy into an independent, industrialized and diversified one that is broadly creative, original and self-generating and thus capable of meeting the varied needs of the country’s population and those of the Nigerian state. The quest for economic diversification, industrialization and independence has generated a great deal of debate most of which are focused on the varied, as well as alienated and failed, economic theories and political philosophies which hardly take into account the historical and cultural realities of the nation concerned. To counter such obvious anomalies there is a growing literature which seeks to factor culture as a veritable factor, anchor and basis for development. In this regard many believe that the creative, organizational and constructive role that culture needs to play towards nation-building, as well as the general promotion of social creativity and resourcefulness, that need to underlie the country’s development process have been grossly and fatally neglected. Redressing this anomaly will greatly help to promote a self-reliant, relevant and diversified economic development process that is feasible, possible and sustainable in Nigeria.

1. Introduction

vThe crisis of industrialization, or diversification, and the continued prevalence of mono-economy geared to export on the basis of unfavourable terms of trade.

vA mono-economy is one that relies essentially on the export of mineral and agricultural raw material to the detriment of its own industrial development. Nigeria during the colonial period relied basically on the export of agricultural products such as groundnut, cotton, cocoa, palm oil etc. After independence it has come to increasingly rely on the rents and royalties paid by the foreign mining companies active in the mining and export of crude oil.

vThe history of the attempts at the industrialization of Nigeria:

  • Nationalist policies accompanying democratic politics/independence struggle
  • Military rule: the struggle against foreign interventions and imposed policies: culminating in the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) in 1984.

vThe economic development logic for the democratic transition of 1999; the increasing economic failures, and dependence, at various levels of society, politics and economics in the country under the PDP (1999 – 2015).

vThe 2015 elections and the New Policy focus of the new APC Government, under PMB: security, diversification and job creation, Anti-corruption. The imperatives for implementation of national policies and reforms that promote economic self-reliance.

  1. The Relevance of Cultural Resourcefulness to Diversification

Societal resourcefulness in the form of its inherited as well as inherent artistic, technical, scientific and ethical resources and the application of such endowments to the national economic development process. The dynamic and creative fusion of talents and resources in the context of purposive policies, plans and programmes or projects.

To appreciate this perspective we need to identify the limitations associated with some of the prevailing views on economic development.

vEconomy is presented merely as an abstraction rather than a product of culture and history in term of its characteristics based on its evolution, development and trends.

vConfusing national revenues or state income, with the mainstay, productive sectors, and the National Product of the country.

vHuman, imaginative and tool fabricating capabilities, as well as organic social processes of development constitute the hall mark for social development and where these are neglected problems are bound to arise.

vThe increasing importance, influence and relevance of culture to the development process is being felt at all levels as indicated in the growing literature on the subject. This realization is aptly summarized in the following definition of culture, where it is observed that: “the word is used in a general sense as the evolved ability to categorise and represent experiences with symbols and to act imaginatively and creatively” (

vIt is based on the learning of the above noted abilities that members of society become human, as well as responsible and creative members of given and definite societies.

vTo illustrate the evolving nature of these contributions on culture and development it is important to identify their scope, and significance, as is partly indicated in the reference attached to this paper. The contributions will be found to signify many important, as well as developing, views and interests among which we can identify the following:

  1. Academic appreciation and discourses on the various dimensions, and importance, of the subject matter of culture to social development processes.
  2. Policy formulation
  3. Technical issues relating to the organization management and development of various culture and tourism projects, programmes and institutions at different levels in various countries.
  4. The central role of national educational establishments in the development and transmission of cultures especially in the promotion of national cultures through the factorization of indigenous cultures into the development process, as well as a critical evaluation of all other forms of cultural influences on the countries concerned.
  5. Creative writings (scientific, philosophical and literary)
  6. Nigeria’s Cultures, and Tourism Resources, as Bases for its Economic Diversification and Development

vThe recognition of the above realism is contained in specific National Policies as well as the National Development Plans of Nigeria, in general, and those relating to culture, education and tourism, in particular.

vThe neglected informal sector in Nigeria represents an indigenous, popular, industrial, creative and productive structure. There is a need for its overall enablement and modernization, as the base of the economy, and the key strategy for both poverty eradication and economic self reliance. This is particularly relevant in the light of the colossal failures represented in White Elephant and wasteful projects such as the Ajaokuta steel complex, or other extroverted and extractive projects, that lack any generative and sustainable linkages to the local economy, as represented in Nigerian mining, such as the oil and gas, sector.

vNigeria’s cultural assets constitute the essential basis for the development of tourism in the country. These offer important knowledge, and lessons, about the country which cannot be gained from any other source, thereby indicating the importance of both local and international tourism in the country as well as the necessity for the use of indigenous resources in our educational establishments. Nigeria’s unique socio-cultural, historical, and geographical features also make it possible for it to promote its own distinctive brands of cultural tourism, eco-tourism, educational, economic and health tourisms in addition to the possibilities of constituting itself into an important African regional tourist attraction (Nigeria’s status in Africa, CBAAC, etc.).

vIn this regard the systematic development of its cultural assets in the form of historical sites and monuments, cultural events and festivals, in addition to its museums, archives and galleries is imperative. Furthermore the systematic promotion of its cultural attributes in the form of Nigerian food, fashion, traditional medical practices, architecture etc. is also very important.

vIn addition to the above there is an increasing and contemporary development of thriving cultural and industrial activities that are characteristically Nigerian and African such as in the field of literature, theatre, films (Nollywood and Kannywood), fashions, cuisines, tourism and restaurants in addition to many others far too numerous to be listed in a short paper of this nature.

vIn the fields of arts, crafts and small scale industries of various nature (metal work, ceramics, wood work, chemical processing, mining, leather works, food processing, building construction etc) lies a tremendous potential for the diversification of the economy through supportive and friendly policies in the form of national support and protection programmes, along with the provision of infrastructural facilities, for the locally based small scale industrial sectors. It is important to emphasise that these creative industries also constitute the foundries for the technological development of the country in practical terms.

vFinally, in addition to the need for the creation of a supportive environment to such small-scale, and locally based, industries the Federal Government need to directly patronize such industries in order to promote them. For example, legislation should be introduced for their participation in all government funded contract projects up to a certain percentage, as is the law in some African countries, such as, Morocco. Similarly, the cultural aridity currently defining most national establishments (especially Aso Rock, the National Assembly (NASS) and many of our embassies abroad) could be reversed if the government were to order their embellishment with Nigerian products, especially its arts and crafts – a measure that will generate great benefits to the local economy.

  1. Strategic Considerations for the Achievement of Economic Diversification

In order for the various suggestions made above to be effectively implemented, there is the need for the Ministry to initiate the formulation, coordination and implementation of the immediate role that the cultural and tourism sectors need to play towards the general diversification of the Nigerian economy.

For this to be achieved there is a need to have representation from the major stakeholders such as the Ministry and its Parastatals; independent NGOs and associations active in the cultural sector; private entrepreneurs engaged in the promotion of cultural industries, and resource persons from the academia to map out what could be achieved within the next two to three years as a strategy for bringing together these important sectors to work together and jump-start a coordinated approach to the solution of the problem. It is very significant that this programme is not only designed around the current, and relevant, national policies but that it also engages the other relevant ministries towards the implementation of such provisions.

An example here is the need for the Ministry of Education to ensure the teaching of Nigerian history and cultures at all the relevant levels of our educational institutions as a primary strategy for nation-building and national development. This very important step will also make it possible to simultaneously incorporate the various technical and scientific achievements of our various cultures into the curriculum for scientific and technological education in the country.

  1. Conclusion

A historical survey of all human societies indicates that the capacity for industrial production did not only define their nature but also their integrity and independence. Mono-economies were specific creations of the European imperial powers in their different colonies. These need to be surmounted if true and independent development is to be initiated. 

A comparative survey of modern developed, and diversified, economies of Europe, USA, Russia, China, Brazil, India, etc. illustrate that the ability to formulate and implement diverse and contingent national policies that were anchored in the creative cultural peculiarities and capabilities, or national resourcefulness, of their countries at all levels was vital to the design, origination, organization and development of their economies. Most importantly economic diversification, or industrialization, cannot be wholly imported from foreign sources but nurtured on the basis of local needs, abilities and resources.

In order for Nigeria to achieve similar objectives it need not only focus, more broadly, on its cultural attributes and tourism potentials but also approach these from the point of view of existing national policies and programmes in a manner that engages all the relevant stake-holders.

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*** Being a Paper Presented at the National Summit on Culture and Tourism with the theme, “Repositioning Culture and Tourism in a Diversified Economy”, organized by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture at the Congress Hall, Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, on 27-29 April, 2016.