The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has called for the signing of the two Memoranda of Understanding between Nigeria and China in an effort to boost tourism between the two countries.
The Minister, who made the call in Abuja on Thursday when he received the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Chui Jian Chun, on a courtesy visit to his office, said the two MoU are on the Facilitation of Group Travels by Chinese Tourists to Nigeria as well as Travel Facilitation through the Approved Destination Status (ADS).
He said Nigeria, like China, has huge tourism attractions to give effect to the MoU, adding that if just 1% of the 130 million Chinese tourists who travel annually comes to Nigeria, that will be 1.3 million tourists, which will be a big boost to tourism in Nigeria.
“There are two MoU between Nigeria and China on the Facilitation of Group Travels by Chinese Tourists to Nigeria and Travel Facilitation through the Approved Destination Status (ADS). Though the two MoU date back to 2019, they have not been signed. It is important that our two countries work together to negotiate and sign these MoU to promote tourism between them,” Alhaji Mohammed said.
He recalled that in 2002, Nigeria and China signed a Bilateral Agreement to encourage cooperation in the field of tourism between both countries, adding that the Agreement focused mainly on exchange programmes, human capacity building, joint marketing and investment.
The Minister said though some Nigerian officials received short training on tourism in China and online, the dearth of skilled manpower in the tourism sector in Nigeria has made it imperative to seek more advance capacity building and scholarship programme in Tourism Statistics and Tourism Satellite Account (TSA), tourism development, product development among others from the Chinese government.
He also harped on the need to encourage exchanges between the two countries in the area of film production, which will avail Nigerian filmmakers the opportunity to improve on their technical competence in film-making.
Alhaji Mohammed commended China for extending its cooperation with Nigeria beyond culture and tourism to infrastructure development in the country.
He listed the Lagos-Ibadan and Abuja-Kaduna standard gauge rail lines, which are already in operation, the ongoing work on the Kaduna-Kano railway, Abuja Light Rail, the upgrade of the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri narrow gauge, Abuja-Keffi-Makurdi road and the building of new airport terminals in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kano, among others, as the ”visible monuments that testify to the warm relations and great cooperation between the two countries”.
The Minister also lauded the cooperation between the StarTimes of China and the Nigerian Television Authority, which culminated in the birth of the Integrated Television Services (ITS), which is the Federal government-owned signal distributor that is playing a major role in the Digital Switch Over in Nigeria.
He urged the Chinese Ambassador to facilitate the granting of the 500-million-dollar loan to Nigeria by the China Export-Import Bank for the execution of three major projects in the public broadcast sector.
“Also worthy of mention, Your Excellency, is the 500-million-dollar loan which we are seeking from the China Export-Import Bank for three major projects – the digitization of the NTA, the construction of a headquarters complex and transmission network for Integrated Television Services (ITS), a Federal Government-owned signal distributor that is a major component of the country’s Digital Switch Over (DSO), and the construction of an ultra-modern Media City in Ikorodu.
”I want to use this opportunity to appeal to Your Excellency to continue to use your good offices to fast-track the evaluation and approval process of the loan by the China Export Import Bank, and to thank you for your efforts so far in this regard,” Alhaji Mohammed said.
In his remarks, Ambassador Chui said China is re-strategizing its bilateral relations with Nigeria to focus on Growth, Development and Progress.
He said the new strategy, tagged “5 GIST” will be a holistic, complete and sustained approach to focus on political support, economic cooperation, security and military collaboration, international affairs coordination, infrastructure, ICT, industry, investment, import and export, among others.
The Ambassador said the new focus will be anchored on people-to-people communication and relationship as well as cultural exchanges.