By Mike Roamghana
Ever wondered why Ghanaians and Nigerians see themselves as brothers? I’m sure if rigorous scientific studies were to be conducted, we would be able to trace a common source of ancestry for Ghana and Nigeria. The semblance is too striking and we need more sophisticated explanations beyond the commonly-known ones of the two countries sharing a common colonial master and language to explain this intriguing connection. How is it that countries 2000 kilometers apart can show such similarities in almost every aspect of their respective cultures? There is something that binds the two countries even though they are so far apart geographically.
But for a few challenging moments, the relationship between the two countries has been superb. The fact is that many Ghanaian families have Nigerian relatives and vice-versa. That is why the present impasse about retail trading should be treated as one between brothers. Allowing the tensions to fester might create not only problems in the retail sector but also tourism.
Interestingly, the two countries also share a strong affinity in the area of tourism. In the first place both countries contribute substantially to each other’s’ inbound tourism. It will interest readers to know that Nigeria is second single largest generating country for Ghana’s international tourists placing second only to the USA with an annual average of 9-11% of the country’s visitor volumes. Although statistics are not readily available, it is likely the same applies to Ghanaian touristic movement to Nigeria. This strong cross tourism is mainly due to the fact that both countries have a strong emerging middle class which increasingly seeks leisure, entertainment and adventure opportunities.
Secondly, both countries share a lot of tourism activity in terms of receiving visitors. Ongoing research by the Tourism Research and Advocacy Centre (an affiliate of www.roamghana.com) suggests that there is an increasing number of joint tour itineraries from key generating countries to both Ghana and Nigeria.
Again, tourism is a key economic driver in both countries and generates foreign exchange earnings, creates jobs and wealth as well as stimulates other sectors of the economy for both countries. While figures on Nigeria are hard to get, those of Ghana paint a good picture. Ghana earns an annual average of USD 800million in tourism receipts a year, making it the country’s fourth highest foreign exchange earner and contributes about 5% of GDP and employs almost 500000 persons. It is very likely a similar picture exists in Nigeria.
Tourism is a very sensitive economic activity and recoils at the slightest sign of tension or insecurity. Insecurity makes a country unappealing and scares tourists away. There are many examples to show how some countries have suffered from insecurity. Studies for example have shown that many North African countries suffered a 25-30% decline in touristic patronage because of the Arab Spring in 2011.
The growing tension between Ghana and Nigeria is not helpful to the respective tourism industries and economic fortunes of both countries and must be quickly dealt with. It is gratifying to note the efforts that have been made by both governments to stop the minor confrontations between citizens of the ‘twin’ countries.