I am delighted to welcome you to this Festival of Arts, Culture, and Expo Award event, making the first time the Consulate is facilitating such an event in Atlanta in collaboration with AfriQtalk and other organizations. In this vein, let me congratulate AfriQtalk and the Chambers for the insightful initiative.
2. The theme of the event is aptly captured as: “Harnessing Culture for Competitive Advantage.” It is aimed at promoting cultural ties between Nigeria and the United States as well as the provision of opportunities and platform for exchange of information, ideas and interaction between private sector investors of the two countries.
3. Arts and Culture form the core of a people’s being and the essence of their existence. It is also an extension of their human expression. The role of Arts and Culture as catalyst to progressive multiculturalism is gaining more recognition, while artifacts open our eyes to our historical existence.
4. Our cultural heritage keeps our memories alive of how beliefs and cultural expressions have contributed to the development of society.
5. Nigeria is a land of rich artistic heritage and endowed with the abundance of creativity dating back to over 2000 years. Nigerian cultural riches are well demonstrated through art, dance, literature, folklore, music, etc. Some of these need specific mention. They include but obviously not limited to the exquisite Benin Bronze, the Nok Terracottas, the exceptionally beautiful Igbo-Ukwu Bronze work, the delicate Ile-Ife Bronze work, the Esie stone carvings.
6. Others are the woodwork of Oron and other tribes of the South-South of Nigeria, the pottery work of the people around the Federal Capital Territory, the leather works of the North and many others.
7. Tourism as one of the major industries in the world and among the biggest creators of employment is also a part of this Conference. Nigeria is blessed with tourism sites and monuments that could be considered world class by any standard. Nigeria is extraordinarily rich in heritage, archeology, arts, crafts, culture and environmental tourism.
8. On this note, mention must be made of the Argungu Fishing Festival, the Yankari Game Reserve, the Obudu Cattle Ranch & Holiday Resort. Similarly, there are the Ogbunike Caves, the ancient Kano Dye Pits, confluence of Niger and Benue River, the pristine forest reserves of Cross River State indicating rich biodiversity, the Okomu Wildlife Sanctuary, Ikogosi Warm Springs, the Unesco World Heritage Sukur Landscape, the Olumo Rocks, not to talk of the 800 kilometers unbroken silvery sandy beaches that could be found in Lagos, Badagari, Calabar, Port Harcourt and other coastal towns of the country.
9. Nigeria is also home to several festivals and sites of historical interests. Among these are the colorful Durbar festival in the North, the Eyo Festival in Lagos, the Sharo-Shadi Fulani Festival, the Calabar Carnival, the Osun Fertility Festival and the New Yam Festival of the Southeast.
10. Here in the United States, Africa is ancestral home to the 45 million African-American population of the country. Heritage tourism therefore presents itself as a major area of interest to a good number of people for the purposes of tracing their roots to the land of their forefathers.
11. Today, Nollywood (Nigerian films) depicting Nigerian culture and ways of life also flourishes and has grown to be the 3rd largest film industry in the world. Nigeria also has some of the most diverse culinary and tasty food capable of tickling anybody’s taste buds as well as variety of original textile designs on the African continent.
12. The foregoing and many more indicate the arts and cultural riches of Nigeria and the huge tourism, arts and cultural trove of Nigeria as a major tourism destination in Africa, although we should have a greater slice of the $ 32 billion world tourism.
13. Furthermore, I need to point out that tourism in Nigeria is still regarded as a pioneer industry and qualifies for many incentives including tax holidays, import duty exemption on equipment, ease of land acquisition, etc.
14. Thus, I wish to take this opportunity to invite the general public to visit Nigeria not only as tourists for a taste of the Nigerian hospitality, culture, arts and other rich heritages but also as investors for the development of cultural sites, camps, resorts and other facilities in order to make money for themselves. Such investors would be given all the support and encouragement by the Consulate and the government of Nigeria to make their efforts worthwhile and their investment profitable.
15. Such endeavor would be fitting for an economy with the largest population in Africa of over 170 million people, constituting Africa’s largest market and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of over $510 billion.
16. Thank you for your kind attention.
Ambassador Geoffrey Teneilabe