Nigeria missing on global tourism map -Clara Chinwe Okoro, founder, My Beautiful Africa, a fashion, travel and lifestyle company
Brand journalist and founder, My Beautiful Africa, a fashion, travel and lifestyle company, Clara Chinwe Okoro has decried the refusal, hesitation and reluctance of the government to build an enabling environment to promote tourism in Nigeria.
The president of the Brand Journalists Association of Nigeria stated that while most developed Western countries, who are heavily dependent on tourism for their GDP have made deliberate economic policies to design a blueprint in tourism as a major income earner for their economy, Nigeria sadly, hasn’t looked upon it as an alternative to oil and are yet to even build enabling environment to promote it.
Describe your experience as one of the entrepreneurs selected for the Tony Elumelu Foundation.It was quite an incredible experience being selected into the 2019 Cohort under the AFDB selected candidates. I learnt quite a lot about my business, how to reposition it, and the tools that were readily available for me to help me do that. I prepared my business plan and my pitch deck. I networked and travelled within that one year and it was an incredible experience. So, my travel technology company, My Beautiful Africa benefitted a lot from the Tony Elumelu Foundation.
How important does Women’s Month mean to you in light of this year’s subject of innovation and technology?
It means a lot to me for the simple reason that the world is finally acknowledging the fact that women need to be accorded the respect and dignity they deserve through affirmative action. Technology and Innovations are playing important roles in redefining our world and so many women are being allowed to showcase their talents, deploy their knowledge, contribute their quota, develop their skills and recalibrate their lives optimally through the opportunities the 4th industrial revolution has offered them.
You were initially a broadcaster. Why the career switch to tourism and technology?
I am first and foremost an entrepreneur and my first business was media entrepreneurship with Brandworld Media which is still an ongoing and existing business. So, I am still a practising journalist. We were among the first set of Independent TV producers and that gave us a first-mover advantage. I still cover brands and our marketing communications digital website is up.
My second business is travel and tourism and it was a career move I made in 2014 after a trip to Gambia where I noticed that Africa was underrepresented in the global tourism map. So, I chose to focus on the technology aspect of the industry and today we host an annual event that focuses on that primarily which is the Tourism and Technology Summit Africa series. My role model in business is Richard Branson. He runs multiple businesses under the Virgin Brand, Airline, Cruise Line, Record Label, Trains, and Hotels. I am following his model of business with media, travel and tourism for my model of business with a focus on technology.
Why should Nigerians and our government care about tourism in the 21st century?
Most developed Western countries are heavily dependent on tourism for their GDP. This is a deliberate economic policy to design a blueprint as a major income earner for their economy. Countries like France, Spain, Germany, Netherlands, UK and also the US earn trillions of dollars through tourism and every airport in the world is a testament to the power of tourism as a major income earner with the volume of human traffic moving in and out of those airports.
How should Africa, albeit, Nigeria bridge the gap in the gender gap in technology, innovation and tourism?There is already a lot happening. The internet has demystified a lot of things. There are endless opportunities open to women now. All you need is data to access these worlds of opportunities. There are countless programmes designed specifically for women through affirmative action to bridge the gap for women-led enterprises and businesses. There are also concerted efforts to upskill women through digital skills acquisition training to help them get jobs in the tech sector and earn better income to upgrade their family’s quality of life.
As president of the Brand Journalists Association of Nigeria, how many women have you trained so far and what efforts have you put to close the gender gap?
Almost half of our members are women. Journalism is a bastion of gender neutrality. There is not much one can criticize that sector for in terms of gender inequality. It offers women a lot of opportunities and we at BJAN have also been beneficiaries of those opportunities. So, the gender gap isn’t wide at all in terms of looking for ways to close it and it is a healthy state of affairs in the sector. I pray it remains so.
Oil, Nigeria’s most reliable asset is fast losing its economic elasticity, globally. Tourism and technology are said to be the next oil. Is Nigeria cashing in on this sector as compared to other countries of the world?The state of affairs isn’t truly encouraging. Tourism is still not being looked upon as an alternative to oil in Nigeria. The countries in Africa that have moved on and become intentional about raising the status of tourism to become part of the major source of GDP for their countries are Egypt, Rwanda, South Africa, Ghana, and Kenya.
In Nigeria, we haven’t built the enabling environment which aims to promote tourism as an intentional economic bloc. Perhaps, when we understand the dynamics, security and infrastructure as the backbones of tourism in an economy, then, we can leapfrog to join these other countries that have activated theirs and are reaping the benefits.
What is your last word for girls and women who seek career paths in technology?
My first and last word on this would always be the world waits for no one. The world is moving. Don’t be left out. The opportunities are there. Leave your comfort zone and arm yourself with skills and the future you aspire to will unveil itself.