by Raymond Eyo
“Hosting an international conference by a country or a city has many multipliers; tangible economic benefits and non-tangible benefits… For instance, convention tourism is a high value segment of the tourism and hospitality industry…”
– Shyam Nagpal, MD, International Conference and Exhibition Services, New Delhi, India
Nigeria has hosted many international conferences and symposia, especially since the return to democratic rule in 1999. A statement on the website of the Abuja International Conference Centre reads: “In the last decade and a half the Centre has played host to several international, regional and national political, social, cultural, economic and religious conferences, summits, meetings, seminars, ceremonies and programmes.”
For example, later this year, Nigeria will host the 35th Conference/General Assembly of the 130-member country strong International Federation of Surveyors.
Despite the ongoing precarious security situation in certain parts of the country, and many other misgivings associated with its overall governance deficits, some international institutions and organizations have still reposed confidence in Nigeria to the point of getting her to host major international conferences in 2014.
Topping the list of the major international events Nigeria is billed to host in 2014 are the World Economic Forum on Africa, the World Conference of Engineers and, of course, Nigeria’s Port Harcourt will also serve as UNESCO’s “World Book Capital for 2014”.
But what would Nigeria benefit from hosting these conferences? To begin with, and going by the opening quote, hosting international conferences is always generally good for a country’s tourism and hospitality industry as the many delegates and participants will definitely patronize the country’s hotels and catering services throughout the course of their stay.
Secondly, when a country hosts international conferences, especially of the magnitude of the ones stated above, they go a long way to boost its economy as there will be such interaction of both public and private sector entities with the visiting delegations and individuals that will further showcase the country’s investment opportunities.
In specific terms, the three aforementioned conferences hold great promise for Nigeria’s development aspirations.
For one, the 2014 World Economic Forum on Africa is likely to feature a last lap assessment of progress made in the attainment of the MDGs, ahead of their expiry in 2015. As host, Nigeria will come under the spotlight and be particularly required to showcase what she may call her achievements in that regard. More importantly, Nigeria will benefit from the presence of many potential investors to sign off on deals that will further grow her economy.
In a similar vein as above, hosting the World Engineers’ Conference should help focus the attention of Nigeria’s policy makers on engineering especially as it is a vital aspect of what the country needs to get right to get its infrastructure up and running.
For example, the Nigerian Society of Engineers is already banking on the preparations for the conference to urge the Federal Government to promptly begin implementing the white paper of the report of the Presidential Committee on Strategic Plans for Engineering Development and Control in Nigeria.
As the NSE President, Mustapha Balarabe Shehu, put it at a 2012 lecture, “The desire of the Federal Government to provide infrastructure may not be realisable without the implementation of a pragmatic engineering policy that places emphasis on building local capacities and expertise, engineering needs analysis, and targeted training and acquisition of specific skills to meet specific needs.”
Likewise, about a fortnight ago, the Governor of the State of Osun, Rauf Aregbesola, himself an engineer, said if effectively utilized, Nigeria’s engineers can contribute to the country’s much-needed advancement by facilitating the provision of “critical infrastructure,” be it for food security, electricity and water supply, housing and others.
Regarding Port Harcourt being named by UNESCO as the “World Book Capital for 2014,” a statement by the Selection Committee denotes the impact the event will have on Nigeria. The statement reads: “The city of Port Harcourt was chosen “on account of the quality of its programme, in particular its focus on youth and the impact it will have on improving Nigeria’s culture of books, reading, writing and publishing to improve literacy rates.”
A similar statement by Irina Bokova, the UNESCO Director-General, reads: “I extend my congratulations to the city of Port Harcourt for the quality of its proposed programme, which provides for extensive public participation and aims to develop reading for all.”
An explanatory note about the World Book Capital initiative by UNESCO states that “Each year, UNESCO and the international organizations representing the three major sectors of the book industry – the International Publishers’ Association (IPA), International Booksellers’ Federation (IBF) and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) – select the World Book Capital for a one-year period, effective April 23 each year. This initiative, in addition to the celebration of the World Book and Copyright Day, represents a collaborative undertaking by key stakeholders in the publishing world to promote books and literacy.”
Reacting, Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, said “Port Harcourt is the first World Book Capital City in sub-Saharan Africa…” On his part, President Goodluck Jonathan said, “We welcome UNESCO’s recognition of our collective efforts to revive the reading culture…” From the foregoing, Port Harcourt’s tenure as the World Book Capital for 2014 will be a thing of national pride for Nigeria but more importantly, it is expected to play up efforts to instil passion for reading and boost literacy among Nigerians.
In all, it is hoped that Nigeria’s international standing will prod her policy makers and government officials at all levels to increasingly adopt international best practices of transparency and accountability in governing the nation for, beyond these short lived high-level events, true nation-building presupposes a day-to-day governance system that guarantees the sustainable socio-economic progress of the nation and the well-being of the people.
– Follow this writer on Twitter: @Raymond_Eyo