Accra Weizo, one of the flagships of Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions/Events (MICE) in Africa, has continued to stimulate inspiring discussions on how to liberalise movement within the African borders, especially the West Africa, to promote travel across borders, viz-a-viz easing business transaction and movement of people.
However, the fifth edition of Accra Weizo came handy with thought provoking line up of topics, together with selected experts and stakeholders in the tourism, travel and allied business sector that stood in different panel sessions to identify, deliberate and proffer solutions to some of the barriers of operating a seamless travel in West Africa.
The two-day event which displayed the full colour and power of MICE as the new multifaceted key to sustain tourism promotion for the betterment of the future, attracted the private and public sector in the tourism industry from in and around Africa and beyond to La Palm Royal Beach Resort, Accra, a venue which has not only hosted the event for some years, but has also helped the management of the resort to trend up its facilities and services to meet the growing needs of Accra Weizo.
The travel show was a multiple star outing and Ghana knew something was happening, Accra and adjourning streets leading to event venue felt the pomp and the suburbs had lots of lingering testimonies to tell of the tourists activities as over 70 foreign visitors less tourists, exhibitors, buyers and sellers thronged Ghana for the tourism event.
The 2019 edition of Accra Weizo with the theme Seamless Travel in West Africa: The Challenges and Prospects of Inter-Connecting in West Africa, set the ball rolling with a panel discussion where the panelists blamed the government apparatus at the borders for the different bottleneck that have made seamless travel impossible.
Also, the second panel discussion on Passenger Experience, Civil Aviation Rules and Immigration Processes in interconnecting West Africa, blamed African leaders for thinking that they can individually succeed in isolation while there are rooms for them to partner and collectively make it big through strategic collaboration.
According to the Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Tourism Authority, Mr Akwasi Agyeman, “there are many developments we are looking into on our side of the border to see that free movements in and out of our borders are achieved. Though we still face some little challenges, I know by the time all our plans are harmonised things will be better.
For the Chief Executive Officer of GOTA Voyages, Mr Olanma Ojukwu, who is based in Benin Republic, her story was different as she spoke pleasantly well about the new order at the Benin-Nigeria border, giving credit to the new management of the newly opened border post.
She commended the new officer in charge of the border post, saying they have introduced a new mode of operations that has improved seamless movement.
“The effectiveness of Akwaaba and Accra Weizo in promoting the West Africa seamless border movement have started yielding result.”
Taking on her, the moderator of the panel, Mr Ikechi Uko interjected, saying her experience must have been tied to her frequency at the border or her personality, which he said might not be the same to other travellers or even a first timer.
Uko, however, said “we will be looking forward to read from the travel writers who will be exploring the land border to give account of their experience as soon as they are back at their destinations.”
He thanked the travel journalists for their advocacy on the need to have a seamless border that will create free border movement in West Africa.
Also reacting to the pointer by the moderator, Mr Uko blamed some of the airport check-in bottlenecks on the bags handlers and their overzealousness. T
he Managing Director of Skyway Aviation Handling Company Plc (SAHCO), Mr Basil Agboarumi who relatively reasoned with the plight of the moderator, said that with the upscale service trend of SAHCO, things now wear newer look which is already changing the face of aviation ground handling in Nigeria.
According to him, “We have provided a well structured value added customer friendly passenger handling services which include automated check-in among other facilities that make our operations seamless.
Speaking on Passenger Experience, Civil Aviation Rules and Immigration Processes in interconnecting West Africa, the Chief Operating Officer of African World Airlines (AWA), Me Sean Mendis, attributed the problems encountered in West Africa and Africa as large and insensitive to reality, According to Mendis, “Fellow African countries see others as a threat rather than an opportunity which is the main problem experienced in operations.
Speaking on the way out, he said the immigration should embrace the advance passenger information system, encourage one stop shop check-in point as well as promote interconnectivity between each country through synchronised security system.
In her goodwill message, the Ghana Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mrs Babara Oteng-Gyasi, who was represented by the Deputy Minister, Dr Ziblim Barri Iddi, commended the organisers of Accra Weizo for the success of the event, emphasising the need for partnership among Africans and governments to make border operations easier for business to strive.
According to her, ECOWAS is still hovering around 10 per cent of regional integration while others elsewhere are making between 40 and 60 per cent integration.
“We should stop working in isolation among ourselves because we are one people, culture and destiny so we must speak with one voice as Africa.
“Each one of us cannot individually grow because we need ourselves in the market share and partnership. We as a country have seen your position of making sure that trade is seamless and we are working to address same here in Ghana.
“As West Africa, we need to take advantage of the digital platform to step up our games.”
The Director-General, National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Chief Segun Runsewe, in his usual way of surprising the audience at every event, thanked the organisers for creating a platform to promoting West Africa’s rich potentialities, launched a strategic synergy called Nigeria-Ghana Friendship Club to further develop a strong business ties.
“Ikechi Uko has used Akwaaba to promote and open new vista of opportunities for Africans to meet like the Accra Weizo, so the time has come for these Africans to come together to support each other, especially Nigeria and Ghana because there are many things that have not only bound us together, but also have in common and we must use them to promote our unity and business.”
Also, the Director of International Operations, Dubai Tourism, Stella Fubara, who identified tourism as a key factor in developing and promoting sustaining business activities across the globe said, “tourism is a language that unites all people across all barriers.
“Since I met the organiser of Akwaaba, Mr Ikechi Uko, I have been able to connect clients in 49 countries that I still do business with till date.”
By Wale Olapade