The critically acclaimed Wonders of Africa zoom conference, an online tourism initiative of the Wonders of Africa Project has finally made a return after a hiatus of about seven months.
The eagerly anticipated webinar featured some heavyweights of the tourism industry in Africa and the Diaspora, such as the legendary Olufemi Adefope, Chairman of GHI Assets Nigeria.
Other panelists included revered aviation travel writer Tunji Oketunbi, GM of AIB Nigeria; UK-based, Jamaica-born travel expert Carol Hay, CEO of McKenzie Gayle Ltd; and former Minister of Tourism of The Gambia, Fatou Mas Jobe.
First off the blocks after the opening introduction by the host, Ikechi Uko was the GM of AIB, Oketunbi who took the audience on a pleasure ride from Calabar to Abuja in Nigeria, before heading down to Johannesburg, South Africa and eventually arriving in Cairo, Egypt.
Mr. Oketunbi highlighted the historical relevance of Calabar, mentioning that prior to the emergence of Lagos, it was the major colonial headquarters in the country. He spoke about the good roads and the serenity of the city, pointing to the cleanliness of the environment which possibly makes it the cleanest city in Nigeria.
On ecotourism, Calabar is also a green city, he noted. He also spoke about wildlife and the animal rehabilitation programmes in the city. In addition, Oketunbi talked about the culture, citing the famous Carnival Calabar, Africa’s Biggest Street Party.
Moving on to Abuja, Oketunbi commended the good road network in the FCT and the numerous top-class hotels and conference facilities available, which make it a prime destination for M.I.C.E and business travel. He added that Abuja is a good place from which one can explore and enjoy day trips to places like Kaduna and Jos.
The city of Johannesburg, South Africa was Oketunbi’s next port of call and he spoke about Sandton being a great shopping and business hub. Soweto was another important place in Johannesburg he mentioned as a great tourism destination.
In Soweto, one can visit Nelson Mandela’s old house. In fact, on the same street Archbishop Desmond Tutu also lived. Also in Soweto, there’s also Winnie Mandela’s house. Other places to see in Johannesburg include the Old Fort Prison where several political prisoners from Mandela to Mahatma Ghandi were incarcerated.
Oketunbi however warns that there are places within Johannesburg that one needs to be circumspect when visiting, before moving on to talk about Cairo. He acknowledged that he loves history and found places like Cairo fascinating.
READ: Tourism: Kwame Ansong Presents Ghana’s most visited attraction, the Kakum National Park on the Wonders of Africa zoom conference.
Beyond the rich history of Cairo, Oketunbi pointed out that the capital city of Egypt has a rich and exciting night life. It is a well populated city and there are several top-class hotels. He also talked about local markets and the religious harmony in the city.
Former Minister of Tourism of The Gambia, Fatou Mas Jobe posited that Africa is the best to visit post-COVID-19, pointing out three important factors, namely: 1). Beautiful landscapes, 2). Wildlife, and 2). The people. Starting from her home country, she took the audience through Makasutu and Juffureh/Albreda.
Makasutu is a tropical 1000-acre reserve encompassing five different eco-systems, including gallery forest, savannah, mangroves, palm forest and wetland. Wildlife is plentiful with many bird species, monitor lizards, baboons, vervet and red colobus monkeys, and the occasional crocodile and even the odd mongoose can be spotted on the riverbank.
Apart from cruises on the Gambia River to spot wildlife, or the walk through the monkey park, there is also a rich cultural experience of music and dances by the local tribes to be savoured.
Juffureh/Albreda are actually two separate historic settlement in The Gambia on the north bank of the Gambia River. While Albreda has been described as a ‘trading post’ or ‘slave fort,’ Juffureh was identified in Alex Hailey’s “Roots” as the birthplace of Kunta Kinteh, a captured slave who is an ancestor of Hailey. An arch stands on the beach connecting the two places.
These historical destinations have a museum and a monument built to commemorate the abolition of the slave trade, while an International Roots Homecoming Festival takes place there also. Boat trips can also be enjoyed to James Island, which has since been renamed Kunta Kinteh Island.
Away from her home country, the former Minister headed to Kenya where she spoke glowingly about Nanyuki sharing her experience on a night safari, the beauty of Mount Kenya providing a backdrop against the rich wildlife of the national park.
Fatou Mas Jobe who had earlier stated that tourism was in her DNA also spoke about her experience in Cape Coast, Ghana. She talked about the famous slave castle and also exploring the Kakum National Park, sharing her experience on the canopy walk.
Caribbean Queen, Carol Hay began her presentation by giving the audience a little bit about her background as a Jamaican born and raised in England, UK. Although, she didn’t get to see her home country until she turned 18, she reminisced about the influence of Diasporan cultural as she grew up with her family living in the UK.
The CEO of McKenzie Gayle Ltd, then spoke about the diverse heritage and many beliefs, both in the UK and Caribbean, before touching on the abundance of treasured attractions in the Caribbean. These includes: the Vibrant Culture, Record Breakers in sports like Usain Bolt, Shirley-Ann Fraser-Pryce, etc.; Tropical Wildlife, and Cultural Icons and Legends like Bob Marley, Billy Ocean, Ginger Williams, Rihanna, etc.
Moving on, Carol highlighted for destinations in the Caribbean, namely: Belize, Cuba, Grenada and Jamaica and spoke about their peculiar uniqueness. For instance, Belize stands out as the only English-speaking Diaspora country in the Caribbean. It is culturally diverse nation with Mestizo, Creole, Mayan and Garifuna peoples.
In describing Cuba, she says the country is like “the most beautiful woman in the world who went to bed in her makeup and best dress in 1959; and when she woke up today, she’s still wearing them.”
Grenada is a beautiful spices haven and has been aptly dubbed “Spice Isle.” It is especially rich in nutmeg. The culture is beautiful and there are lots of beautiful beaches and hotels.
Her homeland, Jamaica has a mystique vibe about it and it has been called the coolest country brand. She talked about the capital Kingston and the cuisines, such as the famous Jamaican jerk chicken. Of course, Jamaica gave the world reggae music and many more.
On the African continent, she chose Malawi and Nigeria as her favourites. Recalling her experience in Malawi, she describes as the “kindest country in Africa,” noting that the people who didn’t really have much were willing to share the little they had with them. Also, she enjoyed the safari rides.
She describes Nigeria as a country with a certain vibe and recalled her first visit to the country for the Akwaaba African Travel Market in 2019. She shared her images of her at the famous Nike Arts Gallery in Lekki and at the slave route in Badagry.
On targeting the Diaspora, Carol Hay says that it is a market eager to engage with Africa, highlighting Accessibility, Safety, Information, Culture & Heritage, Emotional Connection, Authenticity, Recognition, and Partnerships as key in bridging the relationship between both sides.
She signed off with the Unity Through Tourism programme scheduled for September 29, 2021. The event provides a new innovative way for countries united through the Commonwealth to promote their cultural heritage and diversity through their shared values and unique features.
Olufemi Adefope got involved with the travel industry over four decades ago, as far back as 1979, and he is a legendary figure not just in Nigeria but across Africa and internationally.
Starting off his presentation, the present titular head of GHI Assets took the audience to up northern Nigeria, to Bagauda on the outskirts of the ancient city of Kano. He reminisced about a beautiful hotel at the base of Tiga Dam called Rock Castle Hotel, which was built to accommodate Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to Nigeria, many years ago.
Adefope recalled being in Kano as Chairman of NANTA for a function and enjoying a sunset cruise on Tiga Lake. Kano, he noted is a famous place and the second international gateway into Nigeria, pointing out that the first KLM flight into the country landed in Kano.
Lagos, the City of Aquatic Splendour, which he described as a premium tourism and business destination was next on Adefope’s list. He opined that the traffic situation that people complain about is part of tourism. He pointed out that snorkeling, game fishing and yachting are attractions in Lagos.
Leaving Nigeria, ‘Femi Adefope took the audience down to Cape Town, South Africa. He recalled that his first visit was back in 1992 with his wife during the apartheid era. “Cape Town is a small, quaint town” he noted but packs a heavy punch when it comes to tourism attractions, stating, “Every day, I’ll go to Cape Town.”
He highlighted the various attractions such as the famous Table Mountain, V&A Waterfront, the colourful BoKaap, Bird Nest stadium built for the 2010 World Cup, airport, and the Winelands. Adefope noted that Cape Town is a great wedding destination, especially open-air weddings, recalling a wedding event where the groom and his men arrived via a helicopter.
From Cape Town, Adefope took the audience to Kigali, Rwanda, a city which rose from the ashes of the 1994 Genocide which left about a million people dead. Kigali is one of the cleanest cities in the world, probably after Singapore.
Kigali is very safe place, as he recalled his first visit, arriving at 3am and getting a taxi to his hotel. The city is great for cycling and walking and once a month, the streets are closed to vehicular traffic while everyone walks. Also, there is a monthly cleaning exercise of the city.
In addition, Adefope talked about the ease of doing business in Rwanda, noting that within 24 hours, one can get a company incorporated in Kigali, while you can open a bank account in one day. Kigali is one of Africa’s leading M.I.C.E destinations and there are lots of lovely, top-class hotels and apartment buildings available in the city. He did not forget to mention the culture and the silverback gorillas. Annually, newly born Mountain Gorillas are giving names at the Kwita Izina, a gorilla-naming ceremony in Kinigi, outside Kigali.
Born last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wonders of Africa webinar was designed as an online informative platform to keep everyone across the continent and the Diaspora connected through the period.
In addition, the webinar also serves as an appetiser for the Wonders of Africa project in which twenty-five iconic landmarks will be selected from the myriads of attractions across the continent and the Diaspora.