After NAFEST, NCAC ready for INAC expo

A stand in last year’s African Art and Culture (AFAC) Expo

* Bangladesh, Egypt, Venezuela To Storm Exhibition
Otunba Segun Runsewe is a big man with huge ambition. He has a ‘can do’ spirit, which many are beginning to appreciate. His tenure as the Director-General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) was a watershed in the annals of tourism development. His tenure positioned Nigeria as one of the leading faces of tourism and a preferred destination in Africa.

His aggressive tourism marketing campaign, anchored on the catch phrase ‘Tourism is Life’ gave the sector unprecedented visibility both at home and abroad.

With consistent yearly exhibitions at international tourism expositions such as, International Tourism Trade Fair (FITUR) in Madrid, Spain; Internationale Tourismus Börse (ITB) in Berlin, Germany; Arabian Travel Market, Dubai; World Travel Market in London and many others, Nigeria, during Runsewe’s tenure, began to seriously contend for world’s attention as a destination of preference.

At the recently held National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST) in Port Harcourt, a glimpse of what the big man could do was seen. His administration organised what has been described as the best NAFEST in history.

He had told The Guardian, “it is no longer the usual NAFEST. The festival, those days, used to look like inter house sport, this would not happen under my leadership. We’ve brought some level of changes that were visible in the festival. We might not have felt this impact in last year’s event, because we just had the first edition of the new idea of NAFEST in Kaduna State, but we’re going to Rivers.” With NAFEST over, the big man is set for international Arts and Craft (INAC) expo.

Last year, when Runsewe came with the idea to organise an AFAC that would surpass what had ever been witnessed, some members of staff at the NCAC found the idea laughable.

Ahead of the event, Runsewe said he was going to improve not only the aesthetics of the Arts and Crafts Village, venue of the expo, but also the content. Skill acquisition programmes, language classes, adequate security, free eye tests, health checks and a dinner for cultural attaches in Nigeria were among what Runsewe promised and delivered.

Runsewe’s dream was to transform the Arts and Craft village in Abuja into a super structure of international standard that would help Nigeria to bid for the hosting of global cultural and tourism events and help advance Nigeria’s quest as Africa’s most desired tourism outpost.

As opposed to the makeshift plank sheds that used to be the order of the day, exhibitors had modern pavilions to display their products, with the DG saying such were the types obtainable at international expos.

Also, his vision was to add global flavour and give non-African countries a platform to compare trends and share experiences. It hopefully will bridge the absence of a major verifiable culture and tourism event linked to Nigeria in the global tourism calendar and World Craft Council activities.

While stressing the need to repackage the country’s arts and tourism and strategically invest in them, Runsewe said Nigeria had a lot to gain from the sector now that it needed diversification. According to him, that is how the NCAC keys into President Muhammadu Buhari’s vision of job creation and empowerment.

As preparations for the hosting of the maiden Expo gather momentum, Runsewe has said the participating countries are expected to exhibit their cultural products and uniqueness of their destinations and other activities lined up for the event.
Runsewe said that the expo, with the theme, Networking Nigerian Crafts To The World, would be geared toward harnessing and developing arts and crafts and other creative industries in the country. “It will be a unique opportunity for artists, craft dealers, manufacturers and other stakeholders to buy and sell their brands.’’

He disclosed that the event was part of the new drive by NCAC to use culture tourism as a tool for promoting Nigeria and creating wealth for the people. “The expo would be a market place for showcasing arts and crafts products such as, fabrics, leather and souvenirs from Nigeria and other African countries. It is also apt as Nigeria needs to record remarkable achievements in developing the culture industry to create wealth,” he said.

Having attracted the participation of relevant stakeholders and several nations of the world, bringing to the fore the economic opportunities that abound in the creative industries, adding that the Expo’s potentials should be properly harnessed to create employment, reduce poverty, rural-urban drift, arrest youth restiveness and many other societal vices.

Government’s desire to diversify the productive capacity of Nigeria’s economy and to explore ways that the potentials of the creative industries can be harnessed for economic empowerment.

He, therefore, urged both private individuals and corporate bodies to look inward, embrace and partner with the sector to enhance its economic growth, especially at this time of the country’s renewed effort in promoting the non-oil sector and diversification of the economy through the zero oil economic policy.

Re-emphasising the relevance of arts and crafts expo, he said it is a platform that brings together craftsmen from across African and beyond to expand and grow the business of the arts and crafts industry, share ideas and network with other practitioners in all the areas that relate to their areas of competence, such as, production, marketing, packaging, and presentation techniques, and meet and benefit from prospective investors amongst many other benefits.

According to him, the expo will play a key role toward job creation and economic empowerment.

Otunba Runsewe

Runsewe, who is currently the president of World Craft Council, African Region, told The Guardian, “posterity will never forgive people like us, if we go out of this country, and see them do it well, and we come back and cannot impact our knowledge, that’d be a shame.”

AFAC is now INAC and industry watchers are wondering why the change?

“When I was appointed, I sat down and analysed and critiqued what African Arts and Crafts (AFAC) expo was giving out, and don’t forget, I’d represented Nigeria in nothing less than 40 foreign exhibitions and I’m talking on the strength of my exposure,” he said.

He continued, “we have almost all the ambassadors of different countries in Nigeria and you’re telling me to be addressing only African delegates, no, Nigeria is big enough to network with the world. So, I now looked at the benefits of us having AFAC and the benefits of having International Arts and Crafts (INAC) expo and I saw that INAC will do more good to Nigeria and I went for it; by the grace of God, come November 17 to 24, Nigeria will see what it is to have an exhibition to showcase the fundamentals of the country and we’d make history with that.”

Some of the countries showcasing their unique arts and crafts in the forthcoming International Arts and Crafts Expo (INAC) are, Bangladesh, Egypt, Venezuela, Tanzania, Spain, France, USA, Cameroun, Togo, Namibia, Trinidad and Tobago, Syria, China, Pakistan amongst many others.

During his visit to NCAC, the Bangladeshi High Commissioner, Shameed Ahsan, assured of his country’s total participation. The Ambassador stated, “your leadership role encourages us to partner with you.”

Runsewe responded saying the maiden edition of INAC promises to be the first of its kind in terms of packaging and organisation.

The envoy equally accepted to host Bangladesh Day during the event to promote the natural endowments of his country to the world.

Runsewe has firmly resolved to make this year’s INAC a platform to network over 35 countries that have indicated interest to participate.

For the NCAC boss, apart from soccer, it’s only the arts and culture that can be used to promote Nigeria’s unity. We could use art to further cement relationships among Nigerians and create jobs. We need to put in place mechanisms to see how arts and crafts can galvanise our economy.”

He continued, the culture expo is the face of Nigerian cum African cultural tourism economic liberation, in content and context, providing the needed platform for financial influencers to mingle with creative pool house of intelligent Nigerians long left to despair amidst plenty gifts in pottery, fashion, paintings, sculpture, nature based curatives and gastronomic blue lines that could reposition the image of Nigeria as a desirable tourism destination.

From perfumery to crafts, cloth weaving, beads making and other creative possibilities, the culture expo is a breeding ground for other government agencies in charge of other tourism and culture development indices to fish for local tools and manpower not only to create jobs but also to patent Nigerian cultural technology.

The NCAC boss reiterated that investing in arts and crafts brings high and rapid return on investment, brand recognition to businesses, foreign exchange earnings and preservation of our heritage, promotion of local and regional development, development of local skills and talents, among other benefits.

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