Lola Emeruwa is the Founder of WISH Africa, a social enterprise set up to promote a more positive image of Africa and Africans around the world, in particular to generate both intra-African and intercontinental trade and commerce. In this interview with IFEOMA OKEKE, she speaks on how to how to promote Nigeria through travel and other means.
What is objective of WISH Africa?
Our goal is to promote travel and tour into and around Africa. As a platform, we attend to architectural symposium, tech conferences and art fares. We realised that what was missing is that there was a conversation that needed to be had amongst everybody. This way, everybody knows what is happening in the tech sector and those in the tech sector know what is happening in the Arts sector. That is how we have designed the expos, moving from one sector to another sector, and it is a fluid, symbiotic experience.
Why have you chosen to do this in London?
London is one of the top most places when you talk about travel and tours. A lot of the people who are helping to push this are actually based in London.
There are attractions that people see in tour countries to want to visit them. How are you looking at putting Nigeria on the global map of top countries in Africa promoting travel and tour?
Our job is to shed light on people who are really doing fantastic job, so we have the likes of the Lagos Fashion Week, Arise Fashion amongst others and we do see influx of foreign visitors coming around this time. We encourage people to come for these events and tell them to come and experience these amazing things. During the expo itself, we have two travel sections. The first one is ‘Traveling in Africa as an African.’ We have seen that it is easier travelling around with European or American passport. However, it is a lot more difficult using a Kenyan or Nigerian passport to travel around. So during the event, travel experts are going to share their experiences, good or bad. We will also have ambassadors from Nigeria, Kenya and some others to discuss about the challenges and what the respective governments are doing to make it easier for people to travel around.
What plans do you have to ensure these issues you speak about in the expos are being implemented after the event?
We are doing proper research in this regard to know what the demand is. If there is a huge demand for people who want to travel around Africa, then by developing relationships with the ambassadors, federal governments and various countries, we can get back to them and tell them what the feedbacks are. Some of these feedbacks will include where the opportunities are, the destinations people will like to visit in the countries, the current state of the tourist attractions, developing proper tour guides for people to visit their preferred attractions and where they can stay when they come, amongst others issues.
What is the role of the government in helping promote tourist attractions in Nigeria?
The government’s responsibility is paramount and they are the real people that have the power to increase ease of doing business and increase ease of travel. Without the support of any respective government, there may not be so much social-economic development in any sector.
As an investor who is looking at investing in Nigeria. What do you think are investment opportunities here in Nigeria that could be tapped into?
You definitely want to go to the respective chambers of commerce in Nigeria. These chambers will help give investors the right directions.
Since you started Wish Africa, what challenges have you faced?
Typically, people are used to focusing on one sector at a time but we have mission to showcase several sectors at every given time. It has been important for us to say it can’t just be about arts, fashion, technology or travel. How do these things intersect and affect our daily lives? How do these things intersect to bring about social development? That is what we hope to achieve.
In trying to promote travel in Africa are you looking at partnering airlines and travel agencies in Nigeria?
We are working with Travel Start. We are a marketer of Travel Start. Beyond that, our travel partnerships really involve the speakers that are coming for the Expo. These include the federal government, the ambassadors, and representatives from immigrations.