HOW FREE IS FREE TRADE

The period between the ages of 13 and 16 years in the life of a male child and between the ages of 11 and 14 years in the life of a female child is a period when parents should brace up to their parental duties to ensure that their wards grow up to become responsible citizens and adults. This period known as puberty is when sexual maturity occurs. This maturation is evidenced in females by the onset of menstruation, in males by the production of semen, and in both by the enlargement of their respective reproductive organs. Rapid growth occurs and is marked by a range of physiological changes. Various secondary sexual characteristics also appear for the first time during puberty; in males, production of body hair increases markedly, particularly in the pubic, axillary and facial regions, and the voice usually changes and becomes deeper in tone. In females, hair also appears in the pubic and axillary regions, and the breasts become enlarged.
Just as the parents are expected to brace up to their responsibilities, children also have major roles to play to ensure that they become the responsible adults the society expects them to be. In the first instance, children must accept that they need proper guidance and must deliberately follow wise counsel. Discreetness is a vital virtue for any child to covet. There is a popular Yoruba adage that says “ti iṣu ẹni ba ta, a fi ọwọ bo jẹ ni”, it simply means that if one’s yam sprouts healthy tubers, one is expected to discretely consume it. To contextualize this, using a girl going through puberty as a case study when she suddenly realizes that she is growing bigger and experiencing some unusual sensations in certain sensitive parts of her body, the wise and sensible thing to do is to become more discreet in the manner she carries or throws herself around particularly in the presence of the opposite sex so as not to attract the kind of attention that she may not be able to manage. For the sake of emphasis, any relationship that is consummated between a man or a matured boy and a girl going through puberty based on the girl’s new-found looks is unwholesome and can only lead to trouble. Like my people the Yorubas will say “ere kini aja nba ẹkun se”, meaning what kind of a relationship can exist between a dog and a tiger, except for one being the eaten and the other the eater.
Still dwelling on the above analogy, value appreciation is pivotal to resource optimization, so it is almost certain that one will most likely waste a resource that one does not know the actual worth of. According to British economist David Ricardo, analyzing the essence of comparative advantage in free trade, said that some nations lacked an absolute advantage in the production of any commodity. However, even these nations could gain from free trade if they concentrated on producing commodities in which they had the smallest disadvantage. One thing is clear, Africa cannot all of a sudden become industrialized; the reality as it is today is that Africa’s comparative advantage is in the area of supply of raw materials. The continent by the benevolence of God is the biggest producer of some of the raw materials for the production of most products in the world today. Consequently, Africa should take cognizance of its strengths and weaknesses so as to ensure that it always gets a good deal in return for the raw materials it’s able to bring to the market.
I am a member of what is known as the Borderless Alliance in West Africa and just finished our third annual conference with the theme, ‘’Enabling Growth”, so I thought it will be both interesting and instructive for us to examine in this edition of IWA some of the issues that were deliberated on which brought to the fore the need for and the efforts being made to remove all barriers to trade within West Africa. In addition, among other very interesting stories that we have complied for you, we also had the privilege of interviewing the Tanzanian High Commissioner to Nigeria, His Excellency Daniel O Njoolay, and he shared his thoughts on the need for Africans to do more business amongst themselves, according to him we have the population which is a large enough market to exploit just as countries such as China and India did for formidable trade growth. It is the only way African trade alliance can blossom. All these are packaged for your pleasurable reading as I welcome you to another year of great exploits as we transverse the great African landscape. I want to thank you so much for your commitment to IWA.

TRADING SENSE

My mother is from Ijebu, a town in Ogun state, south west Nigeria, where the people are generally noted for being astute business men and women with the propensity to save and conserve funds. I guess that is the reason my mum has always exhibited what I consider a never-give-an-inch posture, while haggling to buy anything. Unfortunately, I have turned out to be a weak negotiator because I seem to have failed to imbibe this very potent trading trait which is arguably a standard practice through which most people arrive at mutually agreed price for goods and services in Africa.
Since goods and services will always have to be exchanged, it is expedient for every human being to at least develop a level of trading skill. However, going by the trend in the international trading landscape, Africa and Africans has continued to fall short in this regard. Undeniably, several individuals’ particularly African leaders acquired stupendous wealth from being slave traders. Tinubu square, a commercial centre in today’s Lagos, Nigeria, is named after a major nineteenth century slave trader, Madam Tinubu who rose from a humble background to become a very wealthy woman and later one of Nigeria’s pioneering nationalists.
In evaluating this illicit trade and the state of trade in Africa today one cannot but ask oneself if Africa derived any socio-economic gain from slave trade and how far did the illicit trade impact on the social economic lives of Europeans, either positively or negatively? It is also imperative to carefully examine and ascertain if the quality of the goods and services that Africa is currently parading in the world market the very best she can offer? We also need to ask ourselves if the people we have put forward as leaders and negotiators are the best we can offer.
Africa is evidently holding on to the ‘short end of the stick’, as regards international trade, she deserves and can get much more than she is getting in exchange for her goods and services if only she can brace up and get sensible in the way she trades with the rest of the world.
Just like yesterday, IWA is five and as team leader I can confidently say that we are better prepared to face the next five years, having seen the good, the bad and the ugly sides of the publishing world in Africa, particularly in Nigeria where we are situated. As part of our plans to commemorate the fifth anniversary and in fulfillment of our commitment to you to always deliver good value for the money you invest in purchasing IWA, we had planned a flag off of another value adding product from our stable which we have tagged African Home Front Forum (AHFF), at the close of 2013 but have had to rescheduled the flag off to the beginning of the second quarter of 2014. We are also rebranding the tourism segment of IWA to be manned by a very experienced editor, Mr. Tayo Adelaja as well as also bringing on board an interesting contributor in the person of Laila St. Matthew – Daniel.
2013 was certainly an eventful year, but to my mind the most remarkable of the things that happen was the death and burial of “Madiba”, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, who because of the sacrificial life that he lived was probably one of the most celebrated Africans that ever lived, thus we are featuring some of his most popular quotes while on earth as well as some snap shots of some of the celebrities that attended his burial in this edition. On the cover page we decided to beam our search light on how Africa has continued to allow very careless poaching of elephants in her savannahs and forests such that they have become graveyards rather than the sanctuaries that they use to be for elephants. The release of this edition into the market is also likely to be to be slightly late because I attended the Calabar Festival and I am so glad to report that the government and people of Cross River state Nigeria have kept fate with what is today regarded as the biggest street party in Africa.
I will like to use this auspicious time to thank our ardent readers and customers for their unflinching support for IWA in the past five years for without you there won’t be us, so we thank you. I pray that GOD will continue to bless your various businesses. I will also wish you compliment of the season and may the New Year bring lots of goodness into our different homes. Salute!

SWEET MOTHER

HUMAN BEINGS are distinguished by one appellation or the other. It becomes more interesting such that with maturity comes more appellations. For instance one can be a child and at the same time a father and as well as a husband. The most important thing to note is that all these appellations come with their attendant responsibilities.
Perhaps the importance of ‘responsibility’ informed the perspective of my people – the Yorubas, from the western part of Nigeria, in customarily referring to an offspring who has continued to behave in a manner that is not in consonance with the norm as being an ‘omolasan’- literarily, a worthless child! Someone unworthy of the appellation, ‘offspring’. You are also likely to hear my kinsmen say about a person that is generally cantankerous, ‘Ko n se eniyan’, which literarily means he or she does not deserve to be referred to as a human being. And in the case of a person married to a woman that is ill-mannered, they will simply tell him ‘oo ti ni Iyawo’ literarily meaning ‘you do not have a wife yet’, because as far as they are concerned, a wife who acts in a manner unbecoming should not be considered as a wife. This will also apply to a husband whose ways are inconsistent with the responsibilities required of that role.
I attended a wedding ceremony recently and I was having so much fun until the young comedian who compered the ceremony, jokingly said that the part of the evergreen Nico Mbaga’s song, ‘sweet mother’, that says, the mother will not sleep or eat if the child does not eat, was no longer applicable to today’s mothers. Whilst his pun was accompanied by laughter from people around me, it caused me to reflect, albeit with trepidation and sadness on whether the mothers of today cared less than those of yore. Surely this was no joking matter!
As such, after the ceremony, I decided to take a closer look at today’s mothers and the fact that it appeared, to my dismay, that I could identify some who appeared more preoccupied with themselves and generally with other things than they are with their children. I even became more worried when my enquiries elicited a peculiar response from a lady who asked me why I thought the woman is/was better positioned to take care of the child than the man. Is this a general supposition or simply an isolated stand point?
In any event, I am humbled by the extraordinary bond that exists between the mother and child, right from when Gestation occurs in the woman’s uterus from conception until the fetus (assuming it is carried to term) is sufficiently developed to be born. Usually, once the baby is born, the mother produces milk via the lactation process. The mother’s breast milk is the source of anti-bodies for the infant’s immune system and commonly the sole source of nutrition for the child for a while. With this nature of bonding, should there be any dispute about the important role that the womenfolk play in the development of the child and by implication, the human race?

THANKSGIVING DAY!

NELSON ROLIHLAHLA MANDELA was born on the 18th of July,1918, so in a couple of weeks, ‘Madiba’, fondly referred to as the father of the South African nation will be ninety five years old. Like most people in his age bracket, his health has not been in the best of state. His condition however deteriorated recently which has seen him, in and out of the hospital to the extent that he has now been confined to intensive care at the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria, South Africa, for the past few weeks. As to be expected, news peddlers all over the world are trying to take advantage of the situation, churning out all sorts of news, most of which are not very pleasant and as such may have become disturbing to his family, who are obviously dealing with so much pain over the state of the legend himself who also happens to be a husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, etc.
My people always say that the bigger one’s head is, the more the head aches, so I am not really surprised, the world is literarily standing still for one of the greatest Africans living today and probably Africa’s most illustrious son. I agree that there is no way I can feel the exact pains of the family because I am not family, but I am an African who loves and admires this man who did not just say- “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”, but has also lived these words. In my opinion it’s time to take a cue from one of ‘Madiba’s books; ‘My long Walk to Freedom’ which says: “I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”
I see today as ‘Thanksgiving Day’, with the world collectively acknowledging that my hero has fulfilled his destiny. ‘Thanksgiving Day’, by definition is a day set apart for giving thanks; however those who are able to rejoice the most on ‘Thanksgiving Day’ are those who, in spite of all the odds are able to reap bountifully. Success usually does not come on a platter of gold; it’s only the fittest that survives in today’s world. Nonetheless, ‘Madiba’, in another quote of his, emphasizing the fact that success is possible for all, said that “It always seems impossible until it’s done”,
A lot of African Leaders have lived and died but none, and I stand to be corrected, has ever received this kind of global attention, accolades and empathy that this great African commands.
I am not sure that ‘Madiba’ himself bargained for this kind of over whelming recognition for the contributions he has made to the freedom of his people, he said, and I believe; “I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”
I, like most people in the world, send my prayers and heartfelt best wishes to ‘Madiba’, his immediate family, friends, government and the entire people of South Africa at this sober time and want them to really see that it’s time for Thanksgiving!

MY CONDITIONAL LOVE

The love story of Romeo and Juliet, particularly the tragic death, is undoubtedly very popular but I dare say that most people do not know or ever address their minds to the fact that the death of the two lovers actually brought about the abrupt end to the long drown enmity between their two families- the Verona’s and the Montague’s.
Since love is said to come without limits and is expected to exist in highly committed relationships; between mother and child, family members, fraternities, comrades in arms, etc, then what existed between Romeo and Juliet can easily be termed ‘unconditional love’, at least for the little time it lasted.
The love that exists between parents and their children appears to rank most significant and arguably the strongest of relationships. As such, the term, ‘unconditional’ will be most apt in describing the love shared; at least when the children are in their infancy. The truth is, as the child grows up, the love of the parents and its manifestation will depend largely on the active participation of both the parents and the child. My people will say that it is the child that shows the willingness to be carried by stretching out his or her hands that will be carried.
I have continued to critically consider what we all refer to as ‘love’ and I have come to the conclusion that people always love for one reason or the other, whether the reason is obvious or not. In comparison to other couples who can boast of decades of their formal union, I probably do not have enough experience in marriage but with humility and a heart full of thanks, I can say that my marriage has worked so far. The truth is, long before I got married to my wife, Oluwaremilekun Adegoke Adeyemo, it was clear to my mind that I needed to be true to myself; ‘love is not cheap’. If I want her to love me, I must be ready to love her. It is for this reason that I have also continued to plead with her to help me to love her. As it will be foolhardy for me to think that she will continue to love me even if I refuse to fulfill my own part of the deal. In the same manner it will be difficult for me to really love her if she refuses to fulfill her part of the deal.
The African Union (AU) as in the case of the earlier institution known as the Organization of African Union (OAU) was formed to promote continental peace, unity, and cooperation. Although the Organization has over the years helped to strengthen ties among African nations and settle disputes, it is still faced with many problems that have undermined its ability to achieve its goals. In the same manner, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), as founded in 1975 to encourage economic, social, and cultural development in West Africa has also continued to battle with its countless challenges. Apart from these two organizations there other organizations, treaties and agreement that Africans have gone into to foster a united Africa but Africa it is not yet to unite. Maybe one of the things we need to come to terms with is the fact that GOD, for reasons best known to Him decided to spread the “milk and honey” in Africa across the continent. Simply put we need each other to survive and we cannot just walk across or over our neigbours to get what we want. Love cannot be taken for granted! Neighbours or relatives will not just love themselves just because they are neighbours or relatives. For us to have peace and development in Africa, I recommend my kind of love – ‘conditional love’. All hands must be on the deck for we all must continue to work very hard at integrating the continent from all fronts in order for all of us to bountifully reap from the harvest of the land.

THE VILLAGE BANK; SMALL BUT BIG

I have observed that people generally do not have any qualms with oppressing others with their achievements. Perhaps man derives pleasure in flaunting his strength, influence or advantages, no matter how small. No wonder man has justified his conquest nature in this regard with the saying “if you have got it, flaunt it’’

Most people started from humble beginnings even though a few people, due to a number of factors or privileges, did not have to start from humble beginnings like others. Yet, judging by the way we all react to small things, it seems that there is something wrong with being small or why is a small beginning often treated with contempt? After all, some of the most widely celebrated global brands today were not polished diamonds when they started; examples of such are Microsoft, Google, Facebook, etc. The list is endless.

No matter how urbanized we may have become, there is need to reminisce on our roots as we all owe our origins to one rural community or the other. The rural setting which ordinarily prides on shared values, less pollution, opportunity for communal farming, sense of peace and security (vigilance group) is now being turned into congested cities with their attendant problems.

There are villages everywhere, even in the mega cities. The truth is, the hamlet can easily become a village, in the same vain a village can become a town, likewise a town becoming a city, they are all directly connected to one another. I have lived in Africa all my life and travelled round the continent considerably, and what stands out more in all the areas we live in whether in the villages or cities, are the cons of urbanization– insecurity, pollutions, criminality, corruption and mindless killings.

Something very fundamental happened in my life in 2006 just about the time we were starting out with IWA. A Bangladeshi banker and professor of Economics, Mohammad Yunus, was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his effort to create economic and social development at the grassroots – the poor. And for this feat, I was motivated to read his profile. It was reported that in 1976, having visited the poorest households in the village of Jobra near Chittagong University, where he was head of the Economics department, Yunus discovered that very small loans could make a disproportionate difference to poor persons. Jobra women, who were making bamboo furniture, could not breakeven because they usually expended all their profits on loan repayment to the moneylenders (usurers). The don actually advanced out his first loan of about 27 dollars to 42 women from his personal savings. The women were then able to make their first net profit of about a quarter of a dollar each. Yunus was able to later secure a loan from a government-owned bank — Janata Bank — to increase the loan facilities to the poor in December 1976. The institution continued to operate by securing loans from other banks for its projects. By 1982, the bank had a workforce of 28,000 and on October 1, 1983, the project blossom into what became– the Grameen Bank (meaning a Village Bank) with the sole mandate of giving loans to the poor.

STAND UP, DON’T STAY DOWN

Arnold Toynbee, English historian and historical philosopher, (1889-1975), once said that “Civilization is a movement, not a condition; it is a voyage, not a harbor”, this wise saying further confirms the fact that, there will always be changes in our world but the crux of the matter is, we all owe the responsibilities to determine the kind of change we want. In the 1400s while Europe was still in the diseased Dark Ages China flourished as one of the world’s leading civilizations with advanced technology and expansive naval exploration. The Ming Dynasty’s capital city of Nanjing was the largest in the world, with the world’s longest city wall, able to house 3,000 soldiers. Yet the centralized, monolithic Chinese civilization lacked the competitive decentralization of Europe. From 1500 Europe’s autonomous cities, nations, and corporations increased exploration and colonization for money and power, while at the same time China closed itself off in a fragile bubble.

The Chinese soon realized their folly and since 1978, they began to make major reforms to their economy and today in 2012, the American economy that is generally regarded as the worlds’ biggest was recently bailed out of financial woods by China, without a doubt, China is back as super powers. Survive is simply for the fittest, a very good boxer could be knocked down in the first round and come back into the match to win the bout.. A proverb in my place when translated literarily says that when someone is been pursued by a masquerade, the person should endure and keep running because as he or she is getting tired so is the masquerade pursing is also getting tired, in a little the chase and race will be over.

So if the Chinese could bounce back why can’t Africa? We also at some point were world leaders. Constantin Francois de Chassebceuf, comte de Volney, who is simply known as C.F. Volney, was a French philosopher, historian, orientalist and politician. In late 1782 he embarked on a voyage to the East and reached Ottoman Egypt where he spent nearly seven months. Thereafter, he lived for nearly two years in Greater Syria in what is today Lebanon and Israel/Palestine in order to learn Arabic. He returned to France in 1785 where he spent the next two years compiling his notes and writing on his Voyage en Egypte et en Syrie, which was published in 1787, and Considérations sur la guerre des Turcs et de la Russie in 1788. I had the privilege of browsing through these works recently and stumbled at a statement that I consider very intriguing and a food for thought; “And this race of Blacks who nowadays are slaves and the objects of our scorn is the very one to which we owe our arts, our sciences and even the use of spoken word, and finally recollect that it is in the midst of the people claiming to be the greatest influence of liberty and humanity that the most barbarous of enslavement has been sanctioned, and the question raised whether Black men have brains of the same quality as those of white men”. However, to my mind, from our general disposition we seem to be content with all the patronizing encouragements that our economies are growing when in the reality if we take ‘the bulls by the horns’, Africa could return as world leaders once again. Until recently I thought I was the person most informed musically in our home but going by my recent discussions with my children it seem to me that I need to review and upgrade my knowledge of music or I may soon lose my coveted job as the family’s music consultant to one of the kids.

LOOKS ARE DECEPTIVE

In the line of my duties, I constantly interact with elderly people, particularly Africans, thus I need to clearly state that I have continued to sense a certain frustration in their utterances. They all seem to be very desirous of “off-loading’’ all they have gathered and are carrying over the years into the lives of the younger generation. Unfortunately, they seem to have continuously met with a “brick wall” because it has been rather difficult getting our attention; we are very conceited and so full of ourselves. This situation, they say, is more frustrating for them because they see us as people in dire need of what they possess and are eager to release same to us. Rather than look in their direction for help, we keep looking in all other directions. They all seem to be saying the same thing: “If only these children will allow us now before the doors are shut against the opportunities of handing over their heritage to them, they would live better lives than they are living now’’.

For instance, our parents used to be more involved and were able to greatly influence our choices in marriage. They usually will go out of their ways, taking all sorts of measures, sometimes spiritual, to ensure that we made the best choices. Unfortunately, we have over the years jettisoned the immense benefits that come with their involvement in this critical part of our lives and so, we have continued to suffer avoidable pains and misfortunes that are clearly associated with wandering around blindly in the “wilderness of life’’ without proper guidance. There is nothing wrong with us wanting to associate with and explore the culture and traditions of the developed world, but definitely not to the detriment of ours. In my opinion, the right and proper thing to do is to take full advantage of everything; theirs and ours, not dropping ours for theirs.

Drawing conclusions and taking stands on any issue must be done carefully. British physician, novelist, and detective story writer, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, said in one of his works that “there is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact”. There is a popular adage that says “people are usually addressed according to the way they are dressed’’, but the questions is, when one considers the fact that this adage is an open secret and that people will generally always dress up for the occasion. Is it then wise for us to always address people in relation to the way they dress? Paying a little attention to details will distinguish us, so why should we flow with the crowd?

I remember one erroneous consolation line that I was inundated with by some friends when I failed my first school leaving certificate examinations, they said: “you need not worry, since so many other students also failed the exam this year’’. I soon realized that depending on the side of the divide that I choose to be, so many people truly failed, but the truth is that the same year, so many others passed. The final analysis is that as some will always fail, some others will always pass. From whatever angle one chooses to view the security situation in Nigeria, the truth is that it is in a very bad shape and the situation seems to be deteriorating by the seconds. As a Nigerian, I am aware that a lot is being done now to address this anomaly. But quite frankly, we need to do much more to ensure that we nip this scourge and deadly situation in the bud. I have a couple of questions agitating my mind; may be answers to them might help? How did our founding fathers cope and live among themselves if we all insist that the amalgamation of Nigeria was a compromise arrangement? Do we really know ourselves and can we really deal fairly with ourselves?

Hotels Are Actually Municipals On Their Own

Kevin Kamau – Radisson Hotel Group District Director Nigeria/ General Manager Radisson Blu, Anchorage Hotel.

IWA: Going by your pedigree in the hospitality industry, can you please tell us the position hotels occupy in the hospitality industry globally?

Kevin: Simply put, hotels the world over drive business activities as they serve as catalyst to making their location, commercial hubs. Let’s take the tourism industry as our first example,anLS THE WORLD OVER, GENERALLY there is no doubt that the development of the tourism industry in any society comes with so much opportunities, but it is also clear that the industry cannot thrive without the availability of good and affordable hotels. For instance, one of the primary factors anyone coming from a place like Abidjan or Congo Brazzaville into Lagos would first consider is accommodation, how good and how expensive the hotels he or she would be staying are. I am sure you will agree with me that to stay in a good hotel in Lagos is very expensive at least when compared to a place like London, Dubai or even South Africa. Unfortunately, this is a major disincentive to the growth of the tourism industry in Nigeria. Therefore, it must be clearly stated that for tourism to really flourish in Nigeria, the government must ensure that there are enough hotels and they must be very competitive in terms of their rates and quality.  

Moving away from tourism, lets us examine the impact of hotels on the corporate segment by way of meetings, incentive, convention and events, what is commonly known as MICE. The more hotels and the more rooms there are in a society, the easier it is to bid for huge MICE events. Lagos for example does not have enough capacity to bid to host African Union events; the number of rooms available now is simply not enough to cope with the demands of such events. In addition, Lagos lack convention facilities, as we speak there is almost no internationally acceptable convention facility in Lagos. Incidentally, hosting of these kinds of events have a massive positive spill over effect on the commercial activities of countries. One country that comes to mind that is reaping the gains of its government’s understanding of the tremendous opportunities inherent in having enough good and affordable hotels in their country is Rwanda.

Now, what naturally happens is that, the more hotels in a country, the more competitive they become. Customers are able to get very good hotels for cheaper rates and they are able to attract more visitors. I must say that the lack of competition breeds complacency. If we have a bit of more competition, Hoteliers will become more creative with their offerings. I guess it is safe to say that more hotels and other hospitality products have entered more into this market in the last 3 years when compared to the last 6 years when I came into the market.

IWA: So how would you describe the hospitality industry in Nigeria now?

Kevin: In general, I would say the industry is growing and beginning to boom. The crux of the matter in my opinion is that Nigeria, like most other African countries, was not traditionally a service oriented country; the focus in the early 80s and 90s for most African countries was more for commercial and manufacturing activities, there were little or no emphasis on hospitality. The truth is, it wasn’t until after 2010 that we sort of started seeing the opportunity in hospitality. However, it is gratifying that the youths are now going to school to study and say they want to develop a career working in a hotel and not the usual I want to be a doctor or banker. It may be slow, but we are moving in the right direction. Six years ago, there was probably only one school offering hospitality related courses in Lagos, now we have the likes of Lagos Business School (LBS), offering courses in hospitality. It is important to note that a hotel is not just about accommodation, what people fail to realize is that a hotel is like a municipal on its own; it must provide its own power, water, food, waste management, financial management, operations management and so on. All these perhaps go to show that there’s a lot more that goes into running an hotel. I am therefore glad that the hospitality industry is fast growing in Nigeria. I am particularly happy with the introduction of more schools, and we partnering with some of them to train and pull the right capacity of human capital from them.

IWA: What are the core competitive strengths of Radisson Blu and how have they worked for you as regards the brand in Nigeria?

Kevin: I would like to say that Radisson is a Nigerian brand, and I will explain why I said so, when Radisson as a brand came into Africa, one of the first two markets we opened in was Nigeria and South Africa. So this hotel is actually one of the first learning points for the brand in Africa. For me, the journey through these years is our biggest strength in this market. We may have originated from Switzerland, but we’re still very much African. At the 5 and 4 star levels, we got the Radisson, Radisson Park inn and the Radisson collection, and these 3 brands are growing at almost twice the rate of any other major brand in Africa.

The truth is, we understand Africa; we have an African headquarters’ situated in South Africa, so we say we run out of Africa. There is no other international brand that can boost of having a headquarters in Africa, this tells you how serious we are about Africa. The second strength that I can possibly flag is that the brands we have are very suited to this market, if you tell someone Radisson Blu, they can relate to what it means; It is a high end brand and they know that, if you tell someone Park inn, they know that is targeted at the middle class of the market. I must say that we have really done well in mastering our craft with these two initial brands that we introduced into this market.  

Therefore, with the successes and strengths we have built over time in running the Radisson Blu and the Radisson Park inn brands in this market, we were able to open the Radisson which is our third brand this year. We are also ready to, within the next 6 to 12 months open the Radisson collections. That shows you the confidence we have in the market. This is good for both the owners and customers as well as the staff because it gives room for more development opportunities. The other big strength is diversity. I haven’t seen any other brand that focuses on diversity and development of local content as much as we do. For example, we train and develop Africans to take up the traditionally expatriate jobs. We are the only Nigerian brand with a female general manager and that just stands us out. I am an African and we hope that when I eventually leave, I will be replaced with a Nigerian general manager someday. We also move our people around for exposure, currently a Nigerian Sous Chef is serving in one of our hotels in Sierra Leone and our hope is that when he would be returning back to Nigeria he would have been ripe enough to return as the executive chef. So we look at everything holistically as work-in-progress for the brand. If we have the right people, then we are able to serve the customers right.

IWA: What is the Radisson Blu average occupancy rate and what are the factors responsible for it?

Kevin: We are doing well in the market, particularly in the Nigerian market. The economy seems stable, not minding the fact that the general election was held this year, everything seems to have gone quite peacefully. The government seem to be putting policies that help support and stabilise the economy in place and I must say that is good.  If I should speak a little more about the government policies, I am happy about their focus on encouraging a lot more locally produced products. This really helps our business to be able to sustain the rates. In addition to that, internally we also try to think outside the box. For instance, our chef, the house keeper and the head gardener, have said that we can’t keep importing some of the spices we use, and they went ahead to create a garden for such supplies. Such small things help us grow our capacity. You can see a lot of emphasis on the local farming and agriculture.

IWA: What would you describe as your most memorable moments in Radisson Blu since you became the general manager?

Kevin: There have been very many memorable moments for me, but probably the biggest ones are when I walk into other branches of Radisson and I see the different heads of department whom we first employed as cleaners or waiters, for me you can’t beat that, it makes you feel proud. There’s an excitement in the fact that I am able to be part of changing and transforming lives and that stirs up some good memories in me. Someone gave me a chance at some point, so I am happy that like them I am able to also give chances to other members of the team. So perhaps those are the memories that puts a smile on my face the most.

IWA: Are you comfortable working in Nigeria and what Nigerian Food do you love most and what are the parts of Nigerian culture that you like the most?

Kevin: Let me start with the people, Nigerians are very friendly. My wife says that each time she travels out of Nigeria the thing she misses the most is the warmth of Nigerians. The average Nigerian is constantly asking about your wellbeing; the truth is that they have a particular greeting for almost every situation. It is in Nigeria that people will ask you and say Sir, how was your weekend or how was yesterday? It is also here that find people saying, Sir, how has your day been or hope you are well? The truth is that it is possible to take that for granted here because it’s part of the people’s culture but you don’t find it everywhere, so for me this is one of the things I love the most about the Nigerian culture. I also love the weather, I know that there are challenges here like there are everywhere else in the world, but with those challenges come very many opportunities. It’s been very exciting for me living here, and I have actually been for 6 wonderful years. I have even had some of my children here; so, it’s truly been a fruitful experience for me.

IWA: You made a mention of opportunities, can you please specifically highlight these opportunities, particularly the ones that directly impact on your industry?

Kevin: One of those areas is Agriculture, there are massive opportunities in Agriculture for Nigeria to explore.     Recently, I had a chat with someone who is into the production of milk and he told been that the milk that is being currently produced in Nigeria cannot even cater to 10% of the local population. So investment can be made into rearing more dairy cattle. I am a strong believer in getting things done indigenously, so we are presently working with some communities in Nigeria for beef production; we want to rear the cattle in a way that we will not only get sufficient beef but we also get the right quality. Note that the cattle they have in Denmark, Nairobi, Durban or Cape Town are most likely to be same like the ones here in Nigeria, they only have different processes of feeding, and rearing.

However, I am glad that looking back at the way things were 6 years ago, there has been a lot of improvement regarding the level of imports into Nigeria, but I must say that we certainly can do a lot better than how we are now in terms of the level of imports into Nigeria. I can’t wait for when what Dangote group and Honeywell flour mills are doing with pasta or flour, will be replicated with rice and other essential produce in Nigeria.

IWA: What does one need to succeed in the tourism industry?

Kevin: The most important qualification for success in my opinion is passion, I don’t think you can be successful at anything without having passion for that thing. Everyone that I know that has succeeded in what they do, are people with genuine passion for what they do. Passion breeds a staying spirit that nothing else can give one. I usually tell departmental heads not to hire anyone only for that person’s experience, we will rather hire a person with passion but without experience since we can train him or her to become an expert on the job, but we can’t force that person to be passionate about the job, it’s something that comes from within.  

IWA: This is usually my last question, what is that thing that you would like to tell Africans?

Kevin: I think we haven’t realised yet that Africa is the next or new frontier, it is why all the Chinese, Americans and European firms are investing here. You are talking about a population of over 1.4 billion, the market is here, so the opportunity is not coming, it is already here. We should believe in Africa, rather than always wanting to go and seek for greener pastures out there, let’s look inward and contribute our own quota to making Africa better than it is now.

IWA: Do you have any other thing to say?

Kevin: The Radisson group is a growing brand, we’ve got 5 key brands that are really going to grow in this market; Radisson Collection – which is our luxury brand, Radisson Blu – we all know as our upscale brand, and the Radisson Park Inn – for the middle class. The latest in our collection is the Radisson Red, which is designed to be very engaging because it is targeted at the millennials.

Summer Holiday Experience with Toke Makinwa, Bonang Matheba, Mai Atafo, Kelechi Amadi-Obi, Ameyaw Debra, Folu Storms, Sister Deborah In South Africa!

Our favourite influencers are having the time of their lives right now enjoying the amazing scenery, culture, adventures and thrills of the rainbow nation this Summer season in the Western Cape and Kwazulu-Natal province of South Africa. From Power Boat rides on the Knysna Lagoon to Lunch at the Vintage Cargo Hold Restaurant, the trip will be an activity-filled and memorable one.

Sensational South African media personality Bonang Matheba in collaboration with South Africa Tourism is hosting guests from Nigeria and Ghana to a fun-filled, eight-day summer experience focused on the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa. The guests present on the trip are Radio Presenter and Media starlet Toke Makinwa, renowned fashion designer Mai Atafo, celebrity photographer Kelechi Amadi-Obi, Ghanian Writer and Blogger Ameyaw Debrah, Musician Sister Deborah, Chidera Mouka, Kola Oshalusi, Folu Storms and the MTV Base crew.

Sister Deborah and Toke Makinwa Quad biking
Group Quad biking at the Tsitsikanmi bay
Mai Atafo

Influencers arrived at Goerge Airport located in George, Western Cape South Africa after a 6 Hour flight from Nigeria and Ghana where they were transferred to the Ouibaai Hotel and Golf Resort known for its pristine beaches, indigenous forests and nature reserve, the Hotel is less than seven minutes drive from the George Airport Johannesburg. Our favourite influencers kicked off their summer holiday on day 2 with a powerboat cruise through the Knysna Lagoon enjoying wine and oysters on a relaxing boat cruise and taking in the magnificence of Knysna as the sun starts to set over the lagoon.

Shrimps and rice at the Fancourt hotel
Group quad Biking

It’s a week full of activities and adventure in South Africa, with the next stop being idyllic St. Francis Bay – touted as South Africa’s ‘Little Venice’ which is just 90 kilometres away from Port Elizabeth, and 1 hour 15 Mins from Tsitsikamma Nature Reserve where our Influencers will experience the adrenaline pumping adventures Quad Biking and Bungee Jumping of the cliff. An hour’s morning flight will bring them to Durban.

Group Photo at the Knysa Lagoon after the Boat ride

On arriving Durban the largest city in the Kwazulu-natal Province of South Africa, Bonang Matheba will play host to the West African guest at the famous shipwrecked Cargo Holds Restaurant for some ultimate nautical gourmet lunch experience. Lunch is a treat, ranging from Oysters and Seafood, and the finest wines – all affordable.

Power boat Ride at the Knysa Lagoon
Group Photo at the Knysa Lagoos after the Boat ride

The guests will also be attending the Durban July known as South Africa most prestigious horse race held at the Greyville Racecourse, Berea – South Africa with fashion, music, and horses as the main event for the full day ending itinerary with some Urban Jazz Experience.

Power Boat Ride at the Knysa lagoon

To book packages to South Africa this summer visit: www.southafrica.net.

For more on the trip Follow @travel2SA on Instagram

To book packages to South Africa this summer visit: www.southafrica.net.
For more on the trip Follow @travel2SA on Instagram