Home Opinion Features From tourism fair to gaming week, Lagos deepens T.H.E.M.E.S+ agenda

From tourism fair to gaming week, Lagos deepens T.H.E.M.E.S+ agenda

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Compared to the likes of Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Badagry and Epe, Ojota is not one of the places that come to mind when Lagos tourism is being discussed. Well, this position cannot be over-celebrated based on the area’s proximity to Ikeja the state capital, and the fact that it is also not only close to Mile 12, a food basket of the state, but it is also a link to the expansive Ikorodu axis. More importantly, beyond the resonance of Odo Iya Alaro, the Ojota-Opebi Link Road being constructed by the Babajide Sanwo-Olu government is a boost to the tourism profile of the popular area.

Even while Ojota may not yet be a big force in the tourism equation, its name partly rang loudly days ago when major players in the hospitality, arts and entertainment industry gathered at the neighbouring Oregun for the 2024 edition of the Lagos Tourism and Naija Brand Chick Trade Fair. The event, held at White Stone and powered by the state government, saw stakeholders converge with products, ideas and the typical Centre of Excellence energy and networking fervour that many participants agreed yielded great results. With some bordering on fashion, music, film, make-up and telecoms businesses, the project is one of those connected to the growth of the creative industry, on which Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu places premium, as he believes it provides employment and contributes well to Lagos prosperity.

Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Tourism, Arts and Culture, Idris Aregbe said the fair was one of the strategies deployed by the state government to use entertainment to push the Lagos brand. According to him, Lagos will continue to lead when it comes to art, entertainment, commerce and industry.

He said: “We have a master plan in Lagos that we are following. Our goal is to broaden our scope, emphasising that Lagos tourism is not just about entertainment and events but also about engaging with creatives and impacting every Lagosian’s life. It’s about viewing Africa through the lens of Lagos and ensuring that we extend Lagos’s reach to the world”.

Similarly, the state government recently played a pivotal role at the Africa Gaming Expo Lagos 2024, themed ‘Exploring the Future of African Gaming Market, Emerging Trends, Prospects and Opportunities’. Speaking at the event, Governor Sanwo-Olu articulated his administration’s plan to explore the African gaming market, which is currently estimated to exceed $7 billion.

He said: “For us as a government, we believe that the gaming industry will be a real engine of growth that can propel social order, economic development and re-define wealth within our various communities. As part of our commitment and renewed determination to leverage the potentialities of the gaming industry, entertainment and tourism, we have re-calibrated the trust of tourism through a robust master plan and the tourism policy designed to make the sector not only a huge revenue earner but also a model for economic growth regeneration as you have seen in other cities in Africa.

“The overall objective of this historic gathering of all stakeholders and operators, game developers, investment bankers, venture capitalists, regulators are to discuss regulatory frameworks, emerging trends, challenges, and opportunities in Africa’s gaming market and its value chain”.

Meanwhile, Badagry, the historical, cultural and tourism heart of the state, remains conspicuously on the radar. Three weeks ago, the Sanwo-Olu administration received the final draft report of the Badagry Master Plan from Messrs. Vista Plan Consulting. While the plan covers all areas of the town famous for hosting many firsts, it is particularly a plus for its cultural and tourism landscape.

The Permanent Secretary, Office of Physical Planning, Oluwole Sotire, said the review of the Badagry Master Plan was one of many physical development plans being prepared by the government to guide the development of the state, in line with the T.H.E.M.E.S+ agenda of the state government.

In Sanwo-Olu’s T.H.E.M.E.S+ development agenda, T stands for Transportation and Traffic Management; H stands for Health and Environment; E represents Education and Technology; M is Making Lagos State a 21st Century Megacity, E stands for Entertainment and Tourism; and S for Security and Governance. At the commencement of his second term in office on 29 May 2023, Sanwo-Olu included “plus” in the agenda, which represents Social Inclusion, Gender Equality and Youth.

As part of the realisation of the aspect relating to the creative industry, the government has carried out various empowerment programmes for a good number of practitioners – including grants and funding of a series of capacity-building training. It is also expanding infrastructure as evident in the completion of the John Randle Centre for Yoruba Culture and History.

Earlier in April this year, the governor reiterated his administration’s commitment to making the Badagry axis a tourist attraction city. According to him, the ancient city , with many historical and tourist sites, has a lot to offer in tourism.

He so extolled the peculiarities of the city during a working tour of sites and projects. He had, alongside the Chairman/CEO of the Nigerians in Dispora Commission, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa; members of the Lagos State Executive Council and Lagos State House of Assembly, as well as officials of the Lagos State Diaspora Commission, visited the Slave Market Museum International Vlekete Badagry, which was recently restored and upgraded by the administration.

He also visited the Badagry Heritage Museum, the seat of the fallen Agia Tree where Christianity was first preached in 1842, the first-storey building in Nigeria, the first Christian burial site, the Hospital Road construction project, and the Old Governor’s Lodge, a purpose-built 70-room and hotel complex. Governor Sanwo-Olu also took a boat ride to the Point of No Return, where slaves were taken to different parts of the world during the slave trade era.

During the working tour, Sanwo-Olu told the media that his administration would complete ongoing projects in Badagry and restock some of the heritage sites to tell a compelling story about what the town holds for the tourism potential of Nigeria.

He said: “The visit is really part of our tourism ecosystem, and I have had to come and see things for myself to evaluate what we have done, additional things that we need to do, and how we intentionally make Badagry, an all of the tourism potential that it has, a real destination. For us, it is to complete the ongoing projects that we have seen, to restock some of the heritage sites that we have seen, to generally preserve what we have, and to speak a compelling story about what Badagry holds for the tourism potential of our country”.

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