Akwa Ibom State has muted plans for an International Conference Centre in Uyo, the state capital, with its Main hall named after the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as a tribute to the organisation for promoting integration, peace and stability in the region.

State Governor Godswill Akpabio, who told a visiting delegation of ECOWAS Commission including its President, His Excellency, Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo, Vice-President Dr. Toga McIntosh, Commissioners as well as Ambassadors of ECOWAS Member States, last Thursday, that the main hall of the proposed International Conference Centre would be called the ECOWAS Hall, added that centre would be equipped, with facilities for simultaneous translation into 52 languages including those spoken in the country and the continent.

Akpabio who described integration as an important vehicle for developing the region and realising its full economic potentials by deploying its vast human and material resource endowments, said that Akwa Ibom would leverage the benefits for its own development.

The governor also briefed the delegation which was in the State for a three-day Retreat about plans by the Government to also avail itself of the ECOWAS platform to establish partnerships for the development of the State, also revealed that the state is also building a Deep Sea Port to improve intra-regional trade.

The Governor said the State was undergoing “uncommon transformation,” and urged the visitors to become its “ambassadors” having witnessed some of its strides, particularly in infrastructure development.

Earlier, President Ouédraogo, who was visiting the State for the first time along with some other members of the delegation, briefed the governor on the purpose of the retreat and described as “exceptional” the achievements of the government.

“For us, the retreat is an opportunity to review our programmes as well as discuss and harmonise views on how to implement our priority programmes in line with the directives of Heads of State and Government,” the President said during the meeting with the Governor, which was attended by the Speaker of the

ECOWAS Parliament, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and the President of the Community Court of Justice, Mrs Nana Awa Daboya.

The 7th annual Retreat of the ECOWAS Commission, Community Institutions, Permanent and Special Representatives and Heads of National units, the first under the Commission’s present management, provides an opportunity to strengthen relations between the Commission and Member States in the coordination and implementation of regional programmes at the national level.

Regional ministers of finance have officially endorsed and adopted a new region wide tariff regime for West Africa binding on the 15 Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Members including Nigeria.

The new Common External Tariff (CET) comes as a major highlight of a two-day meeting of the Trade, Customs and Free movement Technical committee, Wednesday in Praia, Cape Verde.

Some 5, 899 tariff lines are covered under the new tariff regime with tariff ranging between zero and 35 per cent for the 130 tariff lines which fall into the category of specific goods that contribute to the promotion of the region’s economic development.

Under the new regime, five per cent duty is applicable for 2, 146 tariff lines under the basic raw materials and capital goods category, 10 per cent for the 1, 373 tariff lines that qualify as intermediate products category while 20 per cent duty is reserved for the 2, 165 tariff lines that fall into the category of final consumer products.

The five-band tariff regime, subject of ten years of internal negotiations driven by the technical committee of the Commissions of the ECOWAS and the eight-member West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), was modelled on the UEMOA tariff regime following the 2006 decision of Heads of State And Government of the region.

The ministers agreed that the concerns expressed by some Member States such as the treatment of raw sugar, and the request for special treatment for Cape Verde because of its location and vulnerabilities should be addressed within the framework of trade defence measures.

They also agreed on the creation of a 1.5 per cent Community Integration Levy whose scope and operationalisation would be the subject of further regional reflection as part of the mechanisms to enable the region cope with the challenges of implementation of the new tariff regime.

The levy will replace the two existing community levy regimes in the region comprising the ECOWAS Community levy and the counterpart Community Solidarity levy for the UEMOA. The replacement will help ensure uniformity in port charges in compliance with the requirements of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

In order to ensure effective implementation of the new CET, the ministers urged the ECOWAS Commission to expedite the finalisation of the trade defence and other support measures.

The Commission was also directed to expedite the finalisation of the taxation of pharmaceutical products by striking a balance between the need to stimulate local production capacity and ensure the availability of drugs to meet the health needs of the region’s citizens.

The finance ministers’ meeting was preceded by the one-day 51st session of the ECOWAS technical committee on trade, customs and free movement whose recommendations were considered by the ministers.

late prof chinua achebe

late prof chinua achebe

Family of the late Nigerian literary icon, Prof Chinua Achebe, who passed on in the early hours of Friday, in Boston, the United States, has requested privacy as the rest of the country recovers from the shock following the loss of one of the country’s most decorated literalists.

In a statement issued Friday, Achebe’s family requested privacy, just as it praised the novelist for the unrelenting quest in search of truth and justice in the Nigerian society.

“In this hour of our grief, we request privacy for our late patriarch who was also one of the great literary voices of all time. He was also a beloved husband, father, uncle and grandfather, whose wisdom and courage are an inspiration to all who knew him,” the statement read.

Also reacting, South African Nobel Prize winner and icon, Dr. Nelson Mandela, said that Achebe “brought Africa to the rest of the world” and called him “the writer in whose company the prison walls came down”.

Achebe who lit the year in controversy following the recent release of his book titled; There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra, where he had allegedly pointing fingers at some personalities as for negative roles played during the Nigerian Civil War, is also credited with severally rejecting national merit awards.

Early in the year the novelist had his award-winning and multi-translated book, Things Fall Apart, included in the 100 Greatest Novels of all Time list, compiled by both readers, literary critics and writers and announced by the Guardian United Kingdom.

The list that also featured such great fictions as Don Quixote, Lord of the Flies, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels, Pilgrim’s Progress, David Copperfield, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Vanity Fair, The Scarlet Letter, and Moby-Dick.

The Nigerian author, who died from an illness and hospital stay in Boston on Friday morning where he was working as a professor, is easily recognised for key role in developing African literature. Both his agent and publisher have confirmed the news.

Achebe’s Publisher at the Penguin Books, Simon Winder, called the late essayists an “utterly remarkable an,” adding: “Chinua Achebe is the greatest of African writers and we are all desolate to hear of his death.”

Best known abroad for his 1958 novel Things Fall Apart, which has sold more than 10 million copies around the world and has been published in 50 languages, Achebe has won the Commonwealth poetry prize for his collection Christmas in Biafra, was a finalist for the 1987 Booker prize for his novel Anthills of the Savannah, and in 2007 won the Man Booker International Prize for his body of works which also includes Things fall Apart.

The author is also known for the influential essay An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1975), a hard-hitting critique of Conrad in which he says the author turned the African continent into “a metaphysical battlefield devoid of all recognisable humanity, into which the wandering European enters at his peril”, asking: “Can nobody see the preposterous and perverse arrogance in thus reducing Africa to the role of props for the break-up of one petty European mind?”

taleb rifai, the secretary general of unwto

taleb rifai, the secretary general of unwto

(Blurb): Secretary General of the United Nation’s tourism monitoring and development agency, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Dr. Talib Rifai, was recently in the country to attend the organization’s conference for Tourism Ministers of African Members States which held in Calabar, the Cross River State.

In this interview with VICTOR NZE, at the Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, on the eve of the conference, Rifai, spoke on the role of tourism in developing the continent, President Goodluck Jonathan’s position on tourism in Nigeria and the need   political leaders to embrace tourism, among others.  Excerpts:

How does the UNWTO gather statistics and support the same figures as regards the role of tourism in Nigeria’s economy?

Firstly, statistics is a very important element in tourism.  Without adequate information, you cannot put your plan in place or in action. It is a pre-requisite that is very essential and it is a support that we give to all countries Nigeria inclusive. Notwithstanding, however, an issue that needs to be addressed is how importantly does Nigeria see to tourism. This is very important before we talk about anything else; to establish a political world that sees tourism as part of the solution and Nigeria’s future. There are great and big countries like Nigeria which  have so many options to generate resources, income, develop the country and to enrich the lives of the people with their natural resources, trade, energy and all of that.

When you believe that tourism is as important as all of them, because it is a resource that keeps growing and needs someone to take care of it, what you need to do first and foremost,  is to establish a clear priority in the national agenda on behalf of the highest political leadership of the country.

Tourism is important and therefore puts many policies in the service of productivity because Nigeria has so much; the culture, varieties in landscape that’s precisely what we were here to do when we came here four years ago to meet and we come again now.

It is rare that we come to the same country twice in ten years to meet but it sends a very important message on the importance of Nigeria within the African context and the international scene, again. Our coming to Nigeria is politically, technically and professionally important and that is why we would like to have the support of the Minister here (Chief Edem Duke) and he has shown great concern with the short time spent here with seriousness and dedication, and I am looking forward to meeting leaders of all the sectors of Nigeria-political leaders, business, journalists to be able to see how we cope with tourism and make a difference in people’s lives. That’s why we are here.

Recently, Canada protested the choice of Zambia and Zimbabwe as venue for the General Assembly, and the endorsement of President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, what effort did the UNWTO make to bring Canada back?

The decision to hold the general assembly in Victoria Falls is the General Assembly’s decision. It is not the minster’s decisions. There are 155 countries in the Assembly with a 160 members. As Secretary General, my duty is to implement and respect the decision of my general assembly, that’s one. Secondly, that was an African beat; the whole of Africa supported that, and any position in the general Assembly assumes in that context and we must not lose track of that. Thirdly, there was no special distinction to any special leader in this world. I have said this and often to all a 160 heads of state all over the world asking them to support tourism in an open letter.

To date, 32 leaders have received these open letters from me. As a UN organization, I have an obligation to 33 countries; we serve people, they don’t serve us. Our duty is to the people and to us. Everybody is equal.  I walked to Victoria Falls, I signed the agreement in the presence of President Michael Sata and President Robert Mugabe, I did my job, I will continue to do my job and people can say whatever they want to say.

Canada is not a member of the UNWTO since a year ago. We have withdrawn because of the misunderstanding and I think the question should be addressed to Canada. If they are not members of UNWTO how can they grow based on the reason that you have analyzed. In explaining this,  I will leave it to the UN and to the country. Any country that asks us this, I would answer them exactly the way I have answered you. I have only one answer and one story to tell anyone who cares to listen; we don’t have double languages here. The Canadians have decided to come up with this statement which I don’t understand. Whatever reasons they have is for them to answer.

taleb rifai (l) with chief edem duke, nigeria's minister of tourism and culture

taleb rifai (l) with chief edem duke, nigeria’s minister of tourism and culture

What effort is UNWTO making to help African journalists attend international functions that aid tourism reportage in Nigeria?

You are absolutely correct,. Let us distinguish between two things; one is for media journalists to attend our fora. Actually, I feel sad when there are no representatives of African journalists in many of these for a; whether it is media or advertising compared to other parts of the world. We try our best, I instruct my regional director in Calabar that every time please contact our members; see what problems we have and when we hear about the problems, we deal with them immediately. We have an obligation by the governments that we hold these meetings with to facilitate us immediately. It is by international law they cannot do order wise. If similar situations arise, please contact us.

I have just received a mail half an hour ago from Brazil about the complications some delegates were experiencing in moving. It happens in every country, it’s not just an African issue. The third point is what the minister said; we need to give more support to media people. I am absolutely ready in 2015 to hold a few media and tourism meetings in Africa and would be more than supportive to address issues especially in Nigeria. We need a place that is accessible to people so that the message can be advertised to the rest of Africa.

In what ways is the UNWTO assisting sub-Saharan countries of Africa to develop their tourism potentials and what is essentially the UNWTO’s agenda for Africa?

Africa today,  is receiving less than 5 percent of world tourists, less than 50 million international travelers come to Africa and if you add up all international tourists that comes to each and every country within the continent, we are still at less than 50 million out of 100 million, now that by itself is the statistics because Africa deserves much better than that. So our agenda for Africa is to make sure that it grows at every juncture of its development to reach international standard.The rate of growth globally is 3.5 to 4.7. We need to ensure that Africa maintains a stronger bond so that time would be on the side of Africa and it is actually working. In the last five years , the only continent and region in the world that did not experience a setback is West Africa even in the 2009 with the global economic issues Africa did not have a setback, . Its rate of growth is very impressive.

The first objective or agenda for Africa is solid and bigger than world average rate of tourism. Secondly, create policies towards tourism; you don’t grow numbers just by having people come here enjoy and leave without having the people of the country benefit from the environment, and the socio-cultural enrichment in tourism. We want to make sure that Africa does not commit the same mistakes we have made in other places; we need to make sure that the money spent in Africa remains with the people of Africa and doesn’t go out to international businesses.

We need to make sure that the policies are environmentally-friendly and responsible, we need to make sure that tourism enriches the culture of Africa and doesn’t destroy it. If we can maintain these two issues, growth and sustainability as to create the agenda of Africa , we will be doing that and we have some success stories, North Africa is doing well, East Africa is doing relatively fine,  Southern Africa is beginning to pick up and we are concentrating on West Africa. There are also challenges particularly political challenges, again, peace, stability and harmony are very important in building stability of tourism.

When do you intend to put these into action?

We are already in action. We have identified national parks as   basic elements to sustainability in acquiring skills to people on how to manage your parks and so we are doing the big event in Tanzania, in West Africa here, we were engaged in the last three years in a very important project what we call first national parks in trying to harmonize all policies and guidelines in order to manage these parks. We are doing a lot, in training, statistics and destination management and many issues that are related to good tourism management.

How do women and children fit into tourism at this time?

This is connected to sustainability which is the welfare of the people; sustainability in a nutshell is turning tourism which is a human activity into it a gainful activity. If mismanaged, it can destroy the environment, the social values, turn women and children into element of distraction, we have seen various places around the world not just Africa where sexual abuse and child labour exist, we want to make sure that our industry is clean that’s why we are focusing on women and children in tourism, this is a globally issue that’s why we chose to bring it to Africa because we see the rise of tourism in Africa, we want to make sure that it doesn’t turn out to be that women and children who are most vulnerable in our society become victims in the industry.There is much to do otherwise, wait for the people. We have worked with the United Nations where women spoke, in the last two years and you would be surprised that over 65 percent of the work force in the industry is occupied by women, majority of them are in leadership positions and so we need to adjust this balance properly. We are happy to say that proper research has been done on the success of women in tourism in 33 years; we are very interested in the connection between women and tourism. Tourism is the best place for young people to get jobs and then they can move to other places.

What does it take to get companies and organizations to accept tourism?

They major challenge is for political leaders to really believe that tourism is important. Tourism ministers not just in Africa but all over the world are very lonely ministers in the sense that their success is contained in what other ministers do; the foreign minister decides on the entry procedures, the transport minister decides on the infrastructures for airports and road, the environment minster decides on the policies for the environment, and then all of that affects tourism one way or the other and so without the head of the state the highest political element believing that tourism is important and making all key players of the system play for the support of the Ministry of Tourism, it becomes a difficult and tough call for the tourism minister.So our major challenge is to ensure that the political arena fully accepts tourism. An example is the President of Mexico, one month after he assumed office as President three years ago; he dismantled the Ministry of Tourism. The private sector in the country asked us to write him a letter to see if he could change his mind as this is a sign of disbelief. So we mobilized, we wrote him a letter and I went to see him personally. Today, he has become the strongest supporter of tourism, as president of the G-20 he was privileged to address all G-20 world leaders in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, France, where he called on everybody to include in their programme the importance of travel and tourism and in the world’s economy, and I’m hoping that we can have every African leader (head of state and government) embrace this agenda because it is the future of Africa.

Is there anything that can convince these political leaders to accept tourism?

A typical experience I had with a certain head of state; we started out very nicely, friendly but not knowing really what to expect after five to six minutes I started to become open and engaged and then I told him, one out of twelve jobs around the world is that outside the UNWTO travel and tourism industry, 9 percent of world GDP totals 5 percent direct contribution towards tourism, every job you create in tourism creates 1.7 jobs in other sectors, so you build a hotel and employ 100 people, but you have created jobs for 270 people, sometimes politicians would say tourism is important but tourists don’t vote (laughs) voters want jobs and that’s the logic and in every meeting that I have with every other sector, you could feel the difference and some action follows.

What message do you have for the   Presidency?

Nigeria in particular and with President Goodluck Jonathan, I don’t think we would have the same challenges as we have had in the past. I met the president four years ago he was at our commission’s meeting in Abuja and I remember very clearly how much he believed in tourism. Rather I think what we need to talk about with the president is how we can help him to surmount the political, social and economic challenges that Nigeria is passing through and how they exist all together and how tourism in particular can help in overcoming these challenges.

Have you received any formal invitation from Nigeria as regards technical assistance?

Of course, we have many items of technical assistance on the table now and I am using this occasion to also sit with the minster and to make sure which is exactly what it means..Things are changing very quickly and sometimes what we agreed on two years ago may not be relevant now. There may be some new priorities and so I have to use this opportunity and that’s precisely why I’m having two executive officers joining us here. So the presence of both of them, together with the regional representative in Calabar, the level of people we brought here is a message in itself.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. announced Monday that it will increase its Middle East and Africa MEA portfolio by more than 60 per cent with nearly 50 new hotels set to open over the next five years, adding more than 14,000 guest rooms to the region while creating thousands of local employment opportunities.

Part of the expected growth drive will see an increased momentum in Nigeria with two new hotels under the company’s Four Points by Sheraton brand, in addition to the already opened Lekki, Lagos establishment which opened two years ago.

According to Starwood, the move is informed by the need to strengthen its position as the leading hotel operator across the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region with an existing portfolio of 82 hotels, representing nearly 22,000 guest rooms, the majority of which are operated under Starwood’s world-renowned Sheraton and Le Méridien brands.

With over 20 hotels expected to open by the end of 2015, Starwood is on track to reach a milestone 100 hotels across MEA. Further underscoring the importance of the region as one of Starwood’s fastest growing hotel and travel markets, earlier this month the company relocated its global headquarters from Stamford, Connecticut to Dubai for a month-long immersion.

“Starwood continues to see demand for growth of all of our brands across the Middle East and Africa despite economic and political uncertainty in some parts of this incredibly diverse region,” said Frits van Paasschen, President and CEO, Starwood Hotels & Resorts. “Rapid economic growth, rising personal incomes, a growing middle class and ever greater global connectivity are driving new travel patterns and demand for travel, and this region is at the centre of these trends and a key focus of our growth strategy.”

With more than 70 per cent of the world’s economic growth coming from fast-growing markets over the next few years, Starwood said it is now focused on expansion in developing MEA markets such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Egypt, Senegal, South Africa and Nigeria.

The company is also focused on growth opportunities in key emerging markets including Iraq, Pakistan, Angola, Ghana, the Ivory Coast and East Africa.

By 2017, Starwood will operate more than 130 hotels in MEA, marking some key milestones, including: Portfolio growth of over 60 per cent in the UAE with 12 new hotels, including six in Dubai, bringing Starwood’s portfolio to more than 30 hotels across the country. Starwood’s growth plans in the UAE also include expansion into Sharjah and Ajman; Rapid expansion across Saudi Arabia with six new hotels slated to open by 2015 bringing Starwood’s portfolio to 15 hotels in this key developing market.

Addition of two new hotels in Algeria with a new Sheraton hotel in Annaba and Four Points by Sheraton in Oran; The launch of Starwood’s Aloft Hotels brand in Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Aloft will also open its second property in the UAE in the emirate of Sharjah.

In 2011, Starwood introduced its ultra-luxury St. Regis Hotels & Resorts brand in the region with the opening of The St. Regis Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. This was followed by last year’s debuts of The St. Regis Doha and The St. Regis Mauritius, marking the entry of the brand into Qatar and Africa. This year, Starwood will unveil a second St. Regis hotel on Abu Dhabi’s vibrant Corniche, making it the only city in the world to boast two St. Regis hotels. The brand will soon enter the Egyptian market with the opening of The St. Regis Cairo.

“Our long-established presence, local teams, and strong relationships in the region remain a competitive advantage, and position us well to take advantage of the many opportunities for future growth,” said Simon Turner, President of Global Development & Acquisition, Starwood Hotels & Resorts. “We have a healthy pipeline of new hotels under development in the Middle East and Africa, and expect our growth to continue in 2013 as we look to expand in markets including the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.

Earlier this month, Starwood President & CEO Frits van Paasschen and the company’s top executives relocated to Dubai where they have been conducting day-to-day business from this increasingly important global destination and travel hub. Following the company’s successful relocation to China in June 2011, this second leadership move reflects Starwood’s innovative management approach to cultivating a more global culture by understanding, appreciating and leveraging different societal perspectives and approaches to business and hospitality.

“With 80 per cent of Starwood’s pipeline coming from rapidly growing markets, it is simply not possible to lead a truly global business from a boardroom in Connecticut,” said van Paasschen. “Dubai epitomizes the changing face of travel, and we expect this relocation will deepen our relationships with partners, associates and customers. The insights that come from experiences like this move make us more agile in today’s rapidly changing world.”

(Left-Right): Richard Lendrum, Publisher, BT Africa, magazine, Tope Ogbeni-Awe, Associate Publisher, BT Africa magazine and Bobby Bryan, Commercial Manager, Delta Air Lines at last year's edition of the one-day Business Travel Africa (BTA) conference which held at the Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island Lagos

(Left-Right): Richard Lendrum, Publisher, BT Africa, magazine, Tope Ogbeni-Awe, Associate Publisher, BT Africa magazine and Bobby Bryan, Commercial Manager, Delta Air Lines at last year’s edition of the one-day Business Travel Africa (BTA) conference which held at the Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island Lagos

The Future Group and Tradeblazers Limited, in partnership with the global electronic payments company, Visa, have announced a number of high profile panellists for the third BT Africa West Africa Expo and Conference, fixed for the Federal Palace Hotel & Casino in Lagos, March 21.

The event is in association with Future Group’s Business Traveller Africa magazine and will consist of a full-day conference at the Federal Palace, together with an exhibition element for both buyers and sellers of West African business travel, along with associated products.

A breakdown of the day’s activities will see four panel discussions on the agenda, featuring a number of industry experts.

The day gets under way with a look at the role that financial services play in effective business travel, specific to West Africa and its current trends, and will see the following delegates debating the issues: Ade Ashaye – Country Manager for Visa in West Africa; Laura Suwa – Manager of Passenger & Cargo Services for the International Air Transport Association in South West Africa; Henry Obike – Head of E-Product Sales at United Bank for Africa; and Michael Otubu – MD of BCD Travel Nigeria.

“Visa’s vision is the best way to be paid for everyone, everywhere,” said Ashaye adding: “As Nigeria moves towards a cashless economy we are looking to share the benefits of electronic payments with the travel industry. We look forward to a number of interesting and lively panel discussions during the conference that affect the industry.”

The financial services panel discussion will be followed by a look at the West African aviation industry, with the theme, ‘Rising fuel costs, safety, airlines closing and re-launching? Can West African aviation achieve stability in the short and long-term?’ Taking part in this discussion will be: Stephen Paddy – Sales & Marketing Director of ExecuJet Africa; Kola Olayinka – Nigeria Country Manager for British Airways; and Hafeez Balogun – Nigeria Country Manager for RwandAir.

The following hospitality panel discussion will look at: ‘Years of projected growth lie ahead, but is the Nigerian hospitality industry maximising its potential?’ Making themselves available for this discussion are: Trevor Ward – MD of W Hospitality Group; Mark Loxley – GM of Southern Sun Ikoyi; David Kliegl – GM of Federal Palace Hotel & Casino; and Didier Coeln – GM of InterContinental Lagos.

The day will be rounded off by a travel management discussion, looking at: ‘Travel management practitioners are feeling the pinch from the shift towards a supplier’s market. How do West African TMCs remain relevant and profitable?’ The panellists for this discussion are: Lola Adefope – Head of Brand, Marketing & Quality Management at HRG Nigeria; Themba Mthombeni – CEO of Duma Travel; Kemi Soetan – MD of Skyways Travels; and Debbie Ubaru – Senior Consultant at Sigma Travels Solutions.

“We are fortunate and privileged to have secured panellists of this calibre,” said Dylan Rogers, Editor of Business Traveller Africa magazine. “The number of industry experts who have made themselves available for this day says volumes for the esteem in which our event in Lagos is held, and we look forward to some robust discussion about some of the most pressing issues in West African business travel.”

iws pix 1The International Women’s Society (IWS) has announced plans to endow 50 widows in the country by providing them with grants to establish businesses with a view to engaging and empowering them towards gainful business and trades this year.

Making the pledge at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos venue of the Investiture Ceremony of the society’s 2013/2014 newly-elected executive members on Tuesday, the new president, Mrs Grace Nakubyana Kalango, also announced that revealed for women would assume the thrust of her tenure as leader of the non-governmental organization.

The International Women’s Society was founded in 1957 in Lagos by a group of international public-spirited women from various parts of the world but who are predominantly resident in Nigeria, and with the major aim of fostering, promoting and advancing the cause of women and children primarily in Nigeria.

The Zambian-born Kalango, who sought the cooperation of the corporate sector and the women towards making the goal realisable, therefore, pledged to financially endow widows for the economic sustenance of their families.

“I’m proud of being the IWS president because I know the various accomplishments of the IWS in time past and this knowledge makes me feel proud and happy to serve as president. I will endeavour to work hand-in-hand with other women to realise the lofty goals and ambitions that we have set for ourselves in this tenure, largely because I also know there can be no meaningful development without cooperation.

“Education will be the bedrock and thrust of our goal for this tenure and I intend to endow 50 widows with the support and cooperation of corporate organizations and our sponsors. This is to ensure that these women rise above being mere petty traders to engaging in meaningful and lofty businesses of economic empowerment for themselves and their families,” pledged Kalango.

On plans by her executive to ensure proper utilization of the money by the beneficiaries, Kalango explained that the money was not to be given as loans but as grants, adding that the aspect of monitoring would be concluded by the incoming executive as is the tradition of the society.

Kalango, who assumes office as the 56th president of the over five decade-old organization, had served as vice president in the immediate out-gone executive, and is also the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Towdah Travel and Tours Limited, a Lekki, Lagos-based travel firm, as well as the Founder of the Grazie Fashion House.

The IWS Investiture Ceremony which was chaired by Mr. Tunde Folawiyo attracted players in the financial sector of the economy including financial pledges by Skye Bank and Fidelity Bank, as well as the Zambian High Commissioner in Nigeria, Mr Paul Wiliam Lumbi, who was represented by the Defence Attache at the Lagos Ofiice.

Married for 29 years to Bayelsan Mr. Araba Kalango, a former top official of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the newly president of the IWS, Mrs Grace Kalango will serve as president till next year.

The 22-member executive committee for the 2013/2014 term sworn-in at the Investiture Ceremony which was conducted by Her Excellency, Mrs. Amina Ahmadu include: Mrs Folasade Oyeniyi (Vice President), Mrs Nkoli Oggolu (Secretary), Mrs Audrey Joe-Ezigbo (Programme Secretary), Ms tokunbo Edowaye-Iyamu (Membership Secretary), Hajiya Zainab Saleh (Newsletter Editor), Mrs Elsa Bishop (Skills Acquisition Centre Chairperson), Mrs Nike Bakare- Ajayi (Legal Advisor), and others, alongside a five-member ex office that includes; dame Marie Fatayi-Williams, Mrs Gbemi Sasore, Mrs Bimbo Bawaallah, Mrs Nkiru Anumudu and Chief (Dr) Katia Ekesi.

ecowasA new proposal by heads of the various national units within the sub-region, including civil society and Immigration officials, could see the restructuring of key provisions of the regional Protocol on free movement of nationals of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Rising from their two-day 2nd meeting which ended at the ECOWAS Commission’s Abuja headquarters, Friday, the members proposed the abolishing of both the 90-day limit for community citizens visiting other Member States as well as the provision imposing residency card requirements on nationals of member states.

Under the 1979 regional flagship Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, the Right of Residence and Establishment, ECOWAS citizens are required to stay a maximum of 90 days on a visit to another Member State and obtain residence permit for stays beyond this period, a restriction that also applied to their personal cars.

The officials also recommended that the existing regional Travel Certificate be replaced in 2015 by an ECOWAS biometric National Identity Card.

The free movement Protocol has made the Community the only visa-free region in Africa. However, impediments to its implementation include alleged discrimination, extortions and harassment of citizens, which constitute serious barriers to free movement.

The Abuja meeting, which reviewed the status of implementation of the protocol, identified the grey areas and recommended amendments and revision.

Participants argued that the abolition of the 90-day limit is consistent with the decision of the Mini-Summit of Heads of State and Government held in Abuja in March 2000 and the 7th Forum of Ministers in charge of Security held in November 2009.

They also recommended that the clause “in accordance with national legislation” should be expunged from the Protocol,” and called for the establishment of “a Working Group to develop modalities for a secure and effective identification mechanism for community citizens residing within Member States as well as in border communities.”

In recommending that the Travel Certificate be replaced by the regional biometric national ID card, the meeting called on Member States to harmonize their divergent immigration laws and policies to ensure the successful deployment of the National ID cards.

Also, Member States yet to deploy the ECOWAS Passport were urged to expedite actions in this regard and “identify possible areas of intervention by the ECOWAS Commission.”

On the Right of Establishment, the meeting urged Member States to ensure equal treatment of their nationals and citizens of other Member States in the creation and management of enterprises or private companies.

Member States should also harmonize their investment codes with the provisions of the Supplementary Protocol which forbids any form of discrimination. Regarding ECOWAS Citizenship, the meeting recommended the harmonization of national laws concerning citizenship and naturalization.

“Citizens of ECOWAS with dual nationality can, without exception, enjoy Community citizenship,” the meeting said, adding that “Dual nationality should no longer be considered to be a limiting factor.”

The meeting recommended the establishment of Information and Observation Centres to “ensure that citizens are aware of their rights, ensure compliance with the protocol and thereby reduce cases of harassment.” This will serve as a monitoring mechanism for the effective implementation of the protocol.

It further recommended the establishment of a Committee of Eminent Persons in this regard, and charged the ECOWAS Commission to provide the Terms of Reference for the Committee.

On asylum seekers and refugees, the meeting recommended the development of a document of “refugee” within the Community, which shall define the concept and serve as guideline for treatment of Community citizens who fall under this category.

Pending the development of a Supplementary Act on refugees, the meeting recommended that provision should be made for reintegration of migrants of ECOWAS extraction who fall under the “refugee” category, and provide them with relevant documents and safeguard them against discrimination. The recommendations are to be forwarded to the regional Ministers of security.

While opening the meeting, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Customs, Trade, Mines, Industry, Free Movement and Tourism, Mr. Ahmed Hamid, reaffirmed the Commission’s commitment to eliminating impediments to the successful implementation of the Free Movement Protocol.

He highlighted the urgent need to review some provisions of the text to ensure a seamless implementation, including redefinition of the ECOWAS Citizenship to take into account Community citizens in the Diaspora.

lagosWith well over performing 300 artistes from Nigeria and Brazil in attendance, and a year-long programme of events, organizers expect the forthcoming Lagos Black Heritage Festival (LBHF) to be biggest cultural showpiece since the Festival of Black Arts and Culture (Festac) of 1977 in the state.

Making the disclosure at the Freedom Park, Onikan, Lagos, Thursday, the Festival Consultant and Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, in company of the state’s commissioner for Tourism and Inter-Governmental Affairs. Mr. Disun Holloway, as well as a host of the festival’s sub-committee heads, said the event has expanded in content and theme, such that it will now run in two parts first from March 25 to April 1 and October 1 through to 10.

With this year’s theme of Bring Back Brazil, Soyinka added that the expansion of the programme to include a second part was to accommodate the full participation of the Brazilian contingent as it ‘was also the year of the Brazilians.’

“2013 Lagos Heritage Week takes place within an event framework that the festival has designated the Year of Brazil. After Italy and the Horn of Africa in the series The Black in the Mediterranean Blue – comes the turn of Portugal, once a great European maritime nation, and the first European nation to establish diplomatic relations with an African counterpart the Benin Kingdom. Alas, this historic encounter between equals would later degenerate into participation in the infamous slave trade, but would also result in the greatest “rainbow” nation in the world The Republic of Brazil.

“Brazil, inevitably, once a Portuguese colony, became an irresistible magnet to the Festival planners. There, the Africa identity emotion runs deep, rendered vibrantly in cultural retentions in forms of worship, largely of the orisa of the Yoruba (the candomble), in performance modes, cuisine, language, attire and music. Such was the enthusiasm from Brazil that it became necessary to transform the Festival into a two-part celebration, so as to provide more time for the participation of the Afro-Brazilian Diaspora,” explained Soyinka.

Continuing, the Nobel laureate noted that to the Brazilians, the festival promised the fulfilment of the life-long dream of homecoming as the second part October 1-10 may yet prove the largest Diaspora Return since the Black and African Arts Festival (FESTAC) in Lagos, in 1977.

While urging for support of the corporate sector to realise the objectives of the theme for this year’s edition, Soyinka maintained that this plea had become imperative as the content of the festival could only be realised with the active participation of the corporate sector who could leverage on the festival’s agenda to drive their brands.

“What we are experiencing in terms of problems is the non-participation of the corporate organizations especially those in the state. Let’s face it, the Brazilians are coming this October and the event was endorsed by the Brazilian President when she visited Nigeria last week. So we need corporate sponsors to enable us execute our programmes,” said Soyinka.

On the Vision of the Child art competition, one of the programmes of the LBHF, Soyinka explained that the visual art competition for school children, majorly sponsored by the Diamond Bank, was not at its preliminary stage.

“The preliminaries have been done for that competition in terms of verification of the works submitted by the children and that is to ensure that the works they claim they did were not done by their parents on their behalf. So for that aspect of the festival, we are on track,” said Soyinka.

On the seeming disinterest to engage Nigerian contemporary music artistes for this year’s LBHF, Soyinka and Holloway explained that theme level of funding and choice of theme informed that decision to work with what was on ground.

Joining in the call by Soyinka for corporate sector support, Holloway said: “For the families, I can only say please come out and be part of it. Bring out your children since it is the last day of Easter. This is what the Lagos State government wants; to see the economic empowerment of the youth though gainful employment for them through the festival and also good business for the corporate sector which are participating.” Hollolway stressed.

While explaining that the Street carnival routes for this year will follow the same pattern as last year’s event, Holloway used the occasion of the media briefing to alert motorists in the state on the planned closure of the Awolowo Road, Ikoyi and its adjoining roads as these form routes of the Street Carnival, which is the highlight of the LBHF on April 1.

“The Awolowo Road and its adjoining roads in Ikoyi will be closed from 8 am for the Street Carnival as these are the routes of the carnival but the roads leading into the areas from Victoria Island or the roads in Victoria Island remain open. So if you have business to attend to in the Ikoyi environ especially around Awolowo Road be sure to come before 8 in the morning,” the commissioner sounded.

One of the highpoints of the LBHF for the year would be the expanded Water Regatta which would now see 30 participating communities in the state, an power engine boat race, an increase in viewing platforms, expanded swimming competition featuring over 200 swimmers to be trimmed to 50 on the final day, as well as the regatta proper that will feature competitions for best decorated boat and best performances categories.

The March events pay homage to the late Afro-Brazilian playwright, painter, revolutionary and senator, Abdias do Nascimento, whose life-long dialogue with the orisa will dominate the exhibition galleries. His spiritual play, Sortilege, also takes the stage for the first time in West Africa.

Abdias is the most impassioned Brazilian link with the continent in the realm of culture, racial identity and political struggle. Exiled in Nigeria’s Yoruba cradle of humanity, Ile-Ife, for some years during the Brazilian dictatorship, it is only fitting that this radical humanist be brought back to his most memorable place of exile.

According to organizers, Abdias remains the dynamic symbol of Africa affirmation in the face of historic odds, the vitality of her cultures, and the assertiveness of racial identity.

Befittingly, his widow Elisa Larkin do Nascimento will flag off the year’s Lecture series with a lecture on Abdias’ life, art and struggle.

Desmond Elliot 2African film and television talent shone bright at the maiden AfricaMagic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA) ceremony which was broadcast live to more than 50 countries across the continent last Saturday March 9, from Lagos..

The AMVCAs, held in association with MultiChoice and sponsored by non-alcoholic beverage drink, Amstel Malta, recognized Africa’s best film and television talent in a glittering three and a half hour ceremony, hosted by On Air Personality IK Osakioduwa and StarGist’s Vimbai Muntinhiri.

The pre-event red carpet saw the stars dazzle, flaunting the finest continental fashion.  Capturing all the glamour of the gala event was a team of on-air personalities, including Big Brother Africa alumni Uti Nwachukwu and Nic Wang’ondu alongside Eku Edewor, Dolopo Oni, Sarah Hassan and Helen Paul. The continent’s glitterati rubbed shoulders at Eko Exhibition Centre, which featured a dramatic multi-layered stage decked with giant LED screens.

Big individual winners on the night included Nigeria’s Mercy Johnson (Best Actress – Comedy) for Dumebi – The Dirty Girl, Ghanaian Jackie Appiah (Best Actress – Drama) for Perfect Picture, Nigeria’s Hafiz Oyetoro (Best Actor – Comedy) for House a Part and his compatriot OC Ukeje (Best Actor – Drama) for Two Brides and a Baby.

Category wins for Best Supporting Cast in a Drama went to Uganda’s Matthew Nabwiso for A Good Catholic Girl and Kenya’s Maureen Koech for Lies That Bind. The prestigious award for Best Director went to Akin Omotoso for Man on Ground.

The announcement of the winners of the hotly-contested Best Movie Overall and Best Television categories produced the biggest ovation of the night, with Otelo Burning and The XYZ Show scooping top honours.

Otelo Burning, produced and directed by South African Sara Blecher, tells the story of a group of township kids who discover the joy of surfing. It’s set in 1989, against a backdrop of brewing conflict between two political groups. The XYZ Show is a Kenyan political satire programme, created and produced by Godffrey Mwampembwa and Marie Lora-Mungai. The spoof newscast, featuring latex puppets, tackles current affairs issues in Kenya with a bitingly humorous twist.

An expert judging panel with a wealth of continental and international experience; and led by AMVCA Head Judge Femi Odugbemi; were responsible for selecting the winners in non-viewer voted categories. The panel included Antonio Katakwe, Charles Asiba, Desiree Markgraaff, Joyce Fissoo, Kole Omotoso, Linus Abrahams, Simon Ratcliffe, Steph Ogundele and Zik Zulu Okafor.

The results in each category were verified by auditors from SizweNtsalubaGobodo, who were on hand on the night to hand over the top-secret envelopes. A night dedicated to honouring the continent’s finest filmmakers was graced by a host of home-grown musical superstars too, as Femi Kuti, Sauti Sol, Tiwa Savage, Banky W and Chidinma, along with Ghana’s Efya, rocked the stage, and the continent.

And rounding off an unforgettable night, accomplished veteran Nigerian actor Olu Jacobs was named the recipient of the Industry Merit Award while Ivie Okujaye was named the TrailBlazer of the Year.

Commenting on an outstanding night of celebration, M-Net Africa MD Biola Alabi said, “It has been a wonderful night.   Fantastic performers, glittering fashion, deserving winners; it has been a night of huge excitement and emotion.  Most importantly, it’s been a true celebration of African film and television, a fitting platform for the stars of our continent, both in front and behind the cameras.

This is what we at AfricaMagic have long dreamt of, and to see it become a reality tonight is a very special moment for us.  Congratulations to all our worthy winners, I hope that this recognition will inspire them further and motivate others in this industry to strive to give their best every day.”

On behalf of Amstel Malta, Walter Drenth (Marketing Director Nigerian Breweries PLC) said, “We are deeply pleased to be at the forefront of this spectacular event that celebrates truly talented individuals whose valuable contribution to the African film and television landscape is immeasurable. We congratulate them on their success and noteworthy achievement tonight. Our brand has always believed strongly that everyone has what it takes to be the best and this group of winners symbolizes that.”

Joining Alabi and Drenth in saluting the winners was MultiChoice Africa CEO Nico Meyer who said: “Congratulations to all the winners. The AfricaMagic Viewers’ Choice Awards have provided a wonderful opportunity for our film and television stars to showcase their work. To be acknowledged for such merit will catapult their careers to another level and their work will certainly set a standard for quality programming and excellence in the industry. We look forward to watching their progress very closely on our television screens – we expect to see great things from them.”