satThe forthcoming African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in South Africa is not only going to be about big crowds, loud cheering, and all the concomitant adrenalin rush of Africa’s greatest football extravaganza.

It will be a chance to give yourself over, too, to the gentle touch of expert hands at a spa. Or to sip champagne in a generous bath overlooking the city’s spread of night lights. Let the beat of Africa envelop you with surround sound audio in your hotel room as you relax in your gown and feast on a delicious in-room dinner.

South Africa’s host cities know all about what pampering means, and how to deliver it. Award-winning, spectacularly located spas are never far away, staffed by impeccably trained therapists offering a wide range of treatments and rituals using the world’s best spa products alongside traditional African treatments.

Spa treatments are diverse and infuse influences from all over the world, so whether you like water-based wellness therapies, a full body exfoliation, reflexology treatment or a straightforward Swedish massage, South African spas offer any and all of these, booked as single sessions or in a full-day package.

In Johannesburg you will find a sprinkling of spas and wellness centres throughout the city and its suburbs, operating in luxury hotels as well as independently. Spas in idyllic settings are located in resorts outside the city, and you can even call on a ‘mobile spa’, which comes to you.

Lavish pamper sessions are also conveniently available in and around Durban, which boasts an award-winning spa at the Oyster Box Hotel and Spa in Umhlanga on the north coast, while in White River about 40km from Nelspruit is the much sought after “forest spa” at Cybele Forest Lodge .

Close to Port Elizabeth is Shamwari Game Reserve’s award-winning spa, while in Rustenburg, in the heart of the Magaliesburg Mountains, is the popular Sparkling Waters Hotel and Spa.

Luxury is about pampering, but also about splashing out, and there are plenty of opportunities to do just that. You’ll find the most illustrious fashion and jewellery brands in all the host cities, where you can cherry pick beautiful diamond or gold pieces, or go big on a tailored suit or dazzling dress.

If your budget stretches, five-star hotels with all the bells and whistles of service are ready and waiting for your booking, and how about a sunset boat trip? In Durban is a handful of operators who organize trips on luxury yachts and catamarans for groups, with a full bar service included. A lovely way to end the day, and to view Moses Mohiba stadium from a different perspective; the mighty Indian Ocean.

carnival abuja 2012Rivers State, Tuesday, dominated awards as it claimed 7 out the 18 open awards for grabs by all participating states of the federation at this year’s edition of the carnival, thus becoming the Overall Best State.

Last year’s edition was also swept by Akwa Ibom State, who this year could only manage the Best carnival Performance; as well as the Best Children’s Performance awards.

Rivers State which also hosts the Carniriv Festival in barely a week’s time in Port Harcourt, the state capital won in the following categories: Overall Best State; Best Masquerade Costume; Best Regatta Performance; Best Regatta Costume; Best Food Fair/Bust Bar; Best Carnival Costume; and Best Carnival King.

The 2012 Abuja Carnival which closed at the Eagle Square, Abuja, attracted a record participation of a dozen foreign countries most of which took part at both the opening and closing ceremonies and the command performance which for the first time in the history of the event took place at the Aso Villa’s Banquet hall, Abuja, with Vice President Namadi Sambo in attendance, accompanied by Prime Minister of St Kitts & Nevis, Mr. Denzil Llewellyn Douglas.

Between recording a marked improvement in content, improved logistics, administrative control of contingents and remarkable emergence of some obviously serious state participants on one hand, and poor funding, inadequate publicity, crowd apathy, the Abuja National Carnival 2012 edition cannot be said to have ended without its fair share talking points.

Since its inception eight years ago, the showcase of diverse cultures that the Abuja carnival has created a platform for with the ultimate of marketing culture as a tourism potential, the annual cerebrations has faced more challenges in the last half of its existence when its seemingly struggled for life in the face of successive governments’ bureaucracy and administrative red tape that by extension has question its very purpose of existence.

Attempts at justifying the Abuja Carnival by its organizing Carnival Management Committee (CMC) has only ended up further dividing the committee while also shoring up an appalling excuse for crippling underfunding, and compounding its reputation and credibility in the eye of the populace and government circles.

Conspicuously lacking in crowd-filled stands inside the Eagle Square, the just-concluded Abuja carnival was by no means lacklustre; the buzz awareness seemed to have been hijacked by small scale entrepreneurs who diligently swarmed the various venues displaying their wares and you such as almost turning the carnival venues into trade fairs.

“I’ll say for once, serious states are emerging as power houses for tourism and culture in Nigeria. In previous editions it used to be for all-comers where states did anyhow. Now states like that are embarrassed to others who come better prepared and get the crowd’s applause. This I believe id how carnivals of this magnitude improve. It’s not always about government. Some states came here with entirely new costumes, while others sadly came here with costumes worn at the very inaugural of the carnival. So you can imagine the embarrassment on their faces when they see what their counterparts are wearing, “said Aliyu Adamu, an Abuja resident at the Eagle Square venue of the opening ceremony, Saturday.

However, according Chief Edem Duke, the supervising minister for the carnival, this is exactly what the carnival needs for self sustenance.

“This is exactly what the carnival needs. The venues should be buzzing with activities. It is people keying into the events that should matter and so if at venues people are buying and selling, or just milling around onto the carnival paths, it’s ok. For the seeming poor publicity that trailed the carnival, it was not the fault of the fault of my ministry as the agency that was supposed to have handled that reneged on the agreement. When it apparent that arrangement was not going to work out, we had less than one week to put something together.”

Despite accolades pouring from Vice President Sambo, First Lady Patience Jonathan, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremmadu, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Pius Anyim, who all chaired various programmes of the four-day fiesta, Duke reiterated the need for better funding to enable the carnival committee to deliver on set goals of the carnival.

According to Vice President Sambo, the federal government’s quest to diversify the mono-economic dependence on oil and gas explains the focus on the non oil and gas sectors like tourism and culture with a view to fully exploring their economic potentials in line with the Transformation Agenda of the government.

“Government commends the private sector for keying into this carnival through various forms and levels of support to ensure sustenance for the festival,” stressed Sambo.

On his part, Deputy Senate President, Ekweremmadu, assured of commitment of the National Assembly to the development and full harnessing of our cultures and tourism for national unity and transformation.

“The National Assembly is aware that this sector is the mainstay of many world economies and will continue to do all within its powers to ensure that other critical indices in the culture-tourism sector such as security and infrastructural development are further boosted to enable the sector to blossom to full potentials as a way of diversifying the nation’s economy.”

Next Thursday, December 6, will see art enthusiasts throng venues in Lagos and Abuja for top notch poetry, jazz and book presentation events.

In Lagos, iconic poet JP Clark graces an evening of poetry and jazz at the Didi Museum, Victoria Island, Lagos, December 6, for a festival of life which will also feature multi-talented music maestro Jimi Solanke.

In addition, students of the Grange School and Pacelli School of the Blind will perform JP Clark’s poems as a major facet of the evening.

The University of Lagos where JP Clark achieved the feat of becoming the first-ever African professor of English is backing the evening of poetry and jazz.

Described by Encyclopaedia Britannica as “the finest of the African poets”, JP Clark will offer his admirers an evening to remember in this exclusive birthday fest that Didi Museum founder Dr Newton Jibunoh highlights as “an experience of a lifetime.”

In Abuja, the public presentation of the much-awaited book, The Way We Are: Ideas for A Better Nigeria written by Sir Jonas Odocha, the former Group General Manager of the NNPC and former General Manager of Nigeria LNG, will take place same Thursday, December 6 at NICON Luxury Hotel, Tafawa Balewa Way, Area 11, Garki, Abuja.

The prolific novelist and poet Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo is the book reviewer.

Omotola shows The Real Me

Posted: November 30, 2012 in art/entertainment

OmotolaSuccinctly put, celebrity, mom, wife, and Nollywood icon, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, is an African superstar. In December, cable channel, DStv audiences tuned into AfricaMagic Entertainment will get an up close and exclusive look at her personal life in the new reality series Omotola: The Real me.

Audiences will join the famous actress as she launches her latest movies, expands her business interests and takes on all the challenges of being a ground-breaking celebrity with fans across the continent. At the same time she remains devoted to her marriage and her family, working to maintain a balance between her professional and personal responsibilities.

Filmed on location in Lagos, London, Ghana, Miami and Kingston (Jamaica), Omotola: The Real me will be screened on AfricaMagic Entertainment, starting on December 6 and premiering a new episode every Thursday for 13 weeks.

Talking about the series Omotola says nothing was off limits to the team filming her. “You will get to see everything. What we are doing is very real. It’s basically my whole life. The parts where I’m taking care of the kids, the parts where I’m taking care of the home, the parts when I am working, the parts where I’m yelling.  It’s crazy. My life is crazy!”

But she reassures fans that the show is designed for a wide audience. “Yes my image is ‘omosexy’ but this show is for the whole family. It’s good content for everyone.”

Remarking, M-Net Africa Managing Director Biola Alabi expressed pleasure that the series will appeal to a range of viewers.

“Around the world, reality series which spotlight a celebrity’s life in action remain extremely popular with audiences of all ages, from different walks of life. Audiences love that they can see the stars as they go about their daily lives; as they chase their dreams; as they live, love, work and play.”

She equally praised Omotola for allowing a sneak peek into her world.

“It’s not easy to have cameras following you, filming you in your good moments and your ‘not so good’ moments. Omotola is already a very busy person so to let viewers share her life is a very brave step to take. Of course, she is enormously entertaining so we know that the series will be fun, interesting television which will result in a lot of texting, tweeting and talking among followers.”

Omotola: The Real me was executive produced by IFactory Live, Oh Africa and Red Hot Concepts.

As the Super Eagles of Nigeria get set to compete at the 2013 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament in South Africa, top alcoholic beverage maker, Guinness Nigeria has unveiled a series of exciting consumer led activities to rally the support of millions of Nigerians for the team as it seeks to emerge victorious at the tournament which begins January 19 next year.

The campaign tagged: “Fly with the Eagles” identifies with the intense love and passion millions of Nigerians share for football and the team’s aspiration to make Nigerian’s proud at the 2013 AFCON outing.

At the unveiling of the campaign held at the Eko Hotel & Suites, Managing Director Guinness Nigeria Plc, Mr. Seni Adetu expressed pride over Guinness’ association with the Super Eagles over the years, just as added he excited that Guinness is at the centre of galvanising support from millions of Nigerian fans.

“Guinness Nigeria is keeping faith with the Super Eagles as we have always done because we believe the team is not just made up of the eleven players on the pitch but also includes the 170 million people cheering their team on. As a company and a football-loving brand, we are convinced that we have what it takes to succeed at this year’s outing.”

Before unveiling the logo for the campaign, Marketing and Innovation Director for Guinness Nigeria Plc, Mr. Austin Ufomba, reeled out a series of activation handles that make up the entire ‘Fly with the Eagles’ campaign – including a National Consumer Promotion, the campaign theme song, Guinness Fan Parks and an exciting engagement platform that will enhance deeper participation of fans and consumers alike.

“We believe strongly in the Super Eagles and in the passion of the Nigerian supporter. As such, Guinness Foreign Extra Stout will once again demonstrate its belief in the Super Eagles by providing innovative ways for millions of fans in Nigerian to show their undying support for the Super Eagles as they compete at the Nations Cup in South Africa in 2013,” he said.

Reacting, Secretary General of the Nigerian Football Federation, Alhaji Aminu Maigari represented by Mike Umeh applauded Guinness’ efforts in supporting the national team.

“The Super Eagles have become a symbol of national pride and anyone that supports the team supports the success of the nation as a whole. We are very happy that Guinness is embarking on this journey with us and indeed they must be applauded for the continuing support and encouragement they have provided for the sport as a whole and especially football.”

As part of the campaign, Guinness Foreign Extra Stout has also launched a pan-Nigerian Consumer Promotion with a grand prize of an all-expense paid trip to South Africa for fans. Asides the grand prize, millions of Naira in cash prizes are also up for grabs, with 4 consumer carting away cash prizes of N100,000.00 daily throughout the duration of the campaign amongst other fantastic prizes.

Consumers are clearly in for exciting times during this campaign as they will be enjoying an exclusive song specially composed for the Super Eagles which will hit the airwaves very soon. Fans will also have the opportunity to compose and upload their own songs for the team on the Guinness-VIP social media platforms, m.guinnessvip.com and http://www.facebook.com/guinnessvip.

For fans that prefer to watch the AFCON 2013 matches with friends in an exciting environment, there will be Guinness Fan Parks in designated locations across the country to provide unique match viewing experiences.

According to Ufomba, “There is nothing as good as having your fans support you while you sweat it out on the pitch. We are extremely happy about the Super Eagles’ participation at the Nations Cup and are quite optimistic that it will be a wonderful outing. We are behind them all the way. It is also our greatest wish that they return home with the cup. In the coming weeks, Nigerians should prepare for a big surprise. Nothing like it has ever happened and it would be done in a way only Guinness can. These are truly exciting times”

The “Fly with the Eagles” campaign will run from December 1, 2012 to January 31, 2012.

For fans who want to participate in the promotion, The Marketing Manager for the Guinness brand, Obinna Anyalebechi, explained the process. “Consumers of Guinness Foreign Extra Stout can enter into the promo by buying bottles of their premium Guinness Foreign Extra Stout; open the crown corks and text the code under the crown to 1759. Weekly draw winners will be announced all through the campaign period while consumers can also keep up to date on current happenings including Super-Eagles and AFCON 2013 related updates and on m.guinnessvip.com and http://www.facebook.com/guinnessvip.”

Global hotel chain, the Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc, has concluded plans for three additional hotels in Nigeria by 2015 to complement its already five existing properties in the country.

Starwood presently operates five hotels in Nigeria, in Abuja, Akwa Ibom, Port Harcourt and two hotels in Lagos, under its Sheraton, Le Meridien and Four Points by Sheraton brands. By 2015, Starwood will open three additional hotels in Nigeria, one property in Benin City and two in Lagos.

Starwood made the revelation in Lagos, recently, when its senior executives including newly-appointed Chief Executive Officer, toured the country in pursuit of development opportunities and in support of Starwood’s UNICEF Fundraising Programmes in Africa.

Emphasizing the importance of the region as one of the world’s fastest-growing hotel and travel markets, the Starwood’s team explained plans to further expand its portfolio in Nigeria, the company’s largest growth market on the African continent.

Starwood is strengthening its position as a leading international hotel operator in Africa with an existing portfolio of 38 hotels, representing more than 10,000 rooms, the majority of which are operated under Starwood’s world-renowned Sheraton and Le Meridien brands.

The company also announced at the media briefing in Lagos, of plans to increase its African portfolio by nearly 30 per cent with 10 new hotels set to open over the next three years, therefore adding more than 4,200 guest rooms to the continent and creating thousands of local employment opportunities.

“Home to seven of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies, there could not be a better time to expand our footprint in Africa,” said Frits van Paasschen, President and CEO, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, adding: “From a vastly improving infrastructure, major investments from China, rapid economic growth, rising personal incomes and a growing middle class – we are seeing exciting changes that are driving the African future and we intend to be a part of it.”

On his part, Simon Turner, President of Global Development & Acquisition, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, said: “Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and boasts the second-largest economy on the continent, presenting tremendous opportunities for the country to play a key role in our African expansion. With investor-friendly policies in place and on-going economic growth, Nigeria epitomizes the economic ascent of Africa as a development destination,”

With more than 70 per cent of the world’s economic growth coming from fast-growing markets over the next few years, Starwood is focused on expansion in developing and established African countries such as Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt and South Africa. The company is also looking to enter key emerging countries including Angola, the Ivory Coast and Ghana.

As part of this strategy, Starwood is investing in development, sales and the expansion of its Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program in Africa. By the end of this year, Starwood will double its dedicated development team focused on growth in Africa, underscoring the company’s commitment to continued growth in the region.

By 2015, Starwood plans to have nearly 50 hotels in Africa along with those already planned to open in Nigeria, Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Senegal and Mauritius.

In addition to the new hotels in the pipeline, Starwood will re-open three of its African hotels in the next 12 months: The Grand Mauritian, which will re-open next year after a major renovation; the Sheraton Cairo following a major renovation as part of Sheraton’s global brand enhancement strategy; and the Four Points by Sheraton Tripoli, which closed last year due to political conflict in Libya.

With the largest footprint among Starwood’s portfolio and one of the world’s most recognized hotel brands, Sheraton is often the first international hotel brand to enter markets paving the way for the introduction of other Starwood brands. This holds true in Africa where Starwood first opened the Sheraton Cairo in 1971. Sheraton also led the way for Starwood’s entry into other important African countries including Nigeria, Uganda and South Africa. While Starwood is committed to the growth of all of its brands throughout the African continent, Sheraton continues to play a critical role in its development strategy.

It would be recalled that in 2011, Starwood and UNICEF joined forces to put a focus on education through UNICEF’s “Schools for Africa” programme, supporting quality primary education for more than eight million vulnerable children across 11 Sub-Saharan African countries (Angola, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, South Africa, Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda and Zimbabwe).

“We believe that every child has the right to go to school. That is why, together with UNICEF, we have chosen to focus on providing children in need with access to education. We are convinced that for these children education is the door that opens opportunities and will enable them to become fully independent members of society,” Roeland Vos, President of Starwood Hotels & Resorts for Europe, Africa & Middle East said.

Starwood’s chief executive officer van Paasschen was accompanied on the Lagos leg of the Africa tour by seven members of Starwood’s senior executive team who also met with hotel owners, customers, government officials and investors in Nigeria, Gabon and Angola with the goal to further understand, appreciate and ultimately leverage different cultural perspectives and approaches to business.

Chief Executive Officer of the Africa Film Academy (AFA), Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, organizers of the famous African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) in this interview, during the recently-concluded Lagos leg of the national roadshow Screening of AMAA’s 2012 Winning Movies in Ibadan and Benin, explains the phenomenon called Nollywood, film marketers, and also how the glamour and popularity of the AMA Awards has even taken her by surprise. Excerpts:

Why is AMAA involved in a roadshow?

If you have been following the road show we have been doing, it is basically to sanitize people on the movies we have. AMAA and the Africa International Film (AFRIF) are jointly hosting a celebration for Nollywood at 20, we decided to celebrate Nollywood at 20, from 1992-2012 and basically as we all know that celebrating Nollywood is an important landmark, we know that the guild will be doing their celebrations all through next year and so we felt it is important to jump start it. We have a conference which is the Diamond in Nigeria’s Jewel, it is basically looking at the past, the present and future of Nollywood. So we would be discussing finance, how the money is coming into the industry and going out, distribution- what is the best way for it to be distributed while looking at online medium. It would be a one-day event and a very big gala evening the next day to wrap it up and we do know that there would be quite a number of people would be coming in for this event, we think that it is a major thing for us to be doing. Nollywood’s Diamond in Nigeria’s Jewel would be between the 6th and 7th of December.

What is the role of AFRIF?

In the course of the year, we wanted AFRIF to find a permanent home and in the course of getting one, there are different logistics attached to it. In fact, we would be signing with the governor soon and when that is done, it is going to be permanently in that state. The facility where AFRIF is been held yearly is undergoing development and of course when the whole place is completed, AFRIF would open it up again, the governor is doing a big launch for it. So we can’t do it there because part of the condition for holding it there is to use it as a medium to open that state.

You keep saying “that state” are we not supposed to know the state?

No, after the signing with the governor, it would be made public.

Nollywood at 20, a lot of people say the pioneer film Living in Bondage, is yet to be seen by them, any plans to re-produce the film?

Yes, there would be a retrospective on the films that are landmarks in the Nollywood industry, there would be some films that would be chosen and shown. We are trying to see whether the movies can be given out at the event.

How are these movies going to be chosen?

If you look at our face book page for the past one month, we have been asking people to tell us their top Nollywood films in the last 20 years starting from 1992, we are compiling the list at the moment. Everybody has their landmarks and there would definitely be screening and probably at the same venue so in between the seminars, there would be screening.

One of the aims of the road show is to further re-enforce the credibility of the processes that holds the AMAA award, can you expatiate on that? 

Well all the time, people say, why did a particular movie win AMAA since they haven’t seen it and why is it been judged? Most movies that are not done in Nigeria are not seen in Nigeria and across Africa, that is one of the reasons why distribution is a major problem, so we have taken permission from people to screen films that are not seen here like Otelo Burning and so people who have watched the films and have seen why AMAA is difficult to win because of the quality and the standard that we keep on pushing and we also appreciate the work of the jury we have behind the scene.

What is AMAA doing in terms of distribution (or marketing) so that more people are made aware of what the academy is doing?

Well, we have partnered with someone who have built AMAA blogs which is an online platform for AMAA winning films, but you have to understand that it is still for the Diaspora market, the biggest market will still going to be DVD’s in the Nigerian market, that is why in Lagos you would notice that we have two major workshops, each one for two days on how to write a business plan for the marketers, that was our way of trying to prepare them for our You Win project the government is getting in place for them and so in preparation for that, people were made to come and learn how to put a business plan together and that is what we are doing, showing them how to put a business plan together and packaging to get them ready for the You Win project, that way we are helping, we can’t do the application for them, but can teach them how to make sure that the application would actually get some answers.

On the modality of screening of these films

We are trying to stay within our own limitations but we know that there are companies that are trying to partner with the academy. One of the things that have come out of the screenings that we have we have been doing is that they have asked that Silverbird takes care of one of the distribution of one of the movies that we have been screening- Otelo burning, so basically there would be films that people would read and tweet about. We are trying to go to the student areas as well because they are the ones that can spend the time doing the working out and we are never going to meet the demand of trying to show screenings, I mean even trying to show screening last weekend in Lagos was difficult.

In terms of lifting content and quality of Nigerian movies, what is AMAA doing?

In every film industry, there is the A, B and C range, and Nollywood is the same, there are good movies and they are the ones that go to the cinemas. There are producers who are willing to get the money behind and go to the cinemas, you can’t force people. People have to decide to graduate to that level, you can only show them by all the years they haven’t won an AMAA. I am not on the jury of AMAA so there are no favourites. We do have A-list films and I think this year it’s been quite a few that have gone to the cinemas. So technically you can look at it from that aspect and next year it would even be more, you have Wood Rush, the Meeting, the Assassin, Amina, Last flight to Abuja, there are quite a few coming out and I think we have had two films in a month coming out in the cinemas this year for Nollywood.

So with AMAA trying to showcase the best of Nollywood, can we say we are getting there?

Yes we are, and that is one of the beautiful things about AFRIF, we are trying to get the best films from all over the world for people to come and watch and this is to the film makers, if you don’t watch films you will never know what is happening out there and how good your counterparts are. We spend so much time choosing the best films in the circuit for AFRIF, it takes us months visiting all the festivals from Toronto to Berlin and Durban to watch all of these films and bring them out here. When you find that film makers do not make time to watch those films, they are never going to see the trends and they would probably be seeing what they have been seeing and not looking at the world’s trends, the world is moving o in the cinemas, the cameras are changing everyday and technicalities different. So basically, when AFRIF comes along, I expect film makers especially the younger ones to avail themselves of the opportunity and watch every single movie they can because it would help them to know what is going on and correct their mistakes.

On the seeming marketers’ stranglehold on Nollwwod

You have to understand that for them, it is pure business. There are two types of film making, the commercial and celebration film making which is where the arts and festivals come to play.

How do you choose the movies that are selected for the awards?

I don’t choose them, they get submitted but in terms of AFRIF, it’s quite challenging because there is a lot of good films out there, I mean I go to a film festival and I spend every single hour possible watching films, so if I’m at a film festival I probably spend a few hours in my hotel room but the rest of the time, am trying to catch as many films as possible to see what will work here in Nigeria and what our people are going to like.

How would you rate Nollywood as an insider for over ten years?

Nollywood is growing and for me, nobody would change what Nollywood has done which is changing the face of Africa and going to the cinemas, it has encouraged people to go ahead and make films without waiting for anyone. For me, Nollywood is worth celebrating, it is a celebration of the Nigerian spirit of entrepreneurship. Even if it is straight to DVD, the fact that people are making money from it and keeping them out of the roads and troubles, I celebrate them. Every single Nollywood should be celebrated for achieving something, creating heroes for Africa and creating stars where there is none and creating employment.

Most of the awards were focused on movies from other countries, what’s the missing link here, in terms of the movies produced in Nigeria?

One of the things we have to accept is that a lot of people in Nigeria learn on the job, so training is key to the change that Nollywood would have and it is a gradual process. If you look at all the films in the cinemas, you will find out that they are produced by almost all the trained film makers. Right now we are running a competition called “My Beautiful Africa, it’s really targeted at young people to make short films, not more than five to seven minutes long, because if you can tell a story in five minutes then you will know that your films do not have to be in six parts. So, it’s the whole idea of my beautiful Africa, a training programme, and so beginning with that you start to look at the Nigerian idea and of course Jos is turning out a lot of good film makers, I think the landscape of the Nigerian cinemas would change more in the next five years.

All the people that came out from Jos are working, all the ones I know, a lot of them are in Calabar right now, some are here in Lagos working, while about eight of them work with me, and this year, the whole crew that produced AMAA was from Jos, so I really don’t think they are not working. A lot of them would do nothing else aside that, some of them are the ones doing Jacobs Cross and Tinsel.

Looking towards AMAA 2013, what’s do we expect?

For AMAA next year, our theme is Africa one, Africa without borders. Basically we have nominations in Malawi in March and then we would have AMAA on the 14th of April probably in Nigeria. The AMAA can be held anywhere because we haven’t closed the gates, but we have closed the gates for the nominations that is Malawi, but the gates for the AMAA ended on the 31st of October and so we haven’t sat down to have a meeting to that effect, so it can be held anywhere.

What differentiates AMAA from every other award?

Our transparency and the level of our jury set us apart, transparency in terms of election starting from nomination up to the finals and the quality of our jury, every film is watched from beginning to end. Our juries are people who have worked in festivals all over the world on Africa cinemas for a minimum of 15years.

Nigeria, has for long endured the description of being a mono-economic nation, one that has cost the country in terms of infrastructure development and upgrade, imbalance of trade with other economies, susceptibility to constant oil price changes, inability to conform with long term fiscal policies, and many more negatives.

Regardless of how successive administrations have mouthed commitment to expanding revenue generation base to embrace all sectors, the country is constantly been held hostage by unpredictable oil revenue earnings, which in turn impact on capital projects, while also redefining scope of recurrent expenditures for the country.

While the potential of the entertainment industry to challenge crude is stretching optimism, the tourism sub-sector on the other hand, remains one sector with that viability to rescue the country from its over-dependence on crude oil going by the scale and scope of its spread and reach in the country and even beyond.

With a seeming boom in global hotel pipeline construction more than doubling in the last three years following arrivals hitting all-time high of more than 10, 000 daily into the country, the Nigeria tourism industry is growing, thus, effectively positioning the country as a major business destination in the continent, having already cornered the West African sub-region.

“I have absolutely no doubt that for Nigeria over the years laboured under the challenges of a mono-product economy, that we have the opportunity of ruling tourism out as a new frontier for our growth and development. I say this confident of the fact this is the biggest economic sector of the world and if Nigeria must rightfully take its place as the biggest black nation on the face of the earth then, all of us must be willing solders in the new agenda,” said the minister of tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke, recently.

“On the Nollywood, you know that Nigeria is the second in the world in terms of film production and that is why we have been very strong on entertainment tourism. If the world is now saying we have potentials, if the world said that there is something good that can come out of us what are we waiting for? It’s for us to protect and showcase that interest to the world that yes we can- we also can do it,” said Otunba Segun Runsewe, Director-General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC).

Recently, Euromonitor, the world’s leader in strategy research for consumer markets recently released its annual World Travel Market Global Trends Report 2012 at the just-concluded London’s World Travel Market (WTM), in which it highlighted Nollywood as a major driver of tourism in Nigeria and the rest of Africa, thus further confirming economics experts’ position on the viability of non-oil sectors like tourism and entertainment as potential revenue earners.

For this year’s edition of the annual report, the Euromonitor Trends Report for 2012 noted among others that technological innovation remains the driving force between the rise of smart TVs and creating new opportunities for travel brands, while also acknowledging that Nigeria’s film industry, Nollywood, is a magnet for intra-regional African travel.

According to the report, Nigeria’s film industry, Nollywood, remains the world’s second largest in volume terms, after Bollywood (India) and ahead of Hollywood (United States), with over 2,000 films produced annually.

While it noted that Nollywood films are popular in many African countries including Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Gabon, Kenya, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo and Gambia, the Euromonitor revealed that in these African countries, Nollywood films are distributed through TV channels and DVDs and are more popular than Hollywood films.

“Another important foreign market for Nollywood films is the vast Nigerian Diaspora overseas, with significant numbers in the United Kingdom, the United States and South Africa,” said Caroline Bremner

Global Head of Travel and Tourism Research, Euromonitor International.

In driving tourism in Nigeria as well as the rest of Africa as an emerging trend, the report noted with Lagos as the centre of the Nigerian film industry, with many films shot in the Festac area of the city, Nollywood has helped to change stereotypes about Nigeria, by highlighting its culture, norms, creativity and hospitality.“The huge popularity of Nollywood films attracts domestic and regional African tourists to Nigeria, visiting film locations with arrivals to Nigeria expected to record a 3 per cent CAGR over 2012-2016, mainly due to intraregional tourism fuelled by expanding African economies,” the report stated.

Observing that the popularity of Nollywood will be a major growth driver with the leisure sector, attracting film fans and business travel boosted by the growing economic importance of the film industry, the report noted that the situation has spurred the emergence of several film villages being developed throughout Nigeria.

“Abuja Film Village, Plateau Film City and Lagos Film City aim to boost the film industry by providing modern film, TV and audio production facilities, and also encourage tourists to visit. Thanks to increasing tourism flows, 2012 saw a boom in hotel openings in Lagos, including Radisson Blu, Four Points by Sheraton, Ibis and Legacy,” Bremner said.

Continuing, the Euromonitor Global Trends Report 2012 noted that in Nigeria presently, more hotels are under construction or in the pipeline from groups such as Hilton Worldwide, Accor, InterContinental Hotels Group and Protea.

“Airlines operating intra-regional routes will benefit, including Arik Air and Air Nigeria, while new African low-cost carrier, FastJet, is expected to start operating flights in Nigeria in future,” it revealed.

For Africa, therefore, the report summed that Destination Nollywood Nigeria’s film industry for 2012 remains the world’s second largest and attracts intra-regional visitors, drawn to its film locations and culture.

The report also highlighted that African economic growth outpaced the global average in 2012, thus boosting disposable incomes, just as it noted that the region is poised for continued strong growth in arrivals, incoming tourist receipts, air and hotel value sales in 2013.

“Intra-regional travel is crucial for the African tourism industry, due to strong business, linguistic and cultural links between many countries,” the report concluded.

Five months after announcing a new visa regime for the country aimed at boosting trade and tourism, the federal government has instructed its missions abroad to ensure that the processing and issuance of Nigerian visas to foreigners intending to visit the country does not exceed 48 hours.

Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Olugbenga Ashiru, who announced the latest directive at the signing of “Performance Contract” with Heads of Nigerian Missions in the United States of America at the Nigeria House in New York, said government would no longer condone cases of delays in visa issuance to investors and visitors

“Heads of missions are to hold their individual officers accountable for the delivery of agreed outcome such as the number and timeliness of visas and passports issued, the periodicity and quality of reports that are rendered, among other deliverables,” said Ashiru.

The minister further warned that any officer who cannot live up to the highest standard of efficient service delivery, would find it difficult to operate in the new environment that the ministry sought to create.

It would be recalled that the country’s highest decision-making body, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) Wednesday, June 13, approved a new visa regime which aims at securing the nation’s borders, boosting tourism, attracting foreign direct investments and opening up the economy for employment opportunities.

Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, who made the disclosure at a media briefing on the outcome of the weekly FEC meeting in company of the Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro stated that under the new visa  regime, some class of visitors would obtain their visas at the point of entry especially the international airports.

He stated further that depending on the purpose of the visit, foreigners coming into Nigeria are now to be issued visas under the following visa regime, short stay, long term of up to 10 years, temporary stay, permanent residence or the new category of investment or skill transfer visa.

Elucidating further, Moro said that the new visa regime has been approved by the Council, noting that the assumption and dynamics on the basis of which the nation’s old policy was based has changed in line with the realities of the times.

He noted that the recent security challenges facing the country, necessitates multifaceted approach to the problems including a very vital component of fighting internal security such as the mode of entry and exit to and from the country.

“So today, we have a new visa regime that contains some innovations in the sense that new elements are being introduced in line with the strategic interest of Nigeria and of course most other areas still have to be based on the principle of reciprocity. We have a visa policy in place now that is targeted at boosting tourism, attracting foreign direct investments, opening up the economy for employment opportunities and above all, a policy that seeks to secure our borders,” he stated.

Continuing, Moro said: “We now have visa at entry point. So, if a businessman, a tourist or a business delegation or a government delegation has reason to visit Nigeria at short notice to do business with Nigeria and if by any coincidence we don’t have embassy in such country, such delegation or group can come to Nigeria and obtain their visas at port of entry particularly at international airports. Of course, this is without prejudice to ensuring our internal security.

“We have short stay visa, long term visa up to 10 years, we have temporary stay visa, we have permanent resident visa and of course a new introduction now is that we have investment or skill transfer visa category. In this case, if you have a particular level of investment you want to make in Nigeria that can add value to the economy of the country, you can be given certain category of visa. In conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Labour if we classify certain skills as valuable to Nigeria that will don’t have here then we can on the basis of such skills grant you visa,” Moro explained.

The Interior Minister regretted the non-enforcement of expatriate quota, saying that under the new visa regime, government has now introduced appropriate mechanism that will make it easier to monitor compliance.

United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Ulysses Prize for Excellence in the Creation and Dissemination of Knowledge, has announced Mr. Cohen, the George S. Wise Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as winner.

The prize is awarded annually to scholars for their contribution to the development of tourism education and research.

“Throughout his illustrious and varied academic career, Mr. Cohen’s tourism expertise has always shone through,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, “Whether researching education, religion, or Diaspora, Mr. Cohen never fails to find the links with tourism. In highlighting these complex relationships, Mr. Cohen continuously reminds us of the cross-cutting nature of tourism and its relevance to all of our lives.”

A founding member of the International Academy for the Study of Tourism, Mr. Cohen has served as Sociology Editor of Annals of Tourism Research since 1976. His current research areas include post-modern trends in travel, tourism, and disasters, festivals, and heritage tourism.

The UNWTO Ulysses Prize for Excellence in the Creation and Dissemination of Knowledge will be presented on November 15 during the UNWTO Awards Ceremony in Istanbul, Turkey. The winners of the UNWTO Award for Lifetime Achievement and the UNWTO Ulysses Awards for Excellence and Innovation in Tourism will also be awarded in Istanbul.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA), Mr. Shao Qiwei, and the founder of the international hotel chain Melia Hotels, Mr. Gabriel Escarrer Julia, have both been named as first winners of the UNWTO Award for Lifetime Achievement.

The UNWTO Award for Lifetime Achievement was established in 2012 as an annual award recognizing those individuals who have demonstrated excellence throughout their tourism careers and who serve as inspirational role models.

“UNWTO is extremely proud to award Mr. Qiwei, Chairman of CNTA, and Mr. Escarrer, founder of Melia Hotels International, the Award for Lifetime Achievement,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.

“Mr. Qiwei has played a pivotal role in the development of Chinese domestic and international tourism since taking up his position as Chairman of CNTA and President of the China Tourism Association (CTA),” said Mr. Rifai, “Under his leadership, China has become one of the world’s tourism leaders, contributing also to the growing political recognition of the sector.”

The panel of judges highlighted Mr. Qiwei’s involvement in identifying tourism as a “strategic pillar” of China’s economy by the Chinese government, a decision pinpointed by UNWTO as one of the factors behind the country’s extraordinary tourism success of recent years.

Congratulating Mr. Escarrer, Mr. Rifai said: “This award recognizes Mr. Escarrer’s leadership and vision in promoting a responsible tourism sector. Gabriel Escarrer established Melia Hotels International in 1956 at the age of 21, a hotel chain which is today one of the largest in the world, sharing the benefits of tourism with his employees and society.”

In addition to his business expertise, the panel of judges praised Mr. Escarrer for his pioneering work in corporate social responsibility at a time when this was far from most businessperson’s minds, particularly his early commitment to employee working conditions.

The UNWTO Awards for Lifetime Achievement will be presented on November 15 during the UNWTO Awards Ceremony in Istanbul, Turkey. The winners of the UNWTO Ulysses Prize for Excellence in the Creation and Dissemination of Knowledge and the UNWTO Ulysses Awards for Excellence and Innovation in Tourism will also be awarded in Istanbul.