In northern Nigeria, the town of Kano was once one of the best tourist and cultural centers. In recent years the industry has suffered, but the National Institute for Hotel and Tourism is working hard to revive it. Voice of America English to Africa reporter Isiyaku Ahmed is in Kano.
A traditional trumpet sounds, along with gunshots and traditional drums, at any durbar festival -- a colorful horse-riding event. This like many other attractions used to draw tourists to Kano. But now the sites are rundown because of government neglect and a lack of involvement by the private sector.
Munzali Dantata is the director general at National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism in Kano. She says, “the present state of tourism in Kano state has not been encouraging. It has been on the downward trend, which is unfortunate because Kano has been in the forefront [of the] tourism industry in Nigeria, and Kano has always had important tourism attractions.”
But many of those attractions are in bad shape. Among them are the Gidan Makama museum, which was constructed in the 15th century, and the Kano city walls and gates, built in the eleventh century to protect inhabitants against invaders.
Other attractions include monkeys, lions, and other indigenous animals of the Falgore game reserve. There are also the Tiga and Kusalla dams and Kano state’s pits, known for dying clothes.
The decline of these sites means less tourism, and a struggle for traders, who depend on selling hand-made bags, shoes and necklaces.
Dantata says tourism in Kano has suffered for a very long time,
“The drift has not been sudden. That is why I will not pinpoint just one occurrence or one happening. It has been taking place gradually. For example, [the towns of] Tiga and Bagauda have been going backward. (However), today Bagauda has been given to the Federal Government to open a law school, and Tiga is running a training hotel. But Kano state government is not promoting tourism attractions there any more, which is unfortunate.”
Dantata says his institute is organizing seminars and workshops to sensitize the government and the people of Kano state to the need for revamping the industry.
He says poor infrastructure -- like roads, power supplies, and security -- are some of the factors affecting tourism -- not just in Kano state, but in Nigeria as a whole.
He also says if the government and people of Kano state promote tourism, there will be remarkable progress and development.
Aliyu Salisu Barau is an environmentalist and a lecturer at the Federal College of Education, Kano. He agrees with Dantata that tourism in Kano is not faring well, “If nothing is done to reverse the situation, Kano will definitely lose its place in the economy and industry of Nigeria.”
Barau says the government and the private sector need to work together to develop tourism in Kano state.
Dantata says there’s already an example of such cooperation – in the town of Calabar in the eastern Nigerian state of Cross River. The Cross River state government, under a public-private partnership with banks and other investors, has created a world-class business resort and free trade zone known as Tinapa. Dantata says, “Tourism is acknowledged to be a private sector-led industry, there’s no doubt about it. But, the private sector has to be propelled by the public sector, which should create an enabling environment. So the ball is in the court of the Kano state government which should re-energize tourism.”
The National Institute for Hotels and Tourism is now holding meetings with the government and private sectors to ensure that tourism gets the attention it needs.
Kano state was created in July 1967 out of the defunct Northern Region. The town of Kano serves as a center for commerce and trade between northern Africa and the Sahel.
Northern Nigeria still depends on the shared revenues of oil sold by the south and east. Unemployment is high in Kano and neighboring states.
Development experts say reviving tourism could bring relief for thousands of Nigeria’s unemployed.