Africa: AKWAABA 2018 Brought Me Back From London, Then Took Me Back To Namibia!


You see, for me, not every event is worth attending, and certainly not every event attended is worth writing about. However, it’s an A+ in both departments when it comes to events organised by Mr. Ikechi Uko and his Team. The most recent of such events is the three-day long 2018 Akwaaba African Travel Market which held at the prestigious Eko Hotels and Suites, Lagos, Nigeria between September 9 and 11, 2018. One minute I’m studying at the London Makeup School, the next I’m moderating the Youth In Tourism panel.

Made possible by this event which brings ALL of Africa together under one roof. For anyone who is unable to attend, the reason could be anything except the fact that the notice was short. No, not an Ikechi-led event! Dates for the next edition often come ONE YEAR IN ADVANCE, which is also how I know that the 15th Akwaaba African Travel Market will hold on the 22nd to the 24th of September, 2019.

Back on Akwaaba 2018, Day 1 witnessed the Jollof Rice War between Nigeria, Ghana and The Gambia. Bringing the day to a glamorous end (after Nigeria Day and Ghana Day) was the Carnival Calabar Stage Presentation and Theme Unveiling Dinner which held at the Oriental Hotel with Host and Hostess being the Executive Governor of Cross River State, Professor Ben Ayade (represented by his Deputy) and the Chairman of Carnival Calabar Band Association, Princess Senator Florence Ita-Giwa respectively. As earlier revealed in June this year by the Governor, the theme for this year’s Carnival Calabar is AFRICANISM!

On Day 2, it was all about Africa Tour Operators! From B2B sessions to various destinations’ presentations, to the Africa Tour Operators Conference ably chaired by the Former President of NATOP, Madam Fatima Garbati. Being on any of the 3 panels which featured at Akwaaba2018 means you have been acknowledged as an authority in your field, and that, is by no means a small feat when it comes to the travel and tourism industry. Following the Chairman’s Address was the panel discussion which looked at “The Role Of DMCs and DMOs In Sustainable Destination Marketing”. This formidable panel comprised Adama Njie (MD GTB, The Gambia); Stella Fubara (Director Africa, Dubai Tourism); Didier Bayeye Greatsoul (Market Manager, Sun International, Africa Sun International South Africa); Consaga Khisa (CEO, Destination Connect), Kumneger Teketel (Organiser, MICE East Africa & Hotel Show); CEO, Wakanow, Obinna Ekezie (represented) and Mr. Ikechi Uko (AkwaabaAfTM Boss).

This day ended with the Tour Operators Awards which recognised and celebrated professional outbound Tour Operators who are at the fore of attracting and moving Africans outside their own countries to explore the abundance of the beauties of our Africa. It was beautiful and I enjoyed the honour of presenting some of the awards. Congratulations to all the recipients.


AKWAABA Day 3 was all shades of royalty as over 10 reigning Beauty Queens graced the day, adding so much color alongside popular Gollywood and Nollywood Actor, VanVicker. As if that wasn’t enough, another Queen, the Commissioner For Tourism, Anambra State, Mrs. Sally Mbanefo brought more glam to the ‘party’ with her presence.

Aviation Day then kicked off the day’s activities with theme as “Is Aviation In Africa Making Progress Or In Decline?” and panel discussions expertly moderated by the Vice Chairman of SAHCOL, Mr. Chike Ogeah.

Back on royalty, the Queen Mother herself, yours truly, Ebele Enemchukwu served as moderator on the Youth In Tourism panel which discussed “What drives the Youth Tourism Market… adventure, leisure or entertainment?”. It had on it, the most vibrant young minds in the Tourism Industry, including Odion Chigbufe (GM, Tour Brokers International); Sam Adeleke (Afro Tourism); Debbie Egwuogu (CEO, Waka With Debby); Geraldine Itoe (CEO, Novarosta Travel Company); Tina Nwanya (CEO, Nje Tours); Wonuola Olatunde Lamidi (Co-Partner, DNP Travels); Cecile Mambo (CEO, CMD Tours); and Michael Balogun (CEO, Tours2Nigeria.

Still on my favorite day, and just when I thought I had enjoyed an amazing outing thus far, magic happened! JUST LIKE THAT! I heard my name from the lips of Gbenga Adeyinka the 1st who was Host for the Lagos Day segment of Akwaaba. My business card had been picked at random and I had just emerged winner of a business class return ticket to Windhoek on Air Namibia! And to think that I was reluctant to drop my card, believing that ‘these things’ never work in my favour….. all there was to say was “Wow!!!!” Thanks to Mr. Nkereuwem Onung, CEO, Remlords Tours who encouraged me to, and Sis. Justina Okpanku who did the actual submission on my behalf. Unfortunately, the ticket admits one . Air Namibia may have done this, but I’ll remember LAGOS DAY for a long time to come. Well done to the Commissioner For Tourism, Lagos State Council Of Arts and Culture, Honourable Steve Ayorinde for the great display. The Executive Governor of Lagos State, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode sent in his goodwill message which was well delivered by the Commissioner #onlyatakwaaba.

And what will our tourism events be without the scintillating display by the Carnival Calabar revellers? In their usual fashion, the gorgeous ladies entertained all guests, with a reminder that this was ‘the tip of the iceberg’, in comparison to the annual Carnival Calabar, best described as “theatre on the road”, borrowing Mr. Gabe Onah’s words. Mr. Gabe Onah is the Chairman of the Carnival Calabar Commission. Still, don’t take my word for it……. spend Christmas in Calabar.

Completely exhausted from long travel hours from the UK and immediately into this event, I retired to yet another pleasant surprise in my Southern Sun, Ikoyi, hotel room. My very own Ubongabasi Nseobot, the Sales and Marketing Manager of the hotel sent a special package to my room. Fruits, chocolates and wine never tasted better! Is anyone turning green yet? Trace that back, and it’s all Akwaaba!

On Exhibitors, I lost count on the number featured this year, but something I couldn’t help but notice was the fact that beyond their fliers, almost all of them had some sort of souvenir for visitors. Souvenirs from two Exhibitors particularly impressed me – that from the South African stand and from the National Council Of Arts and Culture (NCAC) stand. The branding on souvenirs distributed by the latter was very deliberate and revealed a lot of support for Akwaaba2018. Thanks to the DG, NCAC, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe. Dubai Tourism’s package was rich, but just as rich as the year before.

AKWAABA African Travel Market keeps getting bigger and better, while constantly proving to be the only place “Where Africa Meets The World”. Well done to the entire AKWAABA Team, superbly led by Mr. Ikechi Uko, a man who makes organising events look so easy. He has built a system that truly works! Mrs. Rita, Chinny, Dein, Paul, Sunday, Renn, Friday, Collins, Emeka, who am I missing?…. you guys are IT!!!!!!!

Partners, Sponsors, thank you for contributing to another successful edition.

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