The Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke, has discussed with the Vice Minister for Culture of the People’s Republic of China how improving cultural and tourism ties between the two countries can strengthen a successful trading partnership.
They met during a visit to Abuja by Mr. Ding Wei. Chief Edem Duke praised the close relationship between the countries, saying “We must work with our Chinese friends to learn from and walk in the footsteps of some of their achievements, using our own diversity and culture as major building blocks.”
In turn Mr. Wei thanked Chief Edem Duke for his dedication to strengthening cultural and economic ties, and paid tribute to the people of Nigeria. “I’m very impressed by the culture, by the tradition, by the sincerity of the people and by the sincere desire to develop this important relationship between China and Nigeria,” he said. “I think this is the driving force for our future relationship.”
The two ministers met on the day of the opening of a Chinese cultural centre in Abuja, which follows the opening of a similar Nigerian cultural centre in the Chinese capital, Beijing, in 2012. Both establishments are celebrated as symbols of the valuable and enduring relationship between the two countries, and Mr. Wei stated that they were a window not only between Nigeria and China, but also between China and Africa.
Mr. Wei highlighted key proposals that China believes will help improve cultural and economic ties with Nigeria, including the need for full implementation of the Beijing Action Plan. Chief Edem Duke confirmed his commitment to the plan and highlighted the important role that Nigeria – by far Africa’s most populous country – plays within the continent, and its responsibility for leading the way in cultural and economic collaboration with China in this respect.
Another item on Mr. Wei’s agenda was cultural investment and the influence of culture in the marketplace – something that is of great importance in China. In particular Mr. Wei proposed that China and Nigeria should promote each other’s cultural products, for example local arts and crafts, in their respective countries, and said he believed the newly-opened cultural centres could play a pivotal role in this.
Chief Edem Duke agreed, saying “We have always said that 170 million Nigerians have 170 million unique forms of creativity and talent, and there are things that each and every one of us can do with the creativity of our mind and with the dexterity of our hands.” However, he believes the challenge lies in quality control and in maintaining standardisation, particularly with arts and crafts products, and asked for Chinese expert assistance with this.
The two ministers agreed on the huge success of Nigerian Culture Week in China, sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation earlier this year. The latest three-day event, held in Nanjing during October 2013, gave local Chinese people a taste of Nigerian food as well as customs, art, fashion, music and dance tradition. The Chinese minister was keen to return the favour and proposed that a performing arts group from China take part in the vibrant Abuja Carnival.
Chief Edem Duke also announced a programme of tour packages to tempt tourists from China to Nigeria for spectacles such as the Abuja and Calabar carnivals, which attract 50,000 revellers and two million spectators from around the world.
Finally, both ministers thanked the press and acknowledged the role the media play in building a bridge between the peoples of China and Nigeria. Mr. Wei believed that “mutual understanding is the first step for friendship, for economic, for any kind of relations”.
Chief Edem Duke took his praise a step further, recognising the important role that the media play in the promotion of both countries on the world stage. He called for the media to get behind the building of cultural ties with China and the rest of the world, saying that the relationship between the media and cultural and economic growth “is a very critical partnership that we must strengthen”.
Finally, Chief Edem Duke summed up the unique and vital role that each country’s culture plays, not only between each other, but also around the world. “Culture is a platform that has no colouration, it has no political party, it has no religious calling,” he said. He declared his hope that sharing Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage could “open doors into open hearts and open minds for a mutual understanding of our people.”