Business Day – It was a season of the first of some sort recently, when Olufolarin Kayode Ogunsanwo, the Alara of Epeland, accompanied by his retinue of palace officials and dignitaries, made a historic visit to Antigua and Barbuda, in the Caribbean Island.
Interestingly, the visit is happening at a time when Africa is trying to make another inroads into the island, which is noted as one of the most blessed Caribbean islands. This time, not on slave ships but cruise ships and luxurious airliners to the island, which is one of the islands in the Caribbean built by the sweat, brawn and brains of slaves from Africa.
What is playing out now is what may be described as ‘Return to Motherland’, a new move initiated by Wanle Akinboboye, renowned Nigerian and African leading tourism developer and founder/president of La Campagne Tropicana Beach Resort and Motherland Beckons, among other entities.
Through Motherland Beckons, Akinboboye is presently making historic efforts at creating the first ever Africa Tourism Free Trade Zone on the island.
The project is meant to make the island the sixth region of Africa, as it will be a playground for Africans and the world to interact and savour once again the best of Africa’s art, culture, heritage, music, dance, fashion and lifestyle among others.
The first phase of the project began with the construction of the first in the series of resorts that would dot the tourism-free trade zone.
However, it was an auspicious moment for the traditional ruler and his team, who were received by Gaston Browne, the prime minister of the island.
The visit afforded Alara the opportunity to explore the richness of the island and how his kingdom can use the new vista now on the horizon, to export its art, culture, heritage and gastronomic offerings among others for the mutual benefit of his kingdom and the island.
What makes the visit most significant is the fact that it is the beginning of a long envisaged partnership as the Alara, will in the coming days, pay regular visits to the island in furtherance of the dream of establishing cultural and economic link between his kingdom and the island.
For many, it is the dawn of a new cultural alliance between Africa and the Caribbean. Made possible by the new activation of Motherland Beckons, Antigua and Barbuda is expected as part of the new vision, to play host to African monarchs.
The vision of Akinboboye for the African Tourism Free Trade Zone is among others geared at creating a return for people of African descent. ‘‘We believe that the movement should begin from where it started.
‘‘It is in this regard that African royalties will form a major part of this Return to Motherland movement on cruise ships and luxury airliners. This is because the monarchs’ visits will be weaved around cultural, economic and educational prospects to help with the growth of the continent of Africa,’’ Akinboboye said.
Antigua and Barbuda, will according to Akinboboye, serve as the neck in the new nexus, noting that, ‘‘Africa is a body without a neck. The heads (Africans) on the continent and the Diaspora do not have a neck to connect them to the body.
But now, Antigua and Barbuda, which was the middle passage, will be the neck and connecting link to connect Africans from within the continent and those in the Diaspora to the Motherland (Caribbean), where a new marriage is proclaimed.
‘‘The monarchs will be part of the centrifugal element that would make this happen and when it does happen there will be business opportunities in all spheres to explore because what has been missing before now is that connection, which Antigua and Barbuda now offers.’’
One of the signature activities that would herald the new move is Ipada Carnival (The Return), an annual “pilgrimage” of people of African descent to the motherland.
It will feature among others; live music from 54 African countries, cuisine and fashion from the six regions of Africa and six Caribbean countries, Nefratiti – the Queen of Africa beauty pageant, and the Ose Award, to appreciate one Africa that has made an impact in the world and Africa.
In the coming days, you will be spoilt for choice when you visit Antigua and Barbuda, as you would have the opportunity of exploring endless options in tourism and business. It is this yearning gap that the Alara of Epe is hoping to latch on to promote his kingdom and fuse with the Caribbean.
Ogunsanwo is the 55th Alara of Ilara, Epe Division and the vice chairman of the Lagos State Council of Obas.
With a three years stint now on the throne of his ancestors, Ogunsanwo is committed to improving the lot of his people and kingdom hence his fascination with the beautiful and alluring island.
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