Tourism Icon, Otunba Wanle Akinboboye Presents, Tourism Product of the Week No 30, DNA (Diaspora Nigeria Ancestry) Heritage Tours 

Otunba Akinboboye, with a twinkle in his eye, noted that DNA testing was becoming increasingly popular, not only in Nigeria, but throughout the world.

He noted that though, some may think otherwise, given recent media stories, DNA testing was not solely focused on determining the paternity of children by suspicious fathers.

Examination of DNA variations can provide clues about where a person’s ancestors might have come from and about relationships between families. This is because certain patterns of genetic variation are often shared among people of particular ethnic and regional backgrounds.

He noted that it was becoming increasingly popular for individuals to undertake genetic tests that give ancestry information, by providing estimates of the percentages of the individual’s genetic code that come from a specific region.

He also noted that genetic testing kits from companies like AncestryDNA, 23andMe and MyHeritage have become the go-to Christmas present for the person who already has everything. Worldwide, tens of millions of people who have tested their DNA, discover their ethnic links including 1 in 20 British people, and more than 26 million Americans.

Otunba Akinboboye then observed that a well known international figure who was scheduled to visit Nigeria this month had announced that although she did not have obviously Nigerian parents, her genetic profile showed a strong Nigerian connection and that she was therefore eager to visit the country.

Otunba Akinboboye attributed the interest in genetic testing in the USA to the fact that, it was effectively a nation of immigrants, many of whom had lost their links with the countries from which their ancestors emanated.

This is particularly acute among African – Americans who lost contact with their roots during the trans – Atlantic slave trade and are now trying to discover their origins and identity.

The ancestor links to Nigeria also apply to others in the Carribbean and the Americas whose forefathers were impacted by the slave trade. In support of this assertion, Otunba Akinboboye pointed to the thriving Yoruba culture of people in Cuba and Brazil.

It is with this in mind that Nigeria can and should market a tourism product that is specifically designed as the next step for those that have tested their ethnicity, identified their links with different parts/tribes of Nigeria and now want to explore their roots first hand.

He referred to this tourism product as the DNA (Diaspora Nigeria Ancestry) Heritage Tours.

Pursuant to this product, those in the diasporas who are of Nigerian ancestry but who have no direct or known family links to Nigeria will be able to visit the country and undertake a curated tour that will introduce them to Nigeria in general and the areas of the country their ancestors emanated from, in particular.

This tour package will allow these people to gain a sense of identity and an appreciation of the place their ancestors unwillingly left so many centuries ago. It will also undo the many years of misinformation they have received about Africa and Nigeria, misinformation which was and still is designed to undermine their sense of self worth.

Otunba Akinboboye then spoke of a similar programme initiated in Israel called Taglit-Birthright Israel also known as Birthright Israel or simply Birthright, which is a ten-day trip to Jewish sites in Israel, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights for young adults of Jewish heritage between the ages of 18 and 25 years old. The program is sponsored by the Birthright Israel Foundation, whose donors subsidize participation.

This programme, which is targeted at persons living outside of Israel with Jewish DNA or who have converted to Judaism, creates a sense of ownership towards the State of Israel and is no doubt a contributory factor to the almost fanatical support diasporan Jews give to their Jewish homeland.

Otunba Akinboboye mentioned that, given our government’s focus on the Nigeria diasporas and its intention to build a viable tourism industry, he believed the government should be willing to work with private sector tourism operators in putting together a framework that supports the product and ensures it becomes a success.

Such framework could include granting discounts on visa fees payable by persons using the product as well as government visibly signifying its buy in to and support of the product.

Otunba Akinboboye noted that the success of the DNA Heritage Tour product would guarantee an inflow of Forex and create employment as jobs would be generated in support of the needs of the product in areas like accommodation, transport and activities.

Otunba Akinboboye re emphasized that, in creating tourism products, we need to take advantage of our advantages.

The genetic link between Nigeria and the target market for the product, as well as such market’s curiosity about their roots creates a huge advantage for Nigeria as the only place they can visit to satisfy their urge to know more about their ancestors is Nigeria.

While I hope that hearing about this product has given young Nigerian tourism entrepreneurs and our government food for thought, I look forward to learning about another tourism product next week.

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