An Assessment of Transport, Rural Development and Pro-poor Tourism in Nigeria
The role of transport in the social and economic development of any nation cannot be neglected. It is the pivot on which the socio-economic growth and development of countries all over the world rests (Filani, 2011). In Nigeria, beginning from the colonial times, transport development had always been associated with economic considerations. Tourism had been accepted as part of the Nigerian economic sector and so, more than twenty years ago a tourism policy was put in place. The aim of the policy, amongst others, was to promote tourism-based rural enterprises, generate employment, and accelerate rural-urban integration. It had been ascertained that “of the extremely poor (Nigerians), 85 per cent lived in the rural areas” (Canagarajah, Ngwafon and Thomas, 1997). The policy was aimed at lifting the economic level of the rural dwellers who have a higher levelof poverty than their urban counterparts. The position of this paper is that any policy that improves the welfare of the rural populace cannot but be pro-poor. Though, three poverty reduction strategies had been identified as enabling actions, indirect/inclusive actions and direct/focused actions (Cattarinch, 2001). The emphasis of this paper is on the second (indirect/inclusive actions). These are general sectoral support which may benefit the poor without targeting them directly. One of the most prominent supports is that of infrastructural development with emphasis on road networks and infrastructure. The paper had accessed the role of ransport, especially roads, in national development and especially the development of rural areas and concluded that the two (transport and rural development) are dependent on each other. An analysis of road development in Nigeria shows that it serves the urban areas more than the rural areas despite the fact that a larger proportion of people live in the rural areas. The rural areas supply food to the cities and the rural areas have the capacity to support domestic tourism. The paper had therefore appraised the National Transport Policy (NTP) in relation to tourism in Nigeria with emphasis on how it enhances tourism attractions in Nigeria’s rural areas – the unique wildlife, tracts of unspoiled nature, traditional ways of life and rich handicrafts. The conclusion of the appraisal is that the NTP cannot be supportive of tourism development in the rural areas and can therefore not support pro-poor tourism. The paper sees tourism partly as exploitation and utilization of natural resources which can not succeed without access. To enhance rural development and pro-poor tourism, our road development policy should focus more on rural roads especially tourism-site-bound roads in all parts of Nigeria. Relegation of such roads to the bottom of national, state or local government priority scale will keep tourism and its propoor capabilities at potential level in the long term. If the rural based development potentials are not tapped, the chances of the poor to achieve an improved living standard may be limited. Roads should not exist for its own sake, it is a means to an end and not just an end in itself.
Key Words: Tourism, Transport, Infrastructural development, Pro poor tourism, poverty