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    Tuesday, May 2, 2023

    La Campagne to Build Africa's First Free Trade Zone in Antigua, Barbuda

    The first ever African Tourism Free Trade Zone in the world where anyone can go and experience Africa has been projected, as renowned Africa themed resort, La Campagne Tropicana Rainforest and Beach Resort, heads to replicate for one of the famed Caribbean Islands, Antigua and Barbuda.

    This historic resort project devoted to promoting African to the world is coming almost four decades after La Campagne, founded by Otunba Wanle Akinboboye, debuted on Nigerian scene at the Ikegun Village in Ibeju Lekki, Lagos, where it has shown the resilience and power of audacious dream and vision by Akinboboye, who then was in his late 20s, to take the world by storm.

    While he has over the years made concerted efforts at entrenching the brand in Nigeria, with a replica in Koton Karfe in Kogi State, extending to Africa by having a foot hood in Cote d’ Ivoire, among others. The world has certainly taken notice of Akinboboye’s audacious vision and what his La Campagne resort stands for, hence, the government of Antigua and Barbuda is partnering with him to establish an historic enclave in the island for Africans and the world to interact.

    Remarking on the project, Akinboboye said the resort project will be located on a 100 hectare of land at Willoughby Bay Saint Philip, which is one of the most popular and economically viable bays of the island.

    “It is a platform for the world to explore Africa. The project is a step towards bringing Africa to the world. It is time for us to stretch our hands to our brothers in the Diaspora. To connect with the entire continent of Africa from those in the Diaspora, from those in the Caribbean to Americans, to the United States of America and of course, to Brazil.

    It would be the first ever African Tourism Free Trade Zone in the world where anyone can come and experience Africa as a stepping stone to connecting with the continent. From the West, South, East, North and Central Africa, the entire continent of Africa will be represented.”

    He continued: “This project would give an opportunity to people of African descent and lovers of African throughout the world to come to a safe Africa where all the cultures can be showcased to the world. Where the world and all children of African descent that are born in the Diaspora can come, for example to learn about Yata, Camp Africa and get connected to Africa.”

    On how the project would expand the economic base of Africa, he said, “it would open doors to the different aspects of Africa to be developed and promoted, starting with expanding the economic base of the continent. We believe very strongly that out of the 1.1 billion people of African descent in the Diaspora; in Brazil, Americans and others, minimum 10 per cent would want to patronise an African themed resort.

    Nigerians and Africans can now go abroad and take advantage of the development to become expatriates. Because we believe very strongly that once the tourism free trade zone in Antigua and Barbuda is built, the other 35 Islands in the Caribbean may be interested in replicating it for their people, for their children and for the future of their children.

    I will not be surprised that Europeans, Asians, Americans and others may want it in their respective countries also as that will give them a monopoly of having a base where people can connect with the continent of Africa without visiting Africa, and as they do this, it is expanding the export capability of Africa.”

    On connecting Africa from Antigua and Barbuda, Akinboboye said the project wouldn’t just be a playground for the world to explore Africa, but will also connect Antigua and Barbuda to all Africa.

    “The idea is that when you have the first Africa Tourism Free Trade Zone, everyone will come to play there. If the Mountain fails to come to Mohammed, then Mohammed will come to the Mountain. We are taking Africa to the world. Come to Antigua and from Antigua tourists can book to come to Lagos and from Lagos they can go to different parts of Africa.

    There are about 1.2 billion people of African ancestry and so you know what that means for Africa. What has been happening for a long time is that Africans don’t know that they are first regarded as Africans and not as Nigerian, Senegalese or Gambian, others.”

    Akinboboye further said Antigua and Barbuda is located in a strategic part of the world, playing a unique role during the obnoxious slave trade era, as passage for Africans ferried across the world.

    “So, it is now time to reverse that history by making it a return passage for people of African descent in the Diaspora and others back to the African continent. Antigua is about one hour flight from Miami, and it is close to the US from almost every part and that is why it was used as a middle passageway during the slave trade era and that is why we are now using that middle passage for the return. You left on a slave ship but now it’s time to return on a boat cruise. It’s time to go back on luxurious airlines.

    So, we are no longer celebrating the poverty, the wretchedness but the prosperity of Africans. Let’s turn a disadvantage to an advantage by making sure that everybody partakes in the drinking of the lemonade that we will create from lemon through the platform.”

    On the focus of the project, Akinboboye who disclosed the project would be launched around mid May said it is purely Pan-African in terms of its offerings.

    “It is going to be African centric, with African music, Africa folklore, Africa storytelling, Africa dances, arts and crafts, all served in a unique palate for the visitors. When we do this we create endless jobs for our people because it is an African themed concept. This is why our focus is going to be a very Pan-African presentation.”

    La Campagne Boss revealed that it took 16 years to work on the project, adding, “Getting the government of Antigua and Barbuda to decide to partner La Campagne on this project, it wasn’t an easy ride as it took 16 years and countless meetings with parliament and different people. I have gone through two different prime ministers.

    It wasn’t easy because at first they did not understand the concept but now they do and they are more aggressive now than me because they gave a time limit that it must be done as quickly as possible.”

    Addressing the phases of the project development, Akinboboye said: “This is a big project that will not come easily. However, we are ready and prepared for it, having done this for about 40 years. The first phase of the project will be immediate, within the next 90 days.

    We have been at this for almost forty years and so we know how to tweak it. There are two things that we are presenting to the world African’s architecture, and its structure and culture. The culture doesn’t have to wait, so we are going to start with the presentation of the culture as we build the structure.”

    Akinboboye also disclosed that some of the initial projects and activities to commence include the African wedding paradigm by making it a wedding destination enclave.

    “The structure will come as we are building the culture, so we are going to start with African destination weddings in Antigua. We are going to take exceptional weddings to Antigua.

    Then we are going to move to some makeshift structures that will take care of day visitors (daycation) then we will start building accommodations, all of these will take off at the same time bearing in mind that it is a 100 hectare of land.”

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