Ikechi Uko is a pathfinder. With passion and and unquenchable hunger for knowledge, he has signposted the Nigerian travel and tourism landscape with two trademark products, Akwaaba Travel Market and Naija Seven Wonders. 

Many people do not like to stand beside Ikechi Uko. At close to seven feet tall, he makes a lot of people feel short and small. For those who lack the audacity of dreaming big dreams, they have another reason to keep their distance.  Perhaps, owing to his height, Uko keeps his ambition in the region of a skyscraper. If the goal is not large and complicated, he does not take a shot at it. Maybe it’s connected to his study of Geography at the University of Ibadan that has Arguably, one of the leading travel and tourism enterpreneurs, Uko became involved in the travel trade by happenstance when he was hired to work on a publication of tourism destinations by the late icon of Nigerian journalism, Alhaji Babatunde Jose. This project opened his eye to the goldmine in the sector and he has not looked back or done any other thing since. His love for tourism and travel was further fueled when he worked on the team of Happyland-Happyworld, one of the most promising tourism projects in Nigeria that did not quite take off. It would be the last time he worked for anyone. Between the Jose project and Happyland-Happyworld, Uko convinced himself that he had garnered enough knowledge to launch a solo effort.

His first attempt as a businessman was in publishing. The product, Travellers’ Weekend gave him the platform he needed to explore. A couple of years later, it transformed into African Travel Quarterly to embrace a bigger vision that encompassed the African continent. Uko was becoming better known at what he did, not only in Nigeria, but throughout Africa and around the world. What helped him to rise fast on the ladder of  recognition in the travel and tourism world is his hunger for knowledge. His appetite to consume information is ravenous.

The Akwaaba Travel Market which Uko established  as a platform for buyers and sellers in the African travel trade recently clocked 10 years. Uko recalled the initial challenge. For him, it was exciting because it was a new journey. He had no fear. There was nothing to lose. Organising the travel exhibition is like going to school all over again. It has not been a bed of roses. He learnt many instructive things, particularly about the attitude of Nigerians. “Every Nigerian believes he knows something about something, when in actual fact they have never really interrogated that thing. I see it manifest in so many areas.

His travails as a pathfinder aside, Uko loves the life he lives. He loves the travels, meeting people and the surprise of arriving a destination. In 10 years of Akwaaba, the last edition has been the most challenging. There was a lot to lose on account of the Ebola scourge which made countries and businesses that had booked space at the exbition to cancel at the last minute. Happening at a time that he had separated the exhibition arm from the parent company, he needed to make the corporate name stick on the mind of participants. At this time, Uko who has been working closely with his wife, Rita, all these years desires to expand the business beyond his immediate family. But what he refused to do is to copy how the travel fair is done elsewhere. He insists on developing a uniquely African type travel market. “I will enter any relationship that will help in achieving the vision. We are open to that but we have had offers where people want to buy the platform for political reasons and for some other things. That means it is no more a travel exhibition. It is probably an event. We understand this is a critical part of the whole industry which is a travel marketing platform so if there is any collaboration that extends the vision, that is why we join some international organisations like the IITF because we thought these are the sort of collaborations that we need. Locally, we have had some government agencies trying to partner or get involved. We are not interested in just doing events. We are interested in doing things that work.”

The Akwaaba Awards which is a critical component of the exhibition has become one of the most-sought-after and treasured reward plaque in the industry. But Uko does not see why a lot of people break their heads over the award. “If you make the award an event, it takes away from the exhibition, then we defeat the aim. The awards ceremony sets the stage and raises the energy that drives the exhibition. That is what creates the energy. We believe in starting strong. When we do that we can actually concentrate on the exhibition because our strength should be in the exhibition. We are not really interested in people who come for the awards and the glamour. Our concentration is on the business of the exhibition. If we are so focused on that, that’s when we sustain the process. Some of the brands that have won the awards have fizzled out. So we are more concerned about the exhibition and the value we create. We are so committed to that. An award ceremony alone cannot sustain the vision. Most brands built around awards do not survive. “Akwaaba is Uko’s biggest project yet. The logistics that goes into its planning is mind-boggling and it is a surprise that he works with a close-knit team of family members and staff. To understand the giant leap that project has taken in one decade. “The budget for the first year was less than a million. But taxes and logistics were huge. One speaker’s flight ticket alone cost $10,000, that is business class, from Germany to Nigeria. It cost more to bring international speakers than to organise the event. That was why we didn’t bother to ask for One thing that makes Uko particularly happy is the capacity of Akwaaba to attract very distinguished personalities from around the world. “We are the first to honour the guy who organised the World Cup in South Africa. After that, we started getting honours for the other people. When we did the Legends of Travel. We honoured Sir Dauda Jawara, the former president of Gambia and Captain Mohammed of Ethiopian Airline. We have honoured  the biggest Egyptologist in the world. We have two sets of awards. it is a duty for Akwaaba to add value.”

Where ever there is a travel exhibition, Uko is there. It is his classroom for knowledge. He has been at every World Travel Market since 1998. “I became a travel expert by learning to do what others do- go to travel exhibitions. I have been attending WTM since 1998 and practically every major exhibition. I attend all the workshops. We lack skills in travel and tourism. It is to give people an opportunity to learn from those who have done it well and learn. I read relevant materials. We have created a platform for people to take advantage of but people still come to ask me for help that is available to  them at Akwaaba. They ask for connections that they could have made at the exhibition. Akwaaba has succeeded in the goodwill. There is a group of people who have the knowledge and desire to see something like this. And Akwaaba has succeeded because of these people.”


Americans or Creoles." Details

Africans in Latin America
"The long and complex history of Africans and their descendants in Latin America is poorly understood in North America and even in Latin America itself. There are a number of reasons why their important story is becoming more closely studied in the United States. Afro-Latin immigrants, particularly from the Caribbean, and their U.S. born children, are becoming an increasingly noticeable population throughout the country. "

FLASHBACK. Bermuda's President Jennifer Smith and her Tourism Minister, the late David Allan introduced the Heritage Trail program at the Africa Travel Association congress in Cape Town in May, 2001, and in the following years it has grown legs. The Ministry of Tourism hosted the first conference at the Fairmont Southampton Princess Hotel. The Bermuda Department of Tourism proposed the concept of the African Diaspora Heritage Trail as a unified cross border cultural tourism initiative to educate visitors,enhance the economic viability of African Diaspora countries and conserve the essence of African descent culture and history. This cross border tourism initiative will build long term relationships between Bermuda, the Caribbean, the African nations and North America. More->

Global Africa Diaspora Summit 2012


The overall objective of the Summit is to discuss how best to harness skills and energies within the continent and abroad for the socio-economic development of Africa and boost 

synergies as well as facilitate innovation and entrepreneurship through sustainable
partnerships with the African Diaspora.

The Summit aims to popularise the Africa Diaspora Summit within the following spheres and sectors: Government; Academia; think-tanks; Business; Diplomatic Corps; Development Agencies; and the general public.

To mobilize African Citizens within the continent and in the Diaspora around the outcomes of the Summit to support the acceleration of the agenda of integration and development on
the continent.

The Summit will bring together leaders from over 60 countries, AU Member States, AU organs, various organizations working for the Diaspora, and other relevant guests.

PLACE: Sandton Convention Centre in Sandton CBD, Johannesburg, South Africa.

The African Diaspora: Current Commentary

"Over a period of almost four centuries, four million Africans were transported to North America and the Caribbean Islands in the Atlantic slave trade. Captured from their homeland and separated from their tribes and families they were enslaved in a new world, where all familiar customs were absent. The African Diaspora is the story of how Africans, though scattered dispersed, managed to retain their traditions and reform their identities in a new world. Elements of African culture such as religion, language, and folklore endured and were their links to their past lives. In the process of Americanization, Africans formed another culture known as Afro-

From ATA Archives
Past Events / Caribbean Map / Photo Archives
African Diaspora Heritage Trail / Caribbean Tourism. Projects
About Bermuda / US Consulate


Ghana - The Joseph Project
"The time has come to put an end to the negative and begin the positive. The time has come for us to till our own vineyard; to produce inner and outer wealth for ourselves. The time has come for us to stand and state," I am a proud African, proud of my land, proud of my people, committed to making the third millennium the African millennium". The Joseph Project is the code name for a series of activities, actions and interactions being spearheaded by Ghana to reestablish the African Nation as a nation of all its peoples, capable of delivering on the promise of God to Africa and the African peoples.

Good Morning, Diaspora! , with your host Jean Jabouin, heard daily, from 7:00 am to 9:00 am EST, on WSRF-AM 1580 - the only "Haitian-owned" radio station in the United States!  Listen live.:


 Events Calendar for 2009-2010

News: Air Highways to Africa: Supplement Atlantic and Pacific Routes from USA and Canada.

News: Red Sea Fashion

News: Uganda.

News, Angola,.

News: Save turtles

News. Kenya

News: Ethiopia

News:: Djibouti

.News: Causes


African Designers

News: Morocco

News: Zulu

News: Save Cheetahs

News: ATA

News: ATA

Midroc - An Ethiopia Success Story



How does Books for Africa help Darfur Children? . Go
Between January 2004 and May 2005, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) established 12 refugee camps in the border region between Chad and Sudan for Sudanese refugees fleeing the armed conflict in West Darfur. These camps are home to 250,000 registered Sudanese refugees.

African Diaspora Museum
"The Museum of the African Diaspora connects all people through the celebration and exploration of the art, culture and history of the African Diaspora.  MoAD promotes, explores, and appreciates the contributions people of African descent have made across the globe.  By reminding us that Africa is the birthplace of humankind, MoAD seeks to transform the way we perceive each other and ourselves.  MoAD celebrates how we all, as one world, have changed and influenced the history and cultures of the African Diaspora."

Diaspora Films
"Today more than at any other time there are more films by black directors, more films on the black experience and more films with featured black actors enjoyed by all audiences. Notwithstanding, the international Black communities, whether in Europe, Latin America or Africa, continue to play a disproportionately marginal role in the art of cinema."


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