I am currently in the lobby of the hotel Metropolitan in downtown Calabar in Cross River State in Nigeria. I don't know how long or how often I'll be able to blog as my office at the state tourism bureau only gets 2 hours (sometimes) of rationed time per day and the internet connection is beyond woeful so this will not be regular by any means, but I'm willing to give it a go.
My first few days here have been a bit of a crash course in doing business in Nigeria and in a lot of countries in West Africa, unfortunately. Government here is quite frustrating, but the current state governor and the new president seem to be trying to make some legitimate reforms. But there is a lot of inertia and there are many, many people who depend on government's inability to function to properly.
But this program, though, has potential to get some decent work done, I think. It is a new model that is a hybrid of some other development approaches, but we are literally just beginning a very specific process. Our approach doesn't address issues with the regional or national government, infrastructure or even medium term planning for the state, but it is a beginning.
Something I am excited about is that I will be meeting with some planning and geography professors and grad students tomorrow. Alvin, my program director, and I will be talking with them. We hope to be able to harness some of that expertise to build up a parallel structure that will assist our businesses and the tourism industry in general with their technical expertise. We are a bit wary, as one or two have exhibited some behavior that indicates some rather large egos and control issues, but what PhD doesn't suffer from that? I'm hoping we can work with them, as they are too vital a resource to not exploit and they are necessary if we're serious about trying to get this prospective "cluster" up and running.
On a more personal note, I am becoming addicted to tea. Just regular english black tea but I get it each morning and evening at breakfast and dinner. I will have to continue drinking it when I get back home.