How Emdee Tiamiyu is Using Virtual Reality To Enhance Tourism in Nigeria


Tourism is big business! Across the world, millions of dollars exchange hands through the many sub-sectors of the global tourism industry. 

Interestingly, Africa has so many tourism potentials, often underexplored and Nigeria happens to be one of the least considered spots by tourists. From weak government policies to insecurity, to poor infrastructures; there are many factors resisting tourism from thriving. 

In the face of this, GirongVR is changing the narratives by adopting technological innovations to promote tourism through Virtual Reality (VR) with folks like Emdee Tiamiyu leading the pack.

GirongVR, Nigeria’s first Virtual Reality for Local Tourism company with the tagline "experience the experience", based in Kano State, Nigeria, (this tech start-up) is leveraging technology to promote tourism.

Though Virtual Reality (VR) has been in existence since the 1980s, the technology is just being appreciated and used by people around the world. 

Emdee Tiamiyu, the co-Founder and CEO of GirongVR, in this chat with ALLI ABIOLA of, talks on how GirongVR is positioned to help Nigerians and the foreigners visit the most beautiful tourist Sites in Nigeria without moving an inch and being financially stressed.


ALLI ABIOLA of In simple terms, how will you introduce the concept of Virtual Reality?

EMDEE Tiamiyu of GirongVR: VR is a technology that started way back and it allows users to experience something that is very far away or places they cannot afford to be in physical presence. So, because the way we feel (the way human beings feel), we feel from the information we receive from our eyes and it is processed by our brains; and it gets into our nervous system. 
VR brings the experiences that make you feel almost like you're in the actual place. It uses gadgets to create artificial feelings that are absolutely real because your body doesn't know the difference between an event that is happening and an event that you're just feeling via a device.

ALLISAY: What solution has GirongVR being able to provide?

EMDEE: As a company, we are quite excited about tourism and so what we want to be able to do is deliver local tourism to Nigerians and everybody else across the globe with VR and this comes through a passion of traveling across the country and knowing how beautiful this country is and being able to democratize that experience for people who do not have the means or are afraid of all of the challenges that are tied to traveling and so instead of facing all of the risks, we have decided to help people get the experience and that is why our icon and slogan is experience the experience.

ALLISAY: How is the experience like creating 'Virtual Reality experience'?

EMDEE: Well, it is not something you can actually describe with words, it until you have the feeling of it and so everybody can describe it from different perceptive but I think it is something very exciting. It is something very exciting because it transforms you and then research has also shown that it is therapeutic because it helps people get better. (you know) it can help you relieve stress and so there are applications of VR for Medicine and Health generally.

In fact, there is a health conference that we are participating in and we are going to be discussing and showcasing again the health and medical benefits of VR.

ALLISAY: What interests you about Virtual Reality development?

EMDEE: Basically, I am excited about technology generally and one of the things that got me excited about VR is that it is futuristic and I am someone who lives and believes in the future. VR is a futuristic technology that is not yet explored like that, I want to be the first set of people that get involved with it and the fact that it fuels my passion, I have a passion for tourism and that’s what drives me.

ALLISAY: As a VR expert, do you think Nigeria is ready for Virtual Reality?

EMDEE: Girong VR is technically the first VR for local tourism company for VR for local tourism. What people do on VR are movies and games and those things are exciting and great. You shoot a zombie, you kill something on the screen and it is exciting and you're shouting. What we want to do, is help people experience places like the Tafawa Balewa tomb, Olumo rocks, Ikogusi hot and cold water spring, Yankari game reserve, from anywhere they are in Nigeria, regardless of their tribes and location. 

How do we create this? We have gadgets. We also have skilled people on the team, technical people who put all of the imagery and special videos, 9D videos that we get. They put everything together in a narrative, that when you come into our experience centre and you book yourself for a trip, you're going to get the experience that is close to what people get even when they travel to those places.
Somehow yes, we cannot conclude on the question because there are not even enough VR places yet. But for us, we are about 165 days old (as of 20th April 2019). 

We are still new as a company but the reception has been very excellent. A whole lot of our customers have had the cause to come back and even bring their friends because VR is one experience you cannot resist. I will say yes, but we will still need a couple of more years to decide if Nigerians are ready or not.

ALLISAY: In an unusual field of practice like VR, feedbacks are important. What has been the feedback rate for GirongVR and how does this affect the management's actions?

EMDEE: Feedback for GirongVR have been excellent and good. Our customers love the experience. They want more. If there is anything they want, they want more from us. Every time they come, they are like, oh! I want to see this, I want to see that and every month, we also have a work plan that drives us to create newer contents to cover new places and beyond just digitizing these places, we are also building partnerships with organizations. 

Like this year by Gods grace, we plan to have a post-humous birthday for Sir Tafawa Balewa in his home place, Bauchi state. We are doing this because of the feedback we got from people. People want to be able to connect to history beyond just visiting the places in VR. 

People want to be able to connect to history.

ALLISAY: In your own opinion, how encouraging is Technology acceptance by African Government and are you receiving support either from Private or Government institutions?

EMDEE: The government is trying. I have not been a beneficiary of the government. We as a team GirongVR have not been a beneficiary of government but I have heard the government is supporting businesses. I won't write the government off but just like in any sphere of life, there is a lots more to do like encouraging people beyond ‘just lip-service’ and creating policies. 
The government can do a lot more in building ecosystems, providing electricity (first and foremost) because we spend lots of money providing power for ourselves because you cannot create this kind of experience without constant power supply. All of our systems run on power. I am not looking for any direct help from the government. I am only looking for a simple and easy way to make life easy for people that are not even in VR business. 

Everybody in other industries and businesses will tell you this. The government can do more generally.

ALLISAY: Virtual Reality has been around since the 1980s. Why is the technology just being appreciated & why are people just excited now?

EMDEE: Just like everything that you don't own, you have to wait for it to come your way or you ask for it. VR is one of those things. People are just getting to know it and demand is just coming up and again, it is not a cheap technology.

VR is a very expensive technology. It cost a whole lot of money to get the gadgets and get the environment together and that is why the acceptance is still slow. It is a risky business now because you are putting in all of your money buying the gadgets, getting the expertise. 
You are paying staffs and all of that. With time, it will get cheaper, affordable and hopefully, more people will get on board.

ALLISAY: Is there any health implications on the use of VR?

EMDEE: There is a lot of positive health implications in using VR. Like I said earlier, there is a bunch of research that proves that VR actually helps people with their cognitive and receptive skills. People who are going through rehab, physiotherapy make up, like after first surgeries get better. VR is used in the United States (of America) to help people recover faster.

There is a lot of health benefits of Virtual Reality and we are trying to test those things before the end of the year. There is a conference that we are a part of in Abuja, where we shall be showcasing some interesting part of VR for attendees of the health conference. 

For the other side of it, it is recommended for young people below the age of 5 not to get close to some advanced part of VR. There are safety measures while using VR. For instance, if you're watching contents that make you steady, you have to be in a stable environment. Usually, we advise people to use their seatbelts because your body cannot differentiate whether it is real or whether it is virtual. 

You may want to jump into the ocean because you see an ocean on the screen and if there is nothing guarding the person, he or she could just jump. A large number of people have been wounded. You probably may have seen lots of videos online. The safety of our customers is paramount and it is the first thing we get done.  Thus, the positive health benefits of VR outweighs the negative aspects.

ALLISAY:  What are the challenges of GirongVR and virtual reality industry in Nigeria?

EMDEE: We are young and so we are struggling with every other thing that every other business struggles with. Power, Access to Finance, Access to market, etc. But we have strategies we are rolling out. One at a time, we are not so much in a hurry. We are not also lagging. We are doing all of our best, with all of the resources that we have. 
For challenges, one of the main challenges is to get the right people to work with because the technology is new and we are looking for people who can adapt quickly to learn, build upon the skills that we already have, so they could become VR developer.

ALLISAY: Where do you see GirongVR in 5 years?

EMDEE: We are aiming for the highest. We want to be Nigeria’s and Africa's foremost Virtual Reality for local tourism business. We are also hoping to do lots of other interesting things. A lot of them I can't share in this interview, because they are our trade secret. You tend to see them, when we launch out, but then we are not sleeping. 

We are getting better at our game every day and then attracting the best minds in the tech space, to be able to create something unique. We are also aiming to be Nigeria's No.1 Exporter of tourism using technology. Beyond just taking people for excursions, we want to be able to deliver our local tourism to the global market. So, just watch out for us.
Some of them were cold at the start, but when we did an exhibition for them, their students never wanted us to go, they wanted more. Even the schools now are trying to build Virtual Reality Experiences into their open day or closing ceremony, so their students can have something different and something unique, futuristically unique. The future is very awesome we can only expect the best.

ALLISAY: Any difference between Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality?

EMDEE: Well, there are. Augmented reality is something different from Virtual Reality; there is a slight difference. VR is completely different, where everything you see is either recorded and played to you or was graphically designed. 

AR mixes the virtual with actual objects. For example, you could play lawn tennis on an actual lawn tennis court, so there are two players on the field, one player at one end, one at the other end. The only real thing is that they are on a court. The ball is virtual. 

So, that is an example of Augmented Reality, you sweat real sweat. You jump up and down. You move across space and there are plenty of Augmented Reality games like that. The devices are different and the coding is also different. There are plenty of differences between AR and VR but then, they are all interesting entirely.

ALLISAY: What is the future of Virtual Reality in Nigeria?

EMDEE: Bright! It is very bright, if you ask me. VR is going to get a lot more interesting. This year alone, we have done about 5 exhibitions in Kano. We have another 6 lined up. We have reached out to some of the exciting and great schools, who are pretty much excited and open to development.

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