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Akwa Ibom: Sustainable Development in Nigeria’s Prime Investment Destination

By Udeme Etukeyen

Seen from afar, Nigeria is one large African nation and the continent’s most robust economy, but within the powerhouse that Nigeria represents, there are several engines that drive the economy. Best known is Lagos State, which includes Nigeria’s largest city and economic capital, but beyond there a less known success stories that merit global attention.

Of Nigeria’s 36 states, debatably the most impressive is Akwa Ibom state, led by Governor Udom Emmanuel, elected only three years ago.

Just last month, Governor Emmanuel commissioned seven new roads with 34 additional roads planned to provide over 2000 jobs to the state and stimulate commerce among Akwa Ibom’s population of four million.

A noted adherent of impact investing, Emmanuel selects projects for his state that add value beyond the sums marked on contracts or the profit margins racked up by contractors. Public benefit must be calculated in far more sensitive and inclusive terms, and Governor Emmanuel’s Sustainable Development Agenda over the last 1096 days does just that.

Agriculture

With Africa’s 65% of its land still unexploited and food imports debilitating local economies, Akwa Ibom’s developmental finance strategy included a technical committee on agriculture and food sufficiency which broadened the “Dakkada” mindset in youth people, women and the elderly. With increased acreage of cultivated land growing by over 40,000 hectares comprising now 11,000 hectares earmarked for an ongoing coconut plantation, 24,000 hectares for new rice projects including two rice mills, 3,000 hectares of cassava lantations with rehabilitated processing facilities for garri, cassava pellets, flour, and ethanol, and the rehabilitation of competitive oil palm and cocoa estates, Akwa Ibom’s position as a leading food producer and exporter in Nigeria is assured.

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The state government has facilitated thousands of high yield seedlings of oil palm, plantain suckers, maize and citrus seeds to ensure optimal source of farm input for its local population. The state policy on agriculture is firmly hinged on mitigating food scarcity, ensuring food sufficiency and security which impacts over a million households.

The Ibom Greenhouse Project has induced export capabilities for vegetables, tomatoes, cucumber, encouraging a massive response by young farmers to take up various forms of agriculture as a new economic mainstay. The government via partnerships with investors has also established a fertilizer blending plant at Abak, a meat processing facility project at Itam, a cattle ranch at Adadia, and an Akwa prime hatchery at Mbiaya and other strategic agribusinesses and related technical services.

To date over 20,000 hectares of land have been cleared providing businesses and economic activity for equipment owners, farmers, input producers and direct/indirect jobs for households within the state and beyond. Akwa Ibom is positioned to feed her people and indeed the nation, making Akwa Ibom an attractive investment destination for those interested in the agribusiness sector.

Industrialization

The innovative industrialization policy of Akwa Ibom State merits some comment too. Leading a much-needed and highly progressive departure from an epoch of oil revenue dependency and federal allocations Akwa Ibom state has understood that the key to industrialization is increasing power generation. The governor has seen to this by securing additional licensing for the state-owned power company increasing capacity from 190MW to 685MW, unlocking distribution via massive investment in substations and feeder lines, and installing a network of new power infrastructure around the state enabling parts of the state capital with 15-18 hours of power per day.

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Dedicated lines and infrastructure have targeted special projects such as the airport, the Ibom Specialty Hospital and the industrial clusters in Onna, Uyo and Itu.

With both road and power infrastructure being addressed, the state government has pursued its first phase of its ambitious industrialization agenda by delivering an Electric Digital Metering Plant providing metering solutions that unbundle the legitimate concerns of investors, namely tracking power tariffs.

The state is also proud of its strategic investment in syringe manufacturing with capacity large enough to cater to Africa’s 2.4 billion-strong demand for syringes by producing 350 million units with capacity to upscale to 1 billion, adequate to cater for both local and international markets.

The state has also increased progress in a proposed flour mill within the Onna Industrial Cluster.

Hundreds of Akwa Ibom daughters and sons have been trained abroad to take up various technical and managerial aspects of these investments as part of the 350-strong human-power needs of the cluster.

As part of the overall vision, companies like the Peacock Paints Factory in Etinan have received fresh funding and rehabilitation, several state-owned enterprises and assets have become the prize possession of new investors who’ve encouraged that resources be assigned to business development from the state’s investment structure.

The recent establishment of the Itu Cluster which houses the Akwa Ibom Enterprise and Employment Scheme (AKEES) has promoted the creation and opening of a state-of-the-arts toothpick factory, pencil production and particle wood processing facility as well as bamboo conversion facilities increasing economic impact with 200 new, direct jobs and 400-500 indirect jobs, and creating foreign exchange opportunities with these products as exports.

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With several MOUs and EOIs in place, the state continues to be the second highest destination for FDI in Nigeria, and prospects for growth in the SME sector look promising. International development agencies and the private sector are both positioned to forge the development of the state’s growing MSME sector. As negotiations result in executable action the huge FDI gap between Lagos and Akwa Ibom states lessens while under-developed opportunities in the later promise to render Akwa Ibom an increasingly attractive investment destination.

Overall Socio-Economic Impact

In creating the Economic Strategy and Investment Plan, Governor Emmanuel has been clear in stating that a major plank of his government would be to harness developmental projects that would deliver maximum returns on investment and create employment opportunities for the people of the state while catalyzing food production. His vision for the future is “to transform the economy of our state via industrialization and sustain public-private-sector initiatives, and thereby opening up opportunities for growth and improved living standards,” the governor stated, “and to continuously develop, mobilize, and empower our women and youth via planned and well-articulated capacity-building programmes…” The state’s target, he said was to “provide trade, commerce and tourism between Akwa Ibom and the rest of Nigeria, and in fact, the rest of the world.”

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Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan.

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