By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
Development partnerships are very essential in every government. This is because of the fact that government cannot do it alone but will always require collaborations with development partners.
Sometimes, government provides enabling environment while the partners provide technical and funding supports for a particular project.
Perhaps, Abia State Government may have considered the essential roles development partners play in developing a place when it forged a partnership with Google for Google SME Community Launch.
This venture is a platform that provides Google ICT backbone to support small businesses. This will manifest through giving SMEs global visibility through free internet support facilities.
This initiative demonstrates Google’s global commitment to the growth and development of SMEs across the world. The two countries selected in Africa Kenya and Nigeria for the pilot project, while three cities: Aba, Lagos and Kaduna are selected in Nigeria.
Already, the programme has afforded free training for 150 youths in the state. These Google Certified Internet Programmers would now be deployed to different business clusters in Aba to train small business owners on the use of digital platforms to expand the scope of their businesses.
The programme is also expected to establish 20 Google based internet platforms in strategic locations in Aba Aba to provide free internet services to business clusters.
This initiative does not only serve as a boost to the soaring status of Abia as an SME hub but is a reflection of the state’s track record in exploring development partnerships.
It would be recalled that recently representatives of the Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND Foundation) and other international development partners including the European Union Niger Delta Support Programme paid a courtesy visit to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s to congratulate Abia Government clinching the first at the State Pitch Development Plan Competition at the 2018 Niger Delta Development Forum (NDDF).
It is gladdening to note that one of the highlights of the visit is an understanding to forge a long-term development plan in Abia State.
Earlier, a private public partnership has been entered into between the state government and Crown Realties PLC for the development of Enyimba Industrial Zone as an economic hub and free trade zone. This arrangement would enable the private partner through a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to design, develop, construct, operate and manage a 7,500 hectares area as a functional mixed use commercial and industrial zone.
The project targets over 625,000 jobs, urban housing of over 300,000 units, urban population of more than 1.5 million people. It is also projected to provide more than 2,000 industrial/ business units, with estimated annual value output of more than $5 billion.
It is proposed to develop a new Industrial Township in Aba, spanning from Akwa Ibom State boundary of Abia State to Imo State boundary, on a West/ East of Enugu/Port Harcourt highway and covering 9600 Hectares to include Industrial Park, Logistics, Entertainment Village, Medical, ICT hubs, among others.
The project is also designated as a Special Economic Zone by the Federal Government and will have Free Trade Zone status with the intention of connecting South-East states and four out of the six states in the south-south.
While the vision of the project is to develop a connected global business hub in southeast Nigeria; the mission is to create economic hub central to the nine southeast and south-south states linked with high grade access roads, rails, airport and seaports that will transform the region into a manufacturing and industrial powerhouse, with ancillary drivers of commerce, logistics, entertainment, education, health and lifestyle living.
Some of the infrastructure to be provided in the city include a gas basin because of the abundant gas deposits in the state and a narrow-gauge rail line, which will link Abonima wharf and Onne wharf in Port-Harcourt to Aba.
Development partnerships are in vogue. Majority of the economies in the world are diversifying to the non-oil sector.
For instance, Saudi Arabia’s 10th Development Plan, for the period 2015-19, emphasises the need to diversify the country’s economy and reduce its reliance on oil, which accounts for 90% of fiscal revenues and 80% of export revenues, and also highlights the need to provide livelihoods for future generations.
Industrial enterprises that can add value to the Saudi economy in this way will find businesses in the Kingdom keen to engage in joint ventures, and will also be able to tap government funds and land to facilitate project development.
Also, the Saudi Arabian Company for Industrial Investment was formed in 2014 with SR2bn ($533m) in capital and will invest SR7.5bn ($2bn) in the next five years in a programme targeting conversion industries that rely on non-oil manufactured products, including petrochemicals, plastics, fertilisers and steel. The company is a joint venture between Saudi Aramco, Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) and the Public Investment Fund.
In 2012, South Africa entered into partnership with State Power Utility Eskom and the Clinton Climate Change Initiative (CCI) to build a solar park in the Upington district of the Northern Cape Province.
The project will generate 5,000 megawatts of solar clean power for feeding into the national grid, forming about 11 percent of the country’s power capacity. It was expected to create around 12,300 construction jobs and more than 3,000 operations and maintenance jobs.
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