Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State, has one of the largest concentrations of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and a good number of them are engaged in leather works, steel fabrication and garment making. These have made the city very popular.
A survey carried out by the United Nations revealed that the Aba leather cluster consists of 11,000 enterprises with 23,000 employees and earns an annual turnover of $100 million.
The garment sector is estimated to have more than 20,000 artisans fully engaged in garment making and designs.
The role of micro, small and medium scale enterprises (MSMEs) cannot be overemphasised given its relevance in resource mobilisation, utilisation and overall contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of a nation.
It serves as the engine of economic growth and development, as it responds to the macro-economic problems militating against developing nations like Nigeria.
It is pertinent to note that the ‘Made-in-Abia Product Exhibition’ was a bold attempt to promote locally made goods by Abia people, within Abia environment, to accelerate the economic development of the state.
It was also unique because the initiative came from the office of the governor’s wife, Mercy Odochi Orji. The office made all the necessary connections to bring together committed and interested people from the public and the organised private sector under a public-private partnership (PPP) initiative.
Governor Theodore Orji was impressed with the project and strongly commended the initiative from Her Excellency’s Office in its entirety.
He was also full of praise for the public and the private sectors of the society that shared in the dream, by coming together to begin the process of taking Abia-made products to the next level and with renewed confidence.
According to the governor, “I find this exhibition very unique in another special way. It is a celebration of the famed ingenuity of our people, especially our local entrepreneurs, whose ‘can-do’ spirit and legendary quality goods were once celebrated and sold all over the world under false labels, even though they were indeed ‘Aba-made’ goods.
“Aba-made-products are Abia-made products, and these are still sold through-out the countries of West Africa and the world under false labels.
“It is time for Abians to reclaim the pride of their franchise. It is my belief that the project will provide ample and timely opportunity for Abians to become proud again to market their products as Abia-made products and flaunt their ingenuity.
“Through this medium, Abians will not only reclaim our rightful place as pioneers of the Nigerian and African economic revolutions, but will once more lay the solid foundation for the new and young industries that will spring up and grow in our urban and rural areas from accelerated demand and supply of Abia-made goods”.
Continuing, the governor said, “As part of our legacy projects, our government has been building new markets and renovating or relocating old ones for better positioning and for aesthetic values. These new markets are meant to offer veritable grounds for continuous exhibition and massive exchange of goods and services that promote Abia-made-products, which fame will certainly soar after this exhibition, and new wealth created in our state”.
The governor implored Abians to employ their energies, their ingenuity and business-acumen for productive competition, through creativity and not through dishonest or criminal activities to help in building a prosperous Abia of our dream.
“I assure Abians and especially our commercially-minded citizens that there is enough room for everyone to work hard in all sectors and with honesty, create the values that will make Abia products desirable and Abia State great.
“Our government will continue to ensure the maintenance of peace and security which we have now established in the state, so that the enabling environment for business, equitable politics and the good life which our people crave for and enjoy, will be firmly established in Abia State”, he said.
The core lesson to be learnt from the exhibition is the courage and resilience of one woman, and of several people that share the same dream to promote the identity and good quality of a proud people and a proud state.
It is a lesson in the belief that working together, ordinary people, the public and the private sector can make Abia work again.
Abia is known for hosting the highest number of small and medium scale industrialists in the country, however, majority of the industrialists operate in isolation, which prompted the government to use the exhibition to bring them to the limelight.
This is where Abia has comparative advantage over other states in the country. So, the government wants to stamp that superiority by exposing hidden treasures in the state.
Nine sectors participated in the exhibition. They are metal and machine fabrication, leather and allied products, garment, wood works and carpentry, food and beverages, hair stylists and cosmetologists, auto mechanics and chemical and allied sartorial group.
Majority of these industrialists lack exposure which is not good for their businesses and the government wants to expose them through this exhibition in order for them to attract patrons.
Emezue is the chief press secretary to Abia State governor