‘Our goal is to improve rating of Katsina in ease of doing business ’

Ibrahim Tukur Jikamshi, chairman, Katsina Economic & Investment Summit Committee, in an interview with Adeola Ajakaiye, spoke on what the state is doing to improve its national rating in the scale of ease of doing business. Excerpts:
Could you give us an insight into the current rating of your state in national scale of ease of doing business?     
To our understanding, it is only the World Bank that periodically undertakes global assessment of ease of doing business for nations and sub-nationals. In the last assessment Nigeria was ranked 169th while Katsina State was ranked 7th in ease of doing business in Nigeria. The World Bank has just commenced preparation for another round of assessment in Nigeria’s ease of doing business.
We are humble enough to realize that we could not do it all by ourselves, no matter how hard we try. Looking from within only identifies, clarifies and simplifies our challenges, not necessarily meet them. We realized that we can only go so far alone, and no more. That is why we sometime last organized an economic and investment summit with the theme “Unlocking Investment Potentials for Sustainable Development”, where we called on the investing community, local and global, to join us in this enormous but highly rewarding undertaking. To attract the best-in-breed firms and best-among-peers companies in an investors’ market where they are feted by every smart forward-looking government, region and community so as to lock in to their critical resources to unlock their vast potentials in the interest of their peoples and communities, we must make them offers that are uncommonly compelling.
What initiative does the state have in place to achieve this objective?
As I said earlier, in 2016 the World Bank placed Nigeria at 169th out of 189 nations on the Global Ease of Doing Business Rankings. Katsina State ranked 7th on the Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria, ahead of Lagos, Kano, Rivers, and Cross River States. Nigeria aspires to jump 20 places on the global Ease of Doing Business ranking. Our ambition as a state is more audacious: we intend to jump to six places and sit atop the Nigerian ranking.
In mainstream global investment circles, Katsina State meets the sustainability as well as risk-adjusted returns and political risk ratings that are fundamental requirements for economic growth.
The state ranks 12th in the prevalence of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) density and is ranked 17th in Gross State Product with average per capita of $6,022. The government and people have injected streams of social responsibility inputs in terms of type, time-frame and structure of investment, making it one of the few northern states that bring genuine benefit to its people through investments, guaranteeing maximal returns.
According to the Bureau of Public Statistics (NPS), Katsina State ranks as the 4th most populous in the country with the population of approximately 5.8 million based on the 2006 census and current estimate of 8 million with the growth rate of 3.0 percent per annum. Over 50 percent of this population is made up of young, agile men and women of between the ages 15-64 years. This gives the state the advantage of sustainable workforce.
You talked about the economic and investment opportunities available in the state, what are those opportunities?   
As you know, Katsina State shares an extensive border with the Republic of Niger which links it all the way to North Africa through Libya and Algeria. It is linked by good network of roads to large resource and population centres such as Kano, Kaduna, and Abuja. The state is ranked first in cotton production. We are exploiting the cotton value chain to meet local demand and become a net exporter of the commodity after considerable value addition. To this end, the state is introducing cotton irrigation and BUA Group of Companies is establishing a textile and garment cluster in the state worth $500m. We are already the second-largest sugarcane producer in the country. We intend to become the largest producer of sugarcane and acquire refining capability to meet local consumption and export surplus.
The state is a major grain producing and marketing hub with large national and international markets strategically dotting the state’s international and local borders, linked to the various mega market centres in the country through a rich network of roads and rail. We are working assiduously to ensure the Funtua Inland Dry Port has commenced operations. Large deposits of metallic and non-metallic minerals are found in the state. These include gold, iron ore, kaolin, feldspar, asbestos, silica, gemstone, etc.
To maximally exploit the advantage associated with the state’s mineral deposits, the state has established the Katsina State Mineral Exploitation Company. We are part of the LAKAJI Corridor which links, in an economically virtuous chain, a total of 11 states stretching from Lagos to Jibia. These are some of the values we bring to the table and we seek to couple them to the vibrant composite critical resources that reside within the investor community. We intend to do more: we shall inflame the investing spirit of our local entrepreneurs and get them ready to yoke with the local and foreign investors to pull towards a prosperous future for themselves and Katsina State. Already, we have organized various capacity-building workshops for them to be able to network with their counterparts across the globe as well as source finance to expand their business and market approach. Our investing guests, therefore, should look forward to and find in us an investor-passionate state that is robustly proactive in anticipating all possible investor’s needs, a seamless network of policies, processes, a basket of incentives that are dynamic, a workforce that is animated to map the investors’ needs and requirements, and swiftly meet them at their points of need. The would-be investor would not only find first-rate infrastructure shaped to fit every sector-investors’ needs but also find people and processes tailored to fit his most changing needs to invest profitably, safely and sustainably.
What are the strategic sectors the state is showcasing for investment?
The following constitute the broad strategic sectors of investment in the state: agriculture, solid minerals, hospitality and creative arts, power and property development. While the prospective investor is free to choose where and in which sector to invest within the broad investment spectrum that exists in the state, the government has identified the following as its key priority areas because of its unique comparative advantages. These are: large scale rice/wheat production and processing, medium to large scale sugar production and processing, tannery, large scale tomato production and processing, fertilizer blending plant, livestock production and meat processing; plantation for economic trees such as gum Arabic, shea nut, moringa, locust bean, and so on. By highlighting these areas, the government hopes to create quick-wins with huge broadly spread benefits. We intend that by pointing up these as priority areas, broad-based wealth would be created through large scale employment. We will support all investors, but we will give top priority to investors who take advantage of these priority areas. Their strong appeal to the government is that they offer the shortest route to both investor and government, realizing their joint objectives of wealth creation through large scale job creation. So far the state has attracted four companies that will provide over 580mg of solar power. By the time these projects are completed, Katsina will be hub for industrialization. The companies that are involved in these projects are Nova Sola Power (125mw), Pan Africa Solar Limited (80mw), and Obax Worldwide (300mw). The Kankia metal works that was moribund has been taken over by Ampari Global Limited. They have commenced PVC pipe production and assembling of tricycle as well as vinyl tube production. Business Investment Limited projects of Sino Bottled Water and Sino Juice have since been commissioned. On property development, Safaz Shelter Limited has commenced construction of 500 housing units. Space and Patterns and Triple A are also constructing 500 housing units each.
Other companies that are involved in different projects include Aldusar Food and Beverages into production of 60 tonnes of tomato paste per day, Babangida Jargaba into rice and suya milling at Sheme/Daudawa Junction along Gusau Road. It is evident, therefore, that without clarity in the state processes and procedures and comfort in ease of doing business, these arrays of companies wouldn’t have been attracted to the state.
Are there specific incentives by the state government to give traction to these stated investment objectives?
The Federal Government offers attractive incentives to both local and foreign investors. As further attraction to the would-be investors in Katsina State, both local and foreign, the state government offers the following state-specific investor incentives: Micro and Small Scale Credit Scheme to set up small scale industries, provision of plots within the industrial area, provision of basic infrastructural facilities, reduction of amount charged on consent to mortgage land to the barest minimum, approval for the processing and granting of certificate of occupancy (C of O) for industrial purpose within a period of 30 days, five-year tax holiday for new industries,  availability of land on concessionary basis for the construction of both factories and staff quarters to any investor wishing to invest in the rural areas; long lease on land for industrial development; fast-tracking the issuance of construction permits and the registration of property by investors; establishment of  Katsina State Investment Promotion Agency (KATIPA) to facilitate ease of doing business for the investors.

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