Abia State is undeniably the Pan-African business hub in Nigeria. The impact made by small-scale business people in Aba, the state’s business epic centre, earned the city the moniker as “Japan of Africa”. The products of these micro-industrial concerns are sold all over Nigeria and abroad. For people from every part of Nigeria and the West-Africa sub-region, Aba is still their priority market. It has been a major boost for the economy of Abia state all these years. The state government is working to ensure Aba continues to play that role now and in the future.
The Abia State government under the dynamic leadership of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu is unarguably making positive and gigantic efforts to support SMEs to achieve accelerated sustainable growth through converting the State’s comparative advantages to competitive advantages. This is to ensure that the economy of Abia State rests on strong pillars of trade, commerce, small and medium scale enterprises, agriculture, tourism, and manufacturing.
Abia is geared towards re-building the epicenter of Igbo entrepreneurial excellence so that the state again becomes a veritable investment destination as it used to be in years past. With this in mind, the state’s potentials are being harnessed and integrated into the global matrix and value chain of production, goods, services, trade, and commerce. Altogether and as can be attested to, the state investment outreach has attracted over 25 blue-chip investors from various sectors, local and international.
The Abia State government is presently focusing its attention and efforts on attracting more companies and creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive in the state. In this direction, it has so far implemented various policies that facilitate Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) in Abia State. It is proudly championing the “Made in Aba“ slogan. All the previously negative inferences associated with Aba goods are in the process of being erased. The government has so far organized showcase events in key cities around the globe, in New York, Johannesburg, London, Lagos, and Abuja promoting “Aba made” products. One of the results is the extensive patronage for Aba made military gear by the Nigerian Armed Forces and the military of other African countries. At the outbreak of the COVID 19 global pandemic, the government mobilized massive production of essential clothing needs of medical workers and reusable facemask. Consequently, over N5 billion was added to the economy, there were 10,000 direct job creations and 100,000 ancillary job creations with the scheme.
The Abia State government’s clear choice is to resume its position as a premier business destination. As a fillip to this, the Okezie Ikpeazu administration has embarked on an iconic transformational project to develop the Enyimba Economic City. About 9,300 acres of land spanning three local government areas have been mapped out for the project. It is targeted to create 650,000 jobs in 10 years. Already, key anchor tenants have been attracted to the Enyimba Economic City.
The City will provide a serviced area that will integrally take care of marketing, warehousing, logistics, industrial and ancillary services. There will also be residences, schools, hospitals, entertainment facilities, and such others as needed. It would also come with incentives to attract local and international companies. The existing partnership with the Africa Export-Import (AFREXIM) Bank will boost the expectation of being able to take the manufactured goods into the export market and establish a certification centre to enhance the acceptability of the products in the export market.
This is one of the groundbreaking initiatives being taken towards rebuilding Aba the epicenter of Igbo excellence. Taking advantage of the centrality of Aba constitutes one of the core components of the policy thrust. Aba, for example, is at the concourse of about seven other cities in the South-East and South-South. It is about 30 minutes drive to Ikot Ekpene, Port Harcourt, Owerri, and Umuahia, among others. This middle-of-the-road, pivotal positioning acts as a pull to a corporate mosaic of businesses, and persons making it the heartthrob of Nigeria’s entrepreneurial distinction.
In the area of ensuring improved investment attractiveness, the Abia State government has taken giant strides in evolving policy initiatives to support, set up, expand operations, or resuscitate halted industrial and business operations. The establishment of the Enyimba automated Shoe Company (incubation hub for manufacturing, skills training, and development) is one of such steps that had been taken. The state government has also initiated key cluster developments. PZ, Chinese firms, and over 25 other key industries and companies are being attracted and finding their way to Abia because of the conducive business atmosphere the government is facilitating. Moribund industries such as the Ceramic Industry and Golden Guinea Breweries, both in Umuahia, are back in business, creating more job opportunities. The revitalized Golden Guinea Breweries PLC is helping to boost the state’s internally generated revenue.
Commerce and business activities cannot thrive if the accessibility of all key commercial areas is difficult and problematic. To get over this, the government is embarking on the upgrade and maintenance of markets. It is taking the form of re-planning of major markets like Ariaria International Market and at least four other major markets in the state into ultra-modern markets. They will be in the category of Tejuosho Ultra-Modern Market, Yaba, Lagos in the next few years. This will offer a more conducive shopping experience for shoppers and visitors to the major markets in Abia State. Adequate social amenities are being created in the markets. Parking lots, toilet facilities, and fencing for all the markets in the state will be provided in all the markets in the next couple of years.
The Abia State government is working towards facilitating the construction of industrial parks along the Aba-Umuahia axis and promoting major commercial activities in Abia cities like Umuahia, Ohafia, Arochukwu, and Isikwuato to enhance development.
Priority attention is being paid to the rehabilitation of roads that lead to the state’s major economic zones through the public-private partnership approach to boost infrastructure maintenance in the markets
The Abia State government has improved relations with and attracted established corporations and industries. Power supply has been improved with the involvement of Geometric Power which is lighting up Aba, impacting positively on the return of heavy industries. In conjunction with Geometric Power Limited, the Aba Integrated Power Project, which is the first independent power generation plant in Nigeria and the country’s first integrated power project, has already installed and cold-commissioned a 141-megawatt gas-fired power plant, with an additional 47-megawatt turbine to be installed as part of the investment. It has also built a 27-kilometre gas pipeline and an electricity distribution utility with a ring-fenced distribution network covering the Aba Industrial City and the surrounding communities. This has greatly improved the power supply.
To achieve accelerated sustainable growth, the Abia State government has widened the scope of its successes and achievements by supporting SMEs. Providing trade support systems, training, and provision of clusters, has attracted public-private sector initiatives, institutional and corporate capacity building, shared structures and technology, and improved access to transport and logistics. For instance, the Department for International Development (DFID), has been providing technical support while the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) is partnering in areas of industrial cluster development.
The Collective Interest Group Abia (CIGA), a development advocacy group committed to supporting development initiatives that impact the lives and overall wellbeing of the citizens of Abia state is keenly following the efforts of the Okezie Ikpeazu administration to change the narrative about development in Abia State.
CIGA spokesman Ogbonnaya Ekwebelem said: “Converting Abia’s comparative advantages to competitive advantages ensures that the economy of Abia rests on strong pillars of trade, commerce, small and medium scale enterprises, agriculture, tourism, and manufacturing.
In the meantime, plans are also underway to launch the Abia Industrial Clusters project. The aim is to mechanize and automate the process of leatherworks, garment making among other crafts, giving life to the Abia technological innovation in Nigeria. Currently, the automated shoe factory in Aba churns out military-grade boots being patronised by Nigerian armed forces, paramilitary organizations in Africa. In the future, the Aba Industrial Cluster would involve 40,000 shoemakers, with a production capacity of 5000 shoes daily.