Nigeria has taken some beating from the current global oil crash, which has plummeted revenue and revised earlier set targets.
Innovative states in Africa’s largest economy are already thinking out of the box, with economic diversification taking a centre stage.
One state that leads the pack in this area is Bayelsa, which is aggressively developing a new economy, driven by manufacturing and agricultural linkages, as well as industry propellers such as power and deep sea port.
This concept of the new economy features prominently in the state’s discourses and events, with the latest being at the just concluded second edition of the Bayelsa State Investment and Economic Forum which held between July 29 and 31 in Yenagoa, the state capital.
“It is this kind of economy that can realistically create inclusive growth, provide jobs and create huge wealth and prosperity for the government and people of the state. Our target is to take Bayelsa to the world and bring the world to Bayelsa,” Seriake Dickson, governor, Bayelsa State, said in his opening remarks at the event entitled ‘Unfolding Bayelsa State’s Industrial Future’.
According to Dickson, his administration is serious in expanding the frontiers of the state economy through an active participation of the private sector to move the state away from being oil dependent to that which is self-sustaining and driven by the real sector.
“When we hosted the first forum in July 2014, it was inspired by my vision to transform Bayelsa State into a model of an African economic success story. That vision stands and is now even more imperative in view of the recent downturn in the oil and gas sector. More than ever before, it has become necessary for Bayelsa State to diversify its economy and pursue our competitive advantage in agriculture, oil and gas industry, power generation and manufacturing,” he said.
Yemi Osinbajo, vice-president, who was represented by Ade Ipaye, his deputy chief of staff, said the strides already made from the first edition of the forum has attracted investors who signed a number of MoUs in the real sector, stressing that economic well-being of the nation also depends on the wellbeing of the economies of the federating states to create wealth and provide employment for the people.
“I can see that the Bayelsa State Government is ready to showcase its eco- industrial region and the Agge deep seaport as a destination for oil and gas and of course the agricultural sector. These are laudable objectives and I wish to assure the people of Bayelsa State that the Federal Government is ready, able and willing to assist in the implementation of these objectives for sustainable development in the state,” Ipaye said.
The 50-hectare Eco-Industrial Park master plan, designed by the award-winning Architect Olajumoke Adenowo, was presented to the audience. The park is expected to spike manufacturing opportunities in modular refineries, gas processing, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, non-metallic mineral products, electrical and electronics, textile and leather, among others.
The project, which is sited at Gbarantoru, Yenagoa Local Government, is conceived to be a harmonious blend of industries, technology business and services interspersed by green areas and water bodies, highlighting the unique features of the Niger Delta topography.
Kemela Okara, Bayelsa State commissioner for trade, industry and investment, pointed out that Balyelsa is vigorous on its industrialisation drive, focusing on key sectors of power generation and agriculture, in addition to unveiling investment opportunities at the Brass Oil and Gas Free Trade Zone Area and manufacturing opportunities at the world-class Eco-Industrial Park.
Okara said the state would reap great benefits from the power generation hub and investment opportunities in the proposed Agge Deep Sea Port, stressing that the attention is given to these areas because of the government’s conviction on harnessing business opportunities where the state has comparative advantage.
“This master plan provides a clear view of the Bayelsa State of the future and it is our delight to present a unique investment opportunity for project developers and financiers seeking to invest in the prosperous future we envisage”, Okara enthused.
It was a delighted piece of information when Mustapha Mamudu, who represented the executive secretary of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, told the gathering that his organisation, as a key agency of the Federal Government, is also planning to establish its own eco-park in Bayelsa State.
This prompted Seriake Dickson to enthusiastically seek collaboration, on the premise that instead of having two eco-parks in the state, it would be better to come together and run a single park for maximum economic effect.
Austin Tam-George, executive director, Institute of Communications and Corporate Studies, Lagos, pointed out that the success of any business in the Niger Delta depends on harmonious community relations with the local communities.
This position was supported by Emelia Akpan, vice-president, East, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), who said the investment partners must pay attention to global trade policies just as she would want to see greater empowerment for the youths in the area of business operations.
On his part, Reuben Bamidele of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) stressed the need for sound industrial policy and strategies that can attract investors bothering on international standards, suitability and sustainability.
Bamidele reminded the government to broaden its scope to incorporate current dynamics shaping the industrial environment, adding that policies and strategies must not be dictated by any “one model fits all” approach.
In his response, Dickson said in addition to the 50-hectare eco-park, land had also been well allocated to intending investors who should now tap into the opportunities.
He emphasised that the eco-park is within an emerging industrial axis, with the $4 billion Shell LNG facility, the NIPP Power project and a crushed rock industry.
The second day of the summit dwelt on the critical issue of power, with an incisive treatment of the theme, ‘Fixing Nigeria’s Power Needs’.
Rumundaka Wonodi, managing director of the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Company, said: “Since we started, we have looked at about 60 projects but only few of them have steady gas supply arrangement. The only power plant that we know that has excess gas supply is the one in Gbaran, producing about 4000 megawatts but sitting idle. Bayelsa State stands in a position where it can do a lot to contribute to the growth of the power sector. Gas is the limiting thing in moving the power sector forward,” Wonodi said.
Speaking in similar vein, Boma Brown, manager, Assets, East, Shell, said beside the challenge of infrastructure, there are fundamental issues of right pricing, funding, gas supply and a clement environment.
Presentations on the Brass Oil and Gas Free Trade Zone City by the Oil and Gas Free Trade Zone Authority (OGFTZA) and the Agee Deep Sea Port gave an insight into the economic prosperity awaiting the state. The BOG initiative targets core diversification with emphasis on value addition to Nigeria’s hydrocarbon resources rather than existing exportation of crude oil and gas as has been for decades. Located in Brass Island, the government wants to see the project evolving into one of the largest petrochemical, fertilizer, refining, methanol and hydrocarbon processing hubs in the world valued at $3.5 billion and expected to commence operation in 2018. The OGFTZA is being run in partnership with Eko Support Services Limited under a public-private partnership model.
Similarly, the Agge deep sea port provides a strategic overview of a promising enterprise by virtue of its location within the Niger Delta and the Gulf of Guinea which can be a very logical point of economic convergence with regard to import and export business and major gateway to the world of maritime.
The forum recognised that agriculture is key to economic diversification. Mezuo Nwuneli, senior partner, Sahel Capital and Dr. Rogers Otubo, managing director, Bayelsa Agriculture Development Company, addressed the challenge of agricultural revolution through mechanisation and adequate funding.
Nwuneli said the ultimate goal of government should be to attract investments in agricultural modernisation that will enhance export-led growth and greater infusion in the activities of the SMEs.
The impression at the summit was that of ambitious economic regeneration which could trigger a revolution if the right investors are attracted.