By Saby Elemba
…targets 40,000 jobs, new businesses to spring up
Imo State, Nigeria’s Eastern Heartland, has joined the league of states where there is a conducive environment for local and foreign investors as well as budding investors to come, invest and carry out their legitimate businesses.
Hope Uzodinma, the state governor, who promised to ensure that the state is once again put on the wheel of economic and social progress, set the ball in motion with the launch of the Imo Industrial Policy at the Sam Mbakwe Exco Chambers, Government House Owerri, on Wednesday, November 2, 2022, with a pronouncement that Imo State is now friendly and ready again for national and international businesses that go with industrialization, just like in the glorious days of Sam Mbakwe, the first civilian governor.
At the launch, which marked the readiness of the government and the people of Imo State, the governor said the Industrial Policy would “serve as the state’s Strategic Master Plan to stimulate the growth and development of all sectors of the economy of Imo State, identify and prioritise the low-hanging fruits for immediate harvesting”.
Uzodinma disclosed that the government set out to identify all the economic potentials where Imo State has “comparative advantage” with the aim of clearly outlining how the potentials could be harnessed into going enterprises in the form of countless small and medium scale enterprises.
He again used that auspicious occasion to call on both established and budding investors to take advantage of the now prevailing robust and friendly investment climate that his administration has deliberately put in place to invest in different areas of the Imo economy, particularly in digital economy, agro-industry, tourism, oil and gas, mining, fabrication and in the allied industry that will be thrown up from the Imo State Green Revolution Initiative, which he has also kicked off in the state.
Uzodinma said the launch of the Imo Industrial Policy was yet “another audacious step in Imo State government’s determination to put the state firmly on the road to economic growth and prosperity”.
Going furthermore, he recalled that the recently flagged-off Hope Green Revolution (HGR) project is an economic stimulus plan that buys into the investment opportunities presented by climate change to promote enterprise and investment in the state.
“That singular initiative has already guaranteed a foreign direct investment of $10 billion to Imo State. Both programmes are evidences that Imo State is irreversibly matching on a well-laid-out road map towards industrialisation and economic growth,” he said.
He expressed gladness that the “Industrial Policy” has been distilled from the inputs made by stakeholders at a meeting convened by the government for the purpose, expressed confidence that the policy must have taken full cognisance of the different sectors of the economy where Imo State has comparative advantage and, as a result, “will reflect the priority industrial needs of Imo people from all geo-political perspectives”.
“The Industrial Policy is to offer fresh, pragmatic and actionable insights into the state’s thinking and approach to industrialisation whose ultimate ambition is to place Imo on the part to long-term renaissance where the policy is a long-term sustainable initiative which will outlive this administration,” the governor said.
He noted that his 3R administration wants to, through the Industrial Policy, “provide the fillip to derive the economic rejuvenation of the state that will emphasise the provision of an enabling environment for the flourishing of Imo economy”.
The governor reminded the audience that no nation or state can operate a successful industrial policy without the supporting infrastructure, and “that is why this administration has been proactive in the construction and reconstruction of more than 100 roads in the state in addition to the newly dualised Owerri/Orlu road and Owerri/Okigwe road to stimulate the economic growth through infrastructural development”.
Apart from road infrastructure, Uzodinma said his administration has ensured that the ease of doing business in Imo State is top-notch, in addition to the creation of the Ministry of Digital Economy and e-Governance and automation of the civil service to handle all kinds of transactions within the oasis.
He emphasised that the goal for a viable industrial policy is to ensure that Imo youths are offered employment in the many business concerns that will spring up as a result of the policy.
The governor recalled that Imo State has been doing a lot to empower Imo youths economically, noting that at the last count, more than 18,000 youths have been trained and empowered by his government to run their businesses and even be able to employ others.
He also called attention to the target of 40,000 jobs that will come after the revamping of Adapalm Nigerian Limited and the effort of his administration to bring back to life the Imo Standard Shoe Industry and the Avutu Poultry, to boost the economy of the state.
“We are determined to grow our economy working with the private sector through public private partnership (PPP),” he said.
Governor Uzodimma reasoned that the launch of the Imo Industrial Policy is not just an initiative to drive the economy of the state but also a plan that will guarantee the future of youths, prolong lives and guarantee prosperity, pledging that he would do all that is necessary to ensure its success.
The Imo State governor said that the state is set to become one of the top industrial hubs of not just the South East but the entire Nigeria with a faithful implementation of the policy, given enabling policies already in place.
He assured that his administration will strengthen and support Imo Investment and Promotion Agency and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to fast-track all applications for investments in the state.
Jude Nzeako, director-general, Imo State Investment Promotion Agency, said the policy would among other things be a roadmap to strategic industrial and economic investment in the state, and it would also enable the government to intervene in the areas of comparative advantage, stimulate interest in the local government areas on discovery of natural resources in such areas, and bring and collate other interests in economic development together.
Nzeako emphasised that the industrial policy will move Imo State away from a consumer state to a productive state, noting that the state is set to change its industrial narrative. He also strongly advised for the political will to sustain the initiative.
Kenneth Amaeshi, a professor and the chief economic adviser to the governor, had earlier said what the industrial policy required most was the political will like that of the governor as well as policy based on pragmatism.
“The policy will create jobs, companies will come to establish and invest in Imo State and with the sustainable potentials resulting from the abundant local natural resources of oil and gas, mines and agriculture and others, the sky will be the limit of Imo State in achieving the industrial policy,” Amaeshi said in an earlier interview.
Earlier in a congratulatory message to Governor Uzodinma for the initiative, Bankole Jean, regional director of UNIDO in Nigeria, said it was the first time he had seen an inclusive policy that even involved the heads of intelligence and security agencies.
On their part as a foreign partner, he promised to assist in mobilising investors to the state and even economic funds lying waste in other countries for the development of the economy of the state.
“This is in addition to support on capacity building and consultancy,” he said.