Masari’s Katsina Ready for Business

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With a view to securing the partnership of the private sector for the development of his state, Governor Aminu Bello Masari recently hosted a three-day investment summit in Katsina. Olusegun Adeniyi who was there reports

From President Muhammadu Buhari to Governors from no fewer than eight states as well as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor and several captains of industry, including Alhaji Aliko Dangote, it was a collection of who-is-who in Nigeria when the Katsina Economic Investment Summit held from 9th to 11th May 2016 with the theme “Unlocking Investment for Sustainable Development”. But now that the event is over, it is left for the Katsina State authorities to begin a process of gathering the gains and that is where the real work begins.

In his welcome address, Governor Aminu Bello Masari said the summit was aimed at enlisting the support of the private sector in his efforts to change the dynamics of development in the interest of the people of Katsina. “Time being short, the task being enormous, we have to telescope delivery times, vigorously animate our work culture and system to deliver on the vision of our founding fathers because, this generation neither brooks delay nor does it accept excuses,” said Masari who added: “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 called on investing community, local and global to join us in this enormous but highly rewarding undertaking.”
Masari, who said his hope has always been to see a new dawn in Katsina where economic development will be easy and very smooth, identified the following as key priority areas for the state: 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, hospitality and creative arts, solid minerals exploration and exploitation; and power generation.
“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,” said Masari who promised that specific incentives will be made available for interested investors.

The governor did not mince his words and he left no one in doubt about his resolve. By the time the sessions ended, the consensus was that Katsina should target agriculture and agro-allied industries being the area where the state has a comparative advantage. But to do that, there is a need to fast track the reform of land holding so as to enable the people access the badly needed capital with which they can do business. It was also agreed that Katsina needs to improve on its quality of human capital which is considered the main reason for low productivity in the state. This has entrenched widespread poverty in the state.
Speaker after speaker at the sessions repeated the call for policies that would protect the local industries against unfair competition, especially from similar products from abroad as this threatens their businesses in the state. It was therefore recommended that the way forward remains an integrated value chain model which connects producers to other actors in the chain – input suppliers, intermediaries, processors, retailers and service providers including funding.

Micro, small, and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs) were seen as catalysts for job creation and poverty reduction by many of the participants who noted that MSMEs are the easiest medium for achieving rapid and inclusive growth, which is essential for sustainable development. It was also agreed that the State should build the capacity of small farmers in order to boost competitiveness while increasing productivity and efficiency.
In his speech, President Buhari who personally attended the summit pledged that “the Federal Government will partner with any State Government that shows brilliant initiatives underpinned by a winning strategies such as demonstrated by the Katsina State Government and people.”

The president also made it clear that for any nation to grow and be able to compete in terms of economic growth and jobs creation, the role of the private sector must not be undermined. While praising Governor Masari for the initiative, President Buhari said holding the summit was the easier bit. “What remains is the coupling of their business spirit to world class business practices piggy-backed on a can’t-refuse raft of exceptionally attractive positive policies to achieve the outstanding results they should justly reap,” said President Buhari who added that every business considered “within the state and indeed every other part in the country must be environmentally safe and sustainable.”

The CBN governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, who was also present emphasised the need to support and grow the business concept of MSMEs across the country. He stated that for a state like Katsina to experience any economic growth or development, its government must do everything humanly possible to strengthen MSMEs with strong partnership and support from the Federal Government. “The CBN is available under its various schemes to provide financing at single digit interest rates to your smallholder farmers and SMEs. We expect that one of the immediate benefits from this Summit shall be the resuscitation of the NIM oil factory in Katsina State” Emefiele said.

In addition to the areas touched by the CBN governor, the President of the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID) in Nigeria disclosed that nothing will be accomplished until there is a deliberate effort to increase agriculture-based funding for SMEs in the country while also making commitment that the bank will partner with critical stakeholders in Katsina to ensure value chain addition in the agriculture sector so as to build a hub for small scale farmers and local investors to learn new skills and grow their businesses.

However, what would perhaps go as the most insightful contribution at the summit was made by Mr Tanimu Yakubu Kurfi, former Chief Economic Adviser to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who also happened to be a commissioner in the state in the past. In arguing that Katsina possesses most of the attributes for development, Tanimu argued that a major challenge state governments in Nigeria have continuously faced is how to generate revenue to augment the increasingly decreasing crude oil driven statutory revenue allocation from the Federation Account. “This challenge assumes a greater priority for a non-oil producing, non-intensively commercial and non-industrialized state like Katsina.”
Poverty, according to Tanimu, is a misnomer in Katsina State because most households own their homes and farms. “But these holdings will not lift them out of poverty without land titles. For without land titles, their landed assets are without liquidity and the owners will remain locked out of credit, access to which is increasingly becoming a high ranking human right.”

Tanimu argued further that with an area of 24,192 square kilometres, representing 2.6 percent of the country’s total landmass of 923,768 square kilometers, “Katsina State is bigger than the world’s ten smallest sovereign nations that include the Vatican, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Maldives, Malta and Grenada. Their total land size is 1491.4 Km2. Katsina is substantially much bigger in size than Israel (20,770Km2), Kuwait (17,818Km2), Qatar (11,58Km2), Hong Kong (2,755Km2), Bahrain (765Km2) and Singapore (719Km2). Are we up to any of these countries either in terms of national wealth as measured by the GDP or quality of life and/or the market value of land?”

While the same question could be asked of our country, Nigeria, a measure of the quality of this factor endowment, in Tanimu’s view, would be Katsina state’s share of the national rental income, property taxes collected and total market valuation of land in the country. “In fact, if we had policies in place to raise the value of land all over the state, whether it is residential or commercial or industrial or agricultural land, contribution of property taxes to public finance would have been topmost or second topmost among other sources”, he said.
Even while lamenting the wasted opportunities, Tanimu said there must be conscious efforts on the part of the current Katsina State administration to change the course of events. “Katsina State is a leading farm producer among the agrarian states of the Nigerian federation. We used to account for more than 60% of the national cotton output; we are the 3rd largest millet producer after India and the People’s Republic of China; we are either first or second largest producer of maize and sorghum; we used to belong to the first five leading positions among the provinces that had once generated about 15% of global output in groundnut; today we compete with Kaduna State for the first slot as the nation’s major grower of soya beans. In recent times, farmers in different parts of Katsina state are increasingly transforming the state into a growing power among the league of leading states in growing sesame seeds and soya beans.”

However, to the extent that the peasant farmers in Katsina cannot all turn into tax payers to make the state economically viable in the absence of commercially sound agricultural produce policy and regulatory frameworks, there is need for the authorities begin the adoption of policies and regulations in that direction. “Just consider what few policies adopted could achieve such as the provision of simple storage that saves 50% of farm produce lost at post-harvest, and grant of inventory credit to help farmer hold their produce for up to 90, days when prices could be not less than twice or 100% increase above the immediate post-harvest level. Think about a mere adoption of the correct quality assurance protocols by farmers which could save two-thirds of three million metric tons of current home industry demand for grains! This is in an addition to benefits to be driven from making the farmers directly participate in the commodity export value chain as Katsina reintegrates its market with the global economy by implementing the right policies,” said Tanimu.

No doubt, the idea of an investment summit for Katsina was a good one but now that the sessions are over, it is now left for Governor Masari and his team to begin to see how to reap the gains. However, if there is anything that came out clearly from the sessions, it is that the Katsina will do well to focus on how to reposition agriculture not only as a tool for job creation but for the overall development of the state.