Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia
Efforts to decongest the commercial city of Aba by relocating various areas of trade to specific clusters outside the city centre have continued to enjoy the support of traders associations. The latest group to key into the policy is the Abia GSM and Components Dealers Association Aba which has taken steps to commence the construction of AbiaÂ ICTÂ Centre of StudiesÂ and GSM Mall Aba at estimated cost of over N2 billion.
Presently, St. Michael Road Aba is the hub of GSM and ICT business but the dealers would in the next 12 months relocate their businesses to Ngwa Road where the ICT Centre and GSM Mall would spring up. To this end, a memorandum of understanding was signed on May 10, 2017 among the GSM dealers, project developer, financing bank and state government. At the ceremony held at the Multi-Disciplinary Entrepreneurship Skills Development Centre, Umuobiakwa in Obingwa Local Government, all the parties involved in the project pledged to do their own part to ensure the realisation of the project, which had been in the pipeline since 2009.
The ICT Centre and GSM Mall is billed to be sited at a 24,250 square metres of land presently occupied by Ngwa Road Primary School, which would be relocated to merge with another school.Â Project manager, Mr. Sylvester Uti said that the GSM Mall is a three storey complex of 1,056 shops with eight malls all interconnected. It has the complement of a study centre where youths would learn the science and technology of repairing phones and computers. Each of the floors contains 134 shops. He said that the complex would be built with brick technology which is fire and weather resistant and has life span of 100 years. The facilitator of the relocation project, Hon. Jude Udeachara, who is the Senior Special Assistant to the Abia Governor on Trade and Investment, said that the design of the complex took long in coming because it took care of every possible detail and input from the GSM dealers who are the beneficiaries of the project.
Members of Abia GSM and Components Dealers Association are already excited at the prospect of relocating their business to a much more conducive environment away from the already congested St. Michael Road.Â Chairman of the association, Nze George Eze said that the idea of relocating their business to a GSM plaza came up as far back as 2009 and since then efforts had been on to make the dream a reality.Â He said that with the signing of the MoU for the construction of the GSM Mall the â€œlong journeyâ€ to a GSM village was coming to a nice end. According to him, the ICT/GSM cluster would unlock the ingenuity of youths that constitute 75 per cent of the population of those engaged in the business. Eze noted that youths skilled in repairs of any types of GSM phones and computer engineers specialising in hard or soft wares abound in Aba hence bring them together in a business cluster would trigger explosion of their ingenuity. â€œWith this project we know that in no distant time we will start making phones here in Aba. We have the technical knowhow and the people who can do it,â€ he said, adding that what they needed was government support. He therefore called on Abia Government to rehabilitate the access road to the new site of GSM/ICT business area and â€œmost importantly create the enabling environmentâ€ to enable businesses thrive.
Project developer and chairman Logistics De-Luke, Mr. Raymond Aliga, explained that his concept of Abia GSM Centre was about meeting the needs of ICT in both the South-east and South-south zones. He said that the cluster would make it possible for manufacturers to bring their products and easily identify those to deal with while the dealers and consumers would transact business in a very conducive environment irrespective of if the weather is sunny or rainy. â€œWe need things that will continue to re-engineer business in Abia because we must live up to the billing of centre of commerce in the South-east.
Aliga, who is also involved in developing a market cluster for tyre and heavy motor spare parts dealers, said that he was motivated by his desire to create conducive environment that would trigger rapid growth of businesses. He said that Keystone Bank was expected to provide 50 per cent of the cost of Abia ICT Centre and GSM Mall while the shops would be sold out to dealers on owner occupier basis at a price to be determined by the association.
Abia Commissioner for Education, Prof. Ikechi Mgboji commended the GSM dealers for embarking on the project of providing a business cluster for themselves.Â He harped on the need for South-easterners to invest at home and grow the economy of the zone. Mgboji regretted that over 70 per cent of wealth owned by Ndigbo is located outside the South-east and while Igbo businesses contribute to the impressive internally generated revenue (IGR) portfolio of other states and no state in the South-east zone.
According to him, no state in the South-east makes as much as N5 billion a month whereas a state like Lagos was already projecting of making N400 billion monthly IGR with Igbo-owned businesses contributing about 45 per cent. â€œOur people should earn to come home and invest,â€ he said, adding that the GSM Mall would stand out as a one stop shop for everything about ICT and GSM business.
If everything worked according to plan the magnificent ICT Centre and GSM Mall would be ready by this time next year.Â The parties believe it is achievable and fired by the zeal of the late president of the association, Mr. Greg who died three weeks ago while deeply engaged in driving the project, the deputy chairman who mounted the saddle has vowed to ensure that the association fulfilled its own part of the deal to realise the project.
Pioneer chairman of the association, Pastor Magnus Mgbeokwere further assured that being a well organised group the GSM dealers would not relent in its drive to build a GSM Mall at a designated business cluster. He said that with the steps already taken in the journey that began eight years ago â€œwe are already in the promised land. With the team we are working with, we will not fail to realise the project,â€ he said.