The game is changing in Abia State, thanks to a man of vision, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu and the support of the federal government of Nigeria. Enyimba Economic City (EEC) was among 52 investment deals that sailed through at the recently concluded Africa Investment Forum (AIF) held in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Consequently, Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, secured the go-ahead of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and a consortium of private investors and multilateral financial institutions for the investment of $430 million to fast-track the development of EEC- a pet project of the governor.
The news is a big deal for Abia State and for Nigeria in general. The proposed city has all the ingredients of a great economic hub. In a post on the website of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) the project is described as having the potential to drive massive economic expansion of the Southeast region and by extension Nigeria.
Located along Aba- Port Harcourt Highway, the city has major arterial, intercity roads connections. It is near existing sea- ports (Onne and PortHacourt) and the proposed Akwa Ibom Deep Sea Port. It has proximity to airports in Owerri, PortHacourt and Uyo, and has functional gas pipelines and boarder. It is also along the national rail line of Port Harcourt-Maiduguri.
Construction of the City is already in progress. The Abia State Government, a Chinese textile manufacturer, Ruyi Group and Geometric Power Company, Aba, have signed agreements for the commencement of the new economic city, as well as roll out of uninterrupted power supply to Aba area of the state. The agreements were signed recently in Beijing, China. It took Governor Ikpeazu five visits to China to convince the Ruyi Group, the largest textile manufacturer in that country, of the workability of EEC.
Prof. Bart Nnaji, the CEO of Geometric Power Company, Aba, Abia State, signed the agreement with the Ruyi Group for equity investment in the Geometric Power Company to enable the Chinese firm to mobilize immediate funds for the completion and start-off of the Geometric Power Plant at Osisioma, near Aba, Abia State.
Olam International, one of the world’s leading food and agri-business companies, and others have already indicated interest in establishing factories in ECC.
Governor Ikpeazu’s vision is to create a global business hub that connects the nine (9) Southeast and South south States, build first class infrastructure in the location, including dedicated power and attract economic activities that are mainly driven by manufacturing and supported by other uses e.g. Logistics, Medical, Entertainment, Education, Lifestyle Residential etc.
The target for EEC is for is to attract long term local and foreign investments, thereby integrating Nigerian businesses (manufacturing and services) into regional and global supply / value chains.
While interacting with journalists in Lagos earlier in the week, Governor Ikpeazu said he presented the EEC to investors at the just-concluded Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa, and it attracted varied interests from investors. Advisors and financiers of the EEC include the African Export-Import Bank, African Development Bank, and the International Finance Corporation.
In order to attract funding for Africa projects, the African Development Bank launched the inaugural Africa Investment Forum in 2018. It was the first time Nigeria was benefitting from the funding opportunity provided by the Africa Investment Forum. AIF is a marketplace for project developers, investors, borrowers, lenders, policy makers and public and private sector investors to encourage investment in Africa.
Ikpeazu believes, rightly, that the EEC would boost Nigeria’s participation in the Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and deliver not less than 700, 000 jobs within 10 years. Governor Ikpeazu as well as other citizens of Abia State are reasonably delighted at the opportunities offered by the EEC. It is a project that would outlive Ikpeazu’s administration and confirm Abia State as the new preferred destination for investment in Nigeria.
This is why the people of Abia and the Southeast must harken to the advice of their visionary son who is asking them to grab the opportunity at their doorsteps and migrate from trading to industrial manufacturing. Ikpeazu said: “The time has come for our people to move from trading to manufacturing. EEC is the vehicle through which we are going to achieve that.”
The EEC will move Aba above its current state to a well-diversified economy and a modern city that would compete with Dubai where technology is the driver of industrialization. Economists believe that countries that capture the window of opportunity of global relocation of light manufacturing can grow dynamically and in one or two generations graduate into middle/ high income economies.
The ICRC said the project combines the “clear focus of the private sector and the enabling powers of the Governments at all level. Hence, it is a Private Public Partnership (PPP) of Crown Realties Plc, the Host Communities, Abia State Government and the Federal Government of Nigeria under project Made In Nigeria for Export (MINE) of Federal Government of Nigeria.”
And based on that, the regulatory commission stated further: “The Federal Government has designated Enyimba Economic City a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) with Free Trade Zone Status and one of the three (3) pilots that include Kano and Lagos. It has also taken 20% equity in the project.”
The First Phase of the project is fully designed, and construction has commenced while various major anchor tenant discussions are progressing well for manufacturing transfers from China, Germany and other Countries to the new city.
The masterplan design of the EEC was done by Surbana Jurong of Singapore and CBRE of India in collaboration with local firms. The positioning study indicate that EEC will at capacity, provide over 700,000 jobs, urban housing of over 300,000 units and urban population of more than 1.5 Million people. It is projected that the city will provide more than 2,000industrial/ business units, with estimated annual value output of more than $5 Billion.
While presenting the 2020 budget to the Abia State House of Assembly, Governor Ikpeazu said his re-election was a demonstration of the faith of the people in his administration’s ability to deliver on his promises. He re-iterated his commitment to bequeath “a bright and prosperous future for all Abians” by the time his tenure comes to an end. That prosperous future can be glimpsed from the potentials of the EEC.
Chukwudi wrote in from Aba, Abia State