Even as major development finance institutions were committing to funding the development of Nigeria’s special economic zones in Abuja, work had commenced on Enyimba Economic City in Abia State.
“We agreed to be part of the project because it has been long overdue. We have no doubt that it will succeed,” said Mr Kayode Pitan, managing director of the Bank of Industry.
For Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, and the communities that donated land, it was hope kept alive as the management of Nigeria SEZ Investment Company Limited (NZESCO) and the chief executive officers of Afreximbank, Bank of Industry and Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) signed the dotted lines at an event presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari in the Council Chambers of Aso Rock.
According to Okechukwu Enelamah, whose ministry -Industry, Trade and Investment – is implementing the development of the special economic zones under the direct supervision of President Buhari, “the initial projects such as the Enyimba Economic City, are underway and feasibility studies are going on in eight states.”
The three development finance institutions are among the five to partner with NSEZCO and the Ministry of Finance Incorporated. NSEZCO intends to raise at least US$500million in equity over the first five years to develop special economic zones in the country. The other investment partners are the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Africa Finance Corporation (AFC).
The President described the ceremony as another landmark in the journey to industrialize Nigeria and create jobs for people; and thanked the DFIs for “their strong demonstration of support for this important.”
At that same venue a few months back, the President had presided over the signing of an agreement for the development of Enyimba Economic City and the governor had returned home a happy man enthusing in an interview with a newspaper that,” Most of our people don’t bequeath legacies that are futuristic. I am from the South-east and I am pushing for the Enyimba Economic City.
“This project will blossom and create 200,000 jobs because of the sheer enormity of the positive effects on my people. I see the concomitant impact on the life of my people and area.
“I know my people are people who want to create things, so all you need to do is to make them neighbours to people who are actively manufacturing.”
The Enyimba Economic City project, believed to be capable of sparking an industrial revolution in the South-East is a 9, 803 hectares of land, spanning three local government areas of Ukwa East, Ukwa West and Ugwunagbo.
It is located at the centre of the five South-east and four South-south states and it is to be designed to drive massive economic expansion of the region and by extension Nigeria.
The agreement for the Economic City is a public-private partnership of NSEZCO, which holds 20 per cent stake, with the Abia State Government and Crown Realities Plc.
Abia State Commissioner for Lands, Survey and Urban Planning, Uche Ihediwa, signed the agreement on behalf of the state government; Femi Edun, a director of NSEZCO signed for the Federal Government, while Darl Uzu signed for Crown Realities Limited, the private sector developer.
Mr Uzu, who is also the Managing Director of Enyimba Economic City Development Company Limited, noted that “the investment will facilitate the development of the economic city in line with government’s policy objectives and have a transformational impact in the entire South-Eastern and South-Southern area of the country.”
But the special economic zones hold much more promise for the entire country and the rest of the continent.
Indeed, the accelerated pre-development work had been carried out by a multi-disciplinary team of consultants including Surbana Jurong of Singapore; CBRE, India; Allott Nigeria Limited; Roughton International, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and a number of others.
And further to the Memorandum of Understanding signed with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment in June 2018, Shandong Ruyi Group of China who met with Mr. President during in China announced an investment commitment of $2bn to the Cotton, Textile and Garment industry in Nigeria by way of anchor investments in manufacturing facilities in Enyimba Economic City, Abia State, Funtua Cotton Cluster and Lekki Free Trade Zone.
In Lekki, the Lagos State Government has allocated a parcel of 1,000 hectares of land in the North East Quadrant of the Lekki Free Zone to the project company to be owned jointly by its holding company, Lekki Worldwide Investments Limited and NSEZCO.
Project MINE (Made in Nigeria for Export) which is to develop the world-class special economic zones (SEZ) is designed to position Nigeria as the pre-eminent manufacturing hub in sub-Saharan Africa, and a major exporter of made in Nigeria goods and services regionally and globally.
The project was indeed envisioned by the Federal Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment and the Nigeria Export Processing Zone Authority.
According to NSEZCO, it had been noted from recent economic history that when SEZs are developed within a coherent, well designed, executed and funded framework, they help developing countries to utilise their factor endowments and comparative advantage to industrialise, diversify their economies and achieve prosperity for their people within one generation.
Such countries, an official of the company explained, have used SEZs to overcome infrastructural disadvantages and constraints; mobilized substantial domestic and foreign direct investment; increased technology penetration; attracted new skills and technologies; integrated into global value chains; created large number of quality jobs; increased export earnings; and achieved structural transformation of their economies.
Project MINE seeks to achieve the following specific objectives:
Aid structural transformation of the Nigerian economy by increasing the manufacturing sector’s contribution to GDP to 20% by 2025;
Contribute to sustainable inclusive growth by creating 1.5 million new direct manufacturing jobs in the initial phase of Project MINE;
Increase and diversify foreign exchange earnings to at least US$30bn annually by 2025, by increasing manufacturing sector exports;
Create local models of global best practice in the provision of world class infrastructure at competitive costs connecting SEZs to international and regional markets with transport links, uninterrupted power, ICT, water, sewage and other services to ensure smooth and efficient operation of SEZ businesses;
Promote the “cluster” effect to be gained by locating similar export-oriented manufacturing businesses within the same locality;
Attract world-class investors with strong positions in global supply chains and investors with the potential to increase the scale of operations rapidly to set up operations in SEZs; and
Create an enabling environment for SEZ businesses by instituting best in class legal and regulatory frameworks, using technology and streamlined processes to facilitate movement of people, goods and capital and easy access to government services, approvals and permits.
At the signing ceremony, President Buhari said the Federal Government set up NSEZCO as a vehicle for participating in Public-Private Partnerships involving Federal and State governments and local and foreign private investors to develop new special economic zones all over the country, offering world-class infrastructure and facilities at competitive costs.
The first set of projects in the pilot phase are Enyimba Economic City, Funtua Cotton Cluster and Lekki Model Industrial Park.
Providing the background of the initiative, the President said, “When we decided to continue with the implementation of the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan of the previous Administration and launched our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan to fast track implementation, we had a vision of Nigeria as the pre-eminent manufacturing hub in Sub-Saharan Africa and a major exporter to our immediate West African sub-region, the rest of Africa and indeed the World.
“Special Economic Zones have an important role to play in achieving this vision. They offer investor friendly incentives, world class infrastructure and ease of doing business in order to attract local and foreign investment and have been used as a catalyst for rapid and inclusive development, job creation, industrialisation and diversified export earnings in several countries.
“Under my direct supervision, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment is implementing Project MINE as a Presidential special priority intervention using Special Economic Zones to achieve the objectives of: boosting manufacturing’s share of GDP to 20%, generating $30bn in annual export earnings; and creating 1.5 million new jobs all by 2025.”
In his introduction, Mr Enelamah had said that the initiative was the choice of President Buhari for the industrialization drive of the government under its three-point agenda on security, economy and the fight against corruption.
“We are happy to be here today to progress the project,” he added.
On his part, Benedict Oramah, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Afreximbank expressed the appreciation of the bank to the Federal Government for the opportunity to be part of the project.
He said the objectives of the bank align with that of the project and they are pleased with the ability of the project to grow industrialization.
Uche Orji, Managing Director of Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority also thanked Mr President for the opportunity of the NSIA to participate in the project. “The board saw it as an opportunity to help SEZCOs lift the country through industrialization. It is a good platform for attracting investors and we look forward to its implementation,” he said.
Femi Edun, a director of NSEZCO and Dr Bakari Wadinga, Director, Ministry of Finance Incorporated, signed on behalf of the company.
BISI DANIELS IS A SPECIAL ADVISER ON MEDIA TO THE NIGERIAN MINISTER OF INDUSTRY, TRADE AND INVESTMENTS.
SUNDAY AGHAEZE( HND Mass Comm, PGDBA)
(Personal Assistant to the President on Photography)