Industrialists in Akwa Ibom should be on their marks by now, ready for take-off as the state launches its biggest ever industrial revolution since creation. With a whooping N15 billion ($100 million) already budgeted as investment/soft loan for 2012, Akwa Ibom becomes the first state in the nation to have made the highest capital provision ever for industrial loan. But how well disposed are the small and medium industrialists to key into government’s industrial vision?
This was one of the main questions at the first entrepreneurs forum organized by Akwa Ibom Investment Corporation to prepare private investors, particularly the local industrialists expected to be the main actors in the industrial revolution.
The seminar was unequivocal in drumming it up that in the expected industrial boom, government will only provide the enabling environment and not go into production. Rather, the private sector is expected to drive the industrial process and that was why the seminar brought together entreprenures most of whom were drawn from the private sector.
While big investors would naturally play the leading role by coming up with big industries, the small and medium industrialists would provide the industrial base in the local government areas.
This was the focus of a top training, research and management consultant, Dr Umana S. Udoh, in his paper titled Exploring Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Investment Opportunities in the 31 Local Government Areas of Akwa Ibom State, which reminded investors that they must begin from the grassroots.
As a former state accountant-general, Dr Udoh was meticulous in his data provided to guide would-be investors. He proudly put on showcase the raw material distribution in each of the 31 local government areas of the state and the various associated industries and products that could be established and derived therein.
His first command is for investors to have a deep knowledge of the economic potentials of their grassroots and from there prepare industrial feasibility studies for onward partnership with the local governments who would in return provide the needed industrial parks fitted with the necessary utilities and conducive environment.
His paper clearly established that Akwa Ibom is abundantly rich in investment opportunities that could within a short time turn it into a full-blown industrialized economy.
The premise for the high opportimism of industrialization is based on this year’s budget, christened “The Budget of Industrialization” in which government did not only propose to establish at least one industry in each local government area of the state but approved a N15 billion fund to be accessed by industrialists as support.
But most often, it is not easy in the first place for people to know what to actually invest in. For this reason, Dr Udoh gives simple tips of how to begin. First, they are to know what is lacking or in demand in their localities and think of ways to provide them; study products in supermarkets and find out which of them could be produced with raw materials available in their areas; what machines would be required; the need to prepare feasibility studies and business plant that would guarantee access to loan and funding.
Indeed, small scale industrialists are expected to develop their feasibility studies and plans which should be taken to the local government for funding in a public private partnership deal.
The local government in particular have the responsibility as a key player in the industrialization process. As the nearest government to the people at the grassroots they should naturally take the lead in the creation of jobs.
It is reasoned that if each local government area has at least five industrial parks with each park containing four to six factories, at the end of the day, it would have had about 20 factories. If such transcends the whole of Akwa Ibom, there could be about 600 factories.
Think of the number of people such number of factories would have employed in the state.
While local governments on their own may not go into production, they are now being charged to work with and develop entrepreneurs who would be assisted to go into actual production.
The local governments are also advised to look beyond their immediate environment and woo Akwa Ibom in the diaspora.
“It is a truism that there is a large population of Akwa Ibom people in the diaspora.
“It is also true that each of them comes from a local government area. Local government areas should therefore reach out and offer them land to come and set up factories so as to employ their people,” Dr Udoh advised.
“The Diaspora is a rich source to tap if the LGs can cultivate their interest… let them know that there are resources to tap from there to here and vice-versa,” he added.
Industrialists should be rearing to go into action, especially in the local government areas after going through the lofty investment opportunities in Akwa Ibom expected to become an investors’ haven soon.
“How many of us would like Akwa Ibom to be like Dubai or Singapore?,” he asked at the end of his captivating lecture.
Almost all hands were raised in answer.
“For this to happen,” he added, “We mean ALL of us must take action” towards industrialization.