As Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State marks his first anniversary in office on November 12, there would be so much to talk about in the coming weeks on the Edo State Investment Summit, otherwise branded as Alaghodaro, which means “progress, moving forward and looking ahead” in Edo language. It is another way of saying the future is here. Everywhere you turn in Benin City, the Edo State capital; you will find billboards and flagpole banners starring back at you in a welcoming gesture announcing the summit and critical areas of intervention to reset the economy of the state.
The summit that would be declared open by Prof Yemi Osinbajo, Nigeria’s Vice President, is scheduled to hold from November 10 – 12, in Benin City, and the organisers have promised to reveal 2Nigeria’s best-kept secret” at the summit. The essence of Alaghodaro has been aptly captured as “Envisioning the Future” by looking at 30 years from now. It is a bold and visionary endeavour by Governor Obaseki and the intention is for local and foreign investors to unlock the investment potentials in Edo State.
By being forward looking and coming up with a strategic intent for creating wealth and prosperity for Edo State people, Governor Obaseki is bringing his wealth of experience in the private sector, especially his investment-savvy credentials, to bear on his economic transformation agenda in Edo State. The very distinguished professor of strategy, Michael Porter of the Harvard Business School, says the strategy is about winning by using your resources to gain competitive advantage through innovation.
As a man of ideas, Governor Obaseki has clearly continued on this path since he assumed office 12 months ago and it is evident that he is in a hurry to accomplish so much during his tenure. The governor is a technocrat and strategist and silent workaholic who would rather allow his performance record speak for him as he strives to win for the Edo State people. If you visit the website of Alaghodaro, it says the summit is aimed at bringing together “top Nigerian and international business leaders, investors, bankers, industry experts, policymakers and the academia to set the agenda for development”.
The richest man in Africa, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, will be leading a host of other serial investors and entrepreneurs to make presentations in what the organisers say would “spark innovation and inspire commitment to strategic deployment of capital for greater socio-economic and environmental impact”. Together with the Dangote Group, the Mahindra Group from India and Tolaran Group from Singapore are ready to showcase a $1.5 billion investment at the summit. A ground breaking event would be the launch of Edo Industrial Park that would signpost the governor’s vision for the rapid industrialization of the state.
In addition, the summit intends to discover how Edo State will leverage its competitive advantages in the different sectors for sustainable economic growth. This critical outcome is expected to be achieved by private sector collaboration with the state government. The strategic pillars of the prosperity roadmap that would be unveiled at the summit as the government looks into the future include Institutional Reform, Economic Development, Social Welfare, Environmental Sustainability, and Art, Culture & Tourism.
Information from the Alaghodaro website further revealed that the Edo State Investment Summit was conceived with the following objectives in mind:
- Bring together stakeholders critical to advancing business interests across a variety of industries.
- Build important business relationships with key stakeholders such as investors, financiers, consultants, operators, project developers and government.
- Acquire practical knowledge from top local and international business leaders and investors on the latest trends, opportunities and challenges across various fields of interest.
- Gain valuable insight into Edo’s investment landscape and untapped potential in a variety of industries.
- Explore prospects for joint venture or outright acquisition through public-private-partnership, privatisation and commercialization of several state-owned enterprises.
To set the tone for the summit and to demonstrate his commitment to succeed, Governor Obaseki was at the London Stock Exchange recently to speak to a global audience on investment opportunities in Edo State. The sectors he talked about during the session discussing ‘The Nigerian Opportunity’ included mining, agro-processing, infrastructure, transportation, healthcare, arts, culture, tourism and education. With assurances of a favourable investment climate provided by the governor, global business leaders are encouraged to participate at the Alaghodaro Investment Summit.
In a season of declining oil revenues, Governor Obaseki says Alaghodaro is a response to that challenge through innovation by moblising human and private capital to open up non-oil sectors such as agriculture, mining, sports, technology, entertainment, arts, culture and tourism. The time has come for state governors to completely innovate and think out of the box. The era of going cap in hand to Abuja for monthly handouts should become a thing of the past. Such monthly allocations ought to be considered as residual revenue while focusing on non-oil sector revenue to accelerate developments in their respective states.
Indeed, plans are afoot to turn Edo State into a tourist destination through a re-branding effort that encourages ownership of the process by all stakeholders. The idea is to look at the culture and lifestyle of the Edo people; festivals, carnivals, tourist attractions and historical sites in view of the rich cultural heritage of Edo State. For example, Edo State Festival of arts, culture and tourism, otherwise known as EDOFEST is planned to hold from December 17 – 22 this year in Benin City just as the Ososo Carnival has been scheduled to hold in Ososo in Akoko Edo Local Government Area of Edo State from December 23 – 30, 2017.
These are just two examples to promote domestic tourism in the state. In addition, the state government has also targeted a critical audience by looking at diaspora citizens. It is an open secret that most Nigerians abroad are keen to either return home or have investments with organisations or individuals they can trust. Nigerians abroad send millions of dollars home every year but these funds can be properly harnessed for investment purposes in critical sectors that align with the Alaghodaro vision.
There are several investment assets that may be considered by investors including our diaspora brothers and sisters. A good example is the AMES Edo Truck Transit Park which is an Edo State government public private partnership agreement (PPP) with Atlantique Marine and supported by the federal government through the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) that is constructing a modern Truck Transit Park (TTP) located in Benin City. The park is designed to conveniently accommodate about 1000 trailers on rotation basis. The park will also serve as a public rest area located off the road to provide temporary rest location for truck drivers.
Another PPP example is the construction of an Inland Container Depot (Dry Pot) in Benin City also facilitated by Atlantique Marine. The objective of the project is to bring shipping activities closer to manufacturers and drive industrialization in Edo State and neighbouring states. On completion by 2018, the project is expected to be designated a Customs Port and receive the federal government approval as a Port of Origin and Destination.
However, in order to successfully reset the economy during and after the Alaghodaro Summit, the strategy and economic team should explain in a document the incentives for investors who are deploying private capital. An investment guide would also be helpful and it should clearly establish how shared value that is sustainable can be created through PPP to encourage more investments from the private sector.
- Braimah is managing director/chief executive of a public relations and marketing services company based in Lagos