Since 1999, no consecutive three years have seen such level of turbulence and crisis in Nigeria’s economic and political life as the last three. Oil prices collapsed, government revenues came under immense stress, the exchange rate and inflation are at an all-time high since 1999. Governing a state in Nigeria where you do not have control over much of these macro variables must be extraordinarily challenging. For Governor Willie Obiano, whose third anniversary in office was marked on March 17, it must be time to thank God for His mercies— For survival and progress! In the context of Nigeria’s situation over the last three years and in comparison with other states, or even in comparison with past governors in their first three years, Governor Obiano has without question done very well. However, I must also add that there is still a very long way to go, and I am sure Governor Obiano will be the first to acknowledge this.
I recommend the book by Dan Senor and Saul Singer, entitled: Start-Up Nations: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle. Countries/societies that have recently achieved spectacular economic miracles, such as South Korea and Malaysia have three key features. They got some fundamentals right and kept doing them right over an extended period. Lee Kuan Yew was asked to explain Singapore’s economic miracle, and he retorted that they got a few things right and kept doing them for decades. The second is the adoption of a grand vision and a Grand Plan (broadly owned with elite cohesion around the plan) such that successive governments kept moving within a defined trajectory. Finally, they got longer-tenured governments to cement the vision/plan instead of the four yearly turnovers with policy reversals and false/fresh starts.
Anambra has begun the journey, but Ndi Anambra need extraordinary cohesion, new thinking/orientation, new politics and different actions to accelerate the momentum for the economic miracle of the 21st century. The book, Start-Up Nation, asks a pertinent question: “How is it that Israel – a country of 7.1 million, only 60 years old, surrounded by enemies, in a constant state of war since its founding, with no natural resources – produce more start-up companies than large, peaceful, and stable nations like Japan, China, India, Korea, Canada and the UK?” Braughtigam, in an article, entitled: “Industrialising in spite of the State” described Nnewi, as the Taiwan of Africa. Despite the plethora of constraints – especially power and infrastructure deficiencies – Nnewi and Anambra entrepreneurs are still on the rise. Innoson Motors – the Nigerian indigenous automobile company– is a toast of that doggedness.
We would need to plan for 20-30 million people in Anambra over the coming decades, as Anambra fuses into one mega commercial/industrial city. At the moment, Anambra has a governor, who understands wealth creation. Security of life and property is the most critical factor for investment and Anambra under Gov. Obiano is one of the safest (if not the safest) states in Nigeria. Anambra is institutionalising change – remember the book entitled “Built to Last”?—There is a medium-term plan and the state has also set up the Anambra Small Business Agency (ASBA) as well as the Anambra State Investment Promotion and Protection Agency (ANSIPPA) – which has attracted up to $5 billion private investment commitments to the state within two years. Thousands of direct and indirect private sector jobs are being created and this is remarkable at a time of economic recession. With the campaign for Aku Lue Uno, are we about to see significant escalation of start-ups such that in 10-20 years’ time, Anambra will be an island of prosperity, an economic miracle with more start-up companies than most countries?
Over the next several years, I can see the Second Niger Bridge (with rail line) that merges Delta with Onitsha/Anambra as a mega alternative to Lagos. I envision the skyline along the River Niger like the skyline of Hong Kong. In the next several years also, Anambra should be an international city – to be accessible by air, land and sea (Onitsha seaport). The new dynamic economy will make Anambra the first choice destination for high value-adding opportunities—investment and jobs. The buoyant economy will ensure that internally generated revenue (IGR) should not only cover all recurrent expenditures but also contribute to capital expenditures.
To work, we need to urgently accelerate the mobilisation of human capital, finance, and institutions. The starting point is to agree that Anambra’s prosperity will be built with private capital – domestic, the Diaspora and FDI. The government, both state and federal, can only play a facilitation role. To accelerate the momentum, a few critical ingredients must fall in place
The Igbo constitute an emerging global tribe (like the Indians, Chinese, Jews, Anglo-Americans, Japanese, etc.). They are all over the world – with increasingly significant settlements in most African countries and an emerging force in certain business lines, especially electronics and auto spare parts. They have a unique business practice based on social capital. Through the apprentice system, the Igbo willingly and happily train and empower their future competitors in the same line of business. may not last beyond the first and second generation of our people in the Diaspora. All these things need to change.
To innovate and upgrade rapidly will require adaptation and robust networking with other clusters in the Diaspora as well as other global tribes. Gov. Obiano has a defined office for the Diaspora and I hope we can evaluate the effectiveness of this office by the number of businesses (and jobs therefrom) between the Diaspora and homeland. It is also gladdening to see the dynamic interactions between our businessmen and the Chinese. Our governor can facilitate participation of targeted businesses in targeted Chinese trade exhibitions with a view to match-making and attracting even more businesses to the homeland.
As costs rise in China and India, several of the industries there will be under pressure to relocate to cheaper cost locations and Anambra can compete to be the preferred destination. This is called the Flying Geese phenomenon and that is how the Japanese manufacturers built offshore subsidiaries in the South East Asian countries. The Chinese Embassy must set up a consular office in Awka or Enugu. I know the intensity of business relationships between Ndigbo, especially Ndi Anambra and the city of Guangzhou and Shanghai in China. Consequently, an Anambra-Guangzhou-Shanghai Chamber of Commerce will not be out of place.
•To be continued tomorrow