The ever-pressing need to break the ground in fast-tracking industrialisation and economic diversification has led many state governments into exploring diverse industrial models, with a number of them recording negligible successes.
This trial and error approach has led to the creation of industrial clusters or zones that now dot the country, all of which, analysts say, are boggled with numerous challenges ranging from ill-thought out policy measures, decaying infrastructure, little or no incentives for investment or in-fighting among initiators. Policy flip-flops and other man-made errors have made it difficult for these clusters to provide conducive environment for innovation and production to foster the growth of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). This is often the basis that translated to most of the industrial progress in other economies, like India, the United States and parts of Europe where deliberate government policies have facilitated economic progress.
In Edo State, Governor Godwin Obaseki, has pooled resources to set up the Edo Production Center, an industrial cluster for over 200 SMEs in Sapele Road axis of Benin City, fitted with 24 hours electricity, as an incentive to boost productivity. The governor is focused on repositioning the state as an industrial hub in Nigeria by creating the environment to stimulate the smooth operation of manufacturers, expand the space for youths to be engaged in productive activity and promote inclusive development.
The Production Center is an initiative of Governor Obaseki, to provide a multipurpose production facility with conducive environment for manufacturers to work in clusters. The multipurpose production cluster will serve as hub for Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs) in the state.
According to the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the Governor on Jobs Creation and Skills Development, Mrs. Ukinebo Dare, at the one-stop-shop and production Centre to be located across the three Senatorial Districts of the state, MSMEs will enjoy economies of scale and low cost of production.
Some of the major attractions include constant electricity, good road network, security, solar powered street lights and other business support services so as to boost capacity to produce at scale, create more jobs and deepen industrialisation. The cluster is also expected to aggregate different manufacturers with sections for welders, metal and fabrication, polythene cut, printers, woodwork, recyclers, shoemakers, among others.
The site of the Production Centre in Edo South Senatorial District is located along the Sapele Road-axis of Benin, in a formerly abandoned government warehouse refurbished by the Obaseki-led administration. The facility of four blocks has been described as the future of production, to accommodate local manufacturers.
When the Centre opens for business in June, it will host over 200 Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) involved in fabrication, furniture making, printing and polythene production and a number of other interested small business owners. Mrs. Ukinebo Dare, explained that through the Production Centre initiative, Governor Godwin Obaseki is focus on encouraging the growth of small-scale businesses to spur economic growth and create jobs and wealth for the people, as it only makes more sense to groom local manpower as step to attract big investors, by creating the enabling environment for everyone to work harmoniously with the right policy framework. Dare added that the initiative is being set-up by the state government with support from the Bank of Industry (BOI), MEND and Benson Idahosa University.
Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Edorodion Oye Erimona, noted that aside being a one-stop-shop for MSMEs to enjoy economics of scale and low cost of production, “the Centre will accommodate MSMEs clusters while the Benin Industrial park will host big industries. The electricity that will be at the hub will be drawn from the Ossiomo Power Purchase arrangement. Pollution in the environment will be minimal at the businesses will be MSMEs.”
Another key factor in favour of the initiative is that it would provide conducive environment for the development of other business clusters which will serve as incubation centres for new businesses in the state. The Centre is also expected to bring many small businesses together that will cooperate with each other in an attempt to efficiently share resources such as electricity, information, materials, water, energy, infrastructure, and other resources, and help achieve sustainable development, with the intention of increasing economic gains and improving the quality of lives for Edo people.
The production cluster would feature facilities designed to drastically reduce cost usually incur during production, increase income for small business owners, while at the same time reducing the price of goods and services in local economy, and growing foreign exchange earnings for the state and country.
For Governor Obaseki, the Production Centre will enable his administration assists entrepreneurs into small scale production cut down on cost of production and grow their businesses with ease in accessing finance and funding from financial institutions. This is in fulfilment of his promise to ensure a conducive environment for businesses to thrive and improve the quality of lives of the people. This will also complement the Obaseki-led administration goal in driving industrialisation of the state and undeniably revolutionise the state’s economy.
A unique attraction at the Centre according to Obaseki is the provision of uninterrupted power supply to the facility, as the state government has made arrangement for provision of 24/7 electricity to assist owners of small-scale businesses eliminate initial setup cost on electricity. As entrepreneurs are set to commence operation at the Production Center, three 500KV transformers have been installed at the facility to demonstrate Governor Obaseki’s promise to provide 24-hour electricity at the center. According to the Head, Energising Edo, Mr. Paul Okungbowa, “The 500KV transformers will be connected to the 33KV line in the area.
The plan is to have at the onset 1.2MW of power, which we intend to expand to 4MW in the near future. We want to ensure that the heavy machines to be run at the facility have 24-hour electricity to work optimally. Essentially, there will be no downtime, if the occupiers wish.”