Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom state by every stretch of imagination is more an ambitious business man than a typical Nigerian politician.
Those closer to him could attest to the fact that his focus centers on making Akwa Ibom an economically viable state without over dependency on petro-dollars.
By his body language and policy thrust, he has shown the drive to change the state from a purely civil service state to an industrial hub.
From the launch of Dakkada philosophy, to his vigourous pursuit of industrialization, even his worst critics agree that “Udom means Business.”
The Dakkada launch was aimed at the reorientation of every Akwa Ibomite to rise to his or her faith of greatness by using inert abilities, talent, skillsets and available resources.
Arguably, at no time in the history of Akwa Ibom state that emphasis has been laid on entrepreneurship as it has been since Mr. Emmanuel mounted the saddle as governor some five years ago.
The industries attracted to the state within the past five years is an attestation to his business-like approach to governance and development of the state through Small Medium scale entreprises, SMEs.
At the Macro level, the governor is driving investments through networks of economically viable roads, the development of the air transportation through Ibom Airlines and upgrading of Victor Attah International Airport as well as vigorous drive towards the marine transportation via the realization of the Ibom Deep seaport and industrial city.
Perhaps in pursuit of raising the standard of living of most Akwa Ibomites at the micro level, three of five pillars of his first term agenda, namely; job creation, poverty alleviation and wealth creation were to be achieved through the development of Small and Medium Scale Entreprises.
With the dwindling oil price in the international market owing to Covid-19 pandemic, one could see why the governor even before the current situation enveloped the world, placed much emphasis on the development of Micro small medium enterprises, MSMES.
To help drive his vision, he repositioned the once inactive Ministry of Commerce and Industry to an active player in the investment Think Tank of government and renamed it, Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment.
One of the reasons deduced from Akwa Ibom government’s pursuit of economic recovery through MSMEs is the ability of these micro entreprises to build capacity in the training of indigenous entrepreneurs, which drives the wealth creation process at all levels.
For instance, more than 100 entreprenuers were trained last year December on managerial skill of enterprenuership, good record keeping, migration from informal to formal sector.
In terms of poverty alleviation the aggressive drive of developing SMEs is because it provides a veritable platform for poverty reduction among citizenry. With low capital framework to establish small business, and the employability of both skilled and unskilled labour, it creates a means of livelihood for many.
The My Entrepreneurship Goals Programme , MEGP domiciled in the Brand Management and Marketing Unit of the governor’s office is a development programme aimed at training business starters in defining clear goals for their businesses, providing the right network for partnership /information acquisition as well as the need to apply the information gathered.
The programme also exposes starters to expert’s knowledge on how to plan and manage finances, effect proper book keeping and budgeting using the latest business management tools.
So far over a 100 persons who applied for this training have been trained in various areas including Basic, Medium and advanced digital skills in photography, cinematography, software development and e-commerce.
With over five thousand persons being trained in various skills from tailoring, hair dressing, soap making, bead to hat making etc with adequate empowerment for start-up, it is clear that Udom envisions Akwa Ibom where most people could become employers of labour instead of job seekers thereby reducing overdependence non- existing white collar jobs.
The government is not also unmindful of the role MSMEs play in the economic life of any nation.
This is because apart from employment in government circles, MSMEs perform a critical role in the economy by providing employment to a large number of unskilled and semi-skilled people, contributing to exports, raising manufacturing sector production and extending support to bigger industries by supplying raw material, basic goods, finished parts and components, etc.
With the industries that the government has attracted to the state, the MSMEs have been given a leap as suppliers of raw materials, distributors, truckers and other support services needed by these companies.
There is no gainsaying that there is a multiplier effects in terms of employment in Akwa Ibom as many more people have cashed in on the emerging economic environment of the Governor Emmanuel’s administration.
Perhaps the MSMEs in Akwa Ibom are the major beneficiaries of the Kings Flour mill, an investment facilitated by the governor into the state. Those in the bakery and confectionaries do not need to go to other states to get flour of any kind for their businesses.
Notwithstanding, to show the imprimatur accorded the MSMEs by the governor, he recently co-opted some of their leaders as members of the State Post Covid-19 Economic Reconstruction Committee headed by the erudite professor of Economics and former Director General, West African Finance Institute, Mr. Akpan Hogan Ekpo.
Among those from the MSMEs were Pastor Samuel Archibong, President, League of Akwa Ibom Business Association, LABUSA, Prince Bassey Inwang, President All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Akwa Ibom State Chapter, Mr. Lordswill Umani, President Akwa Ibom Business Community and Obong Nseyen Ebong, President, Uyo Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, UYOCCIMA.
The imperative of their inclusion was for them to contribute in designing a policy that will generate employment, promote growth, create linkages with investors, develop and acquire technological knowhow through knowledge transfer.
To ensure employment generation through the MSMEs, the government had earlier trained 1000 youths on Oracle applications to tap in to the new world of digital economy. Besides, various grants and loans of over N2 billion were given to traders to expand their businesses.
Those in the Agro-allied sectors have had their shares from the state government through direct and indirect interventions. Some of these interventions to boost MSMEs include the establishment of palm oil processing factory, garri processing mills, palm kernel nut processing mill and tissue paper factory. Others have also benefitted from improved cocoa seedling, cassava stems, corn seedlings subsidized fertilizers, extension services, training and management of these farms.
With full implementation of the Akwa Ibom Micro Entreprises Development Agency law and creating an industrial incubation hub as a one stop center for me I’m entrepreneurs there is no doubt that Akwa Ibom is set for attracting investments that will create jobs, alleviate poverty and create wealth for its citizenry.
Macauley writes from Uyo