By MefLyn Anwana
The pendulum on which every successful economy in the world swings is entrepreneurship. This truth is etched into the fabric of global economies who embrace industrialization as the unifying factor that cuts through uncharted barriers, and delivers wealth for its people. Therefore, the government as custodian and administrator of a constituted society bears the responsibility to facilitate infrastructures to ‘Create an Entrepreneurial Economy’.
The eventful day of May 29th 2015 ventured His Excellency, Mr Udom Emmanuel into history, on an oath taken to be the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, his vision for the actualization of the Akwa Ibom project was to industrialize the state, and create meaningful and enriching job opportunities for Akwa lbom people.
To demonstrate this agenda, Governor Emmanuel anchored a five point agenda of Wealth Creation, economic and political inclusion, poverty alleviation, infrastructural consolidation & expansion and job creation. This made it absolutely necessary to establish a programme that will engage the creative energies, skills, ideas, capacities and productive endeavours of the Akwa Ibom people towards inspiring an industrial revolution using the bottom up approach.
A novel template, Akwa Ibom Employment and Enterprise Scheme (AKEES), was conceived by Governor Udom Emmanuel to empower all unemployed youths residing in and outside the state. AKEES, through its hands-on capacity building framework has kept to its tune as a platform where one can utilize skills acquired to build a career as a successful entrepreneur.
In the last 24 months, AKEES has worked to get young people off the streets and into organised work through trainings, partnerships, franchise schemes, internship opportunities, and targeted enterprise development schemes. So far, AKEES represents a documentary of progress and resounding success. Global communities in continents like Africa and Asia have irrevocably proven that the actively engaged youth population of a society is a mine of resources, capable of churning out innovative ideas and building industrial assets, brick by brick, if deliberately and appropriately deployed. It is therefore no surprise that Governor Udom’s youth employment spearhead, AKEES, has leveraged on this global industrial exception and engaged Akwa Ibom youths through its platform, which covers a broad range of SMEs and common facilities for artisans to ply their trades. Guided by its key objective to reduce youth unemployment by 50% by the year 2020, through the development of youth entrepreneurs, AKEES has impacted whole industries in the past 24 months.It is notable to see that over 1500 youths have received gainful employment with over 85 businesses either created or reinforced through the scheme. The ‘enterprise activation’ model of AKEES gives room to evolve a franchising strategy which allows beneficiaries to take ownership of their businesses through small scale partnerships and business-based authorization. The enterprise programmes allow individuals to set up their own business as well as support start-ups to meet certain needs in the marketplace. One of the unique selling point is that it allows start-ups in other parts of the country to consider doing business with the ones domiciled in Akwa Ibom State. The AKEES structure is well-spread, integrating other add-on programmes such as “Job Programmes, shared facilities and Equipment centre. The job programmes specifically and largely depend on the employability of the job seeker, while the common facilities and equipment centre was developed to encourage the formation of industry clusters and their value-chain all over the state. Also interesting to note is that entrepreneurs who belong in the same industry can utilize the same facilities and resources for different production operations and can collaborate within the ecosystem. AKEES is a well-oiled platform, and its capability to bring together the Technical /Vocational Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurial Training has put in motion an efficient infrastructure aimed at providing strategic job creation solutions in Akwa Ibom State.
The global proliferation in digital technology has taken permanent shift and is now a known resident in the consciousness of people and communities. Citizens, organizations, influencers, and the very fabric of our society is increasingly depending on digital technology to keep the pace and balance. Interestingly, Akwa Ibom State is at the threshold as an emerging economy in Nigeria, it is therefore no surprise that Governor Emmanuel’s commitment to achieving a digital economy has through this scheme been given a face lift as 3000 youths have been trained on ICT, this to a large extent has positioned participating Akwa lbomites to be competitive in a fast-paced, ever-expanding, and implicate global economy. The trained technicians and experts can now utilize their skills to offer services as entrepreneurs.
In a snapshot, the first quarter of 2016 puts AKEES on the landmark and shown to have provided employment for more than 1000 youths, the story is now different for a great number of Akwa lbom youths who responded to the opportunities unveiled by Governor Udom Emmanuel’s clarion call- ARISE TO THE FAITH OF GREATNESS (DAKKADA)
Undoubtedly, one of the most outstanding success stories of AKEES in the Fashion& Design subsector is SUNICK CLOTHING, a partner with AKEES. Sunick Clothing hosts a ‘Fashion Common Facility Centre (CFC) for the scheme, accommodating over 300 tailors and designers across the state. Sunick Clothings is one of many ventures that have been immensely impacted by the partnership, as access to equipment is reachable to enhance production, in a matrix that qualifies them to take mega deals, one of which is the large production orders on jerseys for academic institutions, football clubs and uniform agencies. It is a big deal!
Another angle of the shot is in agriculture, the exceptional industry sector that every society depends on to survive. As a consumer power house, tomato which is a top-ranking staple food in Nigeria has been in the front burner as a key economic direction in interpreting our strategy of the SDG of food sufficiency in developing economies. In x-raying the effect of the drastic fall in the production of tomato in February 2016 to tomato moth and climate change, a demonstration farm Cultivated by AKEES came to the rescue, yielding 12 tonnes of tomato through 8 weeks. The species of Tomatoes nurtured in the nursery includes good breeds like – Roma Red; Tolga and Cobra, notably a stalk of Tomatoes has a minimum of 60 fruits and can be harvested 5 to 6 times in its life span. A large expanse of Vegetables farms spans across the State, a 2.5 hectare of tomato plantation at Mbiabong Etoi, Uyo; 2.3 hectares of vegetables plantation at Ibiaku Obio Ndobo, Uruan LGA; 8 hectares of tomato etc. and other vegetables plantation at Mbak Etoi, Uyo. Diverse Demonstration Farms at Shelter Afrique Estate, Osongama Estate and many others sites. It is pertinent to note that Akwa Ibom State under the visionary leadership of Governor Udom Emmanuel is the next rated, net producer of several vegetables and cash crops (Lettuce, Cabbage, Radish, Pepper, Tomato, Cucumber, Garden Egg etc.)
In the aspect of media, a team of 6 dynamic members, NEWSLITE have provided summarized news to readers over the internet, residing within Nigeria and those overseas for over 10 months. They have visitors from over 20 countries of the world who read their website daily. AKEES is riddled with many success stories, they include : Crystal Media, Premium Herald, OnuK Interactive, FocusVille, Orbit Studios, Always Fresh, Cash Track Analysis KWO, Bolland Farms, Eni Farms, Cropex, Cashlog and lots more.
Governor Emmanuel’s module for youth entrepreneurship is evident and has evolved a unique project approach to stimulate the economy. The Akwa Ibom Toothpick and Pencil Factory is outstanding, and crystal clear. The factory produces 20,000 pieces of pencils in 8 hours, and runs on a 3-line Production Machine that produces 80,000kg of toothpick a week. Innovation has deepened the value chain of the Toothpick and Pencil products, and active participation in delivering these products has revealed highly enormous innovation such as using recycled papers in making pencil.
As Abraham Lincoln once said, the vision of Governor Udom Emmanuel to reawaken the spirit of enterprise is one “Noble deeds”. Propelled by the DAKKADA Philosophy, daylight is gradually breaking in the lives of Akwa Ibom youths who now earn a living and not beg for a living. The productive citizens of Akwa lbom have come to appreciate the matchless value which the AKEES initiative, and how it brings a huge community of global shapers to the front line, to form the big picture of Akwa Ibom State as a thought-business destination in the West African Region.
Literally, the sun is rising where Akwa Ibom State is mapped, and Governor Udom Emmanuel’s economic strategy is on the focus-scope, ready to engage our well-packaged proceeds of industrialization, as goods and commodites in the Export Market.