Magazine article New African

Abia: A State Driven by Enterprise

Magazine article New African

Abia: A State Driven by Enterprise

Article excerpt

Abia State was carved out of Imo State in August 1991 during the reign of General Ibrahim Babangida. But it is only over the last five years under the leadership of Governor Orji Uzor Kalu that the state has truly achieved the potential that reflects the vitality and enterprise of its people.

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The term "Made in Aba", which is easily interchangeable with "Made in Italy", has become the generic phrase for locally produced goods throughout Nigeria. This is because Aba, the second most important city of Abia State, is known for its manufacturing capacity.

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Its ability to make high quality goods that compete favourably in style and value with imported ones (especially shoes, handbags, garments and electronic goods), is widely recognised. The uniqueness of the state stems from the ability of its people to learn not only manufacturing techniques but also how to market their products.

Governor Orji Uzor Kalu is determined to ensure that Abia State becomes a centre of excellence in the provision of services. He is also working hard to provide a healthy investment climate. One of his main objectives is to develop the state to a level that will attract foreign investors willing to enter into partnerships with local entrepreneurs. To this end, the state government has created a special Private Sector Enhancement Initiative (PSEI) that targets Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) for special assistance. The government is also working overtime to repair services and provide incentives to local businesses to enhance their competitiveness in the national and sub-regional markets.

As a result, the government devotes 1% of its annual budget to promoting SMEs, and makes special efforts to incorporate the private sector in its development initiatives. The main objective of the government's economic blueprint, devised by Governor Kalu himself--he is a successful businessman in his own right--is to ensure an annual growth of at least 10% in the state economy.

The government also places increased emphasis on the development of local manufacturing capacity and has an integrated industrialisation programme in place. At the heart of the programme is agricultural enhancement which has led to the distribution of large quantities of high-grade seeds and seedlings to farmers throughout the state in order to ensure the revival of the agrarian sector as the mainstay of the economy.

The people of Abia are also pleased with the government's emphasis on rural infrastructure and public services development. It has provided nearly 500 new electricity transformers to rural communities to improve energy supply.

Governor Kalu has been especially outspoken about the deficient nature of the federal power supply to his state. He believes that without proper electricity supply, all the best intentions for development will be futile. He is, therefore, determined to put the facilities in place to ensure proper energy distribution in the years ahead.

The state government has also provided 600 new water boreholes, and constructed, repaired or upgraded more than 400 rural roads throughout the state.

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Kalu has also undertaken several overseas visits to promote the interests of Abia and encourage foreign investment. So far, his economic diplomacy has been extremely successful. His visits to major institutions of finance, such as the World Bank, have been reciprocated. For example, World Bank president, James Wolfensohn, came with a high-powered team of bank officials and potential foreign investors to tour Aba. …

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