Investment fora as vehicles for diversification agenda
For forward looking and thinking states, retooling their respective revenue strategies is upper most and looking inwards on how to be self sufficient- rebased from the monthly federal allocations is a non-compromising target. Besides, the increasing needs of their people for grassroots developments- employment, infrastructure and improved standard of living, can no longer be anchored on the predictable figures of the allocations in Abuja.
There are indications that a Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs), tagged Investment Forum, has been evolved by states in the efforts to showcase the immense economic potentials inherent in their respective territories. This has been a veritable tool for various economies and large corporates globally.
For instance, the Investment and Enterprise Division of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development has used the World Investment Forum to promote investment for sustainable development and facilitate policy dialogue among a diverse community of investment stakeholders.
The forum brings together policymakers, including Heads of State and Government, ministers and other government officials responsible for investment; representatives from the private sector, including chief executives; international organisations working in the area of sustainable development and poverty reduction; thought leaders from academia and research institutions; and other members of the international investment community, including treaty negotiators, investment promotion and location experts, heads of sovereign wealth funds, heads of stock exchanges, and NGOs.
The Bayelsa State government, like other states, through its Investment and Economic Forum, may have towed the example, seeking to diversify its economy through private-sector investment in the face of falling oil price. It is opening up its shores to investors, showcasing its potentials and laid out plans that would be a building block for investors to stand solidly in just a space of time. The Investment and Economic Forum is fast becoming a continuum, as it has successfully been hosted back-to-back.
The Special Adviser to the Governor of Abia State, Sam Hart, who was at the 2015 Bayelsa State Investment and Economic Forum, attested to the viability of the initiative, saying that there is no loss in emulating what is good. Perhaps, the state may be the next.
Efforts of the Bayelsa State government in this direction may not be in vain, as investors responded in droves, just like in 2014 maiden edition, as it seeks to ramp up the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) beyond the N1.2 billion current status.
At a briefing with journalists, the states’s Commissioner for Trade, Industry and Tourism, Kemela Okara, said the state is serious about collaborating with private sector to grow the productive base of the economy and enthrone a regime of self-reliance, good life for the people and sustainable economy.
“The nature of the conversation of the forum was not theoretical. Those who were experts in different areas, those who were actively involved in different areas, spoke on how to get viable projects in the state running. The most explosive idea is the readiness of Bayelsa and Nigeria to take advantage of opportunities presented in business to do business. It is exciting. It makes our job easier. The Bayelsa State Investment Initiative will help the people tidy up the documentations and ensure that their expectations are met.
“We are also creating the necessary tax incentives for people to come. So, there is no doubt that we are very serious and a lot of incentives will come. Following from this, we are going to capture a lot of things in a documentary that we will share. We are creating the necessary environment. We want to ensure that everything that investors need is provided. We will make sure that nothing is holding them back. At the Federal Government level, we are also collaborating to hasten that process,” he said.
A director at FBN Capital, Patrick Mgbewelu, said the conference addressed several budding sectors- agriculture, manufacturing and energy, adding that the state’s agricultural base is considerable and comparative advantage exists for both food and tree crops including cassava, sugar cane and rubber, the longest coastline in the country and significant inland waterways, but lamented that local fish production is, low at about 30,000 tonnes yearly, which represents only six per cent of national production.
The Governor, Henry Seriake Dickson, told delegates that 50 hectares of land was acquired for the industrial park that is under construction, which is to be divided into four zones- commercial, industrial, office and residential.
He said the state is serious about expanding its economic frontiers beyond oil and gas and “it is by making remarkable moves through private sector participation in the state’s economy.”
“We have opened our doors to all agencies to build sustainable wealth, skills and promote entrepreneurship. We are pleased that Brass has been granted a free trade zone status, which will impact on over multi- million dollar transactions in Brass Island namely, Brass Fertiliser and Brass LNG. The presentation by the Oil and Gas Free Trade Zone Authority will reveal investment opportunities for project developers and financiers at the new Brass Oil and Gas City,” he said.
The Special Guest of Honour, Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, said the overall economic wellbeing of the country depends on the economic wellbeing of the federating states, hence all hands must be on deck in ensuring a diversified economy.
Osinbajo, who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Ade Ipaye, said that economic development requires structural growth, promising that the Federal Government is ready to assist in ensuring that sustainable ideas and opportunities in Bayelsa materilise.
He called for transparency in running of government and ensuring that corruption is eradicated in all areas as it deters long-term investors and kills industries before they become viable.
The Vice president (Eastern region) of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Mrs. Emelia Akpan, said there is need to improve the capacity of the people in the state, adding that youth empowerment is key to industrilisation because the youths are leaders of tomorrow.
Okara, speaking on the investments forum, said: “Specifically, for the forum which was held for the first time last year, we felt it is important, coming from the backdrop of what used to be Bayelsa State before the amnesty, when it was known for things like militancy, pipeline vandalism, kidnapping and other violent crimes. So, government of His Excellency, saw very clearly that there was need to communicate to the world that Bayelsa is open for business and welcomes investors and that the state is serious about growing the local economy.
“We have set out a vision for what we want to achieve in the state- creating jobs and creating private sector content that would allow private enterprise to grow in the state and targeted at possibly becoming the model of African economic success story. Our strategy has been such that for us to achieve these dreams, we need to move away from depending on the receipt
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