The pan-African multilateral trade finance institution, African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has said it would support the implementation of the vision and development strategies of the South-East zone of Nigeria.
Making the promise in a keynote address at the 4th South-East Economic Summit (SEES 4) with the theme ‘Financing South East Economic Development and Improving Ease of Doing Business,’ which ended yesterday in Enugu, the President of Afreximbank, Prof. Benedict Oramah said the bank has been financing the transformation of African economies and the diversification of their exports hence was well placed to support the South-East.
Oramah who was represented by the bank’s Chief Economist, Dr. Hippolyte Fofack as the Guest of Honour said Afreximbank would support the implementation of the strategies articulated by the South-East governors through the bank’s various programmes and facilities that included Development of Industrial Parks and Special Economic Zones.
This he said was meant to accelerate the process of industrialization and export diversification with the view to broadening the tax base and increasing internal revenue generation within the zone while the others would be through the bank’s Project Preparation Facility and Fund for Export Development in Africa (FEDA).
He suggested the establishment or selecting of a regional Centre of Excellence for Science and Technology saying that it should be “Jointly owned by the states member of the South-East Governors Forum, the Regional Centre of Excellence will draw on its affiliations with world-class institutions in science, technology and engineering to train the best and brightest within the South-East region.
“The cohort of exceptional engineers and scientists coming out of that institution will then have the mission to transform their states into economic powerhouses and engineer solutions in a world where major structural changes have been driven more by technological changes and innovations than by organizational changes;
“And perhaps through such a world-class engineering institution the Governors could establish the South-Eastern Region equivalent of US Western Region’s Centre of Excellence – Stanford University which will ultimately create the Nilicon Valley – the Nigerian equivalent of Silicon Valley to complement Nollywood and sustainably drive innovation across the South-East Region, the federation, the continent of Africa and throughout the world.”
He also made case for regionalism which he said has the potential to drive competition as smaller states tend to be at a significant disadvantage when it comes to attracting investors and industries.
In his address, the Chairman, South-East Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi said while the agitation and debate for political and economic restructuring of Nigeria rages, the South-East could lead the way in creating an enviable economic block through inter-state collaboration to build a vibrant economic sub-region that could be reckoned with globally.
Umahi who was represented by his Deputy, Dr. Kelechi Igwe made case for collaboration in agriculture and solid minerals development in the zone stressing that agriculture remained the only feasible and viable alternative to oil-dependent economy in Nigeria.
He said, “Increasing growth and enhancing sustainable agricultural production in the South-East zone of Nigeria will help to develop the rural communities, reduce rural-urban migration, create job opportunities, reduce poverty, secure food supply, increase internal revenue, expand foreign exchange earnings and increase GDP per capita.”
Chairman of the Summit and former Chairman of MTN Nigeria, Dr. Pascal Dozie, towed the same view of Umahi of pooling resources together to make South-East Geopolitical zone thick economically.
He said, “Why can’t our politicians cooperate? Why can’t our governors come together and say, let’s embark on one project? Are we going to wait for this place to be completely deserted before we do something? If you want to move fast, you move alone but when you want to get things done, you do it together.”
Others who spoke at the summit included Prof Chidi Onyia of National Infrastructure Advisory Facility (NIAF) and Dr. Abraham Nwankwo.
Also in attendance were the Chairman, South-East Region Economic Development Company (SEREDEC) Prof. Bart Nnaji and the Deputy Governor of Abia State, HON. Ude Oko Chukwu.