Earlier in the month, Governor of Abia State, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu took a major step towards actualising the vision of the Enyimba Economic City (EEC). At the second edition of the AfDB led Africa Investment Forum (AIF), the governor secured US$430 million funding for the economic city. This came a month after the team that pitched the Enyimba Economic City at the Charter Cities Institute defeated projects from Russia and Australia to claim the US$25,000 funding as well as partnership with the institute.
The EEC is Dr Ikpeazu’s vision to actualise and aid the already present innovative, manufacturing and entrepreneurial culture of the citizens of Abia state and the South East as a whole. The city of Aba (the location of the EEC) located in Abia state popularly dubbed the “China of Africa” is a city known for its craftmanship in iron and leather works. However, the city has not enjoyed any form of coordinated support to assist entrepreneurs and SMEs within the city groom their businesses. The dearth of infrastructure such as good roads, water resources, power and environmental cleanliness facilities have limited the growth of the commercial hub.
Governor Ikpeazu last year announced plans to build the EEC which would connect all the 5 South-Eastern states as well as the 4 South-South states bordering the city and operate as a Free Trade Zone. The 9,803-hectare EEC is located strategically near existing seaports in Onne and PortHarcourt while having good proximity to the proposed Akwa Ibom Deep Sea Port. Furthermore, it is located along key rail lines of PortHarcourt and Maiduguri giving it a major connection to Northern states.
The economic city would be built with its independent inland port as well as airport while it would be constructed as a business hub, work, live, learn and play city. In addition, the city is expected to have independent 24/7 power supply from power substations to be constructed in the city. Abia state is in partnership with Ruyi Group (the largest textile manufacturer in China) as well as Geometric Power Company on the construction of the power plants for the city.
The Federal Government is also weighing in on the project with its own equity contribution. The US$430 million funding secured by the governor at the AIF would be used to onboard the first phase of the project. The project is expected to create over 625,000 jobs over the next 10 years while gulping over N500 billion (US$1.4 billion) upon completion.
We consider this project a landmark one for the state and Nigeria as a whole as it would provide a major boost to the development of manufacturing and industrialisation in Nigeria. While the project is privately led and appears adequately thought out, we are concerned about it going the way of similar projects in the past that have since gone under the radar.
The biggest example would be the TINAPA business and leisure resort which was conceived under a Public-Private Partnership agreement floated by the Cross River government and opened in 2007 but has since been abandoned mainly due to unfavourable government policies, high operating costs and disagreements between the operators and regulators. One would, however, hope that the Abia state government would have lots of lessons to learn from the failure of TINAPA. Nevertheless, the Enyimba Economic City may just be another major breakthrough for industrial development in Nigeria.