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Soludo's speech at Anambra Investment Summit

Thursday Sep 14, 2023 8:04 am

Awka,   Business and Economy

For the Records

Giant strides of visionary leadership


A few words to say big welcome to you to this first ever Anambra Investment Summit, at least that is what I have been made to understand. But this is the first time we are having this kind of investment summit of this structure.

So I want to thank and welcome all of you to Anambra State, the light of the nation. You are all welcome.

So apologies, as you could see, the President is in India and with him happened to be quite a large contingent of Nigeria's entrepreneurs. And I know that a few dozens in the Anambra entrepreneurs who had earlier even confirmed to be here for this summit, unfortunately had to go with him.

But we thought it was better as they were calling me to apologize that they wouldn't be here because they were going with the President to India. I said that is even better. Go there and negotiate for further investments into Anambra State.

Anambra, the light of the nation is on the move. Our journey to making Anambra the next axis of sustainable prosperity is on course.

As you saw from the video that has just been shown, with an economic size estimated at about $20 billion, the population of about 8.5 million people, it's important that our people know, the world knows, that Anambra has the highest population density after Lagos.

Anambra State is a hub, locationally. We have a boundary with the North, through Kogi. We have a boundary with the Southwest, South South, via Delta. We have a boundary with River State and boundaries with Enugu, Abia, and Imo states.

It is a state that is potentially accessible by air, by land, and by sea. Once we get the Onitsha port on, dredged and the badges will now be coming down to Anambra.

With the Niger Bridge completed, Asaba and Onitsha have become almost like New Jersey and New York, Twin Cities.

We have the largest market in West Africa, it is said. I remember, One of the times that former president Obasanjo visited here and I was seeing him off to the airport and he did mention to me that Onitsha is actually the largest fish market not only in Nigeria, even in West Africa.

You have the billionaires, as has been said, enterprise in human capital. We have 15 major higher institutions, tertiary institutions, 10 universities, three polytechnics, two colleges of education, not to talk about other specialized colleges of nursing, health technologies, and so on and so forth.

We have some first rate hospitals, huge and strong diaspora population, et cetera. The potentials are just infinite. As you just heard, Anambra is number one out of the 17 states in the southern Nigeria in the latest ease of doing business in Nigeria, in terms of state by state, and we are number seven in the entire country.

Five pillars of the Soludo Solution Agenda is on course. Our vision is to build a livable and prosperous smart mega city, and the destination will be the preferred destination to live, to invest, to work, to learn, to relax and enjoy, and we are very deliberate and intentional on trying to make sure that we accomplish the five things.

Again, as you saw in the video, security, law, and order, is improving, we're aggressively addressing our infrastructural deficiencies.

As of today, about 370 kilometers of roads are being constructed across the 21 local governments of the state.

We have signed an MOU very intentional about addressing the issue of power. We've signed an agreement with EEDC. We have pipeline gas being planned to be able to energize independent power plants in order to develop an Anambra electricity market.

Urban regeneration is on course. Provision of Water and ports development, as have been mentioned are all fully on course.

The planning of a railway, a rail feasibility study and master plan, are part of the MOUs we are going to sign today.

About 2000 kilometer of fiber optic ducts are also being laid across the state to give people access to cheap internet. We are also resolutely determined to break the jinx, decade old jinx, about availability of urban and rural pipeline water schemes in Anambra state.

Also on course is the Industrial city, industrial parks. We will be talking about that today.

Export emporium and Africa's largest shopping mall are on course. That is being designed now, the feasibility study is finished.

The agricultural regeneration, palm and coconut revolution, et cetera, are fully on course

The Chinese ambassador, I understand, the MOU we are going to sign with you will be in regards to mushroom production and export and other strategic investments and export potentials.

China is the largest market at least by the size of the population and so on, and of course, it is also the second largest GDP in the world, a huge market which we need to exploit.

And thank you for coming with the team that you have here. About 400 Chinese live in Anambra and there are two institutions where Chinese language is being taught here in Anambra and as I mooted to you when we pass, we'll give you an estate where you will build a China town.

It's not just the Boulevard, we are going to have the China town here in Anambra and you did say to me that you will take it up and get it done. So we are waiting for the Boulevard that you mentioned and the whole lot of others.

Last week or two weeks ago, I had a meeting with 300 of major importers to develop an agenda very deliberately to turn them from being importers to domestic producers and ultimately to begin to be exporters.

We have an agenda with that and we hope to be able to partner with you and with others in this regard. Then we are very deliberate about the sports economy. We are mainstreaming that and I want to say to you when you come again by this time next year, you wouldn't just go back to your hotels or go to some other places, we will take you to the solution fun city here in Awka and take you through our water parks, amusement parks and country club, anywhere you could just relax and enjoy.

We are very intentional about this, at the Agulu Lake Resort, we are currently acquiring another 200 hectares of land that will be the entertainment leisure city here in Anambra.

The world will be coming to Anambra. Our goal is to turn Anambra from being a departure lounge to a destination point.

We must change that narrative from being a departure lounge to a destination point. The world will intentionally plan to come to Anambra and in a few years time our goal is that any visitor, any foreigner that goes to Nigeria and hasn't been to Anambra hasn't been to Nigeria.

Our human capital agenda, we are prioritising that and in the next two weeks I will be addressing our people on education. Our human capital is our biggest resource ever. We have the gas, we have natural resources, solid minerals and so on but our greatest resource is human capital.

We are intentional about developing our human capital to be productive at home but also to be exportable abroad. On governance, everything technology and technology everywhere to mainstream efficient service delivery. Today we know that in Anambra you can now obtain change of title of land, your certificate of occupancy and so on.

It's gone from taking months and six months, one year, two years. It's now cut down to three days, three to five days and you get a C of O in Anambra state.

We are very intentional about this and we are not joking about a new local government system as you imagine.

Our environment, our biggest existential threat, we are working towards a plan clean, green and sustainable markets, communities and cities. We are planning better. We are the gully erosion capital of the world. Everywhere gully. And Anambra state is putting out a few billions to fix that.

As we are fixing here, the other places are rising but we are coming with a comprehensive agenda which the state assembly, when they are back from recess will be one of the first bills we will be presenting to them to rescue our environment and make it sustainable.

Our urban regeneration agenda is on course. I can go on and on but just to tell you our potential investors that in Anambra we are firing on all cylinders and Anambra will be that place for you to come.

I am glad Country Coordinator of the United Nations system is here and the Chinese ambassador.

China's ambassador particularly stressed that this shouldn't just be talk, we should be closing deals. Yes, we will symbolically sign some deals in a few minutes time. I am sure by the time we listen to our keynote speaker, president of the Afrexim Bank, that would also be mentioning some specific engagements we have with them because we will also be signing an MOU with them today.

This is, we are very intentional and deliberate. I've mentioned a structured programme to mainstream people from importation to production and to exportation eventually, especially exploiting the opportunities under the Africa Free Trade Agreement that we have.

The world is for us and Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa

Nigeria by the turn of this century should be in the top three, top four largest economies in the world if we focus our mind

But whatever Nigeria goes, Anambra is determined to get to a point that we will be exporting deliberately in some months to come. And that's why we have acquired 106 hectares of land at Ukpo Ukwulu where we're establishing the Export Emporium with the warehouses and aggregation center that will become a free trade zone and export free trade zone soon

Our innovation district is on course designed to midwife the emergence of digital tribe.

Our Youth two skills programme, we're trying to mainstream deliberately and empower the emergence of MSMEs in the state, organizing funding, thinking it through and trying to do the mentoring process from gestation, project development to execution, execution, execution!

We're investing, deliberately investing in project development, feasibility studies to take project to bankability.

We're not just telling you, come and invest. We want to hand-hold and work with you. As I say everywhere, if you have a major investment to make in Anambra, I will become your personal assistant and will be the marketer and officer for you.

When you see me wearing many Ogbunike shoes or wearing the akwete made by the women of akwete in Abia or driving Innoson vehicles as my personal vehicles, it is deliberate, it's intentional and it is designed to send a message that if we don't say here we are, nobody is going to say there you are!

I am the chief marketing officer for anything, everything produced here in Anambra.

And soon we're going to have an expo, a Maiden Anambra expo, and we will be doing that expo shortly in a few months at the Export Emporium. We will invite you again to come to the Export Emporium.

We will be marketing them. And today we will be signing the MOU on a number of projects that will be put together and raising the funding. And there we also be helping them to put together several of the funding with the international consulting firm Mahindra, global consulting, to help us to develop the feasibility study and the master plan for industrial cities and parks.

We are acquiring about 5,000 to 7 ,000 hectares of land that will be a complete industrial city with everything that you need to be there, will be there. This is being planned and a master plan of that is being developed as we speak.

The World Bank Director is here. I am sure he is one of the keynotes speakers, who will also be speaking in one of the panel sessions. They were all here last year the international community. IMF and everybody was here, UNDP, UN system, UNIDO and everybody was here.

We are very deliberate about these partnerships and we will continue to cement them and put Anambra on the map.

Following from here, tomorrow we will be having a ground breaking ceremony for the second automobile manufacturing company here in Anambra after Innoson.

The OMA Cojo Groups at Umunya will be having the ground breaking ceremony to. For some months to come, even days to come, we will be commissioning projects before the end of this year. Anambra is the place. While some are still waiting to see when the situation will be perfect, those who are taking the first move, will have some advantages by moving in and expanding.

As I said, if you produce it here in Anambra, appoint me as your Chief Marketing Officer, and I will be there to do the commissioning.

Today, we have symbolically out of maybe three dozens or so of MOUs that are ready to be signed, we are symbolically choosing quite a few for the symbolism of it, because they covered different sectors.

There is a financing bit of it, which we will have to do with Afrexim Bank. There is the consulting development of bankable feasibility studies that will be done by the Mahindra, as I mentioned, to generate a master plan as well for industrial city.

Then we have the Anambra Intra City Rail. These people have talked about it for decades, but there has been no feasibility study. There has been no master plan. We now want to walk the talk.

We are hiring the CPCS of Canada, an international consulting firm that has helped to meet the needs of several of the train services around Africa, and even the ones that we have had here in Nigeria.

They will be producing a bankable feasibility study for us between now and probably the next six months. We're signing that agreement today, not tomorrow. They will produce that master plan, and then we will begin to get the money to get it done.

We have the automotive industrial park co -promoter, OMA cojo motors joining us with that. We have the pharmaceutical industrial park, the Awka shopping mall, we've chosen sectors, different sectors, different segments and representative of different ones.

Whether it is in the area of commerce, the shopping mall, or in the industrial automotive we are promoting as a government, a public, community, private partnership

And as a state, we are very deliberate. We're setting up an investment fund that will also go with you if we need to, besides providing you with land and infrastructure. I have come, I applied for this job to help to build a state where I will not only live, retire and die.

This is my home. God didn't make a mistake in choosing to make me an Anambra. So I'm putting in everything into this. And finally to say we are going to do everything to encourage you in any way that you want to make your business prosper, to help to de -risk your investment here in Anambra.

The coordinator, UN coordinator, made a very fundamental point that we must drive investments but not necessarily be in terms of profit and loss account, but also the social impact.

I want to appreciate my predecessor in office, Chief Willie Obiano, who conceptualised and built this edifice. We will never acknowledge that enough and we thank him, even the airport he also started it and got it where it is, we are still building it and we are hoping we are going to get it completed.

Probably today you have come to Anambra International Convention Centre, hopefully, I haven't even discussed this with him but if he agrees, if he accepts, the next time when you come here it will now become the Willie Obiano International Convention Centre.

Yes, we accept that's what we do. We play a different kind of politics in Anambra, a politics of statemanship.

And all my previous predecessors in office, beginning from him, Chief Willie Obiano, he did a great job.

From him you have the others. Even the earliest ones, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, first civilian governor, you get down to Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, who many people will forget that he was the one that established the Anambra State University at his own time.

And of course, Dr. Chris Ngige and Mr. Peter Obi, these are our governors, we are going to deliberately find either institutions, boulevards, major streets, major roads to name after them.

And several of our people deserving of this, former governors, even Dame Virgy Etiaba and some others, Francis Cardinal Arinze or Archbishop Anikwenwa and so on. We have to be deliberate about celebrating our best.

But very importantly, for the event today, for these people who are putting down the amount here, I've seen my brother, Pokobros, Igwe Oranu and others, not to talk about Dozzy and others, the Ibetos, the Innoson, the Coschariz and so on and so forth.

All those who have their investments, creating jobs, creating wealth, we will keep on to honor them. And as we honor them, the young ones will now say that in Anambra, hard work is what we celebrate. Integrity is what we celebrate. We don't celebrate criminality in Anambra.

We don't celebrate money that we don't know the source. In Anambra, we celebrate hard work. We celebrate enterprise. We celebrate those who make contribution to society. And this is what Anambra is all about. And if you are about that, I will be yours sincerely, I will be your chief servant and your chief marketer.

Once more, welcome to Anambra and enjoy the rest of it. Thank you very much and God bless.

Excerpts by Christian Aburime

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