Transforming Akwa Ibom: How the Civil Service State became a magnet for FDI

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Transcription

Udom Emmanuel took the governorship of Nigeria’s Akwa Ibom State in 2015. Since then, he has transformed the southern coastal region from a civil service state into an attractive destination for private business; one of the best states in the country to attract foreign direct investment. In this first video of the hour that World Finance spent in the studio with Governor Udom Emmanuel, he explains his vision for the transformation of Akwa Ibom, how he developed the state’s collaborative relationship with businesses and l importance of supporting young people to develop their full potential.

World Finance: What was the state of the economy and employment in Akwa Ibom when you took the governorship?

Udom Emmanuel: When we talk about being a civil servant state, it means that the only hope of employment, and what everyone was looking for in terms of employment, was to be a civil servant. There was no alternative.

And being a civil service state was also that, it was not attractive to foreign direct investors. Because what could really form what I call the ease of doing business? Attention has not been given to these areas.

And we arrived, and we just defined what I call RAW, RAW: road, air, water. Really build our own industrialization policy. If you can’t attract people by road, if you can’t attract people by air, if you can’t attract investors by water? It means you have gaps.

The attraction was not there. The ease of doing business was not there. The hope, the expectation, the search of the people. But we are gradually changing this narrative.

World Finance: So join me today: what is the current state of the economy, what are the opportunities available and what changes have you made to bring Akwa Ibom to this position?

Udom Emmanuel: Changes first: you have to assess, what do you have? Because I believe that in life, what you have is all you need to get where you want to go. Once you know what you have, the next thing is you come now and drive the human mindset: what should people believe in, what do we stand for?

You also need to allow people to take ownership of the processes. Own the system. Claim this property. You might want to call it inclusion. Political inclusion, social inclusion, economic inclusion. And then create that enabling environment, for that inclusion to actually strive. I think that’s basically what we did. Because if you don’t get it right, you can’t actually create all the other domains I was referring to.

Let me give you a concrete example of what we have done. Do you know that we are a developing nation? If you can’t actually pay your children’s school fees, the government should step in as a social contract. So right now, at the basic level, we are organizing free and compulsory education. We pay this examination fee. We pay the registration fee. We provide basic infrastructure in all schools. Those are some of the things we do so people can have that sense of belonging. Having that sense of belonging to the government. Own the processes, own the systems, own the infrastructure.

World Finance: You want government to have a collaborative relationship with business, rather than an adversarial one; how have you supported companies, whether local or international?

Udom Emmanuel: First by looking at what their basic needs are. What will attract them to us? First, infrastructure. Second, policies, regulations. Third, the relationship with the community. Fourth, easy access to land where it is needed and to other infrastructure.

These are all areas that we have looked into and we have provided solutions to all of these areas.

First: thanks to our airline, you can arrive in the morning, finish your business and leave the same day.

Second: Once you have an investment that requires land or property, we make sure to pay you within 60 days. We try to keep it as short.

Number three: we also look at, when you need a lot of power to do your own business, we generate that power, captive power, just to meet your own business needs.

And then also we try as much as possible to focus on other basic infrastructures, such as ease of access to the site, the road network. And some other social infrastructure that would also facilitate these ventures.

And of course, you will need human resources. That we can boast of much. Train young people, develop young people, equip young people. Trying to uplift the youth in the current platform – it is an era of ICT. We try as much as possible for the government to intervene, so that you can also have access to the workforce when you have set up your own business.

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