Governor Mbah’s investment trip to Jakarta, Indonesia is a step in the right direction and holds many economic promises for Enugu State, writes Uche Anichukwu
When Governor Peter Mbah unveiled his Statement of Purpose ahead of the 2023 governorship election in Enugu State, his promise to grow the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) seven folds from $4.4 Billion to $30 Billion generated mixed reactions, as many saw it as a tall order for a state renowned as a public service state. Five months down the line, however, Mbah is gaining more converts as he presses towards the target with the right policies, structures, and both local and international partnerships in place.
From tackling the security challenges headlong, including putting an end to the illegal sit-at-home, to improving ease of doing business, hosting the first Enugu State Investment and Economic Growth Plan Stakeholders Roundtable, introducing e-ticketing and automating revenue collection, and the recent flag off of the construction of a New Enugu City and 400 kilometres of various roads to bolster infrastructure needed to attract investments, the governor is not leaving any stone unturned.
Last week, Mbah took his quest for investments to southeast Asia where he marketed Enugu to investors at the Nigerian-Indonesian Investment Trade Forum in Jakarta, Indonesia. Themed “Rediscovering Business Potentials in Nigeria and Indonesia”, the event, which was facilitated by the Nigerian-Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NICCI), came after the first edition in 2022 attended by the then Vice of President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. It is an outcome of more than five years of previous trade missions and bilateral business expos by the business communities of both nations that continued this year with the 38th edition of the Nigerian Indonesian Trade Expo. Recently, Nigeria became Indonesia’s largest trade partner in Africa, overtaking South Africa.
But is Indonesia a worthy direction to look in search of economic cooperation and FDI? Yes. In 1967, Indonesian GDP stood at $5.67 Billion, while that of Nigeria was $5.20 Billion in 1967 and $6.37 Billion in 1966. Fast-forward to 2022, Nigeria’s GDP stood at $477.39 Billion, while that of Indonesia stood at $1.319.10 Billion (approximately $1.4 Trillion), driven by the production sector that sees the southeast Asian nation export machinery, steel, textile, footwear, among others. At the same time, Indonesia is doing so well in agriculture, exporting palm oil, rice, rubber, coffee, cocoa, among others, while Nigeria has declined from a net exporter of palm oil to an importer. Nigeria imports about 800,000 metric tons of palm oil annually estimated at over N500 Billion.
Indonesia has done so well for itself despite serious disadvantages imposed by geography. It is the world’s largest archipelago, consisting of 17,504 islands of which only 6,000 are inhabited. These have made it extremely difficult for the country to exploit its 2.5 Billion barrels of crude oil reserves, producing about 0.3 billion barrels only in 2018, according to Worldometer.
Obviously, a return to 1956 to 1966 mentality, Nigeria’s most prosperous era, also known as the golden era of Nigeria’s federalism when the federation units unleashed their potentials in a competitive manner, unhindered by an overbearing, over-bloated, and resource-expropriating central government becomes imperative. Despite the debilitating constitutional constraints, there are a lot the states could do to turn things around. Nigeria’s exit from the present economic quagmire lies in the states reinventing themselves from the status of spoilt, indolent, and uncreative appendages to resourceful sub-nationals. And that is exactly how Mbah’s effort in Enugu and his investment pilgrimage to Jakarta could best be understood.
Speaking at the Forum, Mbah observed that whereas the growth of trade volume between both nations to $4.7 Billion was commendable, they could actually do much more. He went to enumerate the abundant investment opportunities in the state, spanning agriculture, mineral resources, logistics, aviation, tourism, real estate, mineral resources, ICT, to name a few.
Delivering the keynote address at the gathering, he said: “In the area of Agriculture, Enugu is blessed with 100 per cent arable, fertile land with a high factor of productivity and good access to both surface and subterranean water that makes all year-round agriculture possible.
“The State is climatically disposed to the production of key produce like Cassava, oil palm, Cashew, spices of various types.
“These areas offer not only the opportunity for primary agricultural production, but also the opportunity to invest in industrial facilities to add value to these produce for local consumption as well as export.
“The State is also blessed with significant deposits of minerals. In the area of petroleum, Enugu State has proven deposits of oil but more importantly has extensive deposits of natural gas.
“Other minerals within the state include Coal, gold, kaolin, gypsum, clay and limestone, among others. This makes Enugu ideal not only for mining, but also for the siting of key industries”.
However, while anchoring his $30 Billion GDP target on heavy private sector investment and utilisation of strong local and international partnerships, Mbah, being a successful businessman himself, having founded and nurtured Pinnacle Oil and Gas from ground zero to leadership of the Nigerian downstream petroleum subsector, understands and has also often emphasised that businesses/investors are not philanthropists or Father Christmases. They are in it for profit. They go where the business environment is better de-risked and where ease of doing business is higher.
Consequently, while declaring to the government and business community in Indonesia that “Enugu is open for business”, the governor equally outlined some of his administration’s deliberate steps to improve the investment and business climate of Enugu State. They include expansion of security networks for improved security, functional One Stop Centre for speedy processing of investment interests and needs, massive urban and rural infrastructural development, establishing about 300,000 hectares land bank for both for corporate farmers and special agro-processing zones, establishing of Free Zones, the recently signed Enugu State Electricity Law to create a free market for electric power, and the effort to build a Tier 4 HyperScale Data Center, far-reaching reforms towards stronger contract enforcement, ease of procurement of land titles, which would now take 48 to 72 hours, among others.
The Ambassador of Indonesia to Nigeria, Dr. Usra Hendra Harahap, while acknowledging Mbah’s determination to make Enugu State the preferred destination for business, investment, living, and tourism, said there was an ongoing discussion between Enugu State Government and Pertamina, the national energy company of Indonesian to build a gas power plant in the state. He emphasised the need for greater cooperation between Nigeria and Indonesia for greater mutual prosperity.
“In 2022, the trade volume between Indonesia and Nigeria reached USD 4.7 billion, with the majority of Indonesia import in oil and gas. However, the untapped potential for trade and investment in other sectors are massive and open for future development as long as we all have the commitment to our mutual benefit.
“Last week, we had the Trade Expo Indonesia 2023 (TEI 2023) and we invited 133 businessmen from around Nigeria like Abuja, Lagos, Sokoto, Kano, Enugu, to name a few. They were able to see the other untapped potential of our both countries’ trade relations. Last we heard, there is $12.5 Million of potential transactions made in the TEI 2023.
“The other good news is that we are planning to bring together the potentials between Enugu State and West Java as well as welcoming the cooperation between Enugu and Pertamina in developing gas power plant. We hope there will soon be a team formed to achieve this collaboration with the related stakeholders”, the Ambassador said.
On his part, the Governor of Jakarta Province, Mr. Heri Budi Hartono, said Jakarta presently contributes 15% of Indonesia’s GDP, but was still hungry for growth given her numerous ongoing projects and infrastructure programmes. The Governor said the future was bright for collaborations among leading cities like Jakarta, Lagos, and Enugu, which he said had lately come to the consciousness of Indonesian businesses and government through Mbah’s investment outreach.
In his remarks, Nigeria’s Ambassador to Indonesia, Usman Ari Ogah, reiterated federal government’s commitment to strengthening bilateral economic ties between the Nigeria and Indonesia, while the President of the NICCI, Ishmael Balogun, expressed his strong belief that such ties hold tremendous promise for both nations, paving way for economic growth and prosperity and strengthening bonds of friendship and cooperation.
Among the Igbo, it is said that you do not sell a he-goat standing in one spot. You need to move it around the market square. Likewise, the English say that if you do not say “Here am I”, it is not likely that anybody would say, “There you are”. This point can be gleaned from the statement by the Governor of Jakarta and other investors, who were happy to now know the great potentials and investment opportunities that Enugu possesses.
If things go as planned; if the several meetings held by Mbah and prospective investors are anything to go by, then Enugu is the next big thing to happen in Nigeria. Thanks to Mbah’s focused and investment-oriented government.