By Chinedu Onyejelem
Investors in Ireland have been urged to consider Nigeria’s Enugu State as a destination for sustainable direct foreign investment.
The call was made by the Enugu State Governor Ifeanyi Lawrence Ugwuanyi during a meeting with prospective investors at the Ireland Enugu State Mini Investment Summit, held recently in the Westin Dublin Hotel as part of the Governor’s three-day official visit to Ireland organised by Metro Éireann.
Addressing the more than 130 participants, Gov Ugwuanyi said his drive “is part of initiatives of the state government to diversify the state’s economy, generate employment and generally boost economic activities in the state for the benefit of all concerned.”
He said Enugu State, popularly known as the Coal City, has “vast potentials, promise and prospects”, adding that investors who avail of them stand to benefit immensely – and that his government and Nigeria as a whole have “confidence” in investors from Ireland.
“Our visit here has been partly inspired by the assurance given by the Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, during his recent tour of Nigeria, of plans by the Republic of Ireland to expand its investment portfolio in Nigeria in the next four years,” the governor added.
“Ireland, as a matter of fact, has maintained a strong trade relationship with Nigeria dating back to 1961 when she established her first ever Embassy in Africa in Nigeria.”
Gov Ugwuanyi said the vast opportunities that exist were acknowledged by Minister Coveney, who stated then that despite a “very challenging environment” with increasing demand for food, energy and infrastructure, Nigeria “is possibly the most exciting economy in the world to work in considering the potential for growth and expansion in terms of resources, in terms of population growth.”
Telling the Mini Investment Summit that Enugu State would like to play a major role in helping Ireland achieve its investment plans in Nigeria, Gov Ugwuanyi said that Enugu State “is a very viable and safe place for [investors] to do business in Nigeria and indeed the west African sub-region.”
He said Enugu State has high standing as “the political, administrative and cultural capital of the south-eastern part of Nigeria” and more recently has attained status as “an economic powerhouse and investment haven with hundreds of local and foreign investors having located and relocated their businesses to the state.”
The governor stressed that his administration has launched numerous developmental efforts aimed both to better the lives of the people and also to enable potential investors to have easy access and operate conveniently in any part of Enugu State in which they choose to invest.
“All of these have been instrumental to Enugu State being named the safest state in the country and Enugu, the state capital, being listed in 2014 among the 100 most resilient cities in the world – the only one in Nigeria and one of the five in Africa – by the Rockefeller Foundation,” he said.
“With a thriving population of over four million, Enugu State is also richly endowed with natural and human resources that offer almost inexhaustible investment opportunities to both local and foreign interests.
“Opportunities exist in agriculture and agro-allied enterprises with the vast expanse of fertile lands and the [beneficial] weather that the state possesses. Large deposits of the relevant minerals offer great opportunities in coal, cement, oil, gas and ceramics production.”
The three-term member of the Nigeria Federal House of Representatives added that the establishment of a free trade sone at the state’s 9th Mile Corner zone will “provide further opportunities in manufacturing covering many fields of production such as motor vehicles, building materials, wears, plastics, machine tools, educational equipment, pharmaceuticals, toys, household goods” and more.
Opportunities also abound in waste management, tourism, healthcare services, power generation (using coal and gas), water resources, beverages production and also in the fields of education, financial services, engineering, construction and technology.
“It may help to know that Enugu State is host to the largest Heineken plant in the world outside the Netherlands and that Guinness, which is the largest Irish export to Nigeria, also acquired land in Enugu but has unfortunately left it undeveloped,” he said.
“I am glad to inform you that we have already set out an industrial park in Enugu that could host the kind of investments that we envisage. Enugu also has in international Airport that makes travel to and fro the city much easier.”
Gov Ugwuanyi urged all organisations and private business people from various countries who participated in the summit to “seize the opportunities” he highlighted and seriously consider investing in Enugu State.
“We assure you of our preparedness to offer incentives and do all that is necessary to ensure that such investments will not only flourish and remain safe in Enugu State,” he said, adding that his administration “will work out in a manner that will satisfy the interests of all parties involved”.
The governor and members of Enugu State economic team, including chair Mgsr Prof Obiora Ike, engineer Kevin Onah and chief Loretta Aniagolu, took part in a closed-door meeting with several Irish investors. The summit was also an opportunity to meet former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, during whose tenure Ireland became a tiger economy.
The three-day official trip included a tasting of pineapple grown in Enugu State by a Brazilian company, as well as visits to Dublin Bus and Dublin City University, where DCU president Prof Brian MacCraith and the Enugu State Commissioner for Education signed a memorandum of understanding to “explore the potential for economic development in Enugu State across a wide range of initiatives in education and training, entrepreneurship and enterprise development.”
Governor Ugwuanyi also received the Metro Éireann International Outstanding Leadership Award, organised in conjunction with Kingdom Media Ireland (Kingdom Media Network Inc Nigeria) – turn to page 05 for more.