Ogun: Combing Egypt, Ethiopia for Pan-African investors
With Ogun State’s reputation as an investment destination of choice and the state which houses perhaps the most local and international manufacturing companies not only in the country but in the West Africa sub-region, one would expect the state governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, to relax and bask in his state’s unique investment bragging rights.
At least, it was only recently that the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), in its 2021 second quarter report for investment, reaffirmed Ogun as the preferred investment destination, representing 30 per cent of the total announcement in Q2. In the report, the NIPC put the estimated investment into Ogun State at $500 million. Lagos State, with $441.3 million worth of investment announcement representing 26 per cent, was second in the quarter under review.
Also, Ogun State has not looked back in terms of its standing on the World Bank ease of doing business index, as it has kept improving since it was ranked 12th among 37 states in 2018. It is now ranked 3rd. In a 2021 report on capital importation into the country compiled by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Ogun State emerged as the 5th top destination of capital investment in Nigeria, only behind Lagos, the Federal Capital Territory, Abia and Niger. The report captured the total Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), portfolio investment and other types of investments into the country in a year the global economy suffered a terrible battering as a result of the COVID-12 pandemic.
So, why is Governor Abiodun obsessed with attracting more investments into the state when it seems to be doing well already? The answer to this question rests in the promise the governor made to the people of the state that his administration would sustain Ogun’s enviable position as the nation’s number one investors’ choice for a long time to come by working consciously to retain that status and expanding the gap to inspire other States to aspire to its enviable status.
“Our state remains the best place for investors to open business. Besides our natural geographical location as Gateway State to Nigeria, we share borders with four other states and we share international borders with Benin Republic, which is a window to the West African sub-region. My administration is providing a focused and qualitative governance and create the enabling environment for a public private sector partnership, which we consider fundamental to the creation of an enduring economic development and individual prosperity of the people of Ogun. We are very investor friendly. We are putting reforms in place to ensure that we are even more investor friendly. We are trying to ensure that we become number one in the ease of doing business in this country and it is incontrovertible that we house the largest number of industries in the country,” the governor said in his first major address to the people of the State at his inauguration as the State Chief Executive on May 29, 2019.
Fast forward to 2022… Deliberate efforts have been made to achieve tremendous success in boosting investment, including the establishment of the Business Environment Council, which has been implementing reforms aimed at harmonising and streamlining regulations for industrial development in the state; implementation of policy and regulatory reforms, including the restructuring of land acquisition process to remove all bottlenecks and red tapes; and setting up the Ogun State Land Administration and Revenue Management Systems (OLARMS) to digitalise land acquisition for both ease and efficiency, with an upgraded Geographic Information System (GIS).
Adding the heavy investment in infrastructure in the state by the Abiodun administration to the mix, one will realise that, indeed, the governor is making conscious effort to advance Ogun’s reputation for attracting foreign investment and public private partnerships.
Already, the governor has attracted some mouth-watering investments, including the OCP Africa investment. OCP Africa is a Moroccan-based multinational investing a total of N9Billion in fertilizer blending plant with a production capacity of over 600,000metric tons. Abiodun’s administration has also clinched an investment deal with Terratiga Limited, an investor from The Netherlands investing in animal feeds with a production capacity of 100 tons per day and 1.2million tones per annum.
Poised to achieve more, Prince Abiodun recently completed a tour of Egypt and Ethiopia to attract pan-African investors and partners to further boost the state’s revenue profile.
During his investment tour of Ethiopia, in the company of Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture, Dr Mohammed Abubakar, the governor met with the Ethiopian Minister of Industry, Ato Melaku Alebal, in Addis Ababa, to explore areas of mutual benefits in the areas of trade, investment and collaboration between Ethiopia and Ogun (and by extension Nigeria). Of particular interest is the area of the Special Agro-Processing Zones (SAPZs), which are being implemented by the African Development Bank (AfDB). Recall that the Ogun State government had met with the AfDB in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, towards the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the bank on the establishment of the SAPZs programme. When completed, SAPZ will be located at the Gateway Agro-Cargo Airport, Ilishan-Remo in Ikenne local government area of the state.
The SAPZ project has already been flagged off in Ethiopia. Hence, the trip was also an avenue to compare notes and observe, firsthand, the operational and managerial demands of the project.
While in Ethiopia, Abiodun also met with the management of Elsewedy Group, one of the largest conglomerates in Egypt with significant investment opportunities across Africa and Europe. The governor sought partnership with the group in the areas of investing in healthcare, industrial park development, real estate, intelligent transport systems network and management, tolling systems and in power sector.
“The group is the largest producer of prepaid meters in the world. After this meeting, the investment team would be hosted in Ogun State to further evaluate and structure these investment opportunities, after which the President & CEO of Elsewedy Group, Ahmed El Sewedy, who was on ground to receive us, would come to Ogun State to sign a document in these areas and execute relevant definitive transaction agreements on these investments,” Abiodun announced after the meeting.
In Egypt, the governor also met the Chief Business Development Officer of Áfríkà for Wadi Degla Holding, a Cairo-based multi-business conglomerate that is into real estate, telecoms and sports services. With special interest in creative arts, entertainment and sports development, Wadi Degla Holding is exploring the African market and wants to invest especially in Nigeria. Abiodun believes that, as the Gateway State, Ogun should be accorded utmost consideration due to the existing ease of doing business and other socio-economic transformation ongoing in the state.
In 2020, when Abiodun attended the UK-Africa Investment Summit in London, he promised to represent the interests of the people of Ogun both at the summit and on the sidelines.The summit was facilitated by the UK Department of International Trade under the Investment Promotion Programme as a platform that avails participating countries the opportunity to establish a new phase of partnerships on investments and mutually beneficial economic prosperity.
Abiodun used the opportunity to embark on an assessment tour of the UK manufacturing and agro-processing headquarters of Alvan Blanch, a company which specialises in the manufacturing and supply of machines used for the processing of agricultural produce and waste.
The governor’s relentless investment drive took him to five other companies with multiple interests in the areas of energy, infrastructure, agriculture and agro-processing, investment and asset management. Some of them also specialise in sectors such as technology, financial advisory, capital raising and private equity.
Wherever he finds himself, Abiodun automatically assumes the role of Chief Marketer of Ogun, pitching the numerous benefits investors stand to enjoy by choosing Ogun. His massage of Ogun being is a high-potential investment destination due to its ease of doing business status, location and arable land has been consistent. Earlier this week, Gov. Dapo Abiodun and his team met with Orascom Construction Company in Egypt. This is a leading global engineering and construction firm with footprints spanning the Middle East, Africa and the United States. The Orascom team views Ogun State as a worthy partner and has promised to spread its tentacles to Nigeria through the Gateway State. Orascom operations consist of not only infrastructure engineering, but industrial and commercial sectors, among others.
The choice of fellow African countries and businesses as targets by Prince Abiodun in this next phase of his investment and partnership venture is curious. But trust a governor who himself has played in the highest level of trade and corporate turfs for many years, there was nothing coincidental about his recent trips to Egypt and Ethiopia.
For starters, one of the biggest challenges faced by African countries in global trade is that Africa doesn’t do business within itself. Tendency for partnerships, businesses and trade remains concentrated within the common-currency areas and trade zones that developed among African countries during the colonial era, by the often inadequate means of transport and communication, by the lack of complementary agricultural or other products, and by the limited development of manufacturing industries. Africa is also responsible for a meager 3 per cent of global trade, despite having three of the top five fastest growing economies globally in Africa.
This was what led to the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA); to accelerate intra-African trade relations and boost Africa’s trading position in the global market by strengthening Africa’s common voice and policy space in global trade negotiations. Being his ever anticipating self, Prince Abiodun is already looking out for Ogun’s slice of the cake presented by AfCFTA. This is evidenced in his meeting with the management of Cairo-based Wadi Degla Holding, which is planning an expansion into markets within Africa.
Because what is good can be better and what is better can be much better and be the best, Prince Abiodun, governor of Ogun State, is converting the state’s unique advantage – peaceful and secure, enabling business environment, infrastructural transformation, highly-skilled human resources, natural endowment and efficient regulatory framework – into tangible gains across key sectors of its economy.
• Somorin is the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Dapo Abiodun