Three years after coming to power, the Akwa Ibom State government has attracted four large-scale manufacturing companies to the state.
The state has the largest syringe factory today, which has the capacity to produce 400 million to one billion syringes annually.
Jubilee Syringe Manufacturing Company Limited (JSM), a foreign direct investment into Akwa Ibom, is the largest in Africa, bigger than a syringe plant in South Africa, which has the capacity to produce just 95 million syringes per annum.
Apart from the syringe factory, the state plays host to a digital metering factory, a pencil manufacturing company and a toothpick firm.
“Today in Akwa Ibom, we can boast of Africa’s largest syringe factory. In just three years, we have four companies thriving in Akwa Ibom. We have the digital metering company that produces prepaid meters. Added to it are the pencil and toothpick factories. Recall that pencils and toothpicks are consumed by every household in Nigeria. Akwa Ibom State has taken the lead to play a pivotal role to produce these things locally,” Charles Udoh, Akwa Ibom State information commissioner, told BusinessDay after a meeting with Concerned Akwa Ibom Professionals based in Lagos, last Thursday.
Udoh said apart from these four factories, a set of four other large-scale manufacturing concerns was on the verge of establishing in the state.
Despite being attracted by the state, the industries are not run as government entities.
“They are run and benchmarked as private entities. They are 100 percent private entities. Government of Akwa Ibom has equity participation, in most cases, just the land. For us, we realised that industrialisation in Nigeria in the past failed because most industries were run as extended parastatals of government. So, today the government of Akwa Ibom is insisting that industries are set up and run as private entities while government only creates the enabling environment,” he explained.
According to the commissioner, Akwa Ibom State was an attractive investment destination, a fact attested by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
“In the last two years, the National Bureau of Statistics has listed Akwa Ibom as the second largest destination of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Nigeria, only second to Lagos. That shows that the government of Akwa Ibom is doing something right,” he stated.
He explained that Akwa Ibom had constructed more roads than any other state in Nigeria, stressing that the state was among the safest in the country.
“Cumulatively, it has constructed 1,700 kilometres of roads, spanning the length and breadth of the state. Today, Akwa Ibom is the only state that manages its airports independent of the support of the Federal Government.”
He stated that the meeting was meant to rub minds with Concerned Akwa Ibom Professionals based in Lagos and enable them understand the investment potential back home.
“Government is focused on attracting investors to come into the state and invest. We need to talk to every concerned party and showcase opportunities so that they can take advantage of them. These are part of the initiatives by Akwa Ibom State to woo investors to showcase the prospects and potential in Akwa Ibom State,” the commissioner added.
The meeting provided an opportunity for the state government to sell its economic policies to the professionals, including the Ibom Deep Seaport (IDSP).
Speaking with journalists, Augustine Edet, managing partnet at Savvi and consultant to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), said he and other participants at the meeting were enthusiastic about the potential in the state and would galvanise their resources to invest in Akwa Ibom.
“We had a delegation from the government of Akwa Ibom speak to us about investments and opportunities in the state. We had the technical committee for the deep sea port and the commissioners in the state. The chairman of the investment committee was also there. We are leaving with one mind and we will see how we can bring together our resources and leverage our contacts for the state,” Edet said.
One major challenge faced by investors is the doing business environment. According to Edet, Akwa Ibom professionals raised concerns in this direction and the state government officials gave them assurances.
“Some of us expressed frustrations where in the past we had facilitated investments but there was really no framework to guide that process. But right now, there is a one-stop shop. The technical committee has been equipped to serve as a one-stop shop and facilitate investments into the state,” he stated.
According to Barth Ebong, former general managing director of Union Bank Plc, who is also an Akwa Ibom citizen, professionals got clarifications on areas that were available for investments and government programmes on capacity development.