A top aspirant to the Imo State governorship seat in the 2019 general elections, Chidi Okoro, has said if elected governor, he would jumpstart the Imo economy with a N25-billion private sector-funded venture capital fund. Okoro, who is pursuing his aspiration on the platform of the All Progressives Grand […]
A top aspirant to the Imo State governorship seat in the 2019 general elections, Chidi Okoro, has said if elected governor, he would jumpstart the Imo economy with a N25-billion private sector-funded venture capital fund.
Okoro, who is pursuing his aspiration on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), told journalists in Lagos last weekend that the N25 billion would be plugged into creating eight light manufacturing clusters in the state in the following areas and locations: pharmaceuticals (Orlu), building materials (Mbaise), beverage (Owerri), food processing (Okigwe), ceramics (Akokwa), electrical (Ngor-Okpala), and so on.
The choice of these locations, he said, is based on areas where each has comparative advantage.
“When we do this, we will build structures, put in embedded power and put in the roads, and it costs barely $2 million per cluster. Then we invite people to come and invest, and we give them two years to start paying for the property,” Okoro said.
“The moment we start manufacturing, jobs get created, IGR will rise. The plan is that within two years we will triple the IGR to about N1.5 to 2 billion per month, and that’s easy. Because we can consume, we can manufacture, and because we have the manpower, we can manufacture,” he said.
Okoro said part of the N25-billion venture capital fund would also go into creating an ICT innovation hub and getting Imo youths into the structure so that they can start making inventions, as well as transforming Owerri, the state capital, from a hotel city to a hospitality, conferencing and entertainment city.
Other areas that the money would go into, according to Okoro, include education and health care, where he plans to attract the Imo diaspora to contribute to build world-class medical facilities at the ‘Medical Village’ planned for Owerri, as well as facilitate investments in education with focus on areas Imo needs to develop advantage – ICT, medicine including public health, pharmacy, engineering, hospitality and entertainment management services, among others.
“We will also push some of that money to facilitate private community healthcare industry to create pharmacies, medical laboratories, and maternity homes in rural and semi-urban areas so that Imo development gets diversified and the economy starts to really be genuine and real,” he said.
“Because we can consume much of what we produce, we don’t need to wait for outsiders to buy and also, we have nearby markets that are pretty big. Between Anambra, Rivers and Abia States, you probably have 25 percent of Nigeria’s GDP sitting there. So if you are one hour from these places, you can actually see what they need and provide that. That’s how we intend to spring up the Imo economy and make it work,” he said.
Giving an overview of the state of Imo economy at present, Okoro said the state is at a stage where it either stays stagnant or it just falls off the cliff and it would take so much to recover.
“Imo economy is a $14-billion GDP, per capita is $3,500, actually almost double Nigeria’s per capita. The Imo diaspora – those in the United States, UK, and all over Nigeria and the world – ship in a lot of money back into the state; the challenge is that it is direct consumption money they ship in, it’s not investment money, so the money is not turned around,” he said.
“Imo gets in about N4 billion to N5 billion every month from the Federation Account. Our debt situation is N90 billion and $63 million. By the way, a state that makes N50 billion or N60 billion a year can afford to owe N90 billion, the challenge is how you intend to pay it off, how you intend to keep an economy that pays that off while meeting other obligations to civil servants, pensioners and contractors. Imo IGR is about N500 million to N600 million every month, that’s a shame because we do not produce anything,” he said.
He decried the level of unemployment in the state, at about 30 percent and youth unemployment at 58 percent, blaming it on the absence of productive industries.
Before joining the Imo governorship race, Okoro, who trained as a pharmacist at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and holds MBA from University of Lagos and Executive Masters Degree in Positive Leadership and Strategy from IE Business School, Madrid, Spain, has held senior management positions in Promasidor, MTN, Reckitt Benckiser and Emzor Pharmaceutical and has served as managing director/CEO, GlaxoSmithKline Nigeria, CEO Africa , Suntory Beverages and, later, managing director/CEO, UAC Foods Limited.