By James Eze
In his first and only visit to West Africa in 2009, Barrack Obama, former president of the United States, left African leaders with an enduring chastisement. After taking a swipe at the continent for strong men who often allowed their bloated egos to plunge their countries into wars and afflictions, President Obama declared; “Africa doesn’t need strong men, it needs strong institutions.” It is a monumental rebuke that has continued to echo through the various levels of government across the Third World. But only few leaders appear to have assimilated the inherent lesson in that statement. Much of Africa is still enamoured with the idea of the “Strong man” as the leader.
After three years of impressive reforms in Anambra State, Governor Willie Obiano appears to have taken Obama’s advice to heart. Much of the results that observers applaud from his sterling performance so far were ratcheted up by the institutions he established when he assumed office. The most prominent of these institutions are Anambra State Investment Promotion and Protection Agency (ANSIPPA), Anambra Small Business Agency (ASBA). The establishment of these institutions does not only mark a departure from the administrative approach of Obiano’s predecessors, it also sets him apart from most of his contemporaries. These institutions were set up by parliamentary instruments that carry the weight of law. To that extent, they have come to stay and will therefore outlive Obiano. This point must not be lost on us!
Indeed, when the story of Willie Obiano’s phenomenal years in office is told, historians will always remember ANSIPPA. The institution is the catalyst of the 21st Century “gold rush” to Anambra that has continued to show itself in the endless stream of investors that have found the state a new investment haven. ANSIPPA is not a decision taken without proper introspection. It is not a knee-jerk decision. ANSIPPA is a deliberate, calculated resolve to break the ceiling of impossibility. To prove that a rose can grow from a concrete floor.
For who would have believed that Anambra State could so easily become the toast of both local and foreign investors? Who would have imagined that a state that once evoked instant dread to indigenes and visitors because of a long crime history could make such a swift transition to a point where the Ambassador of the United States could be seen driving leisurely around at night, savouring the sights and sounds of Awka, it’s capital? It must be said, however, that from conception to maturity, ANSIPPA was built to succeed. Sitting on the board of ANSIPPA are First Class bankers and investment analysts who speak the language of the investment community. Between these super-experts lies a wealth of experience that is not easy to come by.
As would be expected, the agency hit the ground running shortly after it was established; setting out to make the process of investing in Anambra stand out as a memorable experience; providing excellent professional services and advisory tips that give investors a deep sense of validation and acceptance. Headed by Joe Billy Ekwunife, a former managing director of a bank who under the present dispensation reports to Igwe Cyril Enweze, a former Vice President of the African Development Bank, the ANSIPPA team makes sure that prospective investors leave the agency with a feel-good experience. They ensure that a prospective investor encounters competence, deep assurances and professionalism that reassures him when he leaves that he is in good hands.
The sum total of ANSIPPA’s overall positioning and sterling qualities is that in less than three years, Anambra has attracted investments valued at $7.5bn. These investments cover key areas like agriculture, trade and commerce, manufacturing, oil and gas, tourism and hospitality, aviation and transportation among others. The impact of ANSIPPA has been phenomenal; employment creation, revenue generation and general development.
Coming fast on the trail of ANSIPPA is ASBA, Anambra Small Business Agency. ASBA is probably the agency with the most impact in the lives of the everyday people. While ANSIPPA could be rightly viewed from the elitist point of view, ASBA was essentially set up to draw out the entrepreneurial genius of the Anambra man, the risk-taking capacity of a go-getting people. The agency makes credit facilities ready and available to entrepreneurs who have a clearly thought out business plan. In three years, ASBA has proven to be one of the most remarkable decisions of the Obiano administration. The Agency has fertilized the dreams of many entrepreneurs. Nearly every community from the 21 Local Government Areas in the has benefitted from the ASBA credit line.
As at today, ASBA has so far disbursed the sum of N1,975 billion to Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises in Anambra State. A breakdown of this figure shows that 100 companies benefitted from the Retail Lending scheme programme for Small and Medium Scale Enterprises while a total of 7000 businessmen and women benefitted from the Micro Credit Lending programme. A further breakdown shows that 58% of the beneficiaries of the Micro Credit Lending programme are females while 45% are males. This shows that Anambra women are aggressively standing up to be counted in entrepreneurship. The records also show that Textile Industrial Cluster got the lion’s share of the disbursements with 29.89%. It was followed by Agriculture with 26.44%, Trading – 15.71%, Shoe Industrial Cluster – 23.92%, Services and Logistics – 2.46% and finally, Cottage Industries with 1.58%. This offers a comprehensive overview of what Governor Obiano has achieved through ASBA in helping to lend wings to the entrepreneurial dreams of Ndi Anambra in the past three years.
In all, Governor Obiano is slowly blazing a worthy trail in showing his contemporaries that the best approach to a purposeful and enduring leadership is through the establishment of functional institutions that will provide the technical lever to a lasting development. This is a development that deserves our attention and our praise!
• Eze lives in Awka. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.