OKOBI and homegrown options for a prosperous economy, By MacDonald Ebere

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Imo State.  

On 15 January at his second term inauguration ceremony, Senator Hope Uzodimma (CON), the governor of Imo State, unveiled a community sustainable socioeconomic development programme dubbed the Community Economic Development Initiative (CEDI) as a critical agenda of his administration. 

Speaking on CEDI, the governor delightfully affirmed that each community would be expected to identify one project they want the government to do for them. The chosen project must have direct and immediate impacts on the overall economy of the communities. In other words, one of the critical objectives of CEDI is to address the infrastructural challenges standing in the way of sustainable community economic development in Imo State. This is an innovative way of thinking about how to address the challenges of long-term rural infrastructure deficits.

 

It is instructive to state that CEDI is not an isolated idea or initiative. It aligns directly and significantly with the Imo State sustainable industrialisation policy and development plan. Most importantly, it reveals the complementary relationship between CEDI and the One Kindred One Business Initiative (OKOBI) of the Imo State Government, centring on promoting, advancing, and empowering rural community businesses for enhanced job creation and growth. While CEDI is a public and government investment, OKOBI is a private and community investment. Together, CEDI and OKOBI constitute an excellent public-private partnership.

About 100 businesses have been registered under OKOBI in Imo State, which shows the growing strength of the programme since its launch in 2023. The intention is to ensure that many kindreds (or groups with shared kindred spirit) have registered OKOBI businesses that can provide jobs, scale, and participate in the global value chain. This will enable them to be active participants in the Imo State economy.

In that regard, CEDI is a way to strengthen OKOBI businesses in Imo State through infrastructural provision. For example, the provision of stable electricity will enhance and guarantee power supply and reduce the cost of production; road network infrastructure will improve access to the market, connecting multiple communities and boosting local trade; and internet connectivity will enhance access to the international market and advance the capability of the business to play in the global value chain.

From this perspective, it is evident that CEDI signifies a commitment by the state government to create an enabling environment for businesses. This is no coincidence considering the OKOBI business imperative to promote the development of rural businesses that will transform rural economies. Therefore, CEDI will be a catalyst and an enabler of OKOBI businesses as it will position them for competitiveness.

CEDI, therefore, will make it easy for communities who want to embrace the OKOBI business agenda to do so. This is because embracing OKOBI will, in turn, help communities create a business/economic case for their CEDI requests. In other words, communities with existing OKOBI businesses may have a better chance of making good arguments for and attracting CEDI infrastructural projects.

The synergy between businesses and communities is a strategic and transformational imperative for CEDI. Communities come first before business. However, businesses need a working community where people live in harmony and well-being for businesses to thrive. This thinking is core to the complementarity between OKOBI and CEDI. This mutually inclusive relationship based on partnership between industry and community is necessary to ensure that CEDI achieves its desired agenda.   

 

Beyond their economic potential, the Siamese twins of CEDI and OKOBI need the buy-in and support of the political class. Given that both are geared towards the people and grassroots, it makes sense for them to be supported as much better options than stomach infrastructure. Genuine politicians and community leaders should focus on this and help in the committed quest for a better

Imo State.  

The New Institute

Professor Kenneth Amaeshi of the European University Institute

  

However, for CEDI and OKOBI to be inclusive and impactful, they must be genuinely driven by the people’s preferences and tastes, as the governor suggests. Communities are essential in determining and ensuring that CEDI and OKOBI work for them. Therefore, communities should work with all their talents and stakeholders (e.g., businesses, educational institutions, religious institutions, traditional institutions, women, and youth at home and abroad) to ensure adequate needs identification and satisfaction

. This approach will advance collaborative and inclusive governance in Imo State and ensure that CEDI-backed infrastructures and OKOBI businesses reflect community needs and enable transformative positive impacts in communities.

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