By Babajide Komolafe
Public sector led investment drive in Nigerian economic space is often fraught with uncertainties due to both human capital elements and quality of leadership.
These two key factors are, however, primed in Edo state as the current leadership drives up its industrialisation programme.Obaseki
In a case where the focus is to ramp up manufacturing, it is only logical to groom the manpower, attract investors, and create the enabling environment for everyone to work harmoniously with the right policy framework.
In Edo State, Governor Godwin Obaseki, a consummate investment banker by profession, has his eyes on the ball. With a daunting vision to recast the state as an industrial hub in Nigeria, he is pulling every string available to attract investors, build local capacity and create wealth for the state and its people.
Obaseki’s vision for driving industrial growth and development revolves around the belief that local capacity development is essential. This conviction informed his prioritisation of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), which according to him is the bedrock of the vision to transform Edo into an industrial hub.
To achieve this, the state government has embarked on the construction of workshops, classrooms, laboratories, resource centres and purchase of top-of-the-range equipment for the Government Science and Technical College (GSTC), in Benin City, formerly known as Benin Technical College.
The reconstruction work will equip the college with requisite equipment for world-class technical and vocational education and training. The redesigning of the college is aimed at developing local capacity for the companies that are setting up in the state.
As part of the state’s industrialisation drive, the rehabilitation of the college will provide a facility for model technical education to produce critical technical manpower for industries making in-roads into the state, in the wake of a spike in investments by manufacturing companies, among others.
As part of the reconstruction work, nine existing buildings will be refurbished, while four classroom blocks, two workshops, a specialist training centre as well as general site for works and services, will be constructed.
The college will be fitted with equipment that would enable students obtain skills and knowledge in various aspects of vocational education to enable them act as drivers of the industrialisation policy in the state in line with global trends.
The equipment will include: Auto-Electrical Works; Building Construction/Bricklaying, Block-laying and Concreting Works; Electrical Installation; Mechanical Engineering Craft Practice; Motor Vehicle Mechanic Works; Radio, Television & Electronics Works; Refrigeration & Air-conditioning Works; Vehicle Body Building & Repair/ Auto-mobile Maintenance and a Laboratory Equipment for Technical Drawing Department.
The construction and fitting of a knowledge resource centre will serve the needs of the students and teachers at the college. For Governor Obaseki, the need to develop a robust, well-modelled, well-organised, adequately monitored and quality technical and vocational education and training with appropriate national and international certifications will go a long way in building a solid foundation that will drive industrial growth in the state.
Edo Automotive Industry Investment Forum
The Edo Automotive Industry Investment Forum is part of efforts by the Godwin Obaseki-led administration to link the vast economic opportunities in the global auto industry with the state’s economic diversification strategy, in addition to the $500 million auto assembly plant deal between Edo state government and Chinese investors.
In attendance at the maiden forum on July 4th in Benin City, were 36 chief executive officers of leading global auto brands and component suppliers. These include those of BMW, NISSAN, Toyota, Volkswagen, Ford, Bosch, Jaguar, and Deloitte, a consulting company, and Uber.
Others were representatives of the global auto makers, including Graffiti SA, Nissan, Toyota, Deloitte, Gauteng Infrastructure Financing Agency (GIFA), Automotive Industry Development Center, DataDot Technology, Standard Bank of South Africa, International Finance Corporation and Afropulse Group.
The high-profile meeting between the Edo State government and chief executives of German, Japanese, American, British and other European car manufacturers, was premised on the emerging investor-friendly climate in the state and how the companies can leverage on the Benin Auto Park’s proximity to the Benin Industrial Park.
The one-day event unveiled the state government’s agenda for the auto sector and the opportunities for investors. The prospective investors had the opportunity to visit the auto trading site on Sapele road and the future trading site at the Industrial Park also on Sapele Road.
The Forum also had a session on the state government’s blueprint for the automotive sector which includes job creation for Edo people, the local sourcing of car components amid an environment of high exchange rate regime and volatility, which makes local sourcing of components cost-effective.
Benin Auto Park as model for Nigeria’s Automotive Industry
Speaking at the Edo Automotive Industry Investment Forum, Chairman and Managing Director of Volkswagen South Africa, Mr. Thomas Scheafer, said “We have the mandate of our parent companies to be here. What we are trying to do in Nigeria is to reach out in a brotherly fashion and say to you, ‘come on, let’s get this done.’ For years, we have been discussing with the government. But now we are committed to finding out ways on how to get Nigeria to where it should be and play its role on the continent.”
He said for them, “Edo State will be the nucleus for us as Nigeria has a large automotive industry that is worth exploring. Nigeria is good for at least two million cars a year. That will multiply the jobs on the continent. So where does it start?
Speaking on Governor Obaseki’s commitment to driving the state’s diversification as a major pull, he said, “We invested in Rwanda, one of the smallest countries on the continent, because they have great policies and because they wanted to create employment. In Rwanda, we put our money where our mouth is. We are ready to invest in Nigeria and today, we are happy with what we have seen in Edo State and the commitment of the governor.”
Director, Sales/Operations, Nissan South Africa, Jim Dando, said that the automotive industry was excited about the wave of diversification in Nigeria, particularly in the automotive sector, noting that it was great news that Edo state government was taking the lead.
According to him, “We have been discussing the industrialisation of Nigeria for some time now. With the previous government, we were able to create an industrial and automotive policy. What we need to do now is to put the automotive policy in place and drive it with states like Edo.”
For Dr. Jelani Aliyu, the Director General of the National Automotive Design and Development Council, the Benin Auto Park has at least two scenarios for growth, “with this support by the state government, I see the state becoming a hotbed for automobile sales. The first instance will see the state grow from supplying used cars to brand new cars. Also, we see the influx of automobile component makers, who are also here.”
Benin Auto Park: What Edo stands to benefit
Governor Obaseki told investors at the forum that the state has a thriving automotive market that services the Niger Delta market, parts of the North and even South Western Nigeria, as “Benin City boasts of a stock of not less than half a million cars. We want the companies to work within and even go beyond what the national automotive council provides.
According to Dr. Jelani Aliyu, across the globe, the automotive industry plays both strategic and catalytic role in economic development by contributing to the Gross Domestic Products (GDP).
For example, in South Africa, the auto industry alone contributes 7 percent of GDP as it is considered as critical component of the economy where it generates 350,000 jobs which makes it the second largest employer of labour. The industry also boasts of a market of 600,000 new cars with zero importation with 12 percent of exports.
In Egypt, it employs directly and indirectly, 600,000 people and has attracted an investment of over $5 billion. It is the second source of foreign exchange after the Suez Canal.
The auto industry plays extensive role in driving the growth and development of Small, Medium and Micro-Enterprises (MSMEs) with respect to automotive parts, components and services and the attendant job creation. The Benin Auto Park will contribute to the plan by the Governor Obaseki-led administration to support the growth of over 20, 000 micro, small and medium enterprises in addition to the creation of over 50, 000 associated jobs in the next four years.
During a visit to auto dealers along Benin- Sapele Road, as part of the Edo Automotive Industry Investment Forum, a dealer with Idris and Sons Motors, told the delegation that the corridor hosts at least 100 dealers, with thousands of vehicles in their inventory.