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FINANCE AND CAPITAL: A SURVEY OF INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES IN EDO STATE.
PAPER PRESENTED BY MR COSMAS .S. IRUNE, AT THE 2004 ANNUAL CONVENTION OF EDO OKPAMAKHIN AT HOLIDAY INN, BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, USA ON JULY 3, 2004
I feel highly honoured to be given this great opportunity to present this paper under this distinguished audience. I will like to congratulate our friends of the Edo Okpamakhin body who have been able to gather these great men and women from far and near to attend this convention. My thanks to everyone for finding time to attend to this call. May this body and all others be blessed in many folds.
THE NIGERIAN ECONOMIC LANDSCOPE
That Nigeria is potentially one of the most economically endowed nations of the world is perhaps no longer an issue for detailed discussion. It is fairly appreciated by all that virtually every form of mineral resource and agricultural product found in any part of the world is available in Nigeria.
Apart from petroleum in which Nigeria rank as the sixth largest exporter in the world, other minerals available in commercial quantities include tin, zinc, columbite, coal, iron ore, limestone, lead, gold and bauxite, among others. Judiciously exploited, these could support local industry as important raw materials and also earn foreign exchange as export commodities.
Another area of unique blessing from God to Nigeria is Agriculture. From soil survey carried out across the nation, it has been found that several regions require absolutely no soil treatment to achieve maximum output of farm products. Infact every agricultural area of the nation is uniquely endowed with local crops that could be developed to meet not only domestic demand but also be exported. The endless list of such agricultural crops and products include cassava, yam, rice, plantain, cocoa, rubber, groundnut, palm oil, sorghum, millet, cattle, goats, pigs, fishes, timber among others.
However, it remains amazing that after so many years we have continued to discuss the strength of Nigeria economy in terms of potential wealth. The challenge of actualizing these potentials remains to be seriously explored. Accordingly we have not substantially advanced beyond the natural state of these resource endowments. We are not even able to expand volume of production of these farm products to satisfy local consumption. Stories have been told of countries that had virtually no resource, came to Nigeria to procure some of our seedlings, and today exports same products to Nigeria. Infact they established chains of industrial complexes with linkages to these primary products and are now competitive in the world markets. Countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, China, India, Thailand etc are now able to compete with the rest of the world from a position of strength.
In Nigeria, production is developed to a significant extent in area of Oil and Gas exploration. But we are not even able to extract basic usable products like PMS, kerosene and diesel from crude oil through what has been described as a most basic technology, fractional distillation.
The manufacturing industrial complex is virtually at ground zero in terms of meeting local demand and global competitiveness.
In the services sector, financial services, telecommunications, travels, health, education etc appear to be fairly vibrant essentially because of a vibrant human resource base, but the absence of linkages to the core production sectors have not helped in strengthening the economy.
The result is that the country continues to depend almost exclusively on crude oil exports for sustenance, Very little activity happens in the area of agriculture and manufacturing. Accordingly, life in Nigeria has largely been dictated by vagaries of the global oil market.
It should be a cause for concern that non-oil export accounted for just about an average of 2.5% during the 1995 � 99 periods. It further deteriorated to a level below 2% in the 1999 � 2001 period. That earlier period also witnessed the lowest average manufacturing capacity utilization rate of 31.8% as against 75.4% achieved during the 1975 � 79 period. Infact this had declined successively since the early seventies. It is perhaps not surprising that the 1995 � 99 period also recorded one of the worst oil market conditions globally.
Although literacy rate and life expectancy improved marginally, they remained at levels that hardly provide sufficient excitement when compared to other emerging countries.
With estimated population growth rate above 2.8% and declining relative productivity, the logical consequence has been increasing unemployment, which has given rise to social vices and adverse security situations. This has manifested in the form of ethnic and religious crises, armed robbery, sex trade, child labour etc.
Associated with this declining economic trend is a rapidly decaying infrastructure. Electricity generation and distribution remains a nightmare, roads remain in dilapidated state, and until recently the telecommunication sector was largely heartache. Most importantly, the educational and health infrastructure epitomized the decay in the entire system.
To the private sector, the above conditions implied high cost of doing business. To the consumers it was a case of low real incomes and low purchasing power.
The above scenario has put Nigeria in a form of vicious cycle which successive economic reform programmes of government have proved incapable of breaking. A few of such initiatives includes the Green Revolution, the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), the four year Development Plans, Family Economic Advancement Programme (FEAP), National Directorate of Employment (NDE) etc. The present administration recently launched the National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (NEEDS), which is envisaged as a private sector driven programme to cure most of the problems identified above. It is the desire of analysts that this initiative should not go the way of previous ones where failure will once again be blamed on implementation.
However, the issue we are directly concerned with relates to what the emerging scenario holds for Edo state as an important segment of the country. In other words, how has the state positioned itself to play a significant role in breaking this vicious cycle of poverty both as an investment destination and wealth creator for its people.
In the next segment, we therefore consider available opportunities in Edo state, including some of the incentives provided by government to attract and encourage investors.
INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES IN EDO STATE
Interestingly when, in may 1999, the present civilian government of Edo state came to power, the Executive Governor made no mistakes in committing his administration to a partnership with the private sector towards exploiting a rare synergy between the rich cultural heritage of the people and abundant natural resources that dots the landscape of Edo state.
As the HEARTBEAT OF THE NATION it cannot be surprising that substantial portion of natural endowments that made Nigeria a potential great nation can be found in the state. Any serious investor does not need to look far to discover that the state is an investment haven. Geographically the state is positioned in such a way that it shares from the two vegetational belts in Nigeria namely the forest belt of the south, and the Guinea Savannah of the North. This accounts for the rare mix in terms of types of minerals and agricultural products found in the state.
1. Limestone: The long list of mineral resources found in the state includes limestone, which could be located in the Esako, Esan West and Owan areas of the state. The mineral is the key raw material in the production of cement. It also finds application in the manufacture of paint, fertilizer, steel, glass among others. It is found in sufficient quantity capable of supporting medium and even large scale industries.
2. Clay: This is another mineral closely related to limestone in terms of application to industrial uses. It is chiefly used in the manufacture of ceramics, chinaware, tiles and roofing sheets. It is available in large quantities in Esako, Owan and Ovia areas of the state.
3. Gypsum: Also to be found in Esako and Owan is another important component in building industry. Gypsum is used in the production of cement and ancillary products.
4. Crude Oil: This is a key mineral for the extraction of petroleum products which includes premium motor spirit (PMS), high pour fuel oil (HPFO), kerosene, associated gas oil etc. It is found in Ovia, Oredo and Orhionmwon areas of Edo state. It is interesting to note that apart from petroleum products that can be directly obtained by processing crude oil, the bye-products of this production process finds commercial application in the manufacture of cosmetics, plastic products, fertilizer, paints and chemicals.
5. Bitumen, Gravels and Granite: These minerals which are variously used in building and road construction are found in commercial quantities in Ovia, Esako, Akoko-Edo and Owan parts of the state. Infact Edo state supplies substantial portion of national requirement of these products.
6. Others: The state also boasts of huge reservoirs of marble, kaolin, calcium, gold, mica-uranium, sandstone and spring water.
It is important to note that investors can take advantage of these natural resources by participating in their exploitation or setting up industries that use them as raw materials. Opportunities exist for both large scale and small-scale investors.
Edo state is basically an agrarian state. The climate, with balanced mix of wet and dry seasons, is conducive for agricultural production. Infact it is said that the state has what it takes to feed the entire nation in terms of food products. The state is also one of the key centers of agro-based raw materials in Nigeria.
A few examples include:
1. Cassava: Recently the Federal Government launched an initiative aimed at consolidating Nigeria�s position as the largest producer of cassava in the whole world. Also included as part of the package is a research into some possible industrial linkages that would lead to making the cassava a key export product in no distant future.
Cassava is presently used in the production of garri, industrial starch, alcohol and animal feed. This is one product that is found throughout the state and would support all sizes of investors. An investor is assured of relatively cheap and stable source of raw material in Edo state. Opportunities also exist for large scale farming of cassava.
All the Local Government in Etsako, Esan and Owan areas of the state are centers of rice production. But like in other areas of deficiency, farming is currently organized more at subsistence level. A more mechanized, large-scale approach is required.
Again , opportunities exist for large scale farming of palm products and investments that use them as raw materials. In fact the palm derivatives are some of the most popular agro-allied businesses among small and medium scale investors in Nigeria.
Interestingly the technology for cocoa processing into beverages is not extremely complex. Hence small and medium scale investors can find the cocoa farmer in Edo state a worthy ally.
It is interesting to note that the availability of these minerals and agricultural products have attracted so many industries. A report by the ministry of Commerce and Industry shows that majority of them are doing very well. But because of the existence of abundance of natural resources, it is like a drop of salt in the Ocean.
Another largely unexplored resource in Edo state is the tourism potential and historical land marks that stood Benin Empire apart even before the arrival of colonial powers. The palace of the Oba is a tourist haven, which never ceases to amaze tourists with an array of Ebony and Ivory Caving. Other such sites include Somorika Hills which is about 2202 feet above sea level, Okomu Wildlife sanctuary, Oghodogbodo cave, Ogba zoo, National museum, the Benin Moat, Queen Emotan Statute etc.
In realization of the huge gap existing in the development and utilization of these natural resources, the Edo state government has been actively canvassing for investors, both foreign and local. Infact, the government has gone ahead to package investment proposals in the areas of production of polythene bags and sacks estimated at a cost of US $ 3 million, manufacture of ceramic products estimated at US $ 3.6 million, Flour mill of investment estimated at $10 million, timber processing, manufacturing of Tomato puree/paste etc.
However, the actual challenge of exploiting these opportunities lies with the private sectors and they can only take up this challenge if infrastructure is available, if government is able to provide adequate incentives and if ready financing is available.
The remaining part of this paper will therefore critically look at these key elements as they affect investment environment in Edo state.
The provision of efficient road network, portable water supply, stable electricity supply and functional telecommunication facilities rank highly among infrastructural requirement of business. Due to �public good� nature of these facilities governments necessarily participate actively in providing these facilities. When the focus is on establishing business in the hinterland, road infrastructure is especially critical. This is because of the need to open up rural areas to facilitate evacuation of agricultural products and movement of goods and services. This was essentially why the Directorate for Food, Road and Rural Infrastructure was created during the SAP years. The agency was reported to have completed some 30,728 kilometers of link and feeder roads, across the nation. Although the agency was criticized on the quality of roads constructed, yet visible efforts were made to open up the hinterland. Not withstanding the modest efforts of state government to improve road infrastructure, it is an item that a lot still need to be done.
Edo state has a fairly good network of roads linking it to the neighboring states, however most intra-state roads connecting the key agrarian areas of Etsako, Owan and Ovia require greater attention than is presently the case. This is necessary to open up these areas and reduce transportation costs. This will go a long way in making these areas attractive to investors. Availability of portable water is another key element in industrialization strategy often ignored by planners.
Edo state government has through the Edo state water board, provided pipe-borne water in the major cities of Benin, Okada, Auchi etc. But considering the nature of natural resources available in the state, most investors would prefer to locate their industries close to sources of the raw materials. Majority of existing industries outside the capital city presently rely on privately sourced water supply, which drives up cost of operations.
Hence, government should take advantage of connecting rivers and streams to ensure the supply of cheap but portable water to the localities where these natural resources are found.
Another important infrastructural facility that is virtually a sine qua non for every serious industrialization strategy is electricity supply. This has been one source of problem not only to Edo state but the entire industry. Not long ago the state government indicated interest in setting up a gas turbine to implement the power generation efforts. Unfortunately, the goal is yet to be realized. Private power generation is a very costly aspect of investment. What the Federal and State governments must appreciate is that it is difficult for industries to make private arrangements for infrastructure and yet remain competitive. If this situation is not reversed, most private sector investors will continue to find it more attractive to import goods from abroad rather than manufacture them locally. This is not to imply that government is ignorant of this reality. Infact the state government had acquired hectres of land to establish what may be regarded as industrial clusters in Benin, Uromi and Auchi. The idea is to provide the whole complement of infrastructural facilities in these clusters thereby making them attractive to private investors. No doubt the intent of government policy is commendable but unfortunately wide gap still exists between plans and what is on the ground. It would appear that a more community based approached would be more functional at the take-off stage for an agrarian state like Edo state. One advantage of this model of development is that indigenes of the state would naturally buy into the process, which automatically triggers the confidence of outside investors. It will also ease the task of government in investment promotion.
Universally, it is known that investment flows to an environment that is conducive. This is characterized by environments where returns can be optimized, and risk manageable.
In situations where the environment is ordinarily harsh, it is incumbent on government to help in moderating investment risk and, in the process, guaranteeing a promise of reasonable returns for investors through a system of incentives. These incentives, which function as enablers in the industrialization process may practically take the form of increasing access to production factors, removal of rigid controls and tax burdens, refund and waiver of certain cost items.
This is of course in addition to provision of infrastructure. Because of the inclement investment in Nigeria generally, and paucity of investments, states compete for investors on the attractiveness of incentives offered. A state that is not creative in packaging attractive incentives would invariably loose investments to other states.
Before looking at the specific incentives available at the level of the state, every potential investor in Edo state must know that a number of incentives exist at the national level which can go a long way guaranteeing investment success.
Among the important fiscal incentives include the grant of pioneer status by the provisions of income tax relief act. By this provision, qualifying firms are exempted from payment of taxes for upwards of seven years. By the same act, investments in research and development are also tax deductible. This is particularly important because the abundant natural resources earnestly yearn for new and cost effective ways of processing them into outputs needed by industries and households.
Tax incentives also exist for locating industries in economically disadvantaged local government areas.
Other incentives exist in the form of import duty drawback scheme, export license waiver, tariffs on imported products, export credit guarantee scheme etc.
In 1996, the Federal Government generally increased rates of capital allowance on qualifying capital expenditures across the board. This has the effect of increasing the present value of tax shield arising from capital investments.
Edo state government have in several ways demonstrated the consciousness to create enabling environment which would be attractive to both foreign and local investors. It took an important first step of providing information on the investment climate and potentials of the state, which it actively advertises utilizing every available opportunity. It even went ahead to package proto-type project plans for a wide range of opportunities. Government have also consistently expressed it�s readiness to enter into joint venture agreements with foreign and local technical partners.
In order to assist cassava farmers and users of cassava based raw materials, the state government initiated a pilot programme at Uromi, aimed at reducing annual post harvest loss by up to 50% and improve storage capability. This will no doubt be beneficial to cassava farmers in so many ways. This programme should be fully implemented and extended to other agricultural products which are perishable in nature.
In the same way the state government, in close collaboration with the Raw Materials Research and Development Centre (with a Liason office in Benin) occasionally engage in specific research and investigations aimed at improving crop varieties and output of agricultural products.
The government also committed itself to an Equity Participation Policy (EPP) under which it collaborates with private investors in establishing industries. According to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry document, the decision to participate in a new industry is based on:
a. The project must be technically feasible
b. The project has satisfactory financial and economic viability
c. The project must be socially desirable
d. The project is capital intensive such that ii cannot be established without government intervention.
It is the view of many that incentives provided by government has been too marginal for any meaningful impact, especially in the face of largely inadequate infrastructure. Corruption and bureaucracy may have also reduced the impact of such schemes. It is argued that perhaps government should first of all pool available resources to develop infrastructure before anything else.
One area perhaps that have inhibited the exercise of local enterprise is availability of finance. Although Edo state government, through its Equity participation programme, signified an intention to mitigate the problem by providing part of project finance, it is obvious that its programme only targets big business. It is therefore not surprising that not much has materialized by that initiative.
The state also introduced a small-scale enterprises loan management committee (SSELMC) as an agency to deliver micro-finance to small and medium scale industries. But this agency is inadequately funded while the impact of its existence is hardly felt among the grass root farmers and entrepreneurs for which it was established.
Perhaps this agency should not just be a government agency, but a partnership agency between the government and the target group. Apart from ensuring a proper constitution of the committee, bureaucracy will be minimized. This will also make it easier for the agency to look for additional funding from outside government. A number of multilateral agencies exist internationally to fund micro-institutions and projects, especially those that touch on the lives of people. Such a partnership agency will be in a better position to attract such funds.
An investor can also do business with Community Banks, which largely operate outside the �orthodox principles� of banking. By location and operations, these banks are supposed to be quite familiar with their environments and customers in way not necessarily possible with conventional banking. Hence they are not expected to be rigid in such matters as collateral for loans, pricing and tenor. However the confidence level of the entire financial system have not ensured this. Accordingly most community banks remained extremely weak. The few viable ones are in the big cities and operate almost like the orthodox banks. As a matter of fact, almost 80% of banks in the state are concentrated in Benin City alone. But then the banks are hardly to blame.
Without doubt, Edo state is a miracle waiting to happen industrially and economically. Natural resources exist in abundance. There also exists a vibrant human resource base.
However a number of enablers, in the form of infrastructure and incentives are inadequate. Although the state have initiated some bold steps to provide those ingredients that are lacking, yet it is obvious that tremendous gaps stills exist. Without closing those gaps, it will continue to be difficult to actualize our potentials. Accordingly the following areas must be urgently attended to:
Greater political and economic will, to develop infrastructure.
1. Packaging an incentive scheme that promises tangible benefits to potential and existing investors. The few existing ones do not go far enough.
This is invariably a call for all of us to take the initiative in exploring the potentials of the state. This will serve as advertisement to others. This is because I have no doubt that, notwithstanding the challenges of the environment, any properly managed investment in Edo state targeted at the key agricultural and mineral resources highlighted above is in a win-win situation.
Thank you and God bless you all.
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