Addis Ababa And Calabar: A Tale Of Two Cities, 16 Years Apart BY PRINCEWILL ODIDI

In Breaking News, Business & Economy, Columnists, National News, Opinion, Politics
Princewill Odidi
Princewill Odidi

16 years ago I attended a conference at York University in Canada, we conducted a field survey on black kids in Rexdale and Regent Park Toronto. In the survey, we asked them a straight question: what comes to your mind if the word “Africa” is mentioned?

Their answers centered mostly on hungry looking children with flies hanging on their noses. The images of conflicts in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia were always in the news then, so these were the images of Africa.

As the war suddenly came to an end with Independence for Eretria, a young dynamic leader emerged in Ethiopia (1995) Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian Prime Minister praised for overseeing one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies.

He developed a city, Addis Ababa, focused primarily on Agriculture, manufacturing, and the service sectors. Meles promoted policies with one goal in mind, to create the new Dubai in Africa.

16 years ago in Calabar, a young vibrant governor, Donald Duke was sworn in as Governor Cross River State. Donald had a dream of a Dubai in Calabar. Donald has been praised for his contributions to the fields of agriculture, urban development, government, environment, information and communication, investment drive, and tourism.

Through his work Calabar was seen as the “cleanest city in Nigeria. He created the idea of the Obudu Ranch International Mountain Race under his stewardship, Donald Duke initiated the Tinapa Resort project as a way to boost business and tourism in the state.

Over $350 million was spent on initial development before phase 1 opening in April 2007. (Source-Wikipedia). Donald too, promoted policies with one goal in mind as Meles Zenawi, to create a new Dubai in Calabar in a resort called Tinapa.

16 years ago Ethiopia’s Meles economic policies was targeted at developing closeness to another rising power — China. All the new infrastructure, all of the shiny new developments making a Dubai out of Addis Ababa, are the fruit of Chinese investment.

The city’s public transit tram cars are of Chinese make. The Chinese government donated $200 million to build the new African Union headquarters. Haile Mariam’s government signed a $300 million deal with a Chinese construction company to revamp the Addis airport.

In 2013, a Chinese manufacturer spent $2 billion building shoe factories in Ethiopia. A dam on the river Tekeze, built and funded by Chinese companies, cost $365 million. China provides Ethiopia with everything from 3G and cellular service to military munitions. Understanding Chinas new colonialism in search of cheap labor and natural resources is the key to this sister state friendship. (See reference bottom page).

16 years counting, Cross River State, Donald Duke completed his huge infrastructural development of Tinapa, the Ranch and Imoke complimented it with a Convention Center and Monorail. Why are these projects failing and why are foreign direct investments (FDI) not trooping into calabar as they are doing in Ethiopia? Need to know the missing link? Continue reading.

16 years and counting, While Meles of Ethiopia focused on infrastructure development, foreign direct investments (FDI) poured into the economy in bounds including garment factories. As the President of Almeda garment factory points out, “Previously most of our clients were from many parts of Europe and America. But now, currently, we are also producing garments for H&M from Sweden, the second biggest garment retailer. We also produce in large quantities for a local market.

“Ethiopia has ambitious targets which is meeting some of Ethiopia’s best brains worldwide and encourage them to come help build their country, Almeda Textile has submitted 11.8 million dollars of revenue to the government. We have become a good source of income for the government.”

16 years and counting, Cross River State, Imoke brought in Wilmer International as reported by Punch newspapers of November, 14, 2012. A Singaporean firm, Wilmar International, inaugurated a 50,000 hectare ultra-oil palm plantations capable of employing over 20,000 workers.

While inaugurating the Calaro, Ibiae and Biase Oil Palm plantations, jointly owned by Wilmar International Limited and PZ Cussons at Mbarakom, Akamkpa Local Government, Governor Liyel Imoke said the investment would make the state the greatest oil palm producer in the country.

With massive unemployment in the state today, we are poised to ask what happened to the 20 thousand jobs promised or why is it that FDI into Calabar does not complement infrastructural development and new employment generation as found in Addis Ababa? Again, need to know why? Continue reading.

16 years and counting Meles, of Ethiopia attracted the high street stores H&M, Tesco, Primark and Asda as they all produce garments in Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s textile and apparel market exports grew 28% by June 2012, the United Kingdom alone, accounting for 10% of this trade, other countries in Europe taking 50% and the US taking 40%. The latest news being 50 Turkish textile and garment companies are hoping to relocate factories to Ethiopia, as in June 2012 Ethiopia signed an agreement with Turkish Investors towards development. (Source: see bottom page).

16 years and counting in Calabar, Is it possible our infrastructural development has no direct relationship with the productive needs of our FDI? Is it possible our infrastructural development is skewed to projects that have no relationship with our available skill set and productive forces within the state? Why do we need to pay foreign investors to come to Nigeria?

Why do we need to give grants to foreign investors as incentives to stay on? We built a studio that was never used? Was there a need for studio infrastructure when we built one? We built a Tinapa market place that has gone bankrupt. Was there a need for a market place in Calabar without a corresponding facility for production distribution and exchange? If it did exist, was the corresponding infrastructure functional? Is the population demograpghy of Cross River State strong enough to sustain a high end market?

Today we are building an international convention center, to serve the need for large scale meetings by some large organizations who in most cases meet once in a year. Are the total number of meetings, and conferences in a year sufficient to sustain the project all year round, or are we going to end up like Tinapa subsidizing the Convention Center? Does the cost warrant the benefits? Don’t stop yet, continue reading.

16 years later, we are investing in new infrastructural projects without a corresponding increase in FDI or employment generation. Is it possible there is a missing link in Cross River State economic approach and economic expectations which may be skewed to a mentality that view project success and sustainability from a skewed bankrupt economic perspective?

16 years going, Addis Ababa, on job creation, they aim to create jobs in five core areas: food processing; the textile and garment industry; metalwork, woodwork and furniture production; small construction; and municipal facilities. The state in Addis Ababa has created Micro & Small Enterprises Development Agency to provide credit, training and assistance to new businesses, as well as Business Development Subsidies (BDS), Technology Improvement and marketing. The scheme has already helped create over 63,000 jobs.

16 years later, in Calabar on job creation, Wilmer FDI promised the creation of 20,000 jobs, we are still waiting. While the Institute of Technology and Management, ITM Ugep is set up to train skilled small scale technicians to provide the required capacity to fill in the manpower gap in a state, they seem to be no definite plan to create opportunities and need for their skill set. How the planners hope to achieve their goal remains questionable.

While Addis Ababa modernized her bureaucracy, in Calabar we are still struggling with file jackets of the 1960s. While Ethiopia keyed into business process offerings receiving outsourced small technology jobs from the sister state partners, like call centers among others, we are still grappling in the dark in Nigeria, where BPOs cannot operate effectively because the main cable lines are privately owned by the major networks and Nigeria has one of the highest call rates per minutes in the world.

While Micro credit has extended into the suburbs of Ethiopia, in Calabar micro credits facilities still operates at a man know man basis. Is this how development should work or are we getting it wrong!

16 years going, Addis Ababa is now the fourteenth sister city to Washington D.C., the others include Bangkok, Thailand; Dakar, Senegal; Beijing, China; Brussels, Belgium; Athens, Greece; Paris, France; Pretoria, South Africa; Seoul, South Korea; Accra, Ghana; Sunderland, U.K.; Rome, Italy; Ankara, Turkey; and Brasília, Brazil. What is unique here is that Addis Ababa is taking advantage of her sister state status to attract massive investments into their country.

Addis Ababa has cooperation agreements with cities such as Johannesburg, South Africa; Beijing, China; Gaborone, Botswana; Leipzig, Germany and Lyon, France. These collaborations, must not be merely ceremonial, but of some material benefit to Addis and its residents.

16 years going, Calabar has a sister state relationship with Maryland. Have we been able to attract the benefits associated with sister state relationships with Maryland? Tel Aviv Sister state relationship with some American Cities brings in over $4 billion grants funding yearly to Israel, does Cross River State benefit anything from her sister state partnerships?

Do our bureaucrats actually understand how this relationships work and how to take advantage of it? Or do we set up sister state relationships just for political points and photo ups? This too remains a mute question.

Lessons to Learn:
1. All projects, services and investments into Addis Ababa operates within the creation of economies of scale. As the garment industry grew, the investors themselves saw a need for seaport and partnered with government to build one. The high volume of export materials and services facilitated the need for a seaport. This is how sustained development operates. The services necessitates the projects and not the projects necessitating the services.

2. 16 years later, Addis Ababa stands as the 5th largest economy in Africa with a 12th percentile economic growth profile, while Calabar stands with a debt of over 400 billion with concrete structures of Tinapa and ICCT and a Ranch with no definite business plan on how it can be sustained. A tale of two cities, what a difference focused enlightened and development oriented leadership can do. We need to go back to the drawing board to link these projects and seek economies of scale that will attract FDI into Cross River State.

3. Ayade has a choice, to either continue with a bourgeoisie development ideology that believes in developing projects that do not connect directly with the productive forces of society, or he can align his projects priority as the government in Addis Ababa did, by creating the required delivery synergy compatible with the peoples skill level and being able to connect with small trades and professions dominant in Calabar to effect development and progress. Small scale cooperative agriculture and mining for export purposes can attract this required FDI to Cross River State if properly managed within the investment world. The spiral effects will create the required synergy for job creation.

4. Addis Ababa took advantage of her sister city sister state partnerships allowing China provide required leadership, source for grants and funding to build airports and seaports to leverage the new industrial demands and created a synergy of economies of scale with her relationships with all the other cities.

5. Calabar during Liyel Imoke, created a sister state partnership with the city of Maryland USA. Papers were signed, photos were taken. But if Calabar has the required technical capacity to engage and derive benefits from these partnerships remain a mute question. Is it that we lack capacity? Or has politics and personal financial interest by our leaders consumed our reasoning, kept away some of our technocrats, and grossly redefined our development priorities?

6. Again this remains a mute question. I hope Ayade can pick up from here and realize the dream as Addis Ababa did, it’s not late, and rather, it’s just a matter of smart thinking and aligning with the right development priorities, technocrats, with accompanying economies of scale on projects initiations.

1. Reference: Hilary Matfess, “Ethiopia’s economy is roaring but its democratic process continues to whimper,” Quartz, 29 May 2015.

Princewill odidi is a development consultant writing from Atlanta USA.

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