In the business world we call it credible network connections, in real world we call it man know man. One of Liyel Imoke’s most remarkable achievements was the setting up of a sister state relationship with State of Maryland USA.
The sister state agreement was meant to provide a forum for economic development, tourism, and cultural understanding through business, high school, and university exchange programs, improvements in health care and more.
When we speak of Maryland as a state and the opportunities that it presents – it has a very structured system; it has a business community that is looking to invest in Nigeria and to Africa and we want to position ourselves as that entry point into Nigeria. This was Imoke’s thinking which I subscribed to working with him then.
This collaboration between the State of Maryland and Cross River State of Nigeria in areas such as Business Development, Health Care, Education, Agriculture, Culture, Tourism and Information Technology led to the sister state agreement signed in Imoke’s regime.
WHY BEN AYADE SHOULD JUMP ON THIS OPPORTUNITY NOW!
When Ben Ayade became Governor, to some of us we had expected him to jump on this opportunity to drive his development concepts, we had expected him to pay a state visit to Maryland to establish a stronger relationship both with the state and the serving governor of Maryland. A one on one interaction between both governors would have created a tremendous economic ripple in trade relations and exchanges, this is my thinking.
While it is understood that the current administration has traveled worldwide searching for investors, what may not have occurred to them is that because of the reputation Nigeria has built over the years, genuine investors are scared to bring a Kobo to Nigeria.
Most of these guys who move from one office to another visiting several state governors across Nigeria and promising investments are white guys who live here in Lagos pretending to be investors. To be frank, they have nothing to offer.
One of the only ways to attract genuine investors to a corruption infested economy is by direct referrals. In our judgment, the state government should have strengthened her ties with the Governor of Maryland and through him promote an investment drive.
It would have worked perfectly, because prospective investors would come on board based on trust and returns, but on why the current government has not yet leveraged on this platform Imoke created and left unexplored remains a moot question to an unassuming mind.
The International community is a very small world. Everybody knows everybody. Business, trade, commerce and even tourism are sometimes discussed on coffee tables.
If the state of Maryland decides to make Cross River State an international priority, it will come with a lot development goodwill. Let me use a simple example to explain this.
Sometime in 2010, I was part of a delegation of Atlanta City Mayor, when he visited Africa. Our first stop was Accra, then to Eti Osa LGA in Lagos, then to Nairobi, Tanzania and finally Liberia.
This 10 day African visit by a sitting mayor of Atlanta attracted over 10 billion dollars in foreign direct investments in countries visited.
We travelled to Africa then with all the big companies in Atlanta. When we entered Nigeria, we visited Eti Osa LGA because that Local Government Area has a sister city arrangement with Atlanta.
Again recently in March 2016, Mayor Reed visited South Africa. During Mayor Reed’s time in Johannesburg, the delegation participated in market entry discussions, roundtable business meetings, and cultural events.
In addition, at least 18 Georgia companies have operations in South Africa including The Coca-Cola Company and UPS. Through their networks new Georgia companies are opening new businesses in South Africa this fall.
In 2015, Georgia exported $172 million in goods and services to South Africa, this is what trade meetings can do, has been doing and will continue to do. Development is no magic, it is effective planning.
Now, this is just a Mayor leading a trade mission, what more if a State government like Maryland leads a trade mission to Cross River State? Can you imagine what the returns would be?
A mayor of a city may be compared to a local government Chairman, if a mayor can attract so much Foreign Direct Investment, what more if an American state governor leads a trade delegation to Cross River State?
We may not understand the enormity of how a well planned and structured trade meeting can change Cross River State, but this actually is the platform I would recommend Governor Ayade promotes as a means of bailing the state out of debts, poverty and mass unemployment.
An activated sister state partnership, would lead to trade meetings to expose Cross River State local chambers of commerce to international businesses, introduce Cross River State to major international organizations majority of which are located in the District of Colombia within the vicinity of Maryland, introduce Cross River State to international funders and stakeholders in international finance, Introduce our schools, CRUTECH, UNICAL, ITM among others to key universities in the Maryland to engage in international student exchange programs, most of this programs are funded by US government, our lecturers and professors can engage in research collaborations, some of which are funded by United Nations, our health departments in Cross River State can partner with key health institutions in Maryland to solicit for medical equipment donations for our dying hospitals, engage in exchange programs of medical personnel similar to the one concluded between Emory Hospital USA and Akwa Ibom State health ministry, and numerous other programs, the list continues.
While it is obvious the present administration prefers to deal with Asia in her pursuit of development, as a development expert I know Asia is waste of time. The Asians and Chinese are too crafty to advance any meaningful development to the Cross River State.
It is not late for the Ayade Benedict’s administration to go back to the drawing board, amidst low funding to different sectors in the state, amidst inability to fund education, waste disposals, roads and other infrastructure.
Asians and Chinese are good at talking big and promising all type of development, time is running fast, Maryland can attract faster development aid through collaborative partnerships with international organizations and can assist Cross River State jump start AGOA and open our local farmers to exporting our local food stuff directly and earn dollars.
We have enough resources in the state to attract any serious investor, but how and where and when we channel our investment drive makes all the difference, and the technical capacity to engage the international business world is the key to unlock all of these.
Princewill Odidi, a Cross Riverian and development expert based in Atlanta, USA writes via Princewillodidi@yahoo.com
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