SouthEast Region – Potentials, Prospects and Challenges
SOUTHEAST IS SAFEST PLACE TO LIVE IN NIGERIA”
According to United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) National Human Development Report for Nigeria, 2016
According to Punch newspaper (May 2016) “The United Nations Development Programme has named South-East Nigeria as the most human security secure geopolitical zone in Nigeria. The UNDP defined Human Security as safety from chronic threats such as hunger, disease and repression as well as protection from sudden and harmful disruptions in patterns of daily life whether in homes, jobs or communities.”
Southeast as a region is operating far below its economic potential. With land area about the size of Belgium and 11.7% of the Nigeria’s population reside in the region (according to official statistics). The region can accomplish so much in view of enormous endowments of resources, both human and natural.
The Southeast region is a very viable area for investment. In addition to abundant natural resources, such as oil and gas, coal, salt, and so on, the region still has one of the best arable and fertile land in the country. The region has comparative advantage in the production of subsistence crops like yams, maize, rice, plantains, and cassava. Cash crops like oil palm, rubber, cashew, and a wide variety of timber are also in abundance.
The region has also seen an increase in industrial activity in recent years, with the development of industrial clusters in various axis of the region. These clusters, include the Onitsha Plastic cluster, Umuahia/Aba Garment cluster, Aba Leather Cluster, Nnewi Automotive cluster, Abakaliki Rice & Agro Allied products cluster, to mention a few.
The Southeast region is the flag-bearer of highly innovative “made-in-Nigeria” products. , Their products are in many cases, the only competition to foreign products that cost Nigeria significant amounts in foreign currency every year. The fact that the region’s industrial sector is accomplishing this much while still employing rudimentary production processes shows the industrial viability of this region. With the right investments in technology and infrastructure, these industries can clearly take the global center-stage.
The Southeast region has one of the best Human Development Indicators (HDI) in the country. It has the lowest poverty levels in the country, and the quality of human capital – specifically, adult literacy rates and gender development indicators are the highest in the country. The potential for other service-based industry, apart from the wholesale & retail trade sector, Education, Hospitality & Healthcare for which the region’s institutions are well known, is therefore enormous.
For Southeast region to realize its true economic potential, some major challenges facing the area need to be addressed. Poor infrastructure is a major constraint to the economic development in the Southeast. The region’s rail infrastructure is moribund and the roads are in a terrible state. Adequate infrastructure is key to unlocking inter-regional trade with the rest of the country. However the region’s Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu State, and the Sam Mbakwe Airport in Owerri, Imo State provide easy access for inter-regional and global trade to prosper in the region.
The environmental problems of soil erosion and waste management confronting the region as a whole is beyond the capacity of the States to address on individual basis, and requires the active participation of the private sector. Efforts are already being made to implement this. There’s need to identify and revamp viable inland ports development projects in order to improve trade logistics and significantly reduce the time it takes to process the clearing of imported goods at the nation’s ports.
The Governors of the five (5) States in the Southeast region are partnering with SEREDEC to identify and implement measures to improve the region’s business environment. They have jointly agreed to prioritize this critical issue in order to attaract the much needed private investors to the region. According to the World Bank’s Doing Business in Nigeria Report (2010), the South Eastern States are ranked below other States in the “ease of doing business” category – a reflection of the poor state of the business environment. Business regulatory systems clearly need to be more efficient. The workforce in the region would also be better equipped with the right skill set, involving vocational training opportunities to support the potential growth of the various economic sectors.