Industrial development: From Sahara Desert to Oasis – the Kaduna state story

countries don’t create economies. It is entrepreneurs and companies that create and revitalise economies. The role of the governments should be to create a nourishing environment for entrepreneurs and companies to flourish, not to get in the way of economic development”-John Naisbitt.

By 2014, the Kaduna state industrial landscape was a Sahara Desert, Peugeot Automobile Nigeria (PAN), the Kaduna Refinery and Petro Chemical Company (KRPC), the textile companies (the single largest employer of labour) had all closed down, leading to massive unemployment, a huge drop in government revenue and an increase in crime. Governor Nasir El- Rufai has made the failure of previous administrations, in virtually every sector, more glaring, but more in the area of institutional reforms and industrialisation, especially their inexplicable failure to attract new industries, the unpardonable and scandalous failure to keep existing ones, like the Zaria Pharmaceutical Company functioning.

Kaduna metropolis, the capital of the old Northern region, had decayed beyond recognition, due to a huge infrastructural deficit, needed renewal, same with the public service, with an aging workforce that bluntly refused to embrace technology, modern tools of governance, that was equally in need of revitalisation, all which El-Rufai has boldly tackled despite concerted opposition. The late Sarduna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, who by dint of unparalleled hard work and vision, had bequeathed a solid foundation, for the orderly development of Kaduna, the one time regional headquarters, would be smiling in his grave, seeing the remarkable turn around in the fortunes of Kaduna state.

The lack of investments, the failure to attract investors, in spite of several foreign “investment drives”, is largely because some past leaders, lacked clear sighted vision, and were unfortunately contented with the over flowing oil revenue, the reason they didn’t bother improving the internally generated revenue (IGR), which stood at a paltry N12billion when El-Rufai took over, but today is over N55billion, or creating the necessary environment that would attract investors, like El-Rufai has fantastically done. So like General Yakubu Gowon, during the oil boom of the early 70s, the problem for them, was largely what to do with the oil earnings, that they did absolutely nothing beyond the routine.

By and large, the biggest challenge that confronts Kaduna state, like other states, is the security challenge, and the urgency of job creation for its teeming youths, which constitutes about 65% of its 10 million population. Thankfully, El-Rufai, under six years, has accomplished these and many more, which given his antecedents are expected -delivering on them has cemented his status as the father of the New Kaduna state.

At the last count, El-Rufai has attracted more than 41 industries in concluded transactions that have gotten the industrial landscape roaring once again, with over 30,000 jobs created directly and over 100,000 jobs indirectly. The new Kaduna-Abuja Highway industrial zone is home to the imposing $150 million Olam Poultry and Feeds Mill, the OAP Moroccan Fertilizer Company, the new Dangote Peugeot plant, etc. There is also the $200 million Mahindra Tractor Assembly plant, capable of producing 3,000 tractors per year, the Blue Camel Energy, a renewable energy production plant and training academy. The latest baby is the over N16 billion Damau milk farm, which on completion is expected to create over 1,000 jobs directly, and over 10,000 in the livestock value chain, while also strategically addressing the herders/farmers clash, a persistent source of threat to national security by convincing herders that ranching is more beneficial.

Very key for El-Rufai is employment and a resolution of the issues constantly generated by encroachment into farms by itinerant pastoralists. The farm will have 14,000 cows, with each livestock farmer having five hectares of farmland, complete with farmhouse, cattle shed and irrigated land.

El-Rufai, in furtherance to his job creation quest, recently privatised the famous Zaria Pharmaceutical company. The company, a victim of mismanagement, was famous for its quality syringes, before it spectacularly failed. The deal is worth over $1.9 million. Other state government owned enterprises that have been privatised are the famous Zaria Hotel, Saminaka Motel, Kagoro Motel, and Kachin Food Company, all which have have been moribund for years, a drain on the resources of government.

Statistics from the Kaduna State Investment Promotion Agency (KADIPA), the one-stop resource and coordination center for all investment related activities in the state, which has driven the industrialisation policy with missionary zeal, shows that Kaduna state has realised $2,062,293,450.36 billion investments in about 10 sectors, with the agro-allied, attracting the most.

Other industries that are expected to open for business in the next few months include the $600 million steel plant at Gujeni by African Natural Resources and Mines Ltd, OCP Fertilizer Blending Plant, AMA Medical Manufacturing Ltd, TMDK Argo-allied, an integrated farming and processing venture, etc.

The target of the Kaduna State Development Plan that by 2020, Kaduna state will be the business destination for the 19 northern states and Abuja, from the forgoing statistics, has largely been achieved, with an economic development strategy predicated on agriculture, agro- allied processing factories, and other labour intensive industries, like garment factories because of the comparative advantage and capacity to employ more people.

What El-Rufai has under six years shows that with gut determination any daunting challenge can be surmounted. And in the process conclusively proven that genuine interest in the welfare of the poor are critical motivation in governance. Creation of a conducive environment for an inclusive growth doesn’t happen in isolation.

Once again, Kaduna state has assumed its pride of place as the engine of growth for the Northern region, with a pulling effect for both the North-west and North-east regions.

Ado writes from Kaduna.

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