“Nigeria’s richest plough money into Africa’s biggest economy” is the title of a piece in Financial Times of November 23, 2020, that captured how our big-time entrepreneurs are realising that no foreign venture capitalists will come to develop our country just like that.
We have to lead the way. We have to create the confidence the venture capitalists want to have before they regard our country as an investment destination.
The Financial Times reported “Banking-to-power millionaire Tony Elumelu said he was set to close a $1bn oil block deal soon, while flour-and-cement billionaire Abdulsamad Rabiu’s Bua Group is to build a multi-billion-dollar 200,000 barrel a day oil refinery in oil rich Akwa Ibom state.
That project will compete against a $12bn 650,000 barrels a day mega-refinery being built by Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote on the outskirts of Lagos. Food Concepts, the company that owns Chicken Republic, the country’s biggest fast-food chain, will open another 30 restaurants by the end of the year.”
The 4.5bn Gezawa Commodity Market and Exchange venture located in Kano state and promoted by the current Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Idris Ahmed, should fall into the afforelisted league of ventures promoted by Nigerian investment eggheads.
It is a private sector-led initiative, the first of its kind in Nigeria. The market is positioned to be the largest commercial one-stop hub for both domestic and export market for international standard agro commodity in Nigeria. The market is integrated with a trading platform, Gezawa Commodity Market & Exchange (GCMX), where agricultural commodities will be traded live 24/7.
It is all about harnessing our resources to catalyze our economic growth and development. But some people from the ivory towers, with axe to grind with the promoter for reasons best known to them are about town peddling rumour about the venture and making laughable accusations.
But well-meaning Nigerians among them our elder statesmen in Kano have refused to be beguiled by these romour-mongers with no higher moral standing to accuse others of any wrongdoing.
Former presidential candidate Bashir Othman Tofa after leading the Kano Concerned Citizens Initiative (KCCI) to the Gezawa Commodity Market and Exchange wrote beautifully, elsewhere, on their experiences and understanding of the venture. Hear him:
“Kano Concerned Citizens Initiative (KCCI), visited the market a fortnight ago. We were very impressed! After a three-hour tour we settled at the conference room to hear all about it. We were informed, it is the positive result of an ingenious and elaborate partnership program with so many companies, individual investors from all over the country, participating. In fact, an Igbo investor is about to start his Hotel building at the plot allocated for that purpose.
Another Igbo man is building the Weighbridges at the huge Lorry Park that will be built by an investor from the North. Many have invested in shop buildings, water plant and light manufacturing including grains and foods processing, etc. Some can even invest money (funds), if they prefer that.”
According to the elder statesman “Ahmed Idris (AGF), bought only most of the farmlands, a part of which he owned from inheritance. The market provides land and facilities at a price. Investors make proposal of what they want to build or do there. If it fits their master-plan, they have alternative means of participation from which to choose.
There are so many brochures, Videos etc. that provide detailed information. There is also an Interest indication form an interested investor may purchase at N10,009. Everything is immaculately organised.”
He concluded: “So, the place is NOT his (Ahmed Idris’) alone. It belongs to so many people. The entire land available is 280 hectres, and only 8 hectres are used. I heard that some farm owners invested their farms instead of selling outright.
This helps the villagers, as well as the 1,000s that will be employed. They already have a licence to operate as a Dry Port. The Customs, Export Promotion Council Police, Fire Brigade, have their offices and equipment there, provided free of charge. We saw their staff already working.”
The AGF is a seasoned, dedicated, brilliant and humble public servant, who discharges his duties with utmost professionalism and respect for the rule of law. As the AGF, he has brought a lot of innovations, introduced and implemented the much needed reforms (in the office of the AGF). The carefully articulated reforms in the AGF’s office are perhaps the reasons behind the recent baseless tantrums thrown at him using a section of the media for the hatchet job.
But Gezawa Commodity Market and Exchange is a brilliant idea no matter what its antagonist will say. The market understand the importance of farmers to the success of the Exchange.
As primary producers of commodities traded on the Exchange, it appreciates the need for its network of farmers/cooperatives to improve their output. Thus, it invests in delivering extension services to the farmers/cooperatives to help them improve on productivity through dissemination and practical hands on trainings on applying improved seeds and agricultural technologies and tools.
In addition, it provides its networks of farmer cooperatives with access to finance through its strategic partnership with some financial institutions while training them to improve their agribusiness managerial skills and capabilities.
The Coordinator of Gezawa Commodity Market and Exchange, Binfa Binchang, said about 15,000 jobs will be created through farmers’ cooperatives and commodity exchange projects. At the organization’s maiden Farmers Corporative Forum in Kano in June, where over 20,000 farmers under cooperative societies were in attendance, Binchang said the aim of the forum is to facilitate farmers’ interaction with government agencies and banks.
“We that 1,000 by 20 members, that is in totality, we have close to over 20,000 farmers that have been registered under this cooperative, so, we are looking at where government can actually come in, liaise with us to be able to actually help farmers to get either inputs or funding for their agro-products,” he said.
According to him, when phase one of the project is completed, it would provide direct job opportunities to no fewer than 2,000 farmers and other people in the Kano State and elsewhere. Phase two, on the other hand, can create about 3,000 jobs, that means, in the long run, it will surpass 7,000 to 10, 000 jobs. This will no doubt help in easing the challenge of unemployment in the country, starting from Kano to other states.
Ahmed Idris, the promoter of this brilliant concept, is from his antecedence a highly foresighted man. For a long time, he has realized the need to tap the vast and untapped economic potential in agriculture and its value-chain as panacea to our unemployment and enhancement of diversification of the economy and reversal of our mono-economic posture.
Idris has been a major force to reckon with in helping the youths to have gainful employment and his belief that agricultural sector can provide a lasting solution to our youths’ restiveness cannot be faulted.
All well-meaning Nigerians must commend the patriotic disposition of Idris for offering a portion of his ancestral land for the development of a private sector-driven project in collaboration and participation of relevant public sector institutions such as the CBN, NCS, NEPC, SON, BOA, SEC, NDLEA, NAFDAC, Development Institutions and some Federal Ministries and Agencies.
Knowing the immense benefits that the Gezawa Commodity Market and Exchange offers for the socio-economic development of Kano State, North-West and Nigeria at large, the Kano State Government has consistently lent its support to the project in different forms. The Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje visited the ongoing project three times over last two years. This underscores the importance of this laudable project to Kano so.
We need more of such projects across the country to provide the much-needed push for our departure from being a mono economy and rentier state that depends largely on oil as a main source of foreign exchange earnings for the economy.
The time has come for all to support the development of private sector-led initiatives that have potential to change the narrative of economic woes of this country. Certainly, Gezawa project is one of such initiatives. And as Bashir Othman Tofa has noted, “If most of us who can will do that for our villages, according to our means and the needs there that will be tremendous!”
Hassan, a financial analyst, writes from Abuja.