•Abia govt demands ICT policy, internet city from Google
•Promises to flag off Economic city, December
By Prince Osuagwu,
The ancient town of Aba, Enyimba City, Abia state has remained a commercial city, even before 1901 when the British Colonial administration imposed a military post there. yet the presence of the military did not change the status quo, but rather emboldened the commercial activities and in no time, the city became a collecting point for agricultural products following the British established railway line running through it to Port Harcourt.
Its commercial nature is original considering that it sits at the intersection of roads leading to Port Harcourt, Owerri, Umuahia, Ikot Ekpene, and Ikot Abasi – the unique feature which original owners, the Ngwa clan, may have seen before establishing it as a market town, long before the arrival of the colonial masters.
Although Aba was not made the capital upon the creation of Abia state in 1991, it however, remained a major urban settlement and commercial centre of not only the state but the South East region.
The economic viability of Enyimba city is not in doubt, having naturally been endowed with oil wells and a 30 kilometres gas pipeline from the Imo River natural gas repository, which powers the city.
Aba is well known for its handicrafts resulting in major economic contributions being Textiles and Palm Oil, supported by pharmaceuticals, plastics, cement, and cosmetics. These, made the popular Ariaria International Market the largest in West Africa, exporting made in Aba shoes, bags, garments, skin artefacts among others to other markets in Africa and beyond.
However, the down side of this beautiful city is that nearly its over three million population, which are mainly craftsmen and traders are plying their trade in crude and analogue methods.
The alleged failing of successive governments to keep the state up to date with development did not help matters. Road networks in the city began to fail and eventually deteriorated. Refuse now litter the city in abysmal form, making it become infamously the dirtiest city in Nigeria.
However, between the current Abia state government and technology company, Google, some changes appear to be on the way.
While the tech company has launched a digital skills training to the ancient city, capable of digitizing businesses of the teeming Artisans, the state government is making preparations to flag off an economic hub called Enyimba Economic City, EEC. The hub is located in a 9,803 hectares of land, spanning three Local Government Areas of Abia State, Ukwa East, Ukwa West and Ugwunagbo.
The land is at the centre of the five Southeast and four South-south States and has the right characteristics and ingredients to drive massive economic expansion of the region and by extension Nigeria.
It has major arterial, intercity roads connections. It is near existing sea ports,Onne and PortHacourt and proposed Akwa Ibom deep sea port.
It has proximity to Owerri, PortHacourt and Uyo Airports. It has functional gas pipelines and boarder Owaza gas fields. It is transversed by existing National rail line from PortHacourt to Maiduguri .
The key pillars of Enyimba Economic City is to create a global business hub that has the capacity to provide over 700,000 jobs, urban housing of over 300,000 units, urban population of more than 1.5 Million people. It is projected that the city will provide more than 2,000industrial/ business units, with estimated annual value output of more than $5 Billion.
Google digital skills
Meanwhile, Google Nigeria at the weekend launched its Digital Skills for Africa program in the city and other local communities in Abia State.
Google’s Digital Skills for Africa program offers training courses to help individuals and communities develop and grow digital skills, find jobs and advance in their careers. The program provides free online courses, tools, and in-person digital training to students, educators, job seekers and businesses.
Head, Brand & Reputation, SSA at Google, Mojolaoluwa Aderemi-Makinde said: “We’re doing this because we believe that more needs to be done to empower young Africans to succeed in the digital world.”
She added that the youth make up 60% of Africa’s unemployed, and that developing digital entrepreneurship and creating new job opportunities for them is critical to Africa’s transformative growth
Welcoming the Google digital team to Aba, Governor Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, said: “The Government of Abia State is excited to have Google introduce the Digital Skills Training to the business community and local manufacturers in Aba. This will drive business expansion, help to increase sales and create employment opportunities in our state”
Ikpeazu, represented by the secretary of state government, Mr Chris Ezem, said the world is now a global village as a result of information technology and Abia through the Digital Skills Training by Google will be able to key into the digital narrative, giving Aba, the commercial hub in Nigeria, the needed visibility in the world map”
According to Ikpeazu, “ Government is keyed into eliminating waste, building more roads and repairing more in this second tenure. This digital launch has come at a better place to complement these efforts.
Meanwhile we are demanding from Google to establish Abia state ICT policy, digital centres in all corners of Abia state and build internet centres particularly in Abia state universities to enable the students key into ICT before they come out of school.
“ We are ready to support Google because the government is particularly interested in Aba as the commercial nerve centre of the South East, if not Africa. That is why we are establishing the Enyimba Economic City here.
“ Enyimba economic city started three years ago. We have completed concept designs. Federal government has three percent in the city and has paid its own share. We have done all the agreements with the host community. Social environmental impact assessment has been done. Everything expected of the State government has been done. We are looking at between now and December to unveil because all the necessary steps to begin, have be taken” he added.
President, Association of Tailors and Fashion Designers in Abia State, Onyebuchi Nwigwe, expressed appreciation to Google for introducing the Training saying: “The association is open to receiving the training from Google because they know that as fashion designers and tailors they will be able to properly compete with their counterparts across the world after they have adopted and introduced the digital skills to their business models.”