By Vincent Ujumadu – Awka
Arrangements have been concluded for the takeoff of Onitsha economic empowerment programme being facilitated by indigenes of the commercial town.
The Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, who announced the institution of the programme said it is part of a strategy for medium to long term sustainable intervention in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath.
A statement in Onitsha said the programme would be implemented under the auspices of the Onitsha Advancement Foundation (OAF) incorporated by the Onitsha Traditional Council.
According to the statement, a panel of Onitsha experts had been charged by Igwe Achebe to map out strategies to support the struggling and budding entrepreneurs to weather the COVID-19 storm.
A statement issued from the royal palace said: “The OAF has been restructured with an expanded Board of Directors, made up of part-time members, all highly experienced, hardworking and dedicated Onitsha indigenes.
“The Advisory Board comprised members of the Onitsha Traditional Council and constituent groups and workgroups of Onitsha professionals focused on implementing specific aspects of the Economic Empowerment Programme.
“Three initiatives spanning business learning, technological skills acquisition and financial intermediation will serve as the arrowhead of the Economic Empowerment Programme.
“They are the Onitsha Leadership and Entrepreneurship Centre (OLEC), Ado Business Incubation Centre (ABIC) and a Microfinance Institution/Microfinance Bank (MFI/MFB)”.
According to the statement, OLEC, which is headed by Professor Alex Ikeme will focus on creating a passion for learning about businesses and how to create and grow small businesses, while ABIC which will serve as a catalyst tool to help new technology start-ups to grow and develop, is led by Mr Charles Emembolu, an information technology expert.
It said the MFI/MFB, which will offer financial resources to low/medium income populations, in addition to targeting financial services at self-employed, micro and small businesses generally overlooked in the society, is headed by Mr Nnamdi Anammah, a financial expert.
“The campaign is designed to drive a new work/study/life ethic for Onitsha indigenes, which is in tune with the times and able to power a rebirth of thrift, industry, achievement and pride on a global scale.
“It will also prepare a significant number of persons from the community with vital foundational principles to key into and avail themselves of other elements of the empowerment programme.
“There is also a plan to establish a health and well-being workgroup that will determine the modalities for the community’s basic healthcare programme.’’
“We should not relent since we can now clearly see the great possibilities that lie ahead as we work toward lifting the poor in Onitsha out of poverty
“This exercise has called for substantial hard work as we progress from the Onitsha Community COVID-19 Response Programme (OCCRT), which focuses on education and enlightenment,” the statement added.