With appreciable growth in infrastrucre and an expanding economy, Bayelsa State is stepping up in its quest for industrialization. With a Gross State Product of N2.4 trillion ($18.5 billion), the state is desirous of attracting good investments locally and abroad. So from July 16-18, the state will play host to an international Investment and Economic Forum in Yenagoa, the state capital. The event, with the theme, “Unlocking Bayelsa economic potentials: Challenges and Opportunities” was put together as part of efforts to share the Bayelsa Dream: an incredible array of opportunities for strategic and forward looking investors in the various sectors of the state economy.
Today, major institutional modalities – from legal to economic incentives – to attract the right kind of investors have been addressed and streamlined to cater for the next phase of development in the New Bayelsa State. The state government seeks to use the forum to look for serious investors ready to take advantage of the state’s vast untapped resources to invest in the state. The emphasis is on major partnership with the private sector, to influence the culture and character of the people to be more active in business and indeed the local economy through job creation and improved living conditions. The government is also seeking to leverage on the ensuing business environment to create alternative sources of income.
With oil and gas being dominant enterprise in Bayelsa economy, the state government is pushing for a paradigm shift with premium on other sectors such as power generation, agriculture, hospitality and tourism and e-commerce.
The power sector in particular, presents a very rewarding business opportunity considering the abundance of gas in the state. Against the mid-term objective of the state government to generate 3000 megawatts of electricity, the state government not only seeks investors to share in its vision, but also partners to boost electricity supply to the national grid. Interestingly, a number of companies have shown interest and even some have signed Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs) with the state government. There is certainly room for more given that the sector remains a goldmine for investors willing to pump in the needed massive investments. Thus the forum will be an apt avenue for strategic investors to rub minds with officials of the state government as part of its bid for economic diversification.
Equally, for some time now, the economic diversification efforts have necessitated a shift to agriculture and tourism to create a new economy. The last two years have seen increased activities in the development of agriculture in the state, training of hundreds of youths at Songhai Farms in Port Novo, Benin, establishment of the Agricultural Training Institute and generally, in encouraging people to go into farming. Today, the cultivation of cassava and rice is increasingly seen as a viable business.
In all, the emphasis is on modernization of farming, to encourage large scale farming to boost employment and hence farmers’ incomes. There is no doubt that the large scale cultivation of rice will be hugely successful because the local environmental conditions allow for continuous planting of rice throughout the year. Similar considerations apply to the cultivation of cassava and plantain and the growing business of aquaculture in Bayelsa State hence the need to showcase the possibilities for investors. Here, government is desirous to see many agro-allied businesses spring up in due course.
The other arm of the economic diversification is tourism. This sector has received generous investment by the state government particularly in terms of the right infrastructure and enabling laws. Bayelsa State is adjudged as one of the safest states in the nation today and this is good for tourism which explains why it attracted socio-cultural, arts and cultural events like AMAA, the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN) Pageant, the International Day for Culture, the UNESCO First African Underwater Cultural Heritage Conference, top class musical events and other international functions drawing the cream of global celebrities in recent times. This is clearly an affirmation of Bayelsa as a worthy environment to do business; a place that is safe and secure. It is already documented that the state has the longest coastline of beautiful beaches in the world and an array of historical sites waiting for global visitors. That’s why the sector is being developed to the desired international standard by the restoration government led by Governor Seriake Dickson. He sees tourism as a major component of the future economy hence his determination to pour more resources into the sector while encouraging others to do same as a lucrative enterprise. From this perspective, it is a timely step by any serious investor to come into the tourism industry in the state to invest. The basic requirements of infrastructure are happening in terms of roads and bridges, urban renewal, electricity generation and general security of lives and property. From hotels to golf courses and the New Yenagoa City, something spectacular is evolving in the Glory of All Lands. These are not happenstances but deliberate and visionary. The future is appealing to the present with so much optimism that Bayelsa State can create its own Eldorado by sheer passion, vision and leadership. For those who would like to invest in hotels and real estate, the environment is now very liberal and indeed, the collection of certificate of occupancy has been computerized and made easier to acquire.
In the last two years, the state government through the Bayelsa Development and Investment Corporation (BDIC) has actually done some good work in cementing vital business relationships with MoUs signed with some reputable oil companies to open vistas of economic progress in the state. More of this development initiative will be tabled for investors’
appreciation at the forum to see what gains are accruable to them in the oil and gas sector of the state economy. Of course, Governor Dickson has repeatedly stated of his desire to see Bayelsa as the new business and economic hub in the Niger Delta and so much is being done to realize this lofty objective.
As explained by the Commissioner for Trade, Industry and Investment, Barrister Kemela Okara, the Bayelsa Investment and Economic forum promises to be a harvest of golden business opportunities. With an airport of its own to make transportation easier to the state, an integrated railway linking the vital economic areas down to the Sea Port at Agge and a free trade zone, among other strategic initiatives to boost business, Bayelsa State is moving up the ladder of investment destination.
In the long run, Bayelsans hope to see an emerging state economy with steady growth in the private sector and a preponderance of local entrepreneurs as core beneficiaries in the value chain; this would be really good for the local economy, the people would be happier for it.
Iworiso-Markson writes from Yenago