The Fayemi-led administration has taken on the responsibility to resuscitate Ekiti State’s ailing economy, moribund industries, low exports and infrastructural deficit by redirecting its focus from FAAC to agriculture, knowledge economy, commerce, and tourism development.
In this regard, Governor Fayemi approached development partners and representatives of foreign governments, including China, India, Belarus, the World Bank, European Union Commission and African Development Bank, to bring increased trade, new markets, and sustainable development to Ekiti State.
For instance, the State Government is at an advanced stage of discussions with the World Bank and African Development Bank (AfDB) for a sum of $100 million required for the construction of Ekiti Knowledge Zone(EKZ), Special Agriculture Processing Zone (SAPZ), Ado-Akure Road, and Ekiti Agro-Allied Cargo Airport. The proposed fund has a 10-year moratorium and 2% interest.
These projects are crucial to Governor Fayemi’s economic diversification plans and agribusiness investment policy to enhance food security, employment opportunities and empower women and youths in Ekiti State.
WHY EKITI KNOWLEDGE ZONE (EKZ)?
To survive and thrive in today’s global economy, Dr. Fayemi has turned to knowledge as the primary product in which Ekiti State can trade successfully. These are fields such as teaching, IT, research, technical back-stopping/support, consulting, etc.
The Fayemi-led administration is committed to harnessing the potentials of brilliant minds in the State by accelerating development, skipping less efficient routes and moving directly to more advanced stages such as a knowledge-based economy.
A knowledge-based economy is a system of consumption and production that is based on intellectual capital rather than on physical inputs or natural resources. With the State’s reputation as being a leader in the production of superior intellectual capital, Ekiti can convincingly position itself as and effectively evolve into a knowledge-based economy. This is the rationale behind the creation of the Ekiti Knowledge Zone (EKZ).
The EKZ is conceived to be a place where the State can match its global repertoire of Academic Experts and pioneers with platinum players in the industrial and scientific community, discover, nurture and support creative talents, cross-fertilize revolutionary ideas and produce innovative concepts, products and services that will positively impact the state, nation, sub-Saharan Africa and by extension, make conscious, holistic contributions to the advancement of humanity.
WHY EKITI AGRO-ALLIED CARGO AIRPORT?
The cargo airport, a support enabler of economic growth, will enable Ekiti State to connect to distant markets and national/global supply chains in a swift and reliable manner. Large quantity of cash crops (cocoa, plantain, oil palm) and staple foods (yam, cassava, maize, rice) from the proposed Special Agriculture Processing Zone (SAPZ) will be transported within and outside the country at record speed to ensure the early-to-market advantage as well as providing mass employment and sustainable economic growth in the State.
In order to enhance farmers’ productivity and transportation of products from the Special Agriculture Processing Zone, the State Government has entered into a partnership with the World Bank to undertake rehabilitation and tarring of 1000km of rural roads through the Rural Access to Market Programme (RAMP). This initiative will aid the reconstruction of farm settlements and provide basic amenities to facilitate cultivation and transportation of products after harvest to the Special Agriculture Processing Zone. Also, it will connect Ekiti rural communities to urban centers and market places.
Equally, one of the largest economic benefit of the Ekiti Agro-Allied cargo connectivity lies in its impact on the long-term performance of Livestock and milk production which have high market demand and record increased growth. To this end, Ekiti State Government has entered into a partnership with Promasidor Company for the revitalization of the moribund Ikun Dairy Farm and to utilize its potentials for job creation and local milk production.
This partnership will attract a new investment of $5 million into Ikun Dairy Farm, which will be used to purchase equipment, provide the appropriate herd of cattle, and develop an out-grower scheme for providing feed for the cattle. It is estimated that production will be more than 10,000 litres of milk daily, which will require speedy and reliable mode of transportation for rapid delivery to local markets and exports. Promasidor Nigeria Limited (PNL) is willing to key into Ekiti State Government’s agricultural schemes to train, employ and educate the youths in the State to build and grow commercial agriculture. When the farm is fully operational, it will create hundreds of jobs directly, and indirectly and also improve the economy of the host community, surrounding communities and Ekiti State at large.
In order to open up new markets and boost exports through the air cargo transport, Governor Fayemi met with the hierarchy of corporate organizations, multinationals and development agencies to invest in modernized agriculture in Ekiti State. Belarus for example, is ready to collaborate with Ekiti State Government to ensure economic development through increased sustainable agricultural practices and food security in Ekiti state.
Belarus manufactures 10% of the world’s tractors and has a very reliable/efficient array of agric equipment/technologies for small, medium/large scale farms. This aligns with Dr. Fayemi’s plan to provide agricultural tools including tractors for small holder/large scale farms in Ekiti State. Belarus also has the best modern poultry production technology and is willing to partner with Ekiti State Government to establish similar production facility in Ekiti state.
Moreover, discussions have been held with India’s High Commissioner to Nigeria, H.E Mr Abhay Thakur, on how Ekiti State can take advantage of India-Nigeria Bilateral Relations for trade, investment, and joint venture opportunities. India is the largest trading partner of Nigeria and Nigeria is India’s largest trading partner in Africa with the bilateral trade touching $11.76b from 2017-18. The Government of Ekiti State needs development partners for agribusiness and development.
ANY OTHER PLANS FOR COMMERCIAL AGRICULTURE?
The Government of Ekiti State has since approved the clearing of over 1,554 hectares of Agricultural Land across 5 Local Government Areas (Oye, Irepodun/Ifelodun, Emure, Ido-Osi and Ilejemeje) to open up the axis for farming and fulfil its readiness to partner with multilateral donors in developing agriculture in the state. With the plan to clear a significant land area already ongoing, the government has shown its commitment to activate the agrarian potential of the state and create more jobs in the agricultural sector.
The State Government has also entered into a partnership with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), and International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) to participate in the implementation of FGN/IFAD Value Chain Development (VCDP). The objective of the programme is to enhance and improve the income and food security of poor rural households that are engaged in the production, processing and marketing of rice and Cassava on a sustainable basis.
There is also an agreement with the World Bank/FGN sponsored Agro-processing Productivity Enhancing and Livelihood Improvement Support Programme (APPEALS) with the overall objective of enhancing the transformational Agric Value Chain Development of Ekiti State, particularly in the areas of modernising and upgrading the existing traditional and drudgery propelled agro-processing centres for maximum productivity.
ANY OTHER STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE OF THE CARGO AIRPORT?
The Ekiti Cargo airport will play a key role in the rapid delivery of medical supplies and organs for transplantations at the world-class Afe Babalola University Teaching Hospital, Ado Ekiti. The speed and reliability of the cargo air transport will help deliver urgent assistance to patients and reduce medical tourism to other nations.
It will be recalled that the AFDB granted a $40m loan to the University to build a world class Teaching Hospital to take advantage of the already available medical intellectual expertise in the axis and match competence with cutting edge facilities in the medical sector. To aid the viability of its investment, the AFDB will be providing the funding for the airport which will support both the Knowledge and Agro-Allied Economy in the Ekiti State Masterplan.
Conversely, an Agro-Allied Cargo Airport situated in Ekiti will serve the south west and middle belt food basket region; attract skilled migration to boost IGR; improve commercial activity as a “dry port” for fresh and processed produce and make Ekiti State a logistics hub in the agro-allied industry.
Investment opportunities exist in all areas of Ekiti State’s agricultural value chain. The Government of Ekiti State has opened its doors to foreign direct investments promising attractive incentives and support. This policy direction of the Fayemi-led administration has the capacity to reduce poverty, improve living conditions of Ekiti people and mobilize resources to fast track the state’s economic and social development.
Durodola is a Postgraduate student at the University of Ibadan.