Delivering the Keynote Address at the Africa Industrialization Day at the United Nations Office in New York today (November 24, 2015), Dr Okowa said beyond creating awareness of the challenges of industrialisation in Africa, the Forum should address the need for "firm commitments to strengthen partnerships that will drive industrialisation in Africa, create jobs and sustainable opportunities for youths, women and all people to enjoy better social and economic well-being."
The Africa Industrialization Day is celebrated on November 20 every year under the auspices of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) to mobilise the commitment of the international community to the industrialization of Africa. The theme for this year’s event was "SMEs for Poverty Eradication and Job Creation for Women and Youth."
At a symposium to mark the event, Governor Okowa commended "UNIDO’s passion and dedication to spurring Africa’s industrialization," pointing out that the occasion "is a reminder to all of us, of the need to redirect Africa’s economic development position from being a global supplier of raw materials and primary commodities to one with progressive value addition through agro-processing, agro-industrialization and beneficiation of solid minerals."
Noting that "SMEs are engines for cost-effective employment generation, social inclusion, equitable development and self-reliant industrialization using local raw materials," the Governor lamented that they have not flourished in Africa due to "funding gaps, infrastructure deficit, energy problems and poor governance structures."
Dr. Okowa informed the gathering that Nigeria’s policies through successive administrations have revolved around the growth and development of SMEs as catalysts for economic development. According to him, "the Federal Government, through the Central Bank of Nigeria, Bank of Industry, and Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) are frantically taking measures to enhance the performance and growth of youth- and women-owned micro and small enterprises through a host of concessional financing initiatives spanning equity financing, debt financing, loan guarantees and grants".
"In Delta State where I am Governor, we have developed a road map to engage our youths and women in productive enterprises and ensure inclusive growth. Our strategic approach is a comprehensive programme of youth training, development and empowerment in agricultural enterprises and vocational skills, micro-credit to support small and medium scale enterprises, and the creation of a conducive business and investment environment. Also we are undertaking concerted measures for the integration of agricultural and agro-industrial development based on our comparative-advantage commodities, particularly cassava, oil palm and aquaculture."
He called for international support of the State’s Job and Wealth Creation Scheme, which is in its six months of operation. "In particular," he said, "we would leverage financing and technical assistance from international and global agencies, including the United Nations, to enhance performance and sustainability of our Job and Wealth Creation Scheme."
Written by: Wilson Junior.