By Yekeen Akinwale
In 2020, Governor Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya demonstrated his desire to propel Gombe State to a self-sustainable model in agriculture, industrialisation, commerce, trade and human resource development and unveiled a 10-year development plan (2021-2023) for the state.
Known as Gombe Development Agenda (DEVAGOM), the plan, according to the governor, “is a product of synergy and collaboration with local and international partners that will put in place necessary structures and institutionalised reforms that will drive its effective implementation”.
According to him, DEVAGOM is an attempt to harness the immense potential of the state by taking advantage of emerging opportunities and tackling its challenges and threats to realise its development objectives. “It is the road map for the transformation of Gombe State that is aligned with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”.
The Governor explained that the Plan offers a clear pathway for successive administrations in the state “to pursue inclusive development. Its implementation will be monitored to keep track of and ensure that our collective vision is realised”.
“This is also the first Plan by any State in Nigeria that is modelled and cost by putting into consideration the Integrated Sustainable Development Goals (iSDGs).”
Two years on, Governor Yahaya is following through with the development plan as Gombe State is set to stage the first investment summit to attract local and international investors.
“Our desire to stage the first investment summit in Gombe is premised on the 10-year development plan I unveiled two years ago. Our vision is to propel Gombe state to a self-sustainable model in agriculture, industrialisation, commerce, trade and human resource development,” the governor said in a recent interview.
“To create a better future for the state’s people, my administration is making relentless efforts to stimulate and sustain economic growth.”
According to him, the first Gombe investment summit will help his administration to attract both local and international investors, which would help to harness the immense potential of the state. “We want them to take advantage of the emerging opportunities,” he said.
Gombe is known to have crops with the potential for commercial cultivation that investors can take advantage of. The Governor and his team believe that the crops and mineral resources and friendly economic policies by both the Federal and state Governments are the impetuses to make Gombe the next investment destination.
“These are all in line with the vision of President Muhammadu Buhari to transform the country’s economy through agricultural revolution. As you may have known, Gombe is known for cultivating Sorghum, wheat, soya beans, pepper, onion, ginger, gum Arabic, melon, et al.”
“All these crops have the potential for commercial cultivation, which we believe foreign and local investors should take advantage of. Our goal is to transform Gombe from a civil servant state to an industrial hub, especially with our mineral resources such as limestone, uranium and gypsum that are in commercial quantities. We can attract cement factories with the limestone.”
“Considering our comparative advantage in agriculture, commerce and trade, our tremendous human and natural resources and our strategic position at the centre of the Northeast sub-region.”
The Governor has always emphasised his interest in creating a better future for the state’s people. His interest underscores why he has been making relentless efforts to stimulate and sustain economic growth and human development.
“DEVAGOM projects Gombe to be a terminus encapsulating growth, development, and prosperity for all. Considering our comparative advantage in agriculture, commerce and trade, our tremendous human and natural resources and our strategic position at the centre of the Northeast subregion, I am convinced that our vision is both realistic and achievable,” Governor said.
The Gombe Investment summit scheduled for October 18 and 19 elicits interest from all stakeholders and businesses.
A six-man steering committee is already in place with the mandate to stage a successful investment summit and attract investors to the state.
Inaugurating the committee, Deputy Governor Manassah Daniel Jatau, who would serve as the chairman, said the summit aimed to find and attract new investment leads, market Gombe as a top investment location, and facilitate interactions between potential investors and the state.
Dr Jatau urged the committee members to devote their time to attract investors that would help grow the state economy.
The steering committee had four terms of reference, which include providing strategic guidance in the actualisation and successful hosting of the Gombe Investment Summit; liaising with government and private sector operators to ensure participation in the summit and driving pre-summit engagements and post-summit follow-ups.”
A peep into the summit
Already, there are multibillion-dollar investment opportunities in 11 thriving sectors in the Gombe economy. Many stakeholders believe that the state’s economy is competitive and driving the Northeast into economic recovery. When it comes alive next month, the Gombe Investment summit will attract over 3000 participants, including key players and investors from the private sector, government officials, thought leaders and policy experts.
The summit as conceived, would provide a veritable avenue for investors, financiers, FDI intermediaries and companies interested in doing business with Gombe to participate and benefit from Investment Projects Ready to Offer (IPRO), Public Private Partnership (PPP) Projects, as well as opportunities for Business to Business and Business to Government meetings.
Governor Yahaya will be at the driver’s seat as the key promoter of the summit to fast-track new investment leads, promote Gombe as a preferred investment destination, and facilitate engagements between potential investors and the state’s entities− a lot of closed-door meetings will take place.
Why investors should consider Gombe as the next destination
There are deliberate policy thrusts and objectives set by the state government to drive industrial development and attract investment to Gombe State.
The main focus of these thrusts and policies are to attract, increase, encourage and retain private sector investments in the manufacturing sector. Others include to promote the exploitation and utilization of commercially available raw materials in manufacturing concerns in the state and establish industries across the state. For instance, there are opportunities to manufacture consumer goods like tomato paste, spaghetti/noodles, pharmaceuticals, bagged cement, footwear, bags and suitcases, soaps and detergents.
At the moment, the administration of Governor Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya is undertaking the construction works of the Muhammadu Buhari Industrial Park at Dadin Kowa in Yamaltu Deba for fast-tracking industrial development in the state.
The park, which aims at creating a manufacturing and industrial processing hub at the heart of the Northeast geopolitical zone, sits on at 1,000hectares of land.
When completed, the park will create 10,000 direct jobs and another 100,000 indirect jobs. It will propel local economic growth leading to a reduction in the cost of providing infrastructure to small industrial clusters and a reduction in environmental and social impacts of industrialisation capacity.
The park will have ten mega factories and several small and medium industries.
It will provide an enabling environmental and necessary infrastructure for the establishment of small, medium and largescale manufacturing, processing and service companies.
The relative peace and security would buoy investors that Gombe State has enjoyed over the years, which is one key factor that guarantees a good return on investment.
Availability of raw materials for manufacturing and processing and extensive transportation network and facilities that link to all locations in the country and beyond are some of the comparative advantages that Gombe enjoys. Its young and skilled population and availability of energy and water resources are other factors why investors should look towards the Savannah Jewel for investments.
Opportunities in agricultural sector
According to the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), Gombe State has about 85 per cent agrarian population of Gombe and is the largest grains depot in Northeast Nigeria. In a report, Book of States, NIPC emphasised the presence of three large dams− Dadin Kowa, Balanga, Cham- with massive irrigation and hydropower potentials for large-scale farming.
The comparative advantage that Gombe State has in the production of crops such as wheat, tomato and others is one other impetus that should attract local and foreign investors looking to get a quick return on investment (ROI).
For instance, Gombe is the 6th largest wheat producer in Nigeria. Meanwhile, Nigeria ranks as the 8th largest importer of wheat in the world, and 5th in Africa, with an annual growth rate projected at 4.84%, presenting an opportunity for domestic production. Between 2016 and 2020, Nigeria spent as much as $323million on the importation of wheat.
The government wants to increase local wheat production because millers have spent more money exporting the commodity. The cost of shipping rose by 33 per cent from a total freight bill of N21.6 trillion in 2019 to N28.8 trillion in 2020, according to a report on wheat production.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had launched a Wheat Intervention programme to contribute around 2,000 metric tons of seeds to the nation’s national seed pool and potentially add 750,000 metric tons of wheat to national output yearly. Hard wheat (Triticum drum) is the most accessible variety in Nigeria, unlike winter wheat, which is developed for tropical climates. Moreover, due to its heat tolerance, it can be cultivated in most northern states, although the yield is low at around 1MT/ha.
In addition, the National Agriculture Land Development Authority (NALDA) has collaborated with the Gombe State government by starting dry season wheat cultivation on 200 hectares of land in Papa and Dogon Ruwa areas of Nafada and Kaltungo Local Governments. The Federal Government has supported 2,463 farmers in Gombe State to cultivate wheat. The support came through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s Anchor Borrower’s Programme (ABP), which enables farmers to cultivate the land for 2021/2022 dry season farming in the state.
Tomato is another crop that gives Gombe State an edge in the agricultural sector. Tomato production is a relatively profitable venture in the Gombe area. This is because at least 42.5 per cent of the total investment could generate revenues. This indicates that the production efficiency based on profit is reasonable.
Gombe State is the third largest producer of tomatoes among the northern states. Currently, about 67 companies in the state are playing various roles in servicing the tomato sector. The majority of these companies (75%) rated the patronage of their products and services as “Satisfactory”; as a result, the potential for improved market opportunity, with additional investments in the tomato sector in Gombe, is very high.
The sector alone can create about 20,000 direct and indirect jobs. There is more than 10,000 job at the farm level. At the factory level, it’s about 2,000Jobs. In services, there are over 5,000.
The October Summit will showcase many other investment opportunities in Gombe State to the world. The summit is arguably a window into the future of the industrial revolution that is brooding in the state.