ADDRESS ON THE OCCASION OF THE IMO STATE DIASPORA SUMMIT, SAM MBAKWE HALL, CONCORDE HOTEL, NEW OWERRI, IMO STATE.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 3, 2020.

PROTOCOL

It is, indeed, my pleasure and honour to welcome all participants in the Imo State Diaspora Summit 2020. I am most delighted to felicitate with our sons and daughters from various parts of the world, back home during the yuletide season. We sincerely appreciate your support and contributions to the development of the country in general and Imo State in particular.

2. Since my assumption to office, I have taken up our “Macedonian Calls,” to various countries, namely: the US, Germany, U.K, Turkey, France etc. inviting you all to “Come over to Imo State and partner with us.” At those sessions, from meetings with Imolites in Bonn, civic reception in London, to dinner interactions in New Jersey and Washington, I felt your sense of urgency to contribute to the development of your home state. It was in realisation of this show of interest, that we set up an Imo State Office on Diaspora Affairs, headed by a renowned diasporian, academic and former parliamentarian – Hon. Prof. Chudi Uwazurike.

3. Since it was set up, many of you have come over with varied proposals and enquiries on how to key into our ‘Rebuild Imo’ agenda. I therefore didn’t hesitate to approve the hosting of a session that will serve as a platform to fertilize these initiatives.

4. Today’s Summit, with the theme “Mobilizing Diaspora Resources for Participation in the Rebuild Imo Agenda” , could not have come at a better time than now. It has been put together, pursuant to the efforts of government to rebuild, reposition and positively transform the economic and social fortunes of the State. Today, we are looking to harnessing our collective efforts to salvage the State from declining economic fortunes, worsened by eight years of mal-administration.

5. In his presentation at the last Ahiajoku Colloquium, held in Owerri, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa – an accomplished industrialist called for the Aku Ruo Ulo initiative. He echoed what I have always posited, that if our foreign-based professionals and business men could bring , just a part, of their businesses home, it would significantly impact the economic fortunes of the South-East. This, of course, would make our state a leading commercial, tourism and industrial hub in the region, boost our economy and improve the living condition of our people.

6. It is public knowledge that diaspora remittance through official (Central Bank of Nigeria channels) amount to over $25b annually. With an estimated 1.2million of our indigenes living in diaspora, Imolites account for a large chunk of these remittances.

7. It is equally noteworthy that Imo people living abroad contribute significantly, to the welfare of their parents, relatives and loved ones. Many of you have given scholarships to your people, built churches, schools and health centres; constructed roads, carried out water projects, installed electricity in your communities and many more. In most of these places, government could not reach, but you extended our hands.

8. Similarly, some of you have established businesses in Imo State in various areas especially in the Hospitality industry and more. I, therefore, use this opportunity to express the gratitude of the government and our people for your contributions thus far. The saying, however, goes that, “good is not enough where better is possible.” Let me use the Regions Stroke and Neuroscience Hospital as a reference point for elaborate diaspora direct investment in Imo State. Indeed, I am considering declaring the designation of that area in Mgbirichi as a dedicated Medical City/ Village to promote medical excellence and tourism. For our Diaspora therefore, we believe that the best is yet to come.

9. Let me once again reference the Sea Turtle initiative of China. These were Chinese nationals who studied and worked abroad and whose knowledge and resources became that catalyst for Chinese economic growth. The same went for India and some of the Asian Tigers. Diaspora capital could do for us what it did for the Asians.

10. How then do we harness this evidently large resource to the benefit of the homeland? Simply said, how do we get Imolites in diaspora to come home, to invest at home and to attract investments home.
11. For us as a government, our task is straight forward ie , to ;

✓ Provide foundation infrastructure such as roads, power etc.
✓ Provide an enabling environment for business to thrive in the State.
✓ Provide a safe and secure Imo.

12. We are currently rehabilitating the roads and other critical infrastructure such as power. Our commitment to good governance guarantees an enabling bureaucratic environment for business to thrive. Our Operation Iron – Gate has ensured that Imo is definitely a safer place right now.

13. Imo is leading the way in Information Technology with a view to making the State an IT hub. We are already attracting global leaders in Information Technology, like Google, MTN etc. We are emboldened by the case of our son Chinedu Echeruo, the Imo State born US-based global tech entrepreneur who designed a software and grew it into a successful company, HopStop.com. This software made waves recently when it was bought by Apple Inc. for a whooping sum of $1 Billion. Imo State has many Echeruo’s in various business endeavours, forms and sizes. One of the objectives of our Diaspora Project therefore, is to provide a veritable platform for them to connect with home.

14. Today’s event to me is epoch making and your presence here, bears eloquent testimony to your readiness to partner with us for a prosperous Imo State.

15. There are many areas in which you can invest at home – from Agriculture, Hospitality, Gas power, Infrastructure etc. We would need investors who can partner with us as well as build the necessary preparedness to integrate forward through industries and services that would harness these primary products for our greater benefits. This summit will stimulate engagements and interactions on the opportunities.

16. In addition to your direct investment measures, we have designed various Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) investment strategies, namely; Equity participation, Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) and Build Operate, Own and Transfer (BOOT) models. You are welcome to explore any of these.

17. To assist you navigate through bureaucratic bottlenecks, cutting across all Ministerial departments and agencies, we have set up a dedicated Ease of Doing Business desk. So you should find it easier with registration of business, acquisition of land and even multiple taxation matters.

18. Imo is indeed OPEN FOR BUSINESS and the international community is taking note. For example, a team of credible global investors have paid exploratory visits to the Avutu Poultry, and in the next few weeks we will settle on terms before they move in and turn the place around. Similarly, in the next few days, I will formally hand over a piece of land we allocated in Owerri to AfrExim Bank to build a $50million Quality Assurance Facility, one that will surely boost our economy and profits. So Imolites in diaspora, the ball is in your Court.

19. I am glad to note that this event is being supported by the Ford Foundation and many other private institutions, and so involves very minimal cost on the part of the Government of Imo State. I will like to therefore convey our gratitude to the respective sponsors and partners for their support.

20. I commend the Office of Diaspora Affairs for their resourcefulness and indeed to the entire organizing committee.

21. I look forward to a very cordial and engaging interaction with fruitful outcomes. I thank you all for your attention.

22. May God bless our collective aspiration.

Imo wu nke anyi nile!!!!

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