Debate On Ikpeazu’s $1.5 billion China deal – 4 things you should know

Ikpeazu's $1.5 billion China deal

By John Okiyi Kalu (JOK)

I find the healthy debate on the proposed Aba shoe factory by a Chinese company very interesting and stimulating.

On one side of the debate are those who applaud the vision of the Okezie Ikpeazu led administration while the other group is made up of those who feel that bringing a Chinese shoe making company to open shop at Aba will destroy local shoe makers.

I suspect similar debates were had when the Nigerian breweries came to Aba. Some must have argued that their coming will kill local palm wine tapping industry. When PZ came the debate must have been that Aba pomade makers will be affected and when IEA arrived Aba we must have debated whether local soap manufacturers will die or live.

Most recently, we had similar debate on Shopprite coming to Umuahia and the protectionist school argued that their coming will shut down provision stores at Umuahia and hand jobs to South Africans. Of course since then I have seen dozens of Abia youths working at shopprite Umuahia and earning a living while my local provision store owner at Azikiwe road is still serving me and others.

Truth be told, Aba is a unique city that represents Igbo resourcefulness, innovation and can do spirit. That spirit has survived generational changes and challenges to still maintain its place as the SME capital of Nigeria.

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That won’t change anytime soon.

Here are a few of my thoughts on what will happen with the coming $1.5b Chinese shoe factory investment at Aba.

(1). At least 5000 Abians will be employed directly and indirectly. The understanding with the state government clearly provided for hiring local skills. 
We might have a few Chinese expats but the majority of workers will be Abians. 
PZ, Lever Brothers and IEA came with a few expats but it was local Abia talents that occupied most of the positions at those companies. That actually includes me because I worked at management level at IEA Aba.

(2). Aba shoe makers will be introduced to modern equipment to produce bits and pieces that make up a shoe. Stronger gums and leather will be involved and I expect healthy competition between our local superstars and the Chinese.

If the Chinese choose not to come to Aba they can go to Owerri and still compete with Aba shoe makers. True or False?

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(3). Umu Aba will likely beat the Chinese in innovation and also enjoy improvements in quality, packaging and marketing capacity learned from the Chinese. You can take it to the bank that whatever equipment the Chinese bring to Aba will be copied and mass produced in months by our people.

Competition hurts only the weak and most of those arguing on the side of protectionism assume that our people are weak. 
No they are not, just that they don’t have necessary tools including steady power supply. If the efforts of Governor Ikpeazu in support of Geometrics yield positively as expected, Umu Aba of Bakassi line Ariaria will soon enjoy steady power supply.

(4). With the coming of the Chinese shoe factory, expect to see Chinese tailors, plastic makers, metal fabricators etc also coming to Aba. The local economy and industry will benefit rather than suffer. They will sleep in hotels, buy food, drink beer, pay taxes and even patronize our you know who.

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How many people actually know how Lagos became what it is today? May be I can help by telling you that Lagos was not always the commercial or even administrative capital of Nigeria. The original owners and dwellers of Lagos sold land and welcomed all those wishing to come and open shop in Lagos without fear of domination. Whereas rival cities were scampering with fear of the unknown and refused to open up. Fortunes favor the brave and today Lagos is what it is.

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Interestingly, some of those opposing the coming of Chinese investors to Aba have invested heavily in Lagos and even have zero investment at Aba. Yet they have refused to elevate their vision and thinking process.

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Anyway, let the Chinese come.
Let Americans come.
Let the British come.
Let the Yoruba come.
Let the Hausa come.
Let the Ijaw come.

All of them should bring business and investment to Aba and compete with our local talents. We will surely be better for it.

Thank you Governor Okezie Ikpeazu for your visionary leadership in Abia State. We waited for long for a man like you to emerge and take us to the next level. Our prayers are with you daily and tomorrow will judge you with favor and blessings from even those who cannot see what you are doing today.

“Great leaders make decisions for tomorrow accolades while others dwell on today’s applause.”-John Okiyi Kalu



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