By James ABANG
Gov Udom Emmanuel is from the financial industry. It is therefore not unexpected that he must offer something unique from that industry during his administration. It is not also surprising about the quiet aplomb with which he goes about preparing the expected menu and the targeted sector he seeks to impact. Also the fact that he turned his attention to the active poor, small and medium businesses and a sector which most people view as hobble at this critical time should tell you, beyond everything else, the extremely rare combination of visionary and master builder instinct in him. Recall that he earlier established AKEES which has made tremendous inroads in its earning while you learn philosophy.
There exist a lot of misunderstanding between microfinance and microcredit. It may therefore not be surprising that when the news came up that His Excellency Gov Udom Emmanuel has sent a bill to the State House of Assembly for the establishment of an agency to develop small and medium enterprises in the state people mistake it for a purely microcredit or micro-lending concern. AKMEDA goes beyond both. For those who listen to news, they may have heard one or two news item(s) about a credit program facilitated by the state Ministry of Finance. But what the governor intends AKMEDA to do goes beyond microcredit or lending. It is expected to introduce microfinance as a sustainable means of poverty alleviation leading to lasting, holistic development. Though financial tools would be employed, feelers from government house show that, there would be other associated empowerment activities which together would help to build businesses, support families and transform communities.
Sometimes entrepreneurs don’t only look for loans, they also want professional guides, advice, training, market linkages and support on how to go about even their own savings. They want to be able to plan for the future and ensure that they can reach their goals.
Gov Udom’s vision for setting up the agency, I believe is to bridge this gap and be there for these individuals and groups through structure empathic professionals who would drive his vision. I also believe AKMEDA would be local. Such that they would understand the terrain and culture. They would be there on the ground, forming cooperatives, partnerships, developing the local people and help in building infrastructure to support expansion of businesses, setting new businesses and fuel the economy of the local communities.
THIS IS A KEY SUBSET OF THE INDUSTRIALIZATION POLICY OF THE UDOM’S ADMINISTRATION. It takes a savvy financial manager to understand that this sector contains the true drivers of any economy. Most times small entrepreneurs are the very ones who see beyond existing constraints to imagine novel solutions to once intractable problems and often take risk to proceed in their little ways. All they need is support: which Udom’s government in response, has so initiated by establishing AKMEDA.
In reaching out to this most noble yet extremely important sector of the economy Gov Emmanuel is driven by a maxim often used by high performing, high wattage soccer coaches: They always insist they care more about their players than to win.
Gov Udom cares for the typical Akwa Ibomite and would stop at nothing to narrow economic disparities in the state.
When the bill is passed and AKMEDA commenced operation it would impact the deepest and remotest part of the state like every other program of the Udom’s administration. It’s one of his ways of giving back, a way of demonstrating that everyone matters.
Finally Mma Eno Ebieme, that old lady in Oron beach market who has been so active though poor, would finally get help. She has sat on her stall in that beach market under rain and son for several years but of late due to high inflation she has started eating into her little capital. Help has come. Mr. Iwok Udofia at Etoi, the excellent teacher who has spent several years building young lives in primary schools but fears for his future as he nears retirement would get help on his dream of starting a small poultry business before retirement as a safety-net. Mma Margret Ufot who has spent all her live cultivating food crops at Ika but could only always grow enough for subsistence would get help both on the how and other assistance to make the difference she sought with the kind of hardwork she has put in over the years to grow the kind of farm of her dream. Etim Nduese who retails sea foods between Eket and Ibeno for years but has never gotten to break-even-volume due to low trading capital would get help to expand and also hire assistants. Essien Ette from Abak who returned from NYSC with a dream of setting up a small facility to produce nylon bags but has no start-up capital would get the help he needs on how to source for the capital and organize it into a profitable business. Everyone would be reached, high and low, no one would be left out. Gov Udom would extend a helping hand to all in an area he is best known.
Building people has been the thrust and focus of Gov Udom all his working life. Building people has continued to be his business. Like Obama puts it, “as he reaches out for us, let us also reach out for him as a people by giving him support. We must also commend our visionary and hardworking members of AKHA for the work so far done on this unique bill which passage would have far reaching positive impact on the lives of the people. Together anything is possible.