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Cablegate: Nigeria: Imo State Promotes Micro-Enterprises

VZCZCXRO7038
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHOS #0441/01 3150557
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 100557Z NOV 08
FM AMCONSUL LAGOS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0282
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 9929
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEWMFD/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LAGOS 000441

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR AF/W

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV SENV SOCI NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: IMO STATE PROMOTES MICRO-ENTERPRISES

1. (U) Summary: In an October 17 visit to the Consulate, Imo
State Executive Assistant to the Governor on Youth and
Empowerment, Ambrose Obioha, claimed the state is focused on
building the capacity of its youth and making strides to tap
the potential of its natural resources. Entrepreneurship
programs are focused on enhancing micro-enterprises in the
state, as the governor is making efforts to turn Imo into the
business hub of the South East. End summary.

2. (U) On October 17, Ambrose Obioha, Executive Assistant to
the Governor on Youth and Empowerment, met with Poloffs to
discuss the efforts in Imo state to develop micro-enterprises
for the state's youth, expand economic development, and tap
into natural resources to generate power and strengthen
industry. His position focuses primarily on capacity
building, increasing youth employment, and entrepreneurship
training, but he presented an optimistic view of other areas
of development in Imo State, and claimed that Governor Ikedi
Ohakim is taking steps to make Imo the business center of the
South East region.

Programs Build Capacity Among Imo Youth
---------------------------------------

3. (U) Obioha described efforts made by his office to develop
businesses of young college graduates, particularly in
communities affected by rampant unemployment. He organizes
entrepreneurial and micro-enterprise seminars for college
students that promote small business development. The state
government has partnered with NGOs such as Network for Peace
and Development and has recently initiated a relationship
with Good Morning Africa, a U.S. organization working on
social entrepreneurship in Africa.

4. (U) One scheme that the state is heavily promoting is the
Ohakim Business Plan, a program sponsored by the Governor,s
office to award USD 100,000 to young business leaders to fund
their proposed micro-enterprises. Obioha said, contests like
this will continue over the next several years to get youth
active in advancing the business environment in the state.
The state has also built partnerships with two Nigerian
banks, First Bank and First Inland Bank, to give loans to
these small businesses over the next three years. Obioha
stated that through these micro-lending projects, the state
government hopes to create one million jobs within the next
eight years.

State to Develop Power Plant
----------------------------

5. (U) Obioha claimed that the Governor has made substantial
progress in developing gas and coal deposits, and researching
methods to improve the quality of palm oil production in Imo
State. The state is currently working on a memorandum of
understanding with a South African company to build the first
power plant in western Imo. Power currently comes from Aba,
Abia state, but with this development, Imo would generate its
own power to enhance the manufacturing and natural gas
industry.

U.S. Petrochemical Plant Sought
-------------------------------

6. (SBU) Due to the conflict and turmoil in the Niger Delta,
Obioha claims that there has been an influx of businesses and
residents moving north into Imo State, where the living
conditions and business climate are not hindered by violence.
(Note: In recent meetings in Edo State, contacts have also
reported people fleeing from the violence of the Delta and
transfering businesses to Edo. End note) The Governor
believes these conditions will increase international
investment. Obioha emphasized the importance of a recent
contract with a U.S. company, Royal Oak, to build a USD 250
million petrochemical manufacturing plant. (Note: Despite
Obioha's claim and a press release for this contract on the
Imo State Government website, an internet search for the U.S.
company yielded no results. This casts some doubt on whether
this is an established petrochemical company and raises
questions about the viability of the project. End note) The
government is working hard to attract investors and plans to

LAGOS 00000441 002 OF 002


host their first economic summit in February 2009, Obioha
reported.

7. (SBU) Comment: The entrepreneurial and micro-enterprise
programs Obioha described are a practical step toward
reducing unemployment and avoiding the problems that have
plagued states in the Niger Delta. It remains to be seen
whether the state will be able to attract the power and
petrochemical investors it hopes for. End comment.

8. (U) This cable has been coordinated with Embassy Abuja.
BLAIR

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