Industrial Hubs that are emerging in the South-East Geopolitical Zone

The southeast industrial zone is a conglomeration of industrial hubs that can be identified within the five states of the region, made up of: Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States with eighty-five Local Government Areas (LGAs) and a population of over twenty million people in over ten commercial cities and large towns.

Apart from agriculture which is the mainstay of economic activities for the majority of people that dwell in the rural communities, the zone is also known for small-scale solid mineral extraction, commercial and trading activities, carried out by a preponderance of micro, small and medium indigenous industries that are gradually moving into manufacturing, fabrication and agro-allied production. Because the zone is endowed with arable land, agriculture, which provides much of the needed raw materials for manufacturing, thrives very well in the area. As earlier pointed out, the main food crops grown in the zone include yam, cassava, rice, cocoyam and maize while the cash crops include oil-palm, rubber, cocoa, banana and various types of fruits. Among the rich mineral deposits found in the area are crude oil, natural gas, bauxite, iron ore, sand stone, lignite, kaoline, clay, coal, tin, columbite, etc.

In the nineteen sixties and seventies, the industries that were in existence included the famous Aba textile mills in Aba, the legendary ceramics and brewery industries in Umuahia, and the renowned cement industry in Nkalagu. At the moment, we still have the raw materials for ceramics at Ohiya in Umuahia South LGA and people are mining it but the industrial activities have diminished.

We also had Lever Brothers, PZ, Bata, Lennards Shoes, International Equitable Association, International Glass Industry, metallurgical complex and others. This was as a result of the conscious industrial development effort of the then Premier of the then Eastern Region, Dr. Michael Okpara, who enunciated an industrialization policy that created massive employment for the youths; thus making the economy of the Eastern Region acclaimed as one of the fastest in the world. Today, all that is gone.

In particular, Aba Textile was one of the highest employers of labour at that time. Today, it is gone. Then, there were at least 200 textile mills in Nigeria, not only in Aba but distributed evenly across Aba, Lagos, Kaduna and Kano, among the key industrial centres; but there are only about 28 now. What worked well for Aba in particular was that it was a former British Colonial outpost. Today the city of Aba now lies in Abia state which was created out of Imo State in 1991.

Orlu (in Imo) and Awka (in Anambra) have a common history of local industrial enterprise.

Remarkably, oil and gas production industry is gradually coming into greater prominence in Abia and Imo States, which are among the south-east states. A lot of investors have channeled their money into gas-fired power plants. Notably, the main players of the petroleum business in the region are Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Agip and Addax Petroleum.

At the moment, the Waltersmith refinery located in Imo state is so far the biggest commissioned modular refinery in Nigeria. It is intended to reduce the import of petroleum products by Nigeria. It is located in the Ohaji-Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State and situated near the Ibigwe marginal field flow-station, Waltersmith Refining and Petrochemical Company is a joint-venture between Waltersmith Petroman Oil (70%) and the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (30%). The Waltersmith modular refinery comprises a crude distillation unit, tank farm, and other related facilities. Africa Finance Corporation agreed to provide debt finance of approximately £26.5m ($35m) for phase one refinery development in July 2018. Commissioned in November 2020 and about to start operations any moment from now, the modular refinery with an initial capacity of 5,000bpd is expected to deliver 271 million litres of refined petroleum products a year. The crude oil storage capacity of the refinery is approximately 60,000 barrels.

Subsequently, the refinery is planned to be expanded in phases to have a 20,000bpd crude oil refining facility and a 25,000bpd standalone condensate refining facility taking the total processing capacity to 50,000bpd. The refinery receives feedstock from the Waltersmith-operated Ibigwe marginal field. The petroleum products produced in the refinery include diesel, naphtha, heavy fuel oil, and kerosene.

Focusing still on the tremendous future investment prospects of Imo State, it will be interesting to know that the Federal Government on May 11, 2023, approved the take-off of the Oguta lake dredging project which is aimed at channeling the waterway to the Atlantic Ocean. The outlook is such that it will not be long before the project comes into reality. And when it does, it will create massive economic and investment opportunities. The dredging of the Lake will predominantly open up the maritime corridor – allowing the navigation of bigger vessels from the Atlantic Ocean – thereby creating jobs and business opportunities in the territory. Apart from becoming a maritime hub where goods and services can be transported from foreign countries into the eastern hinterland, a chain of allied businesses and supporting infrastructure will open up in the area. Alongside, the huge aquatic resources of the lake will become greatly enhanced for profitable exploitation, paving way to the emergence of wide-ranging fishing, water transportation and tourism industries. Consequently, tourists and seafarers will increasingly patronize the already existing but not fully utilized 18-hole recreational golf course at Oguta Motel.

Coal was earlier found in Enugu. The coal resource, together with the electricity that was generated from Oji River, was used, to power some of the old industries in the area. Further to this development, Ikwuano in Abia State has been found to have lignite (brown coal) in commercial quantities. Lignite is the purest and cleanest type of coal. It is used to fire turbines for electricity in small industrial outfits that sprawl from Umuahia to Arochukwu. Lying also in the underground beds of this territory is phosphate, used for manufacturing fertilizer; which is why there a fertilizer industry in Bende. The phosphate deposit extends to Leru and Lekwesi areas. Among the top modern industries in the Enugu metropolis at the moment is an operating factory complex of the Nigeria Breweries Plc.

Efforts are in top gear to utilize gas for firing the emerging industries in the area. It is for this reason that Supertek set up power plants in Akwaete, with the target to provide about 1000 MW of electricity to the famous local textile firms in and around the territory. Similarly, ICS is setting up a gas-generating plant of about 624 MW capacity in Alaoji-Aba, while Geo-metric Power is making a bold entry in Osisioma-Aba with a target to generate over 1000 MW of electric power for the budding small-scale but highly-skilled local industrial operations in the area.

It is indeed expedient to recommence the exploitation and utilization of the abundant raw materials used for setting up basic industries generally; not only in the South-East but also in the other industrial zones, so as to encourage investors. It does not make sense anymore to export everything in its crude form. The way to go is to export the finished products other than the raw.

Attention is now gradually shifting to new industrial hubs that are evolving in the South East. The Nnewi municipality, in Anambra State, is a fast-developing, emerging industrial hub; while the neighbouring Onitsha municipality continues to serve as the commercial gate way and nerve centre.

Hence, the Nnewi and Onitsha conurbation has turned out to be the biggest home to several high-tech indigenous industrial manufacturing companies, owing to the entrepreneurial abilities of the people of the area. It is noteworthy that Nigeria’s first car and motorcycle manufacturing plant; Nigeria’s auto part manufacturing factories; the best cables in the world (made by local entrepreneurs) are all situated in the region. INNOSON Nig. Ltd, operating in the area, is currently in the lead of indigenous motor manufacturing companies in Nigeria. Notwithstanding, the manufacturing potentials of Nnewi and Onitsha, the Southeast region have drawn global attention.

There are other new pockets of small-scale industrial activities that are processing primary agricultural and mineral resources. Imo State, for instance, is very rich in agricultural produce (mostly cassava, palm oil and yam); hence, several small-scale local agricultural processing enterprises are scattered in the territory.  The State also has various solid minerals like zinc, bentonite, oil and gas. In fact, one can find over 160 oil wells in the oil producing areas of Imo State.

Ebonyi state thrives in rice production as well as in the mining of lead and zinc. Hence, it is common to find in the area, quarrying sites that extract zinc, bentonite and lead, as well as oil and gas drilling sites; brewery plants, and several garri and starch production, ceramics, fruits and vegetables production, etc. Local textile production thrives in Akwaete. Rice cultivation and processing activities are prominent in Ebonyi state and Anambra states, while Enugu state prides in the production of palm wine.

From this picture, prospective investors, particularly those operating in the oil and gas, agricultural and solid mineral sectors can hence, find a lot of lucrative investment opportunities in the South-East region because it has vast business potentials that are yet to be tapped.

Aside from oil and gas and solid minerals, the South-East zone has high potential to attract investments in such other sectors as: i. Agro-allied industries (Cassava starch and flour, yam and rice processing, as well as fruits and vegetable canning); ii. Textiles (in particular, Cotton Socks, Fishing nets and Mosquito nets);  iii. Industrial Minerals/Quarrying (Glass industry, Table ware, Aggregate plant including stone crushing plants); iv. Plastic Industry (Plastics manufacture, Bottles, flask, cans, tubes and bags tiles); and v. Chemical Industry (Polyethylene, Explosives, Self-Adhesive Tape, Pulp and paper); vi. Electronic & Electrical enterprises; vii. Automobiles;

Developing and expanding the manufacturing sector in Southeast region will certainly bring about job creation and import substitution. It will also help in strengthening exports, attracting foreign investment, and creating platform for innovation. The almost completion of the second Niger Bridge and the Oba airport, both of which had been abandoned for many decades, is perceptibly going to add swift impetus to the pace of industrial and commercial development in the south-east region.

Private sector investors, working in collaboration with governments and other stakeholders in the Southeast States are making ceaseless efforts to re-position the region to be the hub of light and heavy manufacturing industries in Africa through development of industrial parks and free trade zones. With the passage of the Local Content Act, aimed at championing the course for higher indigenous participation in the manufacturing sector and the ongoing plans of key stakeholders to attract the setting up of a free trade zone to the area, the Southeast region is really going to become a top foreign investment destination in Africa.

Strategically, the South East governors are proposing to build five mega industrial clusters, one in each state; leveraging on the Asa (Abia state) gas project, which will serve as the lynchpin for the regional integration model. Geometric Power Company and Shell Petroleum both serve as key operators of the gas project in Asa.

Series Navigation<< Evolving Industrial Hubs across the 6 Geopolitical Zones of Nigeria – PrefaceIndustrial Zones that are emerging in the South-West Geopolitical Zone (1) >>


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