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Redefining Taraba Youths in Entrepreneurship

 By Zanau Hassan Maikasuwa.

Taraba state is one of the states with least investments from outside. This has remained so for the almost 20 years of our democracy.

Tarabans are psychologically wired towards the civil service or public service. This is why most of those who made money in Taraba are tight to government.

A comparative analysis of Taraba state with her next door neighbors of Adamawa (Adama Bottling company makers of Faro, Sebore farms etc), Benue (Teragro fruit processing, breweries, oil mills etc.), Nassarawa Olam rice the second largest rice mills in Nigeria and biggest mechanized rice farm, Supreme feed and several farms feeding the FCT), Plateau (Nasco, Vicampro, Farm fresh and a huge poultry hub) and Gombe (Ashaka cement, Gombe Conference Center and major trading hub in the northeast). You will discover that only Taraba state has the least industrial base. We don’t even have an industrial layout to start with.

I have written an article in the past that’s available on my Facebook notes titled Make Mutumbiyu The Taraba Agro Processing & Commercial Hub ( https://tinyurl.com/ybwtnu8m ) about creating agro economic processing zone in Mutumbiyu that will provide lands, amenities like roads, water and electricity for small and medium scale Agro processing factories to start. This will turn Mutumbiyu from being a mere agro raw materials trading town to an industrial base of Taraba. I have also written about turning Wukari into a major trade hub for Taraba state, as the town links Benue, Plateau, Nassarawa and by extension Cross river state. Another area that has that potential is Mararaba in Donga LGA, which links Baissa, Donga and communities in Bali LGA. Mararaba is an export commodity hub for cocoa, sesame, oil palm etc. It seats in the middle of the various cocoa producing communities.

I have also written about the Jalingo –Calabar Corridor ( https://tinyurl.com/y776rpor ) that has an enormous potential for export trade from Taraba.

Why export?
Today, the only source of money flowing in Taraba state is government monthly subvention or allocation. That’s the money that moves from the government worker to the trader and pays for goods and services. Outside that is money that comes from commodity trades into major market towns like Iware, Bantaje, Tella, Maihula, Gazabu, Marraba, Mayolope, Wukari, etc. Outside that we don’t have any huge source of money into the state.

If we are able to activate export trade, our revenue earnings will escalate and that will create room for more Investments in areas that will boost export, in cocoa, oil palm, sesame, cotton among others. It will also increase the number of visitors into the state.

Talk of increased visitors.
One area we have left untapped as a state is putting in place policies that will attract more visitors into the state for tourism, trade, government businesses, conferences, festivals, meetings etc. When more visitors come into our state, it means more mouths to feed, it means hotels and restaurants will have patronage. When restaurants have more patronage, it means more sales for the woman in mayogwoi selling pepper, it means more sales for the fish seller and in turn more work for our farmers to grow more veggies, and Fishermen to catch more fishes. It also means that the pepper seller, fish seller, veggies farmer and fisherman will have more income to spend on clothes, housing, school, healthcare etc.

When we have more visitors, many young people will start producing Taraba made souvenirs for visitors to buy and take along when they leave. It means new business opportunities will be created, we will have to bring back taxis with clean cars and buses for tours etc. When you think of the value chain, it’s enormous.

I have also written to criticize the present government in Taraba state as regarding her approach of using government funds to run commercial ventures which citizens are supposed to be inspired to do in my article titled The greenhouse and governor ishakus agribusiness policy limitation ( https://tinyurl.com/yc5xnjlb ). As much as these efforts at reviving the hitherto moribund companies are commendable, it also means that we have not learnt from the past. What happens if successive government abandoned it and the equipment are stolen or vandalized again?

Instead, I opted for a government inspired private sector driven economy in the state. Where the ministry of commerce will outline areas of potential investments based on our raw materials production capacity.

I give an example: Instead of setting up the greenhouse run by government, use the existing one as a model for transferring modern technology in agriculture to our citizens, while government concentrates in creating markets for Taraba greenhouse products produced by Tarabans who have gained training from the Taraba State Greenhouse Training Center. That was the model put in place in Plateau state by the Jang administration known as ASTC.

Instead of revamping Lau tomato industry, partner with GEMS4, a DFID funded project on developing tomato value chain from production to the market. Nigerians are huge consumers of fresh tomatoes (we like it fresh not processed). The GEMS4 model, cluster farmers, train them in modern tomato production techniques, supports the setting up of parking houses that grades, clean and park tomatoes in plastic crates instead of basket, which creates new business for renting out baskets. Then a new business for logistics of transporting tomatoes to the south.

These will create thousands of jobs and open up Lau for more people to move into Lau. It will mean new accommodation, banks will have to move there, hotels etc. For your information all the LGAs along the river banks have huge potentials for all year round tomato production. Today, Kano, Kaduna are leading producers of tomatoes with far less potentials of Taraba state.

Similar thing can be replicated in Palm oil, tea and coffee, among others. Government should leave business for her citizens to do while the Ministry Of Commerce provides regulations and finds new markets for Taraba products. We should see a situation where the state Ministry of Commerce is spearheading Nafdac registration, negotiating markets in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt and facilitating ease of doing business, while the governor becomes the chief marketer of proudly Taraba products to the world.

These I believe will create more sustainable jobs with income tax, product tax, business premises tax among others. Government can also provide international certification for all our products and have various businesses pays for certification sticker on their products.

Therefore, #Redefining #Taraba #Youths in Entrepreneurship will entail a new vision for our people. A new focus that takes our eyes off the government money and looking at how we can add value to the various potentials we have in agriculture, ICT, entertainment, tourism, hospitality etc and away from the usual beer parlour and filling station businesses littered in and around Jalingo.

It will also entail great learnings, exposure through travels and coming back home to implement what we saw or learned in other places. Many of our brothers and sisters who travelled abroad to school only come back home to add to those seeking for jobs.

Simi Shagaya went to school abroad, came back and started Konga.com, another Plateau boy went to study in England and came back to start an agricultural equipments manufacturing center known as Bernie Agro. His story is on YouTube. He won entrepreneur of the year’s award and was awarded by the Vice President and the Plateau state governor gave his dad a new house and sponsored him for MSc abroad. We need to start hearing such stories from Taraba state as well. We can do it and that’s what it means to Redefine Taraba Youths in Entrepreneurship.

It will further entails seeking for top notch business management training. Today, we have very few Tarabans who attend top notch business schools across the world and that is responsible for having very few Tarabans in those top notch companies or starting top notch businesses. By way of change of focus, those who will want to go into entrepreneurship show seek to attend the Lagos Business School for MBA program or the Dangote Business School Kano or anywhere in the world. These will help enhance the quality of businesses from Taraba by Tarabans that can compete globally.

Empowering Taraba Youths. Today, you hardly can find a Taraba Youths that can give away N10M at a go without feeling it. How many of our youths can be trusted with contracts from the state government or supported to get such from Federal government. We can’t deny the fact government contracts have helped many to be able to have funds to invest in businesses. Why is our government finding it difficult empower young people. So sad to say, this among the few states that see young people as threats instead of supporting them or empowering them. Therefore, I urge us all to take the bull by the horn and demand for it. Go register your company, form partnerships, bid for local, state and federal government contracts and also do a good job at it. Learn the process. Secondly, learn to do export, participate in it and earn dollars. Today, 10kg of yam sales for between $60-100 in the US market. That’s about $6-$10 per tuber of 1kg and that’s N2160- N3600 per 1kg tuber for a yam that cost less than N300 here. Another example is a tin of ginger is around $550 per ton landed in the US market, and an ex Lagos contract is $950. So, I ask, why wouldn’t you join the export train instead?

Therefore, as a Taraba Youth, if you are not economically empowered, you have not started yet, you will always be intimidated and relegated to the background. So I say, in all thy getting, get money.

In closing, let me talk a bit about the Lagos Advantage. Lagos is the most economically endowed city in Africa. According to Wikipedia Lagos State is a major economic centre of Nigeria. It would be the fifth largest economy in Africa if it were a country. Its total generated revenue in 2017 was around ₦334 billion (equivalent to US$920 million), growing by 10.43% compared to 2016. It has a GDP of $136B according to Gov. Ambode.
Now, I am not comparing Taraba and Lagos State, far from it, but Lagos is the only city in Nigeria that people travel to and fro daily from all parts of the country. It receives the biggest chunk of all foreign direct investments. It has more banks than any state in Nigeria. It has a thriving middle-class, which means it has a huge market with the requisite cash to spend. That’s why they say everything thrives in Lagos. It is the commercial nerve center of the country, responsible for the biggest chunk of non oil revenue generation.

Now, Lagos is a market place. People always wonder why entertainment thrives in Lagos, because there are more people with extra money to spend. They have a daily population of close to 20 million people. If you are an entrepreneur and you have nothing to do with Lagos, I want to tell you, you’ve not started yet. Think about it.

Today, I urge you, no matter your skill set, find a way to link up with Lagos, get the share of the $136B GDP back to Taraba. If you have a product and services, make sure you try and penetrate the Lagos market. If you are a musician, and your music can’t please Lagos audience, then you haven’t started yet. There is nothing wrong with doing Collabo with Lagos guys, going for training, selling Taraba products there or even relocating there. That is the only way to increase the amount of money coming into the state. As government, if you abandon Lagos, at your own peril.

So, I urge you to always and always include Lagos in your entrepreneurship strategy as we redefine Taraba Youths in Entrepreneurship.

Finally, let me use this medium to announce to you that I am running for the seat of member Ibi constituency in the Taraba state house of assembly under the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). I believe, it is time for new ideas to permeate the Taraba state governance structure and I believe I have that capacity to inspire a new generation of Tarabans by being in government. That is why I urge all support #TheNewDeal.

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