We’ll focus on SMEs this year – Prince Akpabio

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…As Trade & Investment Ministry launches A’Ibom market place portal

The Akwa Ibom State Government has through the Ministry of Trade taken a giant step towards enhancing the state’s Small and Medium Enterprises sector.

The Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Prince Ukpong Akpabio, who disclosed this recently in his office while interacting with newsmen, said the ministry’s focus this year is on SMEs.

He noted that the state government is determined to give the much-needed fillip to the SMEs sector, adding that the government equally plans to establish business clusters in partnership with the sector.

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The event also marked the official inauguration and public presentation of Akwa Ibom Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Directory and official launch of a one stop portal, www.Ibommarketplace.com.

He said that the Ibom Market Place website is designed to create a strong database that will enhance the business sector of the state while putting Akwa Ibom entrepreneurs on global map.

Explaining the rationale behind government’s plan to grow small businesses in the state, the Commissioner said that the Akwa Ibom State Government, in line with Gov. Emmanuel’s Completion Agenda, is making plans toward producing 30,000 entrepreneurs hence the need to develop a viable Small and Medium Enterprises in the state.

“Our focus for 2020 will be in line with the Completion Agenda of his Excellency, which is to raise 30,000 viable SMEs before 2023,” he said.

The Trade and Investment Commissioner who also used the opportunity to unveil his ministry’s action plan for the year, noted that the intention is to move SMEs from active level to a viable level in preparation for the new Akwa Ibom, adding that it is geared at connecting the state to the world.

He also revealed that the ministry plans to build industrial clusters in each of the three senatorial districts of the state to further give a new lease of life to the state’s business environment. According to him, “the clusters will help us to create a working space where SMEs can share resources like power, equipment, market, skills, raw materials and infrastructures.”

The Commissioner revealed that 22,000 hectares of land space has already been earmarked for the takeoff of 48 industries that would focus in the manufacturing of a wide range of products.

While stating that registration of businesses on the new portal is free, he pointed out that the ministry “wants it real time so we can keep checking traffic to know those going there to register daily,” he said, adding that a desk would be provided to assist those who find it difficult registering online.

Barr. Akpabio said the Ministry of Trade and Investment is working judiciously in partnership with the Board of Internal Revenue to ensure SMEs in the state are not subjected to double taxation.

The Commissioner disclosed that the Ikot-Abasi Free Trade Zone was on course, adding that the state government has finalised everything on the project, and only awaiting federal government’s approval by the second quarter of the year.

He lauded Governor Udom Emmanuel for his vision and support in ensuring the actualization of the Ikot-Abasi Free Trade Zone, while commending the efforts of the Managing Director of Oil and Gas Free Trade Zone Authority, Mr. Umana Okon Umana whom he said was working closely with the state government to fast track the takeoff of the Seaport.

Speaking on his ministry’s action plan for the year, Prince Akpabio said the reason for setting timelines is to ensure that the ministry meets its targets and measure progress. “We will ensure we meet up our targets and timelines in line with His Excellency’s Completion Agenda and for the betterment of the state.”

Present at the session was the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mr. Oliver Udoukpo. Others were Directors, Mr. Tony Onuk of Ruthub, State Chairman, National Association of Small and Medium Scale Industrialists, Bishop Andrew Uwanta; Rt. Hon. Alice Ekpenyong, media partners, and other stakeholders.

Credit: Kenneth Jude