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Bayelsa: Open for business


A forward-thinking Nigerian State Governor, who has a 21st century approach to economic diversity as a strategic development goal, is off ering a great opportunity to foreign investors who are seeking sustainable, long-term returns in a safe and stable environment


O


NLY six months aſt er the Honourable Henry Seriake Dickson took up offi ce as Governor of Bayelsa State


in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region, his administration’s vision of a new Bayelsa is rapidly taking shape. T e State wants to buck the trend in the oil-rich regions of Nigeria – of which Bayelsa is one – where the bulk of economic activity is focused on this natural resource. Indeed, today, many oil-rich countries in


the Middle East and elsewhere in the world have come to realise that ‘black gold’ is not an infi nite resource and should therefore not be relied upon for long-term economic sustainability. Governor Dickson’s decision to take the route of economic diversifi cation should ensure that in the future this relatively young State does not suff er adversely from sole dependency on oil revenues.


Nigeria’s fi rst oil well Obviously, oil will still provide the basis


for such economic diversity in Bayelsa. Bayelsa was established as a State within the Nigerian federation on October 1, 1996 and with the famous Oloibiri Well within its borders it is proud of being the place where the fi rst commercial oil fi eld in Nigeria was discovered in 1956. Governor Dickson’s administration has


worked out its diversifi cation strategy to drive economic development. As he said in his inaugural address: “T e new Bayelsa State is ready to welcome genuine investors and investments.” He realises that in order to do that


education is of utmost priority. Development is impossible without a skilled and educated workforce and the lack of such makes it harder to attract investment. On assumption of offi ce, the current administration declared a “state of emergency” in the education


sector and pronounced a policy of free and compulsory primary and secondary education in the State with an emphasis on computer literacy, science and technology. T e administration has already started to build new schools and refurbish old ones and it was announced that a total of N1billion would be made available to train every young person in the State who wishes to further their education, either in Nigeria or abroad. “We need to break the cycle of illiteracy


if we are to push the drive for development,” says Freda Ruth Murray-Bruce, Director- General of the Bayelsa State Investment Promotion Agency. “We pledge to continue with our current


rate of development and projections in our plans and programmes and to demonstrate the reality that the foundation of our future greatness must be laid today, not later. We are indeed making progress and Bayelsa is beginning to rise again,” Governor Dickson told his fellow citizens. T e drive towards economic diversity


in Bayelsa is founded on the fact that the Government accounts for 90 per cent of economic activity within the State. T is administration wants to change this situation very quickly so that big businesses and small- and medium-sized enterprises will eventually take charge of the State’s economic sector. Areas already open for investment include


tourism, infrastructural development, power, airport development, healthcare and agriculture. As a sign of genuine commitment to the development of these economic sectors, the State Government is ready to enter into a variety of private-public partnerships to ensure that the investments are successful. Bayelsa is open to discussions on any of the


investment models, such as: •


State-owned/private management: T e State continues to own the assets but contracts out the management to a


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