Nnewi: Nigeria’s self-made Industrial hub

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Nnewi is not a tier-one city in Africa, and not in Nigeria. Even within Anambra, it is masked by the commercial lure of Onitsha and the officialdom of Akwa, the political seat of the state. Yet, the town holds the hope for Africa’s fabrication industry and it is running with it. 

It is not only in fabrication and engineering Nnewi has made an indelible mark. Today, it is almost synonymous with full-scale industrial activities. From food, body care, building material to the automobile market, Nnewi brands stand tall. Cutix Plc, Chicason Group, Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company, Tummy Tummy Foods Industries Limited, Intercontinental Feed Mills, Ngobros Industries and Ibeto Group are some of the big brands behind the rising Nnewi industrial zone. 

Though they have emerged as household names, these companies are not the real heroes of the decades of the triumph of the ancient town. Its (Nnewi’s) essence is defined by hundreds of battered, yet uncompromising fabricators that have defied all odds to earn a living from their trades. 

EMCO Foundry Works is one of the unsung heroes. Located in what appears like an abandoned building on a plot of land along Afam Oledome Street, EMCO has held tenaciously to nurturing its dream of growing into an automobile parts manufacturing company someday. The company owned and operated by a middle-aged Ukamaka Okoye brings together over half a dozen young people who etch daily pay by working with crude tools and implements to produce car battery terminals, motorcycle hand clutch levers and similar components. Like the products, the fabrication machines are a product of the local ingenuity, innovation, and determinism Nnewi represents. 

Okoye, who burns her fingers daily as she joins her employees to pull her trademark out of burning coals, said her N500, 000-monthly turnover could triple if the burden of power is taken off her. She identifies the absence of funds as another major constraint she and her peers face. Like every other cottage industry, Okoye relies on self-generated energy for her manufacturing.

Every evening, a few indigent students who seek financial relief in the fabrication centre join the regular employees. Okoye said she desires to expand her operations and provide opportunities for more individuals to help transform the financial fortune of the country. But she needs affordable loans and infrastructural support to make her dream come through.   

Despite the odds, EMCO has survived five years, which hundreds of such other fabrications could not.

Silas Ibekwe, a retired civil servant, narrated how a similar fabrication he set up in the twilight of his active service was killed by his inability to access cheap funds. 

He said: “The commercial banks were not interested in my proposal. I applied to the Bank of Industry (BoI) for a loan but never got any response from them. The interest rates of the microfinance banks were too high. I put my entire savings into the business but it was gulped by high production costs. I closed shop in 2017 when I could not sustain the operation anymore with personal resources.”  

Ideally, start-ups like EMCO operate from incubation centres such as the ones operated by the National Board for Incubation, an agency of the Federal Government. The closest functional innovation centre to Nnewi, the country’s entrepreneurial powerhouse, is located hundreds of miles away in the Southwest. Perhaps, this is one of the rea

– Guardian

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