Arrangements have been finalized for an Onitsha Economic Empowerment Programme. The programme which was recently announced by Agbogidi, Obi of Onitsha, His Majesty, Nnaemeka Achebe, is part of a strategy for medium to long term sustainable interventions in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. Implementation will be under the auspices of the Onitsha Advancement Foundation (OnAF) an incorporated entity promoted by the Onitsha Traditional Council.
In furtherance of this, OnAF has been restructured with an expanded Board of Directors made up of part-time members, all highly experienced, hardworking and dedicated Onitsha indigenes; an Advisory Board composed of members of the Onitsha Traditional Council and constituent groups; and Workgroups of Onitsha professionals focused on implementing specific aspects of the Economic Empowerment Programme.
His Majesty acknowledged the efforts made in conceptualising the programme, stating that ‘’this exercise has called for substantial hard work as we progressed from the Onitsha Community Covid Response Programme (OCCRT), which focused on education and enlightenment , as well as the distribution of palliatives, face masks and sanitizers, to the Economic Empowerment Study Panel (EESP), which addressed the medium to long term economic and social consequences of Covid-19 on the community, and now the Onitsha Advancement Foundation (OnAF) interventions, which we are embarking upon to implement the outcomes of the EESP’’. He added, ‘’there is more hard work ahead, and I plead that we do not relent since we can now clearly see the great possibilities that lie ahead as we work towards lifting the poor in Onitsha out of poverty’’.
Three initiatives spanning business learning, technological skills acquisition, and financial intermediation will serve as the arrowhead of the Economic Empowerment Programme. These are the Onitsha Leadership and Entrepreneurship Centre (OLEC); (Onicha) Ado Business Incubation Centre (ABIC), and a Microfinance Institution/Microfinance Bank (MFI/MFB).
OLEC will focus on creating passion for learning about businesses, and how to create and grow small businesses. The OLEC workgroup is led by Prof Alex Ike Ikeme, teacher, coach, facilitator and mentor with over three decades of experience in entrepreneurship development studies and practice. ABIC will serve as a catalyst tool to help new technology start-ups to grow and develop, including helping to accelerate and make optimum use of incubator resources. Charles Uchenna Emembolu, an information technology architecture expert is the lead for the ABIC workgroup.
MFI/MFB will offer financial resources to low/medium income populations, in addition to targeting financial services at self-employed, micro and small businesses generally overlooked in the society. Nnamdi Anammah, a financial expert with a track record covering commercial banking, corporate finance and stockbroking leads the MFI/MFB workgroup. It is also planned to establish a health and well-being workgroup that will determine the modalities for a community basic health-care programme.
A values reorientation campaign will be put in place as a critical enabler for the Economic Empowerment Programme. The campaign is designed to drive a new work/study/life ethic for Onitsha indigenes which is in tune with the times and able to power a rebirth of thrift, industry, achievement and pride on a global scale. The campaign will also prepare a significant number of persons from the community with vital foundational principles to key into and avail themselves of other elements of the Economic Empowerment Programme. This initiative will be led by Nn’emeka Maduegbuna, a communications consultant who brings three decades plus of experience in strategic communications planning, corporate positioning and reputation management amongst others. Conceptualised by a panel of Onitsha experts, who were charged by His Majesty, to map out strategies “to support the struggling and budding entrepreneurs in our domain in weathering the COVID-19 storm”, the Economic Empowerment Programme builds on a broad-based 2017 project with the theme, “Take Onicha Ado N’Idu to the Next Level”, which explored developmental and repositioning needs of the ancient kingdom