Skip to content

Unlocking Economic Potentials: Gov Otu's $3.5bn Afreximbank Funding For Infrastructure Projects

The news of the acquisition of a $3.5 billion funding facility from the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) for the execution of the state's deep seaport project, the Bakassi Deep Seaport, by the state governor, Senator Bassey Otu, comes not only as a soothing balm, but also as a bite at the cherry. Conceived in 2015 by the immediate past administration, the Bakassi Deep Seaport was believed by many as a project which faced imminent death as soon as Governor Ben Ayade's tenure came to its terminal end.

Designed as a 20-meter draft port, the Bakassi Deep Seaport was conceptualised to be one of the biggest ports in Africa, with the capacity to berth larger vessels. The project's initial cost was put at about $2 billion as of the time of its initiation. In spite of sundry approvals including the Outline Business Case granted in 2019 by the federal government, the project could neither crawl nor walk. However, credit must be given to the previous administration of Governor Ben Ayade for daring to conceptualise the project as well as obtaining necessary approvals. But just as hopes appeared seemingly dimmed on the seaport initiative, Governor Otu, in keeping to his earlier promise during his electioneering that he would not snub his predecessor's uncompleted projects, rekindled hope and took a quantum leap of faith by embarking on an intercontinental crisscrossing to scour for funding from multilateral financial institutions to ensure that the deep seaport and other infrastructure projects begun by the former governor do not end up as pipe dreams or mere pies in the sky.

It is against this background that the latest effort of Governor Otu at securing the Afreximbank funding for infrastructure projects, particularly the Bakassi Deep Seaport, represents a significant milestone in the state's journey towards economic growth and development. Significantly, Otu's visit to Egypt and subsequent engagement with Afreximbank and tier 1 companies such as ORASCOM Construction, ELSEWEDY Electric, and HASSAN ALLAM Holdings, highlights the state's commitment to driving economic growth through strategic partnerships and investments. Instructively, the Bakassi Deep Seaport project, estimated to cost $3.5 billion, could be seen as a crucial component of the state's infrastructure development plan, as the deep seaport is expected to boost trade and commerce in the South South, South East and the Northern regions of the country, attracting foreign investment and stimulating economic growth.

The $3.5 billion mandate with Afreximbank for the state's legacy projects, it must be emphasized, for sake of clarity, is not a loan facility but rather a partnership to source private sector equity partners and non-recourse finance for the projects. Furthermore, the construction of the seaport will undoubtedly create job opportunities for the people of Cross River State, contributing to the economic growth and prosperity of the citizenry. Coming at a time of pervasive cynicism amid shrinking global economy, Governor Otu's bold move marks a pivotal moment in the state's journey towards unlocking its economic potentials and positioning itself as a key player in the global economy. Put in proper contest, the governor's visit to Afreximbank in Cairo, Egypt, along with some key members of his economic team, one of whom was Dr. Francis Ntamu, Senior Special Adviser cum Director-General, Bureau of Public Private Partnership, was not just a routine visit but a strategic move to explore partnership opportunities for key infrastructure projects in Cross River State.

The partnership with Afreximbank, a Pan-African multilateral financial institution with a mandate to finance and promote intra-and extra-African trade, signifies a significant step towards economic transformation in the state.Governor Otu's vision for forging the investment alliance with Afreximbank, emphasizes the importance of infrastructure projects in driving economic growth and development in Cross River State. With other infrastructure projects such as the 217 km superhighway integrated Project, Obudu Cattle Ranch and Mountain Resort, the Tinapa Resort, as well as  the Obudu International Cargo Airport, all earmarked to tap from the investment drive, the outing in Cairo was not just about infrastructure development but also about creating job opportunities, promoting tourism, and boosting trade and commerce in the state. By deliberately engaging in extensive Government-to-Business (G2B) meetings with tier 1 companies, such as ORASCOM Construction, ELSEWEDY Electric, and HASSAN ALLAM Holdings, culminating in   the signing of Project Preparation Facility Agreement and Financial Advisory Agreement for major projects, the effor speaks volumes of Governor Otu's strategic partnership initiative. In what represents a bright economic future for Cross River, Governor Otu's signing of the agreements with Afreximbank and tier 1 companies is highly commendable, as it clearly represents the commitment of Afreximbank and the tier 1 companies to supporting the development of the state through the infrastructure projects.

The agreements signed are expected to pave the way for further collaboration and investment opportunities, driving economic growth and development across the different zones. In retrospect,  therefore, Otu's audacious step in forging a strategic partnership between Cross River, Afreximbank and tier 1 companies for key infrastructure projects in Cross River State bears glowing testament to his commitment to unlocking the economic potentials of the state. The $3.5 billion funding secured for the deep seaport project, will no doubt reignite optimism that greeted the project at its embryonic stage, just as It also goes to show a willingness of Governor Otu's government to build on previous administrations' initiatives, such as Tinapa Resort, the Obudu International Cargo Airport, the Cattle Ranch Resort, among others, to drive progress and prosperity for the state and its people. More significantly, it also goes to emphasise that Cross River is on a historic journey towards economic growth, job creation, tourism promotion, and trade expansion. With a visionary leadership being demonstrated by Governor Otu, Cross River State is poised to bloom  as an emerging key player in the global economic stage, creating opportunities for growth and development as a sub-national.

Linus Obogo, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity