Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State has called on Africans in Diaspora especially in the Caribbeans to connect with Africa for cooperation and development in various spheres of human endeavour in a win – win relationship highlighting Trade, Culture, Spiritual pilgrimage and Tourism as the key areas of collaboration.
Governor Ajimobi said this in his address titled Africa and Its Diaspora: Beyond Cultural Cooperation and Intellectual Dialogues delivered at the Emancipation Festival Forum on Africa and Its Diaspora which was held at Maraval, Trinidad & Tobago on Monday, noting that his administration is willing to offer the necessary incentives that will make every piece of investment in the state worthwhile and profitable.
He stated that the state had established a $2 billion, 4,000-hectares Free Trade Zone (Oyo FTZ) to kick start industrial revolution with positive response from over 157 international companies and some of them have started the construction of multi million dollar industries, explaining that to complement this effort, the state is building an industrial park with a capacity to hold a thousand industries.
The governor, who was represented by the state’s Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr. Toye Arulogun, observed that what African governments needed to do is to invite the participation of Africans in Diaspora in the process of developing the continent, explaining that the present administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari has shown great will in tackling corruption and improving the infrastructural base of the country.
He pointed out that efforts have also been put into place to deepen democracy through institutional empowerments, stating that significant gains have been made in the fight against corruption and infrastructural modernization.
According to Ajimobi, “We recognize that it may take time and enormous financial capital to develop Africa to the level the West has attained, and that is why we are calling on you to lend a hand. We encourage you to visit Nigeria, and particularly Oyo State. We need you to see what we are doing and the potentials we have, and then think through how your resources, your expertise, and your knowledge can benefit us.
“We need investment in heavy and light manufacturing to create jobs for our mass of unemployed youths. We request your partnership in developing our agricultural and agro allied sectors and our vast cultural industry. As a government, we are willing to offer the necessary incentives that will make every piece of investment worthwhile and profitable.
“Africa clamours for more of the religious visits to our cultural sites due to their capacity to boost the promising tourist trade. We encourage continuous intellectual dialogues between Africa and its Diaspora to strengthen existing ties. But beyond all these, we seek the resolute involvement of the Diaspora in efforts to banish hunger, sickness, and homelessness from our own world through direct investments,” Governor Ajimobi stressed.
The governor expatiated that the present administration in Oyo State is creating an industrial and technology hub that will serve the entire West Africa sub-region in no distant future, saying that the government’s different initiatives are part of a strategic development plan meant to create new jobs and improve the infrastructural base of the state.
He noted that there are structures in Oyo state that are currently associated with the Diaspora, highlighting the Yoruba Language Centre at the University of Ibadan, the Ifa Heritage School, Oyo, the Ofungunda Ifa Learning Centre at Oyo, and the newly established Ifa Heritage University also at Oyo as examples of institutions that people of African descent visit on regular basis to build their capacities in Yoruba language and cultural heritage.
Governor Ajimobi said, “Over the years we have also been developing measures to improve on the existing cultural relationship that our state had established with Diaspora communities, especially those in South America and the Caribbeans. For instance, we are currently working with the Brazilian Embassy in Nigeria to develop Oyo State into a tourism hub for Brazilians and other Diasporians, as we are not oblivious of the spiritual ties that practitioners of Candomble or the Orisha Religion maintain with ancestral homes like Oyo and Ile-Ife among other Yoruba towns.
“We are also preoccupied with developing Sango and Oranyan festivals in Oyo into international events, even as we seek private sector involvement in building hotels and other infrastructure that will support leisure and enhance the tourism potentials of other sites of cultural and spiritual importance,” he added.