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Nigerian governor seeks business ideas from county
Created on Wednesday, 06 March 2013 10:05 Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 March 2013 10:05 Published on Wednesday, 06 March 2013 10:05 Written by Diane I. Daniels Hits: 1271
GROWING POSSIBILITIES—Bill Strickland, executive director of Bidwell Cultural Center and Governor Aregbesola share a moment in the Green house. (Photo by Diane I. Daniels)
Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, governor of Osun State, Nigeria described his recent visit to Allegheny County as very fulfilling and beneficial from the beginning to the end. Already planning a return trip he said, “I am looking forward to building on the relationships I have made.”
In the region last month, the purpose of the visit from Aregbesola and high ranking members of his administration was to meet with government officials, business and community leaders from Allegheny County to discuss, strategize about and learn ways the two areas can work together and learn from each other.
The second visit to the area for delegates of Aregbesola’s administration, the goal of this stopover was to continue establishing partnerships in the areas of transformational leadership practices, business-to-business partnerships and win-win investment opportunities, educational exchange programs, import and export relationships, green technology and environment, health care, agriculture and cultural exchange and tours.
The purpose of previous visits has been to learn from Pittsburgh’s transformation from a heavily polluted smoky city to a city now globally recognized as a green leader that has successfully managed to improve its economy and environmental stewardship.
While in the region last month, the Governor met with Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and officials from Carnegie Mellon University. He visited and toured the sites of the Manchester Bidwell Training Center, the Braddock Pot Shop and also strengthened relationships with LavaLux LED.
A Roundtable Business Forum was held at the Kingsley Center co-hosted by Christian Evangelistic Economic Development and the Allegheny County Department of Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, headed by Ruth Byrd-Smith.
The Forum provided the opportunity for discussions to occur about current business opportunities in Nigeria and possible international trade partnerships, and investment opportunities for small businesses. “The Roundtable was the second in our series of meetings to connect Southwestern Pennsylvania small businesses and institutions to the dynamic global market,” said Rufus Idris, executive director of CEED.
“The governors visit was successful,” Idris said. “The relationships that were established will be beneficial to both regions.” One relationship he is referring to is the signing of a mutual agreement between the governor and county executive to conduct business. “I see many similarities between our two regions,” pointed out Fitzgerald. “Twenty to 30 years ago young people were leaving the area, but now they are returning because the region is revitalizing. That would not be happening if it were not for the collaboration of government, universities and public and private entities. The lessons learned are that if you don’t work together you can’t move forward.”
Aregbesola pointed out that Osun State also has devised a strategy to empower their youth that makes up more than 45 percent of their population. He said through the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme they have engaged 20,000 youth volunteers to provide community services in exchange for a monthly stipend. They too are partnering with the private sector and the education system.
Developing a mutual respect for one another and impressed with their successes, Aregbesola, Bill Strickland, executive director of the Bidwell Training Center, Richard Wukich of the Braddock Pot Shop and officials of LavaluxLED are negotiating to conduct business. Sharing his philosophy that the development of human capacity is the most important responsibility of any serious government, he says as governor of Osun, he has focused on strengthening the state in the areas of agriculture, economic development, youth employment, education and security. The three regional organizations fit within his scope of focus.
Bidwell, located on the North Side, offers training in specialized technology, culinary arts, horticulture technology and the medical industry. The Braddock Pot Shop, a ceramics program based in the basement of the Carnegie Library in Braddock, is also a water filter factory. LavaluxLED based in Ambridge is a manufacturer and supplier of LED lighting products for indoor and outdoor applications.
Considered a rising star in the Nigerian political firmament, Gov. Aregbesola is an engineer and political activist who between 1999 and 2007 superintended the bold beginnings of the infrastructural transformation of Lagos, one of the world’s largest megacities. Widely acknowledged as an exceptional grassroots campaigner and mobilizer, he has served as governor since 2010.
As governor of Osun, his bold vision for the state is encapsulated in a Six Point Integral Action Plan to banish poverty, hunger and unemployment; to restore healthy living; to promote functional education and to enhance communal peace and progress. His plan seeks to ensure that the fruits of economic development positively impact as many lives as possible.
Aregbesola’s interest in politics dates back to his undergraduate days, when he served as the Speaker of the Students’ Union Parliament at The Polytechnic, Ibadan, his alma mater. His interest, which is anchored in values, again came to the forefront during Nigeria’s bloody struggles against military rule in the 1990s when he emerged as a leading light of the pro-democracy movement. It continues to manifest today in his advocacy for fiscal federalism and regional integration as means of attaining sustainable economic development and peaceful coexistence in the fractious Nigerian federation.
Believing that he has sewn seeds of collaboration within the Allegheny County region, Aregbesola’s message to entrepreneurs and organizational leaders is to develop strong links to Africa. “One must explore by conducting test cases and inquiring about opportunities within the Country.” He stressed that constant communication with CEED is a way to keep abreast of their activities.
CEED is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides free micro-enterprise and small business start-up support to area businesses, both in the City of Pittsburgh and the 10 surrounding counties. They work to create opportunities for community growth and economic sustainability throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania using a small business assistance program called SKILLS TO WEALTH.
The various meetings and events throughout the governors visit were sponsored by CEED, the Allegheny County MWDBE Department, the Kinsley Association, Union of African Communities in Southwestern Pennsylvania and the Osun State Government.
Pleased with the outcome of the governors visit, Rev. Ray Parker founder of CEED said he looks forward to the relationships and possibilities that lay ahead. “We will continue to serve as the lead agency and liaison to spearhead activities between Osun State and this region.”
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