Anioma People’s Declaration 2020

Declaration of statehood by the Anioma people of Nigeria

Proposed Anioma State of Nigeria
Map of Anioma

(1) We, the Anioma people declare that if granted our state in 2020, we shall generate enough electricity to power the whole of Nigeria by 2030. We shall build hydro-electric power plants at Uguozala, Ebu, Illah, Asaba, Onitsha, Nzam and Atani on the banks of the River Niger that will generate at least 50,000MW of electricity

(2) As our state will straddle the River Niger with territory in both the current Delta and Anambra states, we pledge to build six river crossings over the next 20 years. Each crossing will be at least four lanes wide

(3) We will construct Nigeria’s first underwater tunnel, building a 1km tunnel between Asaba and Onitsha

(4) We will construct at least two railway river crossings, with one linking Illah and Nzam and another linking Asaba and Onitsha

(5) We shall develop the world’s largest rubber plantation at Idumeje Ugboko with accompanying processing plants. Our goal is to attract the likes of Pirelli, Michelin, Firestone, Dunlop, etc. We will also aim to build the world’s largest condom and surgical glove factory at Umunede and the world’s largest rubber boot factory at Okpanam

(6) We shall construct Africa’s first underwater restaurant at Illah. This restaurant shall be made of glass and shall be situated under the River Niger

(7) As we shall be part of the southeast geo-political zone, we shall construct dual carriageways linking Onitsha with Enugu, Owerri, Abakaliki, Awka and Umuahia

(8) Asaba and Onitsha shall have high speed train lines linking them with Abuja, Port Harcourt and Lagos. Our capital Asaba shall be linked to every state capital in Nigeria by rail

(9) Anioma State will be the first state in Nigeria to refuse to accept any federal allocation. We refuse to join in this parasitic charade as it is contrary to our cultural values and an affront to our industrious nature

(10) We shall dredge the River Niger up to Onitsha and Asaba, enabling large Panamax ships to sail upstream. Our aim is the create Africa’s largest inland cargo port at Onitsha

A Richer Literary World with ‘Sons of the Soil’

I am honoured to offer some commentaries as a Reader at the book launch of Ben Ajuzie in Brussels, Belgium on Friday, 20 September 2019. I make bold to conclude that the work of fiction is an enrichment of the Belgo-Afro literary landscape.

Author Bernard (Ben) Ajuzie, Sons of the Soil

The world of literature will be richer on Friday 20 September 2019 with the official launch in Brussels, Belgium of the work of fiction “Sons of the Soil”. Authored by Bernard (Ben) Ajuzie, himself a study in diversity, Sons of the Soil holds a mirror to humanity. Through this mirror we are able to view ourselves from diverse prisms. 

In reading even just a part of Sons of the Soila kaleidoscope of self-evaluating questions can’t help but whirl up your head: am I the concerned father that also happens to be King of Sumanguru Kingdom, one of the principle characters of the over 300-page fiction? Do I best fit in the shoes of Gawiwy, Dr Banjo or Gabito, the master schemers? How much does Chubido, the loyal friend mirror my personality? Could it well be that my exterior defeats my inner calm, a different set of ambitions and a near zero sense of worldliness, making me the Prince Jeje of our time; heir apparent to the Sumanguru throne with no ambitions for the crown? How much does Chief Tirie represent my ambitious uncle, who would stop at nothing to get that which he sets his eyes on, undermining all and crushing everything that stands on his way? 

In more ways than one, there are Sons of the Soil in us all, be it in our daily lives as ordinary mortals or as parts of a cabal that constitute present day politics and politicking or community set-ups. Considering that Sons of the Soil speaks candidly to us all, it is a reference work to own. 

As the saying goes, different strokes for different folks! Readers are bound to make their individual assessment of the literary style deployed by Ben in this latest work, either in isolation or in comparison with his first book “Southern Realities Northern Dreams”. I for one see in Ben with his latest literary outing, a writer that is dramatically coming of age. I will not belabor you with neither volumes nor details but allow me the latitude to consider this oxymoron I extracted from page 301, and it reads “Chief Tirie laid face down and the earth appeared to shield it from the shame it refused to embrace when he was dealing other people…”  Before that, on page 300 to be precise, he had painted a literally picture of a Chief whose past would not let loose. Hear this “The Chief’s latest fear was not his failure to achieve, but the idea that the gods are on the hunt following his vows before the oracles”. Even poets and fans of poetry would have a field day with Sons of the Soil published by the National Library of Nigeria. An overzealous man had done everything and stopped at nothing to achieve his innocuous ambitions, knew that he had stepped on too many toes and made uncountable enemies. Will he be glorified, any legacy to celebrate? Perhaps not hence before drawing his last breath, he had this poetic rendition to spare:

“All who wish me gored

Are free to come forward

And party my end”

If I could indulge you a little more, allow me dwell for a brief moment on where the author, Ben Ajuzie derived the impetus to deliver such masterpiece of literature. As averred earlier on, Ben is a study in diversity. A Nigerian of Igbo extraction, his early influences are to be found in Limbe, West of the Cameroons, Accra and Anloga in Ghana where he enjoyed his secondary education before a homeward journey back to his home state of Abia in Nigeria. At the State University there in a semi-rural, semi-urban town of Uturu, he bagged a bachelor’s degree in Food Science & Technology. Thereafter, like his character Jeje, a sojourn away from Africa, brought him to Belgium’s Vrije Universiteit, Brussels for dual Masters, one in Human Ecology and the other a master’s in educational research & Psychology.  Ben’s rich and diverse background is a baggage that informs but also enriches his literary outing. 

Worthy of final mention is the crossover elements in Sons of the Soil. The setting of the fiction may understandably be Africa, but the fact of the writer maturing in Europe is evident in his coinages, metaphors and the oxymorons that dot the novel here and there. It is only fair to assert that this work is an interesting, if not a curious addition to the Belgo-Afro literature, which at present is in its infancy. My assessment is that Sons of the Soil leaves the first-generation African Diaspora and their European friends and family with nostalgia while their children, the second-generation Diaspora, will find in the book, tales of the influences that shaped their dads and mums, uncles and aunties. 

Commentary by Collins Nweke

Ostend, Belgium

Curious African Development Agenda from Japan

TICAD7 2019 Yokohama, Japan

Since 1993 Japan has conferenced six times with African leaders with a seventh session billed to commence today, 27 August 2019 in Yokohama. Initially attracting only a handful of African Heads of State, the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAN) now has virtually all African Presidents and Prime Ministers jostling for visibility. It is now being recognized as one of the most important and visible vehicles for strengthening Japan’s relationship with Africa. A multilateral and international forum focusing on African development, the theme for TICAD7 “Africa and Yokohama: Sharing Passion for the Future” raises questions as to whose future is being positively served here. 

Japan says it pursues two major approaches to guide its relations with African countries, namely quality growth:  inclusiveness, sustainability as well as resilience and human security: capacity building focusing on each individual in Africa. With the inception of TICAD, Japan took the lead in fostering international discussion on Africa’s development. TICAD’s innovative approaches include advocating African ownershipand international partnership; promoting the participation of international organizations, donor countries, private sector and civil society; and creating follow-up and review mechanisms to ensure the progress of programmes and projects.

After 23 years of its existence, the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD6) was held at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) on 27 – 28 August 2016, making it the first TICAD held on African continent. The theme of TICAD VI was Advancing Africa’s sustainable Development agenda: TICAD Partnership for Shared Prosperity’It adopted three pillars for Japan’s cooperation policy with Africa. Firstly, promotion of economic structural changes through economic diversification and industrialization. Secondly, promoting a resilient health system for high quality of life, and thirdly, promoting social stabilization for shared prosperity. 

I have quite a lot on my mind but my priority thought centers around the fact that Japan’s curious departure from the traditional overseas development assistance #ODA strategy is a commentary on the changing landscape of international development. It does not seem to me that Japan’s major interest is about developing Africa. It is more like, and rightfully so, building Japan’s economy taking advantage of the abundant resources that Africa has, which includes 89% of world’s total reserves of platinum, 60% of diamonds, 53% of cobalt, 37% of zirconium.Japan is known to actively deploy its diplomacy towards Africa in order to maintain the momentum. The Japan–African Regional Economic Communities (RECs) Summit Roundtable for instance, was held in New York on the margins of the 2013 UN General Assembly, chaired by Prime Minister Abe. In the roundtable, participants exchanged views on agricultural development and food security. In addition, from November 24 to December 5, 2013, Japan dispatched a Public and Private Sector Joint Mission for Promoting Trade and Investment for Africa to the Republic of the Congo, the Gabonese Republic, and Ivory Coast. Thus, Japan hopes to further develop its relations with Africa through such follow-up measures to TICAD. Furthermore, Prime Minister Abe visited three African countries in 2014, fulfilling his promise at TICAD5 to visit Africa in the near future.

Africa has become a bride everyone wants to court. But the big question is: does #Africa realize how beautiful a bride it is and why everyone wants her? Has Africa got a strategy to harness its potentials and yield dividend for its overwhelmingly growing youthful but restive population? With the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement #AfCFTA now a reality, one would hope that sooner rather than later, Africa will begin to grow for itself, leaders who would help drive the developed but never implemented continent-wide agenda for development through which they relate with the likes of TICAD & FOCAC (Forum on China-Africa Cooperation). An Africa-wide Agenda with country strategies should be anchored on the notion that different African countries have different competitive advantages over one another. Until Africa emerges with leaders who understand that fair trading conditions with Western nations will yield more dividends than aid, the continent will continue to be poor and under-developed.

Whole Society Approach to Counter-Terrorism

Today the United Nations wraps up a two-day regional conference in #Nairobi, #Kenya 🇰🇪 on global actions to prevent and combat terrorism. Here in a news bulletin on #TRTWorld, I shared a brief view on its global implication and what it portends for Africa.

Economic Diplomacy & the Diaspora

I was delighted to have made a presentation at a Multi-sectoral Stakeholders Economic Investment Summit organised bySME Secretariat and hosted at the Lagos Chamber of Commerce, Victoria Island, Lagos Nigeria on Monday 21 January 2019

Jeffrey Onyeama Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria

I used the opportunity to review the Nigerian Economic Diplomacy Initiative (NEDI) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari. After a general refresher of what NEDI is all about, I dropped the following conclusions on this policy initiative:

  • NEDI is a strategically important policy tool with huge potentials to make a structural difference in economic regeneration of Nigeria with focus on non-oil sector
  • NEDI made a good start but has clearly not lived up to its biddings. It has failed rather woefully in showing evidence that it has made a convincing start in delivering on the important task of enhancing inter-agency collaborations
  • There is no visible effort on the part of NEDI to genuinely engage the Diaspora in a result-oriented way
  • Unless there is a change of course, NEDI is marked to fail!

I wrapped up with these sets of recommendations:

  • Foreign trade component should be introduced into the operations of all Ministries, Departments & Agencies (MDAs)
  • A NEDI Attaché should have a sitting in all major Missions of Nigeria worldwide where possible or the role unambiguously integrated into the duties of all diplomats charged with economic affairs
  • A formal working relationship should be initiated with Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) worldwide to enhance professional Diaspora mobilization
  • Clear targets should be set for inward investment flows as aconsequence of NEDI activities

Access to the integral PowerPoint Presentation on Economic Diplomacy & the Diaspora is possible:!AuyRKnHzz067wRMWQFFnd28yiaXL

The Fights Facing the African Youths

Africa Day 2017 Lecture by Collins Nweke

When Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana convened the First Congress of Independent African States in Accra in 1958, his goal was to showcase progress of liberation movements on the continent. Nkrumah loved symbolism as well. He used the congress to symbolise the determination of the people of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation. Though the Pan-African Congress had been working towards similar goals since its foundation in 1900, Nkrumah had a unique brand of flamboyance about him that propelled the initiative beyond the initial intentions.

Five years after the Nkrumah Accra Congress, specifically on 25 May 1963, representatives of thirty African nations met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, hosted by Haile Selassie. At the time Nkrumah was already a fulfilled man because more than two-thirds of the continent had achieved independence, mostly from imperial European states. At the 1963 meeting, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was founded, with the initial aim to encourage the decolonisation of AngolaMozambiqueSouth Africa and Southern Rhodesia. The OAU committed to supporting the work conducted by freedom fighters, instituting for that purpose a policy tool that it named Africa Liberation Day. With the replacement in 2002, of the OAU by the African Union, the celebration was also renamed Africa Day which has continued to be celebrated on 25 May.

How far have we the African descendants of Nkrumah done him proud 60 years down the line? When he convened his congress in 1958 it was largely with pride for all the efforts to liberate the continent from foreign domination and exploitation. Today the liberation that Africa needs is liberation from itself, from the African strongmen and greedy political elites, grandfathers and great grandfathers who like stubborn colossus, have dominated the scene. Young people at the primes of their lives, like Nkrumah, Azikiwe, Selassie, Lumumba and others were at the time, do not find their place in the Africa of today. By this situation, African youths have a huge fight in their hands to reclaim their space in the scheme of things. This has to change.

This was why when I received invitation to deliver a paper at the Africa Day 2019 events in Dortmund, Germany, I thought I would have to disappoint the Permanent Representative of the African Union to the European Union who is meant to host us at a reception in Brussels to commemorate the Africa Day 2019. I could join the Merry-making in Brussels in the 2020 edition but the chosen topic for Dortmund 2019 is one that I consider germane in the scheme of things in Africa’s developmental trajectory. I am to speak on:

Developing Leadership Competencies, Overcoming Obstacles and Influencing Governance for Africa’s Growth with special focus on the Millennial Generation. 

It is not uncommon in existing literatures on development studies for Africa to be described as a continent of missed opportunities and failed leadership. There are equally no shortages of empirical evidence to back such assertions. One thing that appears to be in acute short supply is a set of innovative strategies that should help Africa out of the menace. Often people would give up on the current generation of African leaders and repose hope in the Millennial generation as the messiah that will rescue the continent. 

Obviously, the change that Africa needs will not propel itself. What leadership competences are therefore required to activate the development and growth that Africa needs? Does the current definition of Youth Leadership sufficiently capture the requirements that will enable the African continent to have a place on the global leadership table? The underlying assumption of my Dortmund paper is that the theory of youth leadership being just about young people gaining skills and knowledge necessary to lead reform and community organizing activities is obsolete. A redefinition is long overdue. It has not happened because the youths themselves have not been in the forefront in that redefinition process. 

The paper will present three governance engagement models targeting three domains: politics, social enterprise and civic mobilization and the development of requisite competencies to drive each of them. It will be the contention of the paper that African Millennial generation must be in a hurry to retire the current crop of tired leaders through purposeful civic engagement and reclaim their destiny through renewed governance models, defined and pushed through by them. 

Confidence in Diplomacy?

Author Amb. Abdul Rimdap signing a copy of Confidence in Diplomacy

There were just too many odds against making it to Amsterdam, The Netherlands, in the weekend of 27 April 2019. I had committed to moderating a panel discussion on Diaspora Voting and related matters at the plenary of a Nigerian European Global Diaspora Summit there. I had missed Day 1. Missing Day 2 I knew would be unforgivable whatever the excuse. This is because I am expected to deliver the lead paper of the day and lead debate on Nigerian Diaspora Commission and Need for a sustainable United Diaspora Network as the Summit organisers coined it. Whatever the circumstance or situation, I knew that I had to drag myself to the that great Dutch City. And whatever happens I must be back to Ostend home-base same day before midnight.

That is exactly where the problem – at least in part – lies. It is always a sorry case when you have to do a dash in and a dash out of a city you love. This is because you have no opportunity to relax in your favourite café, see your museum, hang out with your pals and visit your high streets and Malls. That was to be my sorry case when I made the quick stop in Amsterdam to present the lead paper at the Summit. The basis of the paper was an opinion piece I entitled Reflections on a Commission for the Diaspora. After laying out a number of provocative pointers, I launched into a most engaging interaction with the audience. As time was always an issue in such occasions, we had to call it off at some point and rather abruptly but in the understanding that the conversation goes on post-summit!

The icing on the Summit cake, which became for me an adequate compensation for the Amsterdam City that I would not see, was a reunion of sort with a father figure and retired but certainly not tired Diplomat of Nigeria, Ambassador Abdul Rimdap. In his recently published Memoir, CONFIDENCE IN DIPLOMACY, the diplomat extraordinaire took his readers on a journey of not only the contemporary issues that shaped our time in history but also a run on comparative world cultures. The book is a clear defence of Nigeria at home and abroad as the subtitle alluded to but it was done in an uncommon candid and intelligent manner. What I found most striking in the narrative style of this brilliant mind was the humble and humane way in which he brings across what would otherwise be a sad or bad incident or episode. A candid writer with uncommon candour, I found for example Ambassador Rimdap’s reference to President Olusegun Obasanjo quite profound. He was clear not just about the fact that he did not like the man but also about why he didn’t like him. Ironically, he had credit for the same man that he disliked for appointing him on merit to, not one or two but, three key diplomatic posts, even without knowing him or having met him in person but simply on positive evaluation of his antecedents. When he recounted the incident that marked a turnaround in his dislike for OBJ, it was with the same undiluted honesty that he justified his dislike.

The Amsterdam – Ostend train journey that takes some 4 hours, looked like a 40 minute trip, thanks to reading my latest autographed gift of book, Confidence in Diplomacy by Abdul Rimdap!

Musa Rabiu: Profile in Creative Human Resource Leadership

Inaugural Ceremony NHC

Within three weeks, members of the fifty year old apex regulatory body for human resource management and practice in Nigeria will be electing its 19th President. As I reflected on the candidates for the presidency of Nigeria’s Chartered Institute of Personnel Management, a recent Social Media group conversation I had, came to mind. I countered a post which had a list of Senate Presidents of Nigeria since independence. The post posited that from Nnamdi Azikiwe in 1960 through Chuka Okadigbo in 1999 to Bukola Saraki in 2015 till date, only Saraki was a Muslim. My immediate reflex was what has religion got to do with the Senate Presidency? The gentleman that initiated the post promptly told me to work out the arithmetic and won’t discuss the matter further despite my direct and indirect prompting. As you may suspect the chap in the chat is himself a Muslim.

Because the thought won’t go away from my head and the troublemaker had left me on my own to work ‘the arithmetic’ out, I took the conversation home to the dinner table. My sons were quick to unusually side with me on the matter after I had laid out my case. Or so I thought until this: one of the sons dutifully reminded me that unfortunately Federal Character is still in force in ‘your country’. Once ‘your country’ drops in a conversation, I know I am up for a major ridicule because the issue in discussion makes no sense to them. The other son, in a much lowered and measured tone asked if the norm of having a joint ticket of Muslim and Christian Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates had been abandoned? What about the unwritten gentleman’s agreement within political parties of rotating the presidency between the North and the South? ‘Still in force, Daddy?’ He asked with his head bent over forward towards me. Just when I thought the rebuke and gang-up could not get any worse, the other son quipped in clearly mildly irritated: when your generation and those before you make laws or create norms that turn out to stir trouble, I don’t understand why you simply can’t get rid of it. My generation will have none of those retarded laws, policies or norms. There is something called merit-based appointment, blind of ethnicity or religion, he concluded.

In between the mounting case against Federal Character and its likes, I barely managed to explain to them that the idea of fair representation and creating a sense of belonging for all who share a common space as a country isn’t such a bad idea. I favour it to the extent that it is meant to correct existing deficits, for equity and justice and must be limited in time. Clearly I was on my own on this one. Even at that, these amalgam of views dominated my mind as I thought about the race to be President of the CIPM. There are two candidates. One is a Christian-Yoruba from Oyo State and the other is a Muslim from Kogi State. Of the 18 Presidents till date, all but five are of the Yoruba extraction leaving a significant number of influential people writing the Institute off as ‘that Yoruba Institute’ . No past President was a Muslim, none from neither the Middle Belt nor the Northern Hausa-Fulani extraction. The thoughts, sometimes conflicting with my core beliefs as it were, raged on. In the end, I was left with what I could consider my balanced position, which is that a chance to allow a new face for the CIPM beyond the dominant Yoruba ethnicity so far, should be a welcome one as long as quality is not compromised. This will send a clear signal out there that we are all in it together and begin the prospect of dispelling the notion that this strategically important national body is for only one of the diverse ethnic and religious groups that Nigeria is blessed with.

My so-called balanced position notwithstanding, when I go to bed on the eve of the announcement of the result of the contest, I will sleep soundly. Here is the reason: both candidates in the run for the President are supremely qualified and competent professionals. I know one personally since 2009. He was then the Registrar / CEO of the institute when I resolved to set up Nigeria Human Capital, an outfit that activates an interface between world-class human capital including Nigerians in Diaspora and Nigerian corporates for mutual benefits. He became my natural partner in that journey and my experiences working with him was positive. I do not know his opponent and have not had the privilege of meeting him but some of my well respected and trusted Associates know him and adjudge him to be a potential good President. And I have no reason not to believe that that is the case.

However my support to become the 19th President of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPM) of Nigeria goes to Dr Musa Rabiu who, when elected will coincidentally be the first from the Middle Belt geo political zone and the first Muslim to occupy the position. Those are neither the only nor the main reasons that Musa is the best President the Institute has never had. He is people manager extraordinaire, an astute negotiator and has an uncommon balance of fair-mindedness and a sense of realism. He knows when empathy applies and when to be the hard negotiator. In my dealings with Musa, I found him to be strategic and self-driven in his human resource management dealings. This derives from his over 30 years rich cross-functional and cultural experience impacting organisational success. Passionate to provide leadership in human capital development nationally and globally, Musa in his role as Registrar / Chief Executive Officer facilitated unreservedly the founding of Nigeria Human Capital. He did this as far back as 2009 when the role of the Diaspora in repositioning Nigeria was an unpopular idea. Musa’s foresight of supporting projects and processes that will link the institute with its teeming Diaspora population is one that will deliver unrivalled dividends for Nigeria should he be elected President in April 2019.

Best President CIPM is yet to have

A current Group Chief Human Resources Officer with Dangote Group Nigeria, Dr Musa Rabiu aims to use his time in office as President to strengthen current CIPM governance structure, empower and hold Management & Branch Leadership accountable and promote an all-inclusive process of membership of Committees and other leadership positions. It is my expectation that the CIPM Membership Brand promotion that Musa envisages, will include what I call ‘Diaspora Marketing’. The capacity is available and there is certainly the appetite amongst the Diaspora to engage Nigeria’s apex human resource body in its vision of becoming the foremost people management and organizational development institute in Africa, respected across the world. My time with the Institute while partnering to establish Nigeria Human Capital and association with Musa in different capacities since then has left me with the firm belief that there is no person better suited than him to accomplish the CIPM mission of promoting excellence and regulating the ecosystem for people management to deliver value for sustainable individual and organisational growth and by default the growth of Nigeria.

This endorsement was authored by Collins NWEKE, founder of Nigeria Human Capital in partnership with the CIPM, a past Chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Europe and former Human Resource staff of the United Bank for Africa. He migrated to Belgium in the 90s and currently serves a 3rd term as Green Party Councillor for Social Affairs at Ostend City Council Belgium

Economic House Ostend: evaluated, restructured and now into the future

I recently attended my last meeting as a board member of the Economic House Ostend. During the 2013 – 2019 legislature, it was an honor to serve on behalf of the Greens on the board of directors of this important economic engine of our dear City-on-Sea. After an initial internal analysis as a board member, we quickly came to the conclusion that the priority of the organization should be two-fold: screening then restructuring. Since our proposal was not immediately warmly welcomed by the ruling parties, we used every opportunity to push our point. After a long period of opposition, an audit was allowed and followed by the restructuring in 2015 into an External Independent Agency (EVA).

Admittedly, there is no perfect system, but the restructuring and the new legal form EVA has given us the opportunity to realize and / or adjust the following:

• A responsible and autonomous administration,

• More cooperation with the economic sector and more specifically entrepreneurs, employers’ organizations Voka and Unizo, Social Economy Ostend, Horeca Middenkust, Young Economic Chamber, Syntra West, trade unions and the like,

• More transparency in policy-making, decision-making was guaranteed by the various governing bodies (board of directors and general assembly) within the non-profit organization in which both the private and public sector are represented,

• Faster decision-making as an autonomous entity ensured that market trends and opportunities could be responded to in a timely manner,

• Activities in a professional, commercial environment,

• More opportunities for strategic alliance formation with other actors

At Council Sessions we sometimes made tough interventions about the Economic House, but the principle of eyes on the ball and not on the man was always applied. For us the Economic House remained a hopeful story. My appreciation for CEO Gunther Vanpraet and his team. Gunther worked with great enthusiasm for an entrepreneurial city. I wish his successor as CEO, Thomas Dupon and my successor as board member, Belinda Torres Leclercq, every success in the continuing challenge of reducing unemployment in Ostend

Doorgelicht, herstructureert en nu de toekomst in.

Ik woonde recent mijn laatste vergadering bij als bestuurslid van het Economisch Huis Oostende. Het was een eer om gedurende de legislatuur 2013 – 2019 namens Groen te zetelen in de raad van bestuur van deze belangrijke economische motor van de stad-aan-zee. Na een initiële analyse bij mijn toetrede als bestuurslid, zijn we binnen mijn fractie, snel tot de conclusie gekomen dat de prioriteit van de organisatie tweeledig moeten zijn: herstructurering voorafgaand aan een doorlichting. Gezien ons voorstel niet onmiddellijk warm werd onthaald door de meerderheidspartijen, gebruikten we elke gelegenheid om dit aan te halen. Na lang verzet werd een doorlichting toegestaan en gevolgd door de herstructurering in 2015 tot een Extern Verzelfstandigd Agentschap (EVA).

Toegegeven, een perfect systeem bestaat niet, maar de herstructurering en de nieuwe rechtsvorm EVA heeft ons de mogelijkheid gegeven om de volgende zaken te realiseren en/of bij te sturen:

• Een verantwoordelijk en autonoom bestuur,

• Meer samenwerking met de economische sector en meer bepaald ondernemers, werkgeversorganisaties Voka en Unizo, Sociale Economie Oostende, Horeca Middenkust, Jong Economische Kamer, Syntra West, handelaarsbonden en dergelijke meer,

• Meer transparantie in beleidsmatige besluitvorming werd gegarandeerd door de diverse bestuursorganen (raad van bestuur en algemene vergadering) binnen de vzw waarin zowel de private als publieke sector vertegenwoordigd zijn,

• Een snellere besluitvorming als een verzelfstandigde entiteit zorgde ervoor dat er tijdig kan ingespeeld worden op markttendensen en –opportuniteiten,

• Activiteiten in een professioneel, commerciële omgeving,

• Meer mogelijkheden tot strategische alliantievorming met andere actoren

Langs de gemeenteraad, hielden we soms harde tussenkomsten over het Economisch Huis maar het principe van op de bal en niet op de man spelen werd steeds toegepast. Het was voor ons nog steeds een hoopvol verhaal. Mijn waardering voor CEO Gunther Vanpraet en zijn team. Met veel goesting werkte Gunther voor een ondernemende stad. Ik wens zijn opvolger als CEO, Thomas Dupon én mijn opvolger als bestuurslid, Belinda Torres Leclercq, veel succes toe in de blijvende uitdaging om de werkloosheid in Oostende te doen dalen.