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Strategic Considerations for the Proposed International Hotel Project in Awka. A Response to Mark Okoye’s “Awka Rising: A World-Class Hotel Fuels Transformation” 

Article by freelance writer, Godson Achugbu

I have just read an article penned by Mark Okoye II, (click here to read it) the Managing Director/CEO at Anambra State Investment Promotion & Protection Agency, regarding the proposed government-funded, world-class 4-star, 10-storey international hotel in Awka, I find it imperative to comment on the project’s strategic location.

While I refrain from disputing the business case made for the hotel, it is important to observe that the cited JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group study, highlighting tax revenue of “$28,000 per room per annum” and the job creation metrics, were not expressly linked to the Awka hotel project.

Although I acknowledge the prevalent trend of governments in free markets divesting from commercial ventures and concentrating on social services, there still exists a legitimate space for government involvement in business, as exemplified by Governor Chukwuma Soludo’s hotel proposal. However, my primary concern revolves around the choice of Awka as the project’s location, the state capital, rather than Onitsha – the commercial capital of Anambra and the entire southeast region.

Without a doubt, a project of this magnitude and stature will resonate more and have greater commercial viability in Onitsha for various reasons.

Onitsha stands as the bustling commercial hub of the state and the southeast, boasting a population exceeding 8 million people and a formidable GDP of $18 billion, surpassing Awka by a significant margin.

Situated as a coastal city, Onitsha’s proximity to the River Niger positions the hotel to benefit from the emerging maritime blue economy, the imminent growth of the Onitsha Seaport, and anticipated river transportation systems connecting coastal towns like Ada, Lokoja to the north of the river, and Port Harcourt, and Yenagoa to the south. This may mean a steady influx of business and tourist guests in the future, a potential Awka lacks due to its landlocked position.

Furthermore, Onitsha is a close neighbour to Asaba – the capital city of Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta State, separated only by the river but connected by two 1.7km stretch of bridges. Asaba’s huge population of elite residents and visitors could potentially find the Onitsha hotel attractive, and thus spur more economic, commercial and political integration between the two sister states.

Onitsha’s proximity to emerging cities like Nnewi (the industrial juggernaut of the southeast) and Owerri – with an international cargo airport, exceeds that of Awka. Interestingly too, Onitsha is even closer to the Chinua Achebe International Airport at Umueri than Awka.

In line with global precedents, the division of roles between political and commercial capitals, such as Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa, Cairo and Alexandria in Egypt, Berlin and Frankfurt in Germany or Washington and New York in the United States – to mention a few, underscores the need for Awka to continue to evolve as a serene political capital of power and prestige. In contrast, Onitsha should continue to evolve as a thriving centre of commerce and industry. Care should be taken not to conflate the status and roles of the two cities,

Regrettably, Onitsha seems to have lost some of its esteem in recent years, but the proposed hospitality investment has the potential to rekindle private-sector-led initiatives, revitalize the city, boost its GDP, and significantly widen government tax revenues.

Therefore, it seems that the government would better realise its objectives by siting this hotel in Onitsha rather than Awka. As a modest recommendation, the Akpata Forest Reserve in the greater Onitsha metro area could serve as an ideal location for this transformative project.

In conclusion, Governor Soludo has the opportunity to align his gubernatorial actions with his visionary inaugural speech, wherein he stated, “As I close my eyes and visualize our future I can see skyscrapers along the banks of River Niger in Onitsha….” The 10-storey hotel project could serve as a cornerstone in realizing this vision and a smart way to kickstart the Anambra State “megacity” project in earnest.

Written by Godson Achugbu (a freelance writer and journalist) gachugbu@gmail.com

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