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SME Guide

The Overlooked Diamond: Why Cross River State Presents Prime Business and Investment Potential

Cross River State remains an overlooked diamond when it comes to business and investment potential in Nigeria. As one of Nigeria’s most naturally endowed states, blessed with vibrant tourism sites, lush agricultural lands, and a strategic trade location yet to be fully utilised, Cross River possesses immense untapped economic possibilities.

With a visionary governor focused on radically transforming the state into an enviable business destination, the time is now ripe for investors worldwide to take advantage of Cross River’s unique opportunities across multiple high-growth sectors, from technology to agriculture, before others catch on. This in-depth guide showcases the compelling reasons why forward-thinking enterprises should seriously consider Cross River for their expansion and development plans in Nigeria and West Africa at large.

Strategic Location Presents Strong Logistical Advantages

Gateways to East, West, and Central Africa

Situated in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region, which shares borders with Cameroon to the east and Benue State to the north, Cross River State serves as a strategic gateway perfectly positioned to access markets across East, West, and Central Africa. With the Calabar port ideally located to link sea trade between Gulf of Guinea countries and inland trade to landlocked nations like Chad and Niger, businesses that leverage Cross River’s location are well-poised to reap dividends from Africa’s ongoing economic integration and growth.

Recently upgraded transportation infrastructure

Critical transportation infrastructure upgrades have vastly improved Cross River’s connectivity and access. The Calabar-Itu highway linking Akwa Ibom State, which was recently expanded to six lanes, now offers enhanced road transport and port access. Upgrades were also completed for the Calabar-Ikom-Ogoja highway, enabling efficient transport to northern trade zones. The Calabar airport rehabilitation, with a long runway suitable for wide-bodied aircraft, expands options for air cargo and logistics companies.

Abundant natural resources power industries.

Vast agricultural lands deliver high yields.

Cross River possesses incredibly fertile lands that present massive opportunities for agribusiness and agro-processing ventures. The state has over 6 million hectares of arable land with rich soil nourished by the Cross River water basin, which enables exceptional crop yields. Current farming focuses on products like cassava, cocoa, rice, plantains, bananas, and palm oil, which offer strong prospects for scaled cultivation, harvest processing, and exporting. Investors can lease lands or partner with farming cooperatives to rapidly develop commercially viable agriculture projects.

Rich Forestry Reserves for the Wood Products Industry

The state contains Nigeria’s largest remaining rainforest reserves, leading to a vibrant timber industry. Over 55% of the land in Cross River is forested, and these lush tropical woodlands are harvested for high-value timber, fuelwood charcoal, and forest-based chemicals. The governor’s aggressive reforestation initiatives ensure sustainable practices. Consequently, businesses can leverage the environmentally friendly lumber reserves for large-scale forestry projects—leasing, concessions, and public-private partnerships present options for greenfield investments.

Mineral Deposits Driving Industrialization

Significant deposits of minerals have spawned mining operations and supporting industries across Cross River. Limestone, granite, clay, and salt deposits are currently quarried or mined at industrial levels. And prospects remain positive for mining additional identified reserves of leading minerals like iron ore, uranium, manganese, and quartz. Startups and small enterprises supporting mining operations through equipment leasing and sales, transport, and mineral processing present fertile ground for new ventures.

Booming Tourism Sector Awaits Upscale Investments

Nigeria’s Leading Nature Tourism Destination

Cross River has rightfully earned the moniker of Nigeria’s “Paradise State” thanks to breathtaking nature tourism sites drawing over 1 million visitors annually pre-pandemic. As home to over 50% of Nigeria’s remaining rainforest, the state contains dozens of captivating attractions that enthral eco-tourists, adventure lovers, and culture mavens. The signature Afi Mountain canopy walkway allows trekking through pristine jungle 100 feet high across five swinging bridges. And remote communal villages give authentic glimpses into indigenous traditions.

Government Incentives to Support Hospitality Investments

The state government aims to attract billions in hospitality investments to upgrade infrastructure and services catering to high-end tourism. Generous incentives exist for investors developing 4- and 5-star hotels and resorts and premium tour operations supporting medical and wellness tourism, conventions, ecotourism, and more. Public lands have been allocated for concessions along prized beachfront and nature reserves for ambitious projects like theme parks. Hospitality professionals laud the untapped opportunities, stunning sites, and government facilitation as key motivators to invest in Cross River tourism.

High-potential festivals and events to sponsor

The state’s vibrant calendar of festivals and cultural events presents attractive sponsorships for companies targeting young mass-market consumers. The world-famous Carnival Calabar each December has brands like Guinness, Sprite, and Glo jostling as top sponsors of the televised festival, drawing over 1 million revellers. But plenty of other cultural events around Christmas, Easter, and Eid, featuring local delicacies, music, dance, and lore, now seek sponsors to expand their exposure and attractions. Hence, companies have extensive options to generate publicity and goodwill through signature sponsorships.

Emerging Technology Ecosystem Channels Talent

Expanding Internet Access Driving the digital economy

Though still developing, Cross River possesses the fastest-growing internet penetration rates in Nigeria, with 32% of households now connected. This has sparked a thriving community of youth-led startups concentrated in Calabar, leveraging the state’s high literacy rates and university graduates to launch innovative digital services. They create in-demand solutions for agriculture, tourism, retail, and education distributed through the web or mobile to digitally savvy customers locally and beyond. With Google sponsoring new WiFi hotspots and start-up incubators emerging, the technology ecosystem displays vitality that stands to benefit digital ventures.

A pool of university talent awaits opportunities.

Federal universities in Calabar—the University of Calabar and Cross River State University—graduate over 10,000 students annually across technology, engineering, sciences, and professional tracks relevant to industry. However, few suitable local jobs exist in these high-demand fields, resulting in a surplus of eager, tech-fluent talent willing to launch or join startups given mentorship and seed funding. Hence, the environment proves highly conducive for companies seeking strong applicant pools to staff development centres or support functions in software engineering, digital services, R&D labs, or process automation around technology.

Government: Cultivating Innovation and Skills

The state actively promotes technology education and skills training to nurture digital transformation. New, well-equipped innovation centres with tech incubators are being launched by universities and government ICT agencies to provide facilities and mentoring to entrepreneurs commercialising tech solutions. And specialised institutes have been opened focused on developing skills for high-potential sectors like geospatial services, animation, data science, and coding to address gaps that discourage investors. Hence, technology ventures can tap exceptional local support to access skilled labour.

Strategic government backing to facilitate business success

Visionary Leadership Driving Progress

The dynamic state governor, Professor Ben Ayade, has implemented forward-thinking policies aimed at radically modernising Cross River’s economy since 2015. His aggressive agenda to attract investment, stimulate infrastructure development, and endorse public-private partnerships has already borne fruit. And the savvy, internationally educated governor understands how to collaborate with enterprises to enable mutual success. His second-term mission is to aggressively promote Cross River’s full economic potential to foreign and domestic investors.

Business-Friendly Reforms Enhancing Competitiveness

Cross River ranked #5 in Nigeria for Ease of Doing Business based on reforms facilitating company registration and operation, construction permits, land access, and dispute resolution. Business-friendly changes include streamlined regulatory approvals through dedicated commercial boards, tax relief incentives, and flexible land acquisition options. These enhancements encourage both local small business development and large corporate projects. Special technical assistance programmes help investors navigate regulatory issues and requirements in Cross River.

Tailored Incentives Available Per Sector

The Cross River State Investment Promotion Bureau (CRSIPB) actively courts investors with information and attractive sector-specific incentives. Hospitality projects secure long tax holidays, special import duty exemptions, and discounted land rates. Agribusinesses gain subsidised lending, export facilitation, and product research assistance, among other benefits. Technology ventures leverage incentives around funding, workspace provisions, and recruitment and training participation. The bureau promises to customise even more competitive packages for major investment projects across target industries.

Conclusion

With Nigeria projected as a top-three global economy by 2050 on track to surpass the U.S., Cross River State undoubtedly qualifies as fertile ground for business expansion and foreign investment in West Africa’s high-growth markets. By leveraging Cross River’s unique blend of strategic location, pro-business government, solid infrastructure, and talented workforce across agriculture, tourism, mining, and technology sectors, savvy enterprises can gain a first-mover advantage. As Governor Ben Ayade succinctly states, “Cross River stands ready as an often overlooked diamond, presenting capabilities beyond expectations for organisations seeking new opportunities in Africa to thrive.”

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