THE SUN SHINES BRIGHT
Lagos holds numerous attractions to investors, writes Adekemi Akinmosa
In offices, on the streets, in the shops and even in homes, the buzz in Lagos has always commanded commerce. It is not a joke that the growing city state has been likened to cities like London and New York, making it the investment Mecca of Nigeria. With over 20 million Nigerians and foreigners doing business in the state, Lagos continues to grow with each successive administration making it more friendly to business.
But like an Oliver Twist, the state government recognizes the need to attract more investment. Hence, while attending the 77th United Nations General Assembly in New York, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu sounded the investment call again at the sidelines. The meeting with would-be investors was organised by the Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU) at Park Lane Hotel.
From oil and gas, tourism and hospitality, healthcare, manufacturing and other services, Lagos holds an attraction for businesses. And as the state continues to attract a growing number of people, it is in order that the state government continuously looks into how to generate more sources of revenue.
Despite the blows COVID-19 dealt on the global economy, Lagos thrived, with Sanwo-Olu stating that the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased by $5bn to about $145.141bn, while its budget doubled to about N1.7tr. Also, the governor told the investors that Lagos already gets 80% of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) which comes to Nigeria.
Highlighting the areas which investors can invest in the state, Sanwo-Olu drew focus to his administration’s agenda, THEMES, an acronym for: Traffic Management and Transportation, Health and Environment, Education and Technology, Making Lagos a 21st Century Economy, Entertainment and Tourism, as well as Security and Governance.
Hinting on the strides in transportation, the governor shared how a light rail metro system, Red Line, running from Agbado to CMS which is the main business district in the state, would begin to run by the last quarter of 2022. This would be followed by the Blue which runs from Okokomaiko to CMS which begins operations in the first quarter of 2023. The light rail is projected to ferry about half a million passengers daily. And when the other three lines are eventually laid, there would be greater ease of movement across Lagos.
Sanwo-Olu cited the administration’s steps in improving water transportation. According to him, from seven ferries, the state’s fleet has risen to 21, besides many others run by private operators. Investors can double the fleet, Sanwo-Olu said. Also, in its bid to achieve an integrated transportation system, many of the 15 jetties being built by the state administration are ready for commissioning. Add the soon to be built Fourth Mainland Bridge, it is no gain saying that Lagos is ready for investors.
On the issue of housing, there is definitely a need for investors to come into the market as the attraction holds for both other Nigerians and foreigners would surely translate to housing needs. And speaking on healthcare, Sanwo-Olu harped on the government’s plan to build an Infectious Diseases Research Centre to tackle health challenges, such as COVID-19, which caught the world, including Lagos, unawares.
But when it came to entertainment, it must have been easier to sell Lagos as the state has not only retained its position as Nigeria’s hotspot for entertainment but also attracted and exported music talents making the country proud on the global stage. Think Wiz Kid, Burna Boy, Davido and other acts too numerous to mention. It must be noted that the recently held Headies Award which held in Atlanta was an annual event on the Lagos entertainment scene. There is still room for more entertainment activities in Lagos through as Sanwo-Olu hinted, the proposed siting of a Film Village in the coastal state.
And while Lagos is constrained as the smallest state, it is focused on maximizing the use of every square inch. Continuing from the previous administrations, the state is opening up the Epe axis which shares boundary with Ogun State. On this stretch lies the Lekki Free Trade Zone as well as the Dangote Petrochemical Refinery which is set to revamp the country’s ailing petrochemical sector. It is worth noting that the reconstruction of the major expressway on that axis is nearly completed as revealed by the Special Adviser to Sanwo-Olu on Works and Infrastructure, Mrs Aramide Adeyoye, recently.
“Phase I of the Lekki-Epe Expressway, which is from Eleko Junction to Epe, is almost 95 per cent completed,” she said.
“We will soon start full work on Phase II of the project, which is from Eleko Junction to Abraham Adesanya.”
Regarding education, Sanwo-Olu intimated his audience on how over 1000 school projects aligned with technology have been completed.
“We are seeing the results. We used to have about 36% pass in School Certificate Examinations; now we have about 80%,” Sanwo-Olu said.
“We are opening brand new schools and introducing technology by giving teachers tablets to aid their job.”
To corroborate the state’s technological drive and make internet connectivity more affordable and reliable, Sanwo-Olu revealed how 6,000 km fibre optic cable would be laid across Lagos and how the first phase of 3,000 km was almost completed. The ricocheting effect of this is better imagined as the internet impacts all aspects of modern life today.
On security of lives and property, Lagos evidently comes number one in Nigeria. And this fact would not be lost on the foreign investors. As it is, Lagos is the only state where both locals and foreigners feel safe to conduct their business without fear. And the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Abiodun Alabi, also disclosed this in August.
“Lagos has been one of the most relatively peaceful states in the country,” said Alabi, who became the Lagos State Police Commissioner in January 2022
“I am in a position to say this because I have the statistics. On a daily basis, all the Commissioners of Police throughout the states are expected to render situation report of the crime situation in their various commands to Force Headquarters and their zonal Commanders.”
While generally, the social and economic realities appear bleak for Nigeria and Nigerians, in Lagos, it’s a different song as Lagos’ star defies the national gloom and keeps shining. It is not for nothing economic watchers from the website, www.statista.com, named Lagos as Africa’s start-up capital, beating cities like Nairobi, Cape Town and Johannesburg in 2021 to attract startups. In fact, if Lagos were a country, it would clearly be Africa’s ninth biggest economy, according to World Bank data.
Sanwo-Olu must be commended for playing the salesman just as previous administrations before him had done. But it must be reiterated that the opportunities in Lagos would not continuously wait for any investors. By the hour and by the day, investors keep arriving at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, lodging at the swanky hotels which dot the mainland and Island, meeting and negotiating high profile business opportunities. The Centre of Excellence welcomes investors.
Akinmosa writes from Lagos