…Governor woos investors at African business forum in Morocco
…Makes case for young people in FinTech, Creative sector
Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous state with the smallest landmass – has evolved from squalor to become one of the biggest economies in Africa. This progress is not without its attendant development challenges, which Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, at an international investment forum on Thursday, attributed to “self-inflicted troubles” resulting from the growth trajectory of the State over the past two decades.
The Governor said each time Lagos made progress in its development effort, more people would drift to the city from different parts of the country. The uncontrolled migration, he said, leads to the continuous expansion of the State’s population, which overstretches public facilities and services.
Sanwo-Olu, however, shared the approach being adopted by his administration to surmount the challenges facing Lagos and turn them into opportunities. The Governor spoke at the ongoing Africa Investment Forum (AIF) in Marrakech, Morocco, with the theme: “Leveraging Cities and Municipalities for National Development.”
The forum is a multi-stakeholder platform that advances infrastructure investment and raises capital for city projects. African business leaders, investors and heads of multilateral institutions, including the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, graced the event.
Sanwo-Olu participated in a discussion panel moderated by AfDB’s Senior Advisor on Communication and Stakeholder Engagement, Dr. Victor Oladokun. Other panellists are the Vice President of the Municipality of Marrakech, Morocco, Prof. Khadija Bouhrachi, and the Vice Governor of the Autonomous City of Abidjan, Hon. Yeo Klotioloma.
The Lagos helmsman explained how his administration had doubled the drive in public planning to harness the State’s population potential. He said his Government had been addressing the infrastructure deficit facing the State by committing short- and long-term investments in critical areas to bolster Lagos’ resilience and aid mass mobility.
Sanwo-Olu said the six-pillar THEMES economic agenda rolled out by his Government had changed the development trajectory of the State, resulting in the completion of the first sub-national intra-city rail infrastructure. He added that Lagos could now boast of an integrated mass transportation system, because of the priority accorded the Transportation and Traffic Management.
He said: “In the last five years, the progress we have seen in Lagos is reflected in the changing skyline of the State today. We have changed the development trajectory of Lagos; we have been able to complete an intra-city rail infrastructure. This has raised the State’s capability by ensuring our citizens move effectively in a more predictable time. We designed a six-pillar economic agenda that enables us to prioritise Transportation and Traffic Management and face the challenges head-on. We have been able to achieve a lot in this regard, with Lagos having an integrated mass transportation system, which uses waterways, rail and bus rapid system.
“We engaged our energetic young people to develop a unified payment system called Cowry Card to be used across our mass transportation means. This is making the city a lot more functional, liveable and resilient. Economic sustainability is a critical indicator to measure the progress of a city so that people can know that they are in a city where resources need to be used effectively. The strength of the city is economic development. Africa is the resource centre of the world due to the abundance of youth energy domiciled in the continent. I am delighted to see African cities coming together for peering and evaluation of development indices. We need to get the youth engaged and create opportunities to guarantee their future.”
As part of the move to decongest the metropolis and spread the State’s population, Sanwo-Olu said Lagos entered into a “sister city” relationship with neighbouring Ogun State to deliver infrastructure that would encourage physical development in the suburbs.
The Governor said the siting of the Lekki airport project in Epe, the Sea Port project in Badagry and the extension of Lagos rail infrastructure into the Badagry corridor and boundary communities of Ogun State were part of the moves to decongest population in Lagos metropolis.
Sanwo-Olu made a case for more investment in the African creative sector, noting that it is one area that could be leveraged to promote economic sustainability on the continent. He told the audience how Lagos would be changing the narrative of the creative economy in Nigeria when the Lagos Film City project being constructed in Epe is delivered.
“Technology is another area we need to explore and we have great unicorns in Lagos. But, we want to do more. We should commit more investment in financial technology being driven by young, vibrant people in Africa. We must develop a seamless digital payment system across Africa to facilitate business connections. We must be able to build an infrastructure that will be cheaper, faster and easier for young people to communicate,” he said
The Governor, while explaining how his administration had secured investor confidence in raising capital for key infrastructure being undertaken by the State, said Lagos had a robust mechanism of self-regulation and assessment in place, which, he said, had been promoting transparency and accountability in project financing.
The Lagos helmsman wooed investors at the forum, stressing that the State needed more investments in rail infrastructure, airport projects and waterways transportation, among other areas.
He said the Lagos Government had continuously reviewed its Ease of Doing Business framework to tap into private equities in advancing socio-economic development through Public Private Partnership (PPP). He added that the State’s commitment to servicing long-term financial instruments, such as Green Bond, and autonomy granted the judiciary to resolve issues arising from disputes, as well as regular audits of the State’s account had boosted investors’ confidence in Lagos.
Sanwo-Olu said: “Lagos does not just want to be an elephant; we want to be a giant that will be efficient and which people can rely on. We are building a city that is predictable, liveable, resilient and has all the trappings of a working mega city. It is our responsibility to make Lagos the best among equals. We have cleaned up our regulatory environment and opened our doors to assure investors that all the red tape has been removed. We have a one-stop shop in which investors can come in and navigate our business environment.
“Once the regulatory environment is clear and the instrument of dispute resolution is independent, what remains is for the investment to come. We welcome investment in new areas of transport infrastructure, on the rail lines we are building to commute millions daily. The numbers are real and it will speak to returns on investment. We also welcome investment on the waterways, where we have delivered a lot of backbone infrastructure.”