President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday pledged the federal government’s support for massive investments in Lagos State, the nation’s economic capital, to boost its economic potential as one of the world’s fastest growing megacities.
Buhari, in a video goodwill message to the Ehingbeti Lagos Economic Summit, said his administration recognised Lagos as central to the economic fortunes of Nigeria and had demonstrated commitment to supporting it to attain its full socio-economic potential.
The three-day event with the theme: “Greater Lagos: Setting the Tone for the Next Decade,” is facilitated by the organised private sector in partnership with by the state government.
Also at the event, the newly-elected Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala and the President, African Development Bank, (AfDB), Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, called for development in economic infrastructure, investment in youths, and enhanced private sector contribution for Lagos to achieve its vision of becoming a smart city.
The state Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, seized the occasion to unfold his agenda for fast-tracking the infrastructural development of the state.
The president, in his speech, listed ways his administration has supported Lagos State in both development and meeting the challenges of being a megacity.
He said: ”One of the significant ways in which our support has manifested to Lagos State is in the special federal funding that we approved in 2020 in acknowledgement of the state being an epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic.
”The challenges of Lagos must therefore be very clearly seen as part of the challenges of Nigeria, and the federal government will support Lagos to overcome its challenges and to thrive socially and economically.”
Buhari stated that the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF) is investing in the reconstruction of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway while the Apapa-Oshodi-Oworonshoki Expressway is a flagship project of the federal government’s Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme.
”It was also this administration which granted approval to the Lagos State Government to rebuild the International Airport Road, a major road that links the busiest airport in Sub-Saharan Africa to the continent’s fifth largest economy,” Buhari added.
Buhari listed other projects the federal government is executing in the state to include the completion of the standard gauge railway line that will link Lagos to Ibadan. The rail line is to be extended to connect Abuja and Kano in a bid to ease movements and ensure efficiency in Nigeria’s busiest transportation corridor.
”Just last month, this new rail line achieved a milestone extension into the port complex in Apapa, setting the stage for a long overdue decongestion in that area,” he added.
On the investment plan to revamp the National Theatre, the president told the participants that his government had approved the temporary transfer of the iconic federal asset on the Lagos landscape, to the Bankers’ Committee, which will invest in upgrading it and developing it into a world-class creative hub.
Buhari expressed confidence that enterprising young people in Lagos will be the biggest beneficiaries of the National Theatre’s renovation.
”Speaking of young people, we are aware of just how central they are to the Lagos economy, and to Nigeria as a whole.
”In the creative arts, culture and technology sectors, we are determined to continue to open up opportunities by which they can achieve their dreams and aspirations; as well as thrive in a safe, secure and increasingly prosperous country,” he said.
The president highlighted various other initiatives of the federal government being implemented in Lagos to include the National Social Investment Programme, the Energising Economies Programme and the Economic Sustainability Plan.
Commending the Lagos State Government for its partnership and collaboration with the federal government on human development programmes, Buhari stressed the importance of understanding between national and subnational governments.
He lauded the state government for working to create a Lagos that can keep up with its growing population in terms of housing, education, healthcare, security and jobs, and a state that is innovative and productive.
On her part, Okonjo-Iweala urged Lagos State to create an enabling environment to attract investments into its pharmaceutical manufacturing as well as other sectors, considering the opportunities in the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
According to her, Africa still imports 90 per cent of its pharmaceutical needs, and investment in manufacturing of pharmaceuticals will be a major boost to the economy.
She said: “We have a population of 1.3 billion people, which is equivalent to China or India. And with AfCTA, it means that Lagos should take advantage of such a big market to make Nigeria not just a consumer centre, but a big manufacturing centre that sells goods to other countries.
“Also, services industry is something to focus on in terms of job creation as well as emphasis on investing in healthcare. We have to ask ourselves the big question of how we can industrialise Africa and Lagos.”
Responding to question from Sanwo-Olu on what Lagos should do to become more prosperous, Okonjo-Iweala said: “One of the most important things a successful Africa should look at is the demographics of Africa.
“When you have 60 per cent of your population at 30 years and younger, then you have to worry about job creation. A successful Africa is Africa that is able to create jobs for its citizens. That is the biggest issue Africa has to face and also this applies to Lagos State too.”
She stressed the need for the creation of modern jobs for the people, adding that there is a great opportunity to do that.
“What is difficult for the continent and Nigeria and Lagos State is the fact that we are still mainly a raw material-based economy.
“I know Lagos is our manufacturing hub, but if you look at the whole of Africa, we are still mainly exporting primary products, whether it is fossil fuels or its minerals or agriculture.
“So we have to get to a position of where we are exporting raw materials to one where are adding more value and processing,” she explained.
She urged the state government to invest in broadband infrastructure, citing it as a necessity to an increasing youth demographic.
Okonjo-Iweala said apart from construction of roads, Lagos should invest in technology such as broadband for every household, embrace artificial Intelligence and digital economy, ensure steady and sustainable supply of electricity and renewable energy/green to remain competitive in the next decade.
She added that the state should harness the youths by providing employment and to also move away from importing raw materials to exporting primary raw products to value and processing, to industrialise Africa.
Adesina, in his speech at the summit, urged the state government to implement policies that will attract foreign direct investments (FDIs).
He said: “If you think of the potential of Lagos, think of the size of the economy. The GDP of Lagos, estimated at over $80 billion, is far larger than that of Ghana at $60 billion and compares closely to Kenya GDP at $95 billion. If you are looking for a place to invest in Africa, think Lagos. “
Citing a report by the United Nations, he said Lagos would become the third largest consumer market in the world over the next decade with its population projected to reach 36 million people.
“The greater wealth of Lagos in the future would come from the youth and today almost 2/3 of the population is under the age of 30 and that means the focus should be on how to unlock the potential of this demographic and turn it into wealth for Lagos,” he added.
He said the AfDB was developing a youth-focused bank to support entrepreneurs in the continent.
“AfDB is developing the establishment of youth entrepreneurship development investment banks to support. They would be financial institutions for young people, run by first rate young bankers and financial experts to drive youth wealth creation in Africa.
“The AfDB would put its wealth at risk for the future of the youth of Africa and I can tell you it is a risk worth taking,” he stated.
According to him, the state should also invest in education by turning tertiary institutions to world class.
Adesina stated that the poverty level in Lagos has reduced from 30.3 per cent in 2009 to 4.5 per cent in 2019.
Sanwo-Olu, in his address, said the race to digitise every community in Lagos had begun with the ongoing laying of 6,000-kilometre fibre optic infrastructure across the city.
He added that the smart city agenda of the state government would materialise by 2030 when the entire landscape of Lagos would have been covered by a network of several thousands of kilometres of fibre optic carrying broadband internet into all homes, offices and schools.
The move, the governor said, was to leverage technology to revolutionise business culture in Lagos by energising Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) that form the backbone of the state economy.
He said: “I invite every well-meaning Nigerian to join me to look ahead at the next decade, and the possibilities that lie ahead for Lagos. What will Lagos State look like by 2030? There will be a citywide network of colour-coded metro lines, the first two of which – red and blue lines – will move over 34.5 million people monthly, cutting travel time by over 250 per cent. In 2030, Lagos will proudly stand beside every other megacity in the world, in terms of its capacity to transport its people efficiently and responsivesly.”
Sanwo-Olu said water transportation infrastructure being put in place would make waterway transport systems a central element of life in the metropolis.
According to him, the Fourth Mainland Bridge will come to define the cityscape of the 2020s in the same way the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge defined it a decade earlier.