Lagos Free Zone CEO Dinesh Rathi has called on the state and federal government to continue supporting the private sector in creating a port ecosystem that encourages the diversity of businesses around it, as this would help promote the economic prosperity not only for Nigeria, but for the entire West African region.
Rathi made the remarks while speaking during a themed session “Confirming Lagos as West Africa’s Leading Business and Commercial Hub” at the Ehingbeti Lagos Economic Summit 2023 held at Eko Hotels and Suites. He said that with Nigeria already signed to several trade and investment treaties, such as the Africa Growth Opportunities Act, Lagos has a real chance of becoming Africa’s manufacturing hub.
The CEO noted that support from the Lagos State government, particularly in the area of security, along with a combination of private sector-driven factors in infrastructure, energy, e-commerce and logistics space, have been primarily responsible for boost trade and commerce. in the state.
He stressed the need for the government to provide road infrastructure and develop barge facilities to help decongest existing and future ports.
“There is no reason why cargo that is ultimately consumed in Nigeria should be diverted to Lome, Cotonou. The potential of Nigeria’s ports and coastline is not being fully exploited. Today, Nigerian ports handle around 1.1 million containers as opposed to Egyptian or South African ports, which handle 5 million containers,” he said.
In her presentation during the panel session, the Secretary General of the African Shipowners Association, Ms. Funmilayo Folorunsho, who praised the stakeholders including the Lekki port developers in the port initiatives, noted that the government must intensify efforts to provide much-needed infrastructure that would improve port efficiency.
“What a cargo owner needs is to be able to take his cargo to the Port. We need to use the barges as a way to evacuate cargo. First of all, we need to transport the cargo. If it is by road or by barge, it is an investment opportunity because it generates a lot of employment. I see more opportunities than problems. Many shipments destined for Nigeria are being diverted to neighboring countries like Togo (Lomé) because our ports are not efficient,” Folorunsho said.
Noting that substantial potential needs to be tapped, especially with the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, Nigeria can become the maritime hub of the African region as long as the necessary port facilities are established.
In his remarks, Lotus Bank CEO Isiaka Lawal-Ajani identified the lack of the right skill set, uncertainty in the business environment, lack of access to finance and inadequate infrastructure, as well as foreign exchange, as some of the problems or challenges that MSMEs face. in Lagos. He therefore pointed out that the federal government has an important role in providing financial education to business owners to help them navigate the risks associated with running a business.
Also, the Lagos State Governor’s Special Adviser on Public Private Partnerships, Ope George, said the state government is doing a lot to remove obstacles that could hinder the opportunities available to MSME owners. George noted that the state government has developed initiatives to support entrepreneurship beyond instituting reforms to help businesses thrive.
“The Lagos State Government is doing much within its capacity to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive. To ensure we are investment-ready, we are documenting the details of all Lagosians. Beyond that, we have launched an institution like LSETF where entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs with great ideas can access loans for their businesses,” he said.