Opinion: Lagos means business by Funke Cole

In a manner of speaking, the now famous tagline “Eko for Show” associated with Nigeria’s Centre of Excellence, Lagos State, is not a mere platitude after all, judging by the degree of monumental socio-economic development projects that dot the landscape.

A first-time visitor to Mile 2, Oshodi, Oyingbo, Abule-Egba, Agege, Iyana-Ipaja, Ipaja Ayobo, Epe, Badagry, and other uptown districts, not forgetting the urban parts of the Lagos metropolis and its environs such as Gbagada, Ilupeju, Apapa, Maryland, Ikeja, Ikoyi, Victoria Island, and Lekki, among others, would naturally marvel at the presence of commerce and industry in those places. Such a visitor will be awestruck by the fast-paced infrastructure situated in those neighbourhoods whether in the form of rails, network of roads, to the mass housing projects, tourist attractions, recreation centres, etc.

These important milestones achieved thus far, are all thanks to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who has made it clear that he is on a mission to actualise the ideals and ideas of a Greater Lagos as envisioned by successive leadership of the state, chief among who is the real Architect of the New Lagos himself, President Bola Tinubu, whose template has made the face-paced developmental strides achievable today.

Drawing inspiration from his predecessors, Sanwo-Olu’s commitment to see a Greater Lagos arise has propelled him to make significant strides along that line thus far and most of which are not just promising but already bearing good fruits.

Certainly one area the governor has recorded some giant strides in capital importation through foreign direct investment (FDI); which has made the state the envy of many other states playing little in the FDI space as the case may be.

Capital importation means foreign investments into a country’s economy and is made up of FDI, portfolio investment, and other investments.

One way the state has been able to achieve this all-important lofty heights is by deliberate and conscientious efforts by all concerned, of course, with the governor not just rising to the occasion for the most part but providing the leadership to drive these significant strides. As the chief marketer of the state , Sanwo-Olu has never left anyone in doubt about the immense potentials of the state.

Whether on the home-soil or in foreign lands, Sanwo-Olu has always raised his voice above the din as he preaches, cajoles, entices, woos everyone to the famous state rich in aquatic splendor, flora and fauna put together.

Late last year the governor was in the forefront when he embarked on a number of business networking meetings and programmes outside the shores of the country, all in his quest to bring in fresh investments into the state.

One of the events which readily come to mind is the Lord Mayor’s Show in London. The governor led other delegates to the United Kingdom to attract foreign investment into the state. During the show, Sanwo-Olu, along with other members of the Lagos International Financial Centre (LIFC) Council chaired by him, engaged in strategic one-on-one and bilateral meetings with key United Kingdom-based businesses, investors, government officials, and Nigerians in the diaspora, all with one message: “Lagos is open for business. Come and invest in Africa’s economic powerhouse”.

Babajide Sanwo-Olu
Babajide Sanwo-Olu

He said his administration had been proactive in collaborating to catalyse infrastructural development and was the first African city that participated in the show to attract foreign investors to Lagos State.

He said: “Lagos is not just going to London for the parade and pageantry; this visit has a more strategic purpose. This is a prime opportunity to showcase Lagos on a global platform. The newly inaugurated LIFC Council signifies not just an institutional milestone, but a commitment to a bold vision—positioning Lagos as the beacon of financial innovation in Africa.

“The Lord Mayor, Prof. Michael Mainelli’s invitation stands as a resounding endorsement of Lagos State’s commitment to excellence, as well as recognition of its increasing economic prominence. This invitation aligns harmoniously with the council’s mission to establish Lagos as a global financial hub, attracting investments that will fuel sustainable economic development.

“Investment isn’t merely a transaction; it’s a catalyst for job creation, driving sustainable development and fostering a symbiotic relationship between investors, the State, and the communities at large”, he said.

Just like last year, an elated governor couldn’t hide his excitement last Thursday, while addressing the audience at the 2024 US-Africa Business Summit in Dallas, where he emphasised the state government’s readiness for investment.

He said: “With a focus on infrastructure, we invite global investors to explore the vast opportunities in Lagos, Africa’s booming economic hub.

“From health to education and agriculture, Lagos offers a stable platform for growth. The Lekki Deep Sea Port and a 200-hectare food hub project are set to revolutionise commerce and food security in the region.

“With strategic investments in rail, health, and housing, we’re geared up to support global partners looking to make a home in Lagos and we showcased this at the event. The newly launched red rail line alone will serve nearly one million Lagosians daily.

“Our commitment to fostering a tech-savvy environment is evident. Over $3 billion has flowed into Lagos in recent years, nurturing a network of start-ups and unicorns valued at $5 billion.

“We promise a conducive business environment with predictable returns. Delegates at the summit are already aligning with us for fruitful partnerships. Be part of Lagos’s vibrant economic journey”.

Expectedly, the concerted efforts by the state government have continued to pay off ultimately. At a time the economic headwinds have continued to negatively impact on most businesses, with foreign capital inflow into Nigeria ebbing by 26.4 per cent to $3.9 billion in 2023, thus plunging to a 17-year low since 2007 when capital importation stood at $5.3 billion, Lagos state on the other hand has stood afloat.

The latest data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that foreign portfolio investment (FPI) in 2023 was $1.15 billion, indicating 29.5 percent of the $3.91 billion total capital importation recorded in the year.

Analysis of the NBS data showed that Lagos State topped the list of states, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) that attracted the most foreign investments in 2023 as the state raked in $2.50 billion, representing 64 percent of the total capital inflow into the country, while the FCT emerged as the second top investment destination with $1.17 billion or 30 percent of the total capital inflow.

The report also showed that Lagos remained the top investment destination with 65.38 per cent of total capital importation just as she remained the top destination in Q4, 2023 with $771.68 million, accounting for 65.38 percent of total capital importation, followed by Abuja (FCT) with $370.80 million (34.07 percent) and Rivers State with $6 million (0.55 percent).

For a governor, who doesn’t miss any chance at projecting the state, when Sanwo-Olu hosted the British royal couple, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, a few days back at Lagos House in Marina, he didn’t disappoint.

Prince Harry, accompanied by his wife, Meghan, both on a three-day visit to Nigeria to promote the Invictus Games, which he founded in 2014 and they had a stopover in Lagos as a wrap.

The Invictus Games are aimed at raising funds and supporting serving members of the military as well as veterans to overcome their physical and mental illness or injuries, which would help them to develop a sense of belonging and increased self-esteem.

Speaking to journalists after a closed door meeting with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Sanwo-Olu praised the royal couple for the work they are doing with Nigeria’s military men, especially on issues around mental health.

He said: “For Prince Harry, it has been a very interesting and informative trip to the country. He has seen a lot. And part of the things we are hoping he will take away is the diversity and extent of how big our country is, how we continue to ensure that we live together in peace and harmony, and what role Lagos plays in the whole conversation.”

Still doubting the place of Lagos in the scheme of things as far as business is concerned? Quit doubting: Lagos is business and business is Lagos!

Funke Cole, a public affairs commentator writes from Lagos

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