Lagos And The Path To Sustainable Economic Growth
The developmental document of the Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu Administration in Lagos State is the T.H.E.M.E.S. (acronyms for Traffic Management and Transportation, Health and Environment, Education and Technology, Making Lagos a 21ST Economy, Entertainment and Tourism and Governance and Security) Agenda.
As an article of trust, the document binds the government to the people. Its major component is employment generation and empowerment of residents for economic liberty. Indeed, a careful scrutiny of the administration’s T.H.E.M.E.S. Agenda will reveal that almost every aspect of it is geared towards employment generation, empowerment and eradication of poverty in the State.
As a government that is passionate about the people, the Sanwo-Olu Administration measures the success of its policies, projects and programmes on their capacity to generate further wealth among the people. Consequently, roads, bridges, markets etc are built based on the need to create opportunities for the people to create and recreate wealth.
The Sanwo-Olu administration has evolved a people-oriented policy of facilitating training for the young people to acquire skills as well as granting them access to credit to start their own businesses. This is in line with its vision to make Lagos a 21st Century Economy.
It goes without saying that a vibrant, buoyant, resilient and flourishing economy is the bedrock of a progressive society and the hallmark of success. It gives a boost to the quality of life, fostering commensurate returns on investments while promoting more opportunities for investments.
Essentially, the 21st century economy is reputable for innovativeness, creativity, opportunities, dynamism, and expertise, timeliness, urbanization and technology paving way for cross border, local and international transactions and investments in a seamless, rapid and transparent way.
The plan of the administration to make Lagos a 21st Century Economy is particularly crucial with regards to its economic status as the commercial and industrial hub of Nigeria and by extension West Africa. Lagos accounts for over 80% of Nigeria’s foreign trade flow and generates over 50% of Nigeria’s port revenues while it contributes 26.7% to the country’s GDP and accounts for 65% of its manufacturing activity. It is also the financial hub of the Nation, playing host to major banks’ headquarters and the Nigeria Stock Exchange.
In order to sustain Lagos’ standing as the nation’s commercial and financial hub, the Sanwo-Olu administration acknowledged easy access to government services, provision of stable electricity and citizenry empowerment as vital areas of improvement.
Over the years, a major concern of the private sector in our country has always been its inability to properly access public services, especially as it relates to enhancing the performance of business activities. Thus, in order to redress the situation, the Sanwo-Olu administration developed the Open Government Initiative, Innovation Master Plan and Lagos State Solution Hub. This is intended to advance synergy between the public and private sectors towards maximizing the State’s economic possibilities.
Similarly, the State Government has implemented policies, programme and projects that have impacted positively on industrial development. Towards this end, the $629 million financing facility aimed at completing the Lekki Deep Seaport project was signed by Mr. Governor with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC).
The informal sector is also being transformed. In today’s Lagos, it is difficult to ignore the informal sector as it has become a veritable source of prosperity and employment for many. The transporters, vulcanisers, mechanics, battery chargers, fashion designers, hair dressers, barbers, traders, painters, welders, carpenters, bricklayers, farmers etc have so much become an integral part of our daily life that the formal sector cannot do without them.
Hence, the current administration has put in place diverse supportive initiatives to empower operatives of the sector through regular trainings, easy access to funding and required tools as well as provision of other technical backings.
As a proof of its consistent support for the sector, the State was adjudged the ‘Best State Supporting Artisans’ in the Federation in December 2019 at a programme organized by Global Sight Services Limited in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, and the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises of Nigerian [SMEDAN].
Additionally, a promising atmosphere for viable industrial development was created, while policies were established to protect and stimulate Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). MSMEs development is being consciously driven through initiation and implementation of policies that create and foster a positive business environment, enhance technical and non-technical entrepreneurial skills and improve access to networks and financial services.
Till date, the current administration has made vital interventions in advancing the course of MSMEs in the State. Perhaps, the most audacious of such is done through the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, LSETF. The Fund provides loans for MSMEs at a 5% interest rate, spread over a period of five years. While marking his administration’s 100 days in office, Governor Sanwo-Olu launched the LSETF 'W' (Women) Initiative to help women realise their entrepreneurial visions through stress-free access to loans. Consequently, 794 female recipients were presented with various amount of loans to expand the scope of their businesses.
The scheme is a partnership between Access Bank and the LSETF and the loan can be accessed at any of the 57 LSETF locations across the State. The loans come with the cheapest interest rate in the country.
Up to five million naira can be obtained through the initiative which allows more women to come into the Financial Inclusion Net and improve their businesses. The funds can also be accessed by everyone that desires to do business in the State.
One other essential activity envisioned to fast-track the growth of the State’s economy is ongoing construction of the Imota Rice Mill, Ikorodu. It is gratifying to note that work is nearing completion on the integrated rice mill at Imota.
The mill is a 22-hectare facility with the rice mill taking about 8.5 hectares and consists of a complete set of new mills, two warehouses, 16 silos with a storage capacity of 40 metric tons each, water treatment plant, effluent processing plant, staff quarters, administrative block, car park and firefighting facility amongst others. When it becomes fully operational, the 32 metric-tonnes Mill will cater for 25% of our national rice needs residents while also creating thousands of jobs for residents.
The Sanwo-Olu administration is actually deploying agriculture as a vehicle not only to enhance food security in the State, but also to empower Lagosians for sustainable economic opportunities. Currently, 1,700 residents have been shortlisted to benefit from a World Bank assisted Agricultural programme (APPEAL) with each of the beneficiaries receiving the sum of N2 million.
Similarly, support has also been given to the production of about 335,000 loaves of bread worth N116, 000,000.00 under the Eko Coconut Bread Initiative. Equally, 97 youths, retirees and women on the Coconut value-chain have been empowered.N2.5million worth of improved coconut seedlings have also been distributed to 5,000 farmers across the State just as capacity building for 43 participants in various investment opportunities in fisheries value-chain was provided at the 15th annual executive weekend training on fish farming in August 2019.
The beauty of democracy is in the opportunities it creates for people to have access to sustainable wealth. In Lagos State, in the last one year, we have, no doubt, witnessed governance with strong passion for the empowerment of the people. And there is no other place to set the pace for others to follow than the ‘Centre of Excellence’.
Johnson wrote in from Ikeja, Lagos.