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By NBF News

Nigeria is building a multi-billion dollar free trade zone with Chinese investors on the edge of its commercial capital, Lagos, to try to develop a local manufacturing base and help reduce its import dependence, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

The $5bn first phase of the Lekki Free Zone, a 3,000-hectare site on the eastern fringe of the city, is 60 per cent held by Chinese investors and 40 per cent by the Lagos State Government, the deputy head of the project told Reuters in Lagos.

The consortium will provide basic infrastructure, including roads, power plants and water plants before manufacturing firms are invited to set up business, Lekki Free Zone Development Company Deputy Managing Director, Mr. Adeyemo Thompson said.

'We have a number of Chinese companies, which are coming in the manufacturing area,' Thompson, said in an interview.

'They are coming to produce furniture, electronics, pharmaceuticals and heavy machinery. We are having a fair in November, that is when we will kick off operations, he added.'

The Chinese shareholders in the project include the China Railway Construction Corporation, China-Africa Development Fund Limited and the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation Limited.

A total of 16,500 hectares of land bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and the Lagos and Lekki lagoons have been earmarked for the whole free zone, which will include a deepwater sea port and a new international airport in close proximity.

The aim of the free zone is to make it easier for foreign investors, particularly manufacturers, to build a foothold in sub-Saharan Africa's most populous nation and second-biggest economy, while still owning 100 per cent of their firms.