The recent investment visit of the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, with some members of the state Executive Council to China could be the starting point of efforts by the administration to meeting the numerous expectations of Lagosians who have been looking forward to the emergence of the Greater Lagos agenda promised by the government.
As Nigeria’s economic capital largely tagged the nation’s Centre of Excellence, Lagos has for years remained the toast of most upwardly looking Nigerians who see it as a home of opportunities where their aspirations of quality life, jobs, infrastructure, and security can be met.
For those who dare, such expectations have always turned out to be true while for others without ambition, the dream ends up as a nightmare.
Today the new Lagos administration appears set to assist resilient and hardworking residents attain their dreams going by recent efforts to stimulate the various sectors of the economy through partnerships with the private sector and multilateral agencies within and outside the country.
With years of neglect arising from declining revenues and surging rural -urban migration, much of the Lagos infrastructure appear largely degraded due to severe pressure from rising urban population leaving it to gradually acquire the status of a jungle where nothing appears to work.
This began to happen when factories, companies and business premises that provided the jobs for most residents suddenly started going out of business due to the nation’s harsh operating environment, traffic gridlock, mountains of refuse dumps, poor power supply and other infrastructural inadequacies were beginning to turn the nation’s centre of excellence into one of the world’s worst places to live in.
But in line with the new administration’s promises to restore the Lagos pride, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, recently reached out to investors, financial institutions, multilateral agencies, institutions and government agencies in Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Beijing for collaboration towards achieving his Greater Lagos Agenda.
The investment drive was part of the government’s strategic move to rekindle global confidence in the capacity of Lagos State to realise its potential as one of Africa’s leading economies, and indeed its most populous city.
Since coming on board as the Lagos state governor, the citizens have been looking up to Mr Sanwo-Olu to deliver on his election promise of T.H.E.M.E.S, representing Traffic Management & Transportation, Health & Environment, Education & Technology. They have been looking forward to the government to create the 21 Century Lagos Economy, where Entertainment & Tourism as well as Security & Governance, would become the springboard for driving and measuring the Greater Lagos Agenda of this administration.
While in China, the Governor demonstrated his audacity drive his vision with several high level meetings with the Chinese authorities. It is indeed a new dawn for Lagos as the government has hit the ground running towards building a Greater Lagos that the residents would be proud of through collaboration and partnership.
To build a functional city supports business growth, the Governor is reaching out to more developed economies and societies for models and support to build a 21century Lagos that would meet the people’s expectation.
Building strategic alliances
For instance, during the China business visit, Mr Sanwo-Olu, reached out to his counterpart, Mr. Ma Xingrui, Governor of China’s Guangzhou Province, where they both signed a Twin City Agreement between Lagos and Guangzhou Province.
The agreement was so critical to the Lagos delegation considering that what Lagos is to Nigeria, is also what Guangzhou is to China. This strong affinity and the excellent infrastructure in the Chinese city have further emboldened the Sanwo-Olu administration to press forward with its economic and industrial regeneration as it seeks to replicate what the government of the province has done for its 44.2 million people.
Guangzhou is the biggest city in China, and has remained an important port in southern China for centuries, and so Sanwo-Olu’s choice of the city for a twin-city partnership is the result of his appreciation of its Beta+ Global Global City ranking, and more perhaps because the intensity of Mr. Ma Xingrui’s strides, judging by its estimated 22 million population.
From all indications, the partnership agreement between Lagos and Guangzhou stands as a deliberate step by Governor Sanwo-Olu, who is already stretching out his hands beyond the Atlantic in his bid to understand how most cities are able to attract the best companies, the top talents, and the most investment funds.
All together the investment trip has revealed that the right mix of business activities, human capital, information exchange, political engagement, and positive experiences that help organisations and people to thrive can indeed make one city more attractive than the other.
The Lagos Smart-City Agenda
From the Guangzhou Traffic Management Centre, the Lagos government delegation realised that managing the entire vehicular traffic and handling emergency services are just a click of the buttons. The orderliness on the roads of Guangzhou, a city with a major terminus on the silk road, perfectly matches the picture of Sanwo-Olu’s ideal Lagos.
The tour, after a demonstration of responsiveness to distress calls by emergency agencies, triggered an action that will make Lagos smarter. With about 7million people in 5 million vehicles and 200 commercial buses on Lagos roads daily, the Governor is convinced that things can be handled differently to bring orderliness to Africa’s most populous city.
On his discussions with technology giants on how to transform Lagos into a smart city, the governor said he held very fruitful discussions with Huawei and Ehang, as well as other reputable urban development organisations including Zhuhai Holding Investment Group, on the socio-economic importance of Lagos to the world, and Africa in particular.
“We are at the stage of building critical infrastructure that will make our city more habitable. We want technology to drive economic innovation, public security, health management, waste management, traffic management, government processes and services to the public” Governor Sanwo-Olu, said while reassuring the companies about the state’s readiness to take its rightful place in the comity of megacities in the world by rapidly transforming into a smart city.
In all these discussions Governor Sanwo-Olu signalled to the potential partners that “We do not have the big cheques to sign for this total transformation now, but it is a journey we know will take us into the future we really should be as Africa’s most populous city and 7th largest economy. The vitality of our 22 million people and political stability are valid collateral that should provide comfort in the collaboration we are seeking”, holds tangible hope.
Already, Huawei, with impressive footprint in smart-city development in South Africa, Dubai and across Asia, said through the head of its Nigeria office, Eric Zhang, during a tour of its Campus in Shenzhen, with the company’s Global VP, Enterprise Business Group, Mr. Laurent Fan, Vice President, Government & Public Utility, David Zhang and, Global Public Safety Expert, Peter Goulding, that “Huawei is excited that Lagos State is planning digitisation of its assets, processes, operations and public service facilities”.
“I am familiar with Lagos State and I know that the State needs this transformation and is capable of embarking on it. As someone who is very familiar with Nigeria and Lagos State especially, our company Huawei is ready to work with Lagos on the transformation journey. I know that transforming Lagos into Smart-city is an exercise that will happen in phases, but the most important requirement is government commitment, which you have demonstrated”, he added.
Similarly, the Ehang, the China-based world’s leading autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) technology platform company’s delegation led by Ms. Shiny Biu, the company’s Director, Strategic Cooperation said “the company is open to partnering with the State and is open to discussing the appropriate models that will fittingly serve the goals of the two parties”.
With Ehang, the Governor thinks that “like other megacities in the world, Lagos State is still faced with some challenges that will require very innovative solution. For Instance, emergency situations will require urgent and speedy response, just as when there are security challenges because safety of lives and property are very important to our government”.
This may mean that the Governor is considering collaboration in urban air mobility including passenger transportation and logistics, smart city management and aerial solutions, because Ehang is the forerunner of cutting-edge AAV technologies and commercial solutions in the global Urban Air Mobility industry.
Trade, Investment & Industry
To keep Lagos ahead and sustain its status as a foremost economy in Africa, the state would need to leverage its influence to attract quality investments, global businesses and large-scale enterprises. With its GDP of $136billion and nominal per capita income of about $5,000, indications are that the potential of the state are yet to be fully exploited.
The governor’s knock on Chinese investors’ doors to domesticate their businesses in Lagos is a further demonstration of his commitment to see the state emerges as an industrial hub capable of competing with China in the years ahead.