'Fortune Favours The Brave': 6th Lagos Economic Summit (EHINGBETI 2012)
Apr 23, 2012 - Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is indeed a great pleasure to see so many of you here once again, for the 6th edition of the he Lagos Economic Summit - Ehingbeti 2012.
The Summit itself has a rich history and it is of even greater pleasure to note that it has been hosted continuously since the beginning of the millennium in the year 2000, and is now firmly established as a credible forum for the stimulation of economic growth in Lagos State.
From its early life as a diagnostic Summit; its evolution into an implementing one; the number of resolutions it has committed to and the impressive number that it has implemented – 109 implemented out of 119 resolutions at the last count; Ehingbeti has survived from Government to Government and provides an excellent example of consistency in government policy.
Some have argued that our ambitions are too lofty, and wondered whether Ehingbeti can be trusted to deliver on its stated goals.
My response to this is simple and it is succinctly captured by a quote by Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States of America. And I quote:
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out … where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly... "
The men and women who have nurtured this dream from its inception, the Lagos Economic Summit Group (LESG) ably led first by Mr. Yemi Cardoso and now by Mr. Ben Akabueze, both financial and economic gurus of no mean repute, and the members of the Organising Committees from Summit to Summit, are the ones who deserve the credit and to whom we owe our gratitude, for their demonstrable commitment to the cause of Lagos economic growth and sustainable development.
We have been driven by our imagination, and the desire to transform Lagos into what we firmly believe is infinitely possible – Africa's model mega city.
We imagine what Lagos will be when all our efforts begin to yield fruit and that vision keeps us going.
One of the vehicles through which we have kept this dream alive is the reason we are all gathered here today.
The first three editions of Ehingbeti were, as stated earlier, deliberately diagnostic. We took the view that the challenges needed to be properly identified and articulated so that short, medium and long term solutions could be found for them. And this was what we sought to do using experts and consultants in various fields.
By the 4th Summit in 2008, which was the first one under my watch as Governor, we had a blueprint and it was time to start implementing.
But first we needed to hear from people who had faced similar challenges and who could share their experiences about how they dealt with them, because there was no need to reinvent the wheel.
So the thrust of the 4th Summit was somewhat different, and the speakers were this time former governors, ministers, mayors and leaders etc. who shared their experiences with us.
Because of the importance we attached to the Summit and its resolutions, we changed it from an annual Summit to a biennial Summit in order to give some time for Government to respond to commitments that she made.
So we had the 5th Summit in 2010 and we now gather for the 6th Summit in 2012.
This year's Summit has again modified its outlook. Riding on the back of our gains from previous editions, the 6th Summit will focus on four key sectors of the economy from which we have developed a theme called PATH.
PATH is an acronym for Power, Agriculture, Transportation and Housing and we strongly believe that investing our resources and time more aggressively in these key areas will be the quickest drivers for post-recession economic recovery and poverty eradication.
From BRICS to BRINCS: Lagos Holds the Key. An ambitious theme? Maybe. Is it Achievable? Definitely.
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
Yes, there are challenges. But as I have often argued, those challenges inherently possess in them the opportunities for our prosperity.
Instead of being defined by our challenges or complaining about them, we dream daily and work tirelessly about how to overcome them and therefore make a clear choice to be defined by our character and resourcefulness.
It is no longer debatable that the growth poles for the world are to be found mainly in the emerging markets of Asia and Africa.
Nigeria is an important part of this projection, having been identified as one of the "Next Eleven" – eleven countries described as having a high potential of becoming, along with the BRIC countries, the world's largest economies in the 21st century.
Lagos is home to about 2,000 industrial complexes, 10,000 commercial ventures and 22 industrial estates. It contributes 30% to the nation's GDP (2006 statistics) and is the leading contributor to the non-oil sector GDP (2011 statistics).
Lagos accounts for over 60% of Nigeria's industrial and commercial activities; 70% of national maritime cargo freight, over 80% of international aviation traffic and over 50% of Nigeria's energy consumption.
This scale of economic activity, matched by no other State in Nigeria, undoubtedly lends more than enough credence to our assertion that Lagos indeed holds the key.
This is why our focus on PATH is so relevant at this time because we believe it is the path that will lead us to BRINCS.
The Government of Lagos State is responsible for over 18 million Nigerians and we take that responsibility very seriously.
Those over 18 million Nigerians whose numbers are increasing daily different have aspirations. Some are just looking to survive, some are looking for work and a better life, and some already have work and seek, expectedly, to improve on what they have and make life even better for themselves.
We are conscious of the fact that the best way to stimulate development is to create a conducive environment for businesses to thrive.
We therefore see our role as that of an enabler, the provider of a favourable and enabling atmosphere for businesses to expand and grow so that the hopes and aspirations of those over 18 million Nigerians will be met.
Our imagination pushes us to focus more critically on the daily challenge of nourishing our most critical asset - the over 18 million people who make up the population of Lagos State.
Our imagination propels us to evolve some unconventional but sustainable solutions to those critical PATH areas.
And, as I stated earlier, it is our imagination that drives us to the frontiers of new discoveries that will catalyse change.
This is the heart of the matter in this Summit.
For instance, we believe that regular and stable electricity power supply will enable us to unleash the possibilities of this economy beyond the imaginations of even our most ardent critics.
Think of the small businesses that generate their own power and just imagine how much more they will prosper if their down time becomes up time or productive time because we have been able to provide stable power.
Imagine a Lagos that is much safer than today because every inch of it is lit up at night from regular power supply.
Think of the number of businesses that close once it is nightfall or do not open at all at night and imagine what it would mean if they all opened for business.
Imagine the inherent opportunities that our ability to industrially produce milk, bread and eggs in Lagos daily; produce and package vegetables and transport them within and beyond Lagos and its environs instead of importing them.
Think of the new sense of self-worth and commitment to the State and the nation that will emerge from a population that is well fed and well nourished. Think of the improved productivity of the workforce.
Imagine the effect of a steady supply of raw materials to our brewers and bottlers, if we were able to provide and maintain a sustainable source.
Let your imagination come with me and visualize an inter-modal transportation system that integrates roads, rail and water successfully.
Remember the lifestyle changes that were reported when we flagged off the BRT system in 2008 with only 120 buses, and then imagine how much better our lives will be when the Lagos Light Rail, the Blue Line, with its larger carrying capacity, kicks off and starts operations.
I remember the woman who told me at the Ikorodu Jetty, how our deployment of only 6 ferries at the time that carried only 20 passengers each by a private operator, Metro Ferries, from Ikorodu to Elegbata daily, allows her 2 more hours sleep every day and has reduced her daily travel time and her high blood pressure which had almost become chronic.
Imagine what will happen when another private operator with whom we are now advancing negotiations ultimately deploys 60 ferries with the capacity to carry 200 passengers each across no less than 10 ferry routes in Lagos State.
Imagine what would happen when our Lagos housing project, Lagos HOMS finally kicks off and is able to guarantee at the start of each month, that 100 tax-paying citizens in this State will own their own homes as long as they are able to make the 30% deposit of the value of the house they choose and make their monthly payments over a period of not less than 10 years towards ultimately owning that home.
Imagine the sense of dignity, the commitment to work and productivity that such a new lifestyle will engender in our society.
Imagine a Lagos where tax payments give people a chance to own their own homes; where the fear of the landlord is no longer the beginning of wisdom because taxes provide the funds with which the homes are built, and hard work guarantees the income from which the taxes are paid, making the construction of over 2000 homes currently going on in 10 different housing schemes across Lagos, a reality.
Imagine a Lagos therefore; where power is efficient, agriculture prospers and food is available at reasonable prices, and no part of Lagos is difficult to access because we now have an intra-city rail, a reliable ferry transport system and a growing BRT network.
See what is already happening on the Badagry corridor, Lekki corridor, Yaba, Surulere, Alimosho to mention a few because Government is living up to one of its basic responsibility to provide critical transport infrastructure by building new roads.
Imagine a new 24 hour economy, driven by stable power, providing a safe and secure State, creating new businesses, crystallizing established ones, producing and packaging food and transporting it cheaply, reliably and efficiently, supplying cement, gravel, sand; and the inevitable exchanges of lifestyle goods - refrigerators, electrical appliances, furniture and so much more that are physical manifestations of a buoyant economy.
Now imagine how you can help to make this happen by investing in PATH.
Our PATH to greatness compels us to follow our imagination through the provision of power, the development of agriculture, the provision of reliable transportation systems and affordable housing.
Your PATH to prosperity should compel you to follow your imagination and invest in these areas.
I am convinced that steady power is possible as we have demonstrated with our 3 Independent Power Projects at Ikorodu, Akute and Lagos Island. And as we are currently pursuing at the Secretariat in Alausa, in Lekki, in GRA and in Ikorodu, Matori and Imota Industrial Schemes.
You will hear more about this at the session on power but our imagination suggests to us that in addition to the Federal Government's power sector reform, through which it proposes to attract private capital to the power sector, there is more that can be done, and we are doing it in Lagos.
I imagine that in addition to offering 11 existing distribution companies for private participation, the process will become much more attractive if the Federal Government considers the licensing and operation of Greenfield distribution companies for investors to compete with the existing ones in vital catchment areas like Lagos, where the demand is enormous.
I make this suggestion in the light of our experience from the telecommunications sector, where Greenfield licenses were sold to compete with NITEL, and the success that they have recorded.
I imagine that agriculture will become much more commercial and productive if the Federal Government sets up Commodities Boards, builds storage facilities and guarantees purchase at disclosed prices for certain types of crops and produce.
I imagine that a rigorous capital expenditure commitment to the construction of interstate highways and rail networks across the length and breadth of Nigeria; whether through expenditure contracts or well planned PPP's backed by sovereign guarantees which will release the energies of the Nigerian economy and its potential for growth.
This year's Summit is intended to mobilize and sustain the continuous inflow of investment to Lagos, to help us achieve our PATH to economic greatness.
We need more operators to run the close to 30 ferry routes, we need investors in our waste to wealth initiatives, in medium to long-term power supply, in water supply and infrastructure; investors in food supply and agro-allied services, investment in the provision of over 1 million houses and in our inter-modal transport system.
Let me assert that while investments from foreign jurisdictions will be helpful, it is the investment made locally by Nigerians that will be most critical.
It is the local investors and entrepreneurs that will constitute the critical mass for the type of productive and rewarding economy that we desire.
Our Government is doing everything that we can to make the business climate better day after day; in order to sharpen our competitive edge.
We are pursuing innovation and increasing our investment in automation to improve service delivery time.
Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies in Lagos State are currently undergoing a major reform that will lead to the adoption and announcement of a service charter to be made public soon.
We are also concluding arrangements for the payment solution that will enable all members of the public access our Geographic Information System from their homes in order to transact business with us; and the pilot scheme for the Lagos Residents Registration exercise has been concluded and is now being reviewed before the full scale registration of all residents commences.
While we commit to vigorously implement PATH, our focus on other sectors including water supply, remains unwavering.
Some major policy changes regarding the water and waste water sector clearly indicate the seriousness of our plans and I urge you not to miss the presentation on water supply.
The possibilities are endless. We have seen them and we invite you to come along with us. We invite you to take advantage of the dynamic Lagos market opportunities in those critical PATH economic areas – power, agriculture, transportation and housing, to address the infrastructure gaps for our collective benefit.
Ladies and Gentlemen, permit me to end with some short stories that illustrate how favourable fortune can be to those who dare.
There was a family that had done business with Nigeria from their home country for almost 50 years. When the Civil War started, they had a consignment of goods that was stuck in Nigeria. It could not reach the consignee and the family was at risk of losing a huge amount of money.
What was to be done? With great trepidation, the father, head of the family business, took the decision to send his son to Nigeria in the middle of the war to secure the goods and recover their money.
The son came, recovered the money but instead of returning home, he stayed here in Nigeria and has never gone back. Today, two generations of that family have been born in Nigeria and the family still runs a thriving business.
Several years later, when Nigeria decided to liberalise the telecommunications sector in 2001, while some people dithered, some telecoms operators took the plunge against all odds. Let me repeat that for emphasis – against all odds.
Today, the subscriber and customer base has grown to about 80 million and Lagos accounts for a sizeable number of these subscribers.
When you quantify the average daily talk time, sms and data usage, you might ask how well those who say we live on less than one dollar a day truly know us.
About 3 years ago, one of the global brands who dithered and missed the train publicly acknowledged that their biggest business error was in not coming to Nigeria. Other telecommunications companies that were more cautious have made several attempts to cover lost ground.
Most recently, I met a young Nigerian in Lagos in his early thirties. Seven years ago, he took a night bus from the East of Nigeria to Lagos in the pursuit of a better future. He was armed with a dream, his talents and bravery. Seven years after he is building a second property in the choice real estate in this State.
These are just a few of numerous examples of what the Lagos economy can do to your businesses and your life.
Fortune favours the brave. Lagos presents tremendous investment opportunities and endless possibilities in power, agriculture, transportation and housing.
Come and walk our PATH. You will be glad you did.
I thank you for your attention.
Babatunde Raji Fashola SAN
Governor of Lagos State