How To Unleash Africa's Entrepreneurial Opportunities, By Fashola At International Business Forum
• Says role of government is to provide environment for every entrepreneur to function optimally
Aug 30, 2012 - Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), has urged African leaders to provide the necessary drive that would unleash the entrepreneurial opportunities inherent in the Continent saying such drive must include the enabling environment for every entrepreneur to function optimally.
Governor Fashola, who spoke in Singapore during a Panel discussion at a two-day Africa-Singapore Business Forum with the theme, "Promoting Trade and Investment between Africa and Singapore", said the opportunities that lie in Africa such as large population, big underserved markets, high returns on investment and so on could only be unlocked through the provision of necessary environment for entrepreneurs.
The Governor told the large gathering of business. political leaders and entrepreneurs, "For us in Africa, the opportunities that lie here, large population, big markets, an underserved market, high return on investment and others, have been so admirably explained. But what will it take to unlock these potentials?"
"Our role in government is to ensure that the environment, the regulatory environment, the legal environment, the security environment provide the opportunity for every entrepreneur to find a place like home in a market that is better than home away from home", the Governor said.
Governor Fashola noted that his administration has been engaged in doing this in Lagos State through legislation, building infrastructure, building roads, building jetties for water transportation, building railway tracks, building hospitals and schools. He added, however, that the massive investment in infrastructural renewal was preceded by an equally intense investment towards achieving a culture change.
"What I thought most important was first to build the infrastructure of the mind and building infrastructure of the mind comes with very massive investment in Education. Promoting an environment where law and order is supreme and everybody is equal before the law, strengthening Justice Administration and fighting corruption".
"And some of the things that our administration has done in the last four years and a little over that is that culture change, that value change, that aspiration for a better Nigeria; because that is what will elicit the opportunities that lie inherent in those challenges", the Governor explained.
According to Governor Fashola, "If you don't bring that aspiration out in the way that the Singaporeans have turned their challenges into opportunities, then there will be trouble. You may build the best schools, you may build the best roads, hospitals and other infrastructure, but if you don't build that infrastructure of the peoples' mind, then, the inspirational quality for a better life would not happen".
The Governor said the State Government has been doing this through the promotion of arbitration, supporting businesses, reforming land administration and pushing out lots of lifr-style changing legislation, such as the newly signed Lagos Traffic Law, to change how people behave in traffic.
"We focus less on fines and penalties and more on corrective and non-custodian sentences and community services so that you won't pay cash for your misdemeanor in traffic; we will make you pay in time and we will name and shame you and we expect that you will not do it again", the Governor said.
He explained that in adopting this method, deterrence and voluntary compliance will help to achieve a secure, safer and healthier commuting environment. "We think that there will be much more prosperity if time on the whole is better managed. It will bring more money into peoples' pockets; it will bring longer life, it will translate to better health, it will translate to more productive economy than time spent in unmoving traffic and burning of fuel and so on", the Governor explained.
Noting that investment opportunities lay in challenges underscored in some parts and events in Lagos shown on slides at the occasion, Governor Fashola explained that the first slide, which showed the picture of the environment in parts of the State years back, was "a story of rapid urbanization where squalor and wealth lived together" adding that it showed the opportunities for housing and for real estate development.
"The second slide (a commercial motorcyclist carrying three passengers) is typical of the demand for very fast transportation. Now, that kind of transportation is, by no means, cheap. Indeed it is most expensive transportation, a transport per kilometre in Lagos and many parts of Africa" the Governor further explained adding, "It speaks clearly to the very compelling need for very reliable urban mass transit – rail transit- which we are already constructing".
The third slide, according to the Governor, "is highly descriptive of the volume of trade, cargo and global trade, that is going on in and around Africa and the world", adding that it speaks to the need for more efficient ports and container terminals and the spinoff businesses and jobs they can create.
Governor Fashola said the main concern of the Forum should be "how to collectively take advantage of the opportunities that is in the Planet, interacting from region to region and from continent to continent" adding that this would help in unleashing the investment opportunities in the continents, especially Africa.
He called on Asian investors to seize the windows of investment opportunities opening in Africa to renew the traditional relationship it has with the Continent assuring them that infrastructure, which he described as the key to unlock the opportunities existent in Africa, would be made available while cultural and other differences would pose no problems at all.
Insisting that what has happened in Lagos State in the last four years should not be attributed to him as an individual, Governor Fashola declared, "I could not have done anything in the place without the people of Lagos; because it was they who have resolved to change the things that they did not accept. For me, it has been a privilege to be a leader of that change".
Other Panelists who spoke at the Forum's Panel discussion included Senior Minister of Industrial Development and Private Sector Promotion, Republic of Congo, Mr. Rodolphe Adada, Director, Investment , Temasek International, Neo Gim Huay, Managing Director (Africa) Olam International Limited, Mr. Ranveer S. Chauhan, Managing Director Special Projects, Hyflux Limited, Mr. Kum Mun Lock and Managing Director, Surbana International Consultants Pie Limited, Mr. Louis Tay.
Earlier in his African Keynote Address at the opening ceremony of the Forum, Founder of the Guarantee Trust Bank and Chairman Main One Cable Company Limited, Mr. Fola Adeola, said the Forum was focused on exploring ways in which the partnership between Africa and Singapore could be further developed and harnessed.
The Speaker said "the stories of government and business across African are today, to an unprecedented degree, stories of growth, of metamorphosis and of hope", adding that the global perception of Africa has reversed significantly in the last few decades.
"Words like warlord, tribal, darkness are being replaced with democracy, urbanization and emergent", Mr. Adeola said pointing out that these words portray Africa as an investment destination which could only lead to positive development for the Continent.
Noting that Eritrea remains today the only country in Africa that does not conduct democratic elections, Adeola, however, declared, "While democratic election in and of itself does not necessarily translate to investor benefits, it is a strong signal of increasing political stability. African countries are now better able to deliver significantly more stable legal and secure environment than ever before".