Lagos State's commercial success began decades ago and the wheels are already in motion in turning Lagos State into A SUPER WEST AFRICAN STATE. China promised $20billion dollars in investments to various African countries and it is common knowledge that China is becoming one of Africa's biggest trading partners. South Africa's Standard Bank hinted that investment from China into Africa is likely to hit $50 Billion dollars by 2015 up 70% from 2009. This interest and increased investment may have also influenced the Lagos State Govt's proposal to introduce the Chinese language into its school's educational curriculum as this in no doubt would improve the line of communication and business relationship between China and Lagos for many decades to come.
t is no news that the richest black man in the world made an audacious statement stressing that if you gave him 5 billion dollars to invest, he would invest it in Nigeria. He did not mention Lagos, Abuja or Kano, he simply said Nigeria.
However, if we were to guess where in Nigeria, without giving it much thought, some of us are likely to pick Lagos over other Nigerian States for such investment. Unless its location is overwhelmingly influenced by the size of land and real estate required or that the industry has to be near its source of raw materials i.e. Limestone, Tin or crude oil, its headquarters or management team are likely to be based in Lagos or Abuja with the former taking preference or precedence.
So why is this the case?
Lagos State's strategic location by the ocean with serviceable Sea Ports, International and Local Airports and the bad road networks in the country simply makes Lagos an obvious choice. It is more cost effective for the movement of goods and manpower particularly if the finished products are designed for the international market. The established infrastructure, existing labour market and vast skills made up of Nigerian citizens from different states who are resident in Lagos further supports this location as an obvious choice and the same criteria may apply or attract other investors or investment initiatives in Nigeria to Lagos State.
Its geographical size is so small with a population between 10 to 20 million it is possibly one of the best markets in West Africa and a strong contender amongst other world markets. Even if the products are only designed for the Nigerian market the population per sq kilometre simply means any such product has a very high success rate regardless the competition or what you are selling. Food, Clothing, Household goods, Cars, Transport companies or even water are all viable products in this market. It is an immutable law of marketing that sales is a numbers game and it is all about how many units you are selling and how fast are you disposing of the said units. Could the laws of demand and supply have been culled from this small but very large market?
This commercial phenomenon has been possible due to some of the factors mentioned above. Location, size of the market, skills, income and level of employment will always come into play in determining the success of a lot of business initiatives.
The big questions is, can Nigerians replicate this commercial phenomenon in other Nigerian States, this great attraction, this magnet and commercial interest that has drawn people from all over Nigeria and West Africa into Lagos State? The answer is YES it can be replicated in other Nigerian States.
Hence, the reason why State Govt's and their citizens in diaspora should consider this very strong fact.
The sustainability of any business depends on how robust and strong the market is. If 10 million non Owerri indigenes flood into Owerri town for 7 hours everyday for just one month, every shop keeper, eatery, hotel and other businesses alike would have no choice but to record an upward surge in sales turn over on a daily basis.
If other investors local or foreign become aware of this high influx of people and increased demand for goods and services in Owerri, those investor would also move in, noting that a strong market has began to emerge in Owerri, it makes sound business sense as it is simply common sense.
The above factors should be taken into account by State Govt's and investors as the Nigerian market is not just about Lagos and Abuja but also the other 35 States in Nigeria.
In the long term I am not sure if Chinese investment is good or whether it is in the best interest of the Nigerian economy but in the interim and as the most available example for this write up we must note that China needs Nigeria and Africa's resources to sustain its domestic economy as their projects in Africa provide a destination for excess Chinese labour.
China promised $20billion dollars in investments to various African countries and it is common knowledge that China is becoming one of Africa's biggest trading partners.
This interest and increased investment may have also influenced the Lagos State Govt's proposal to introduce the Chinese language into its school's educational curriculum as this in no doubt would improve the line of communication and business relationship between China and Lagos for many decades to come.
South Africa's Standard Bank hinted that investment from China into Africa is likely to hit $50 Billion dollars by 2015 up 70% from 2009, meanwhile it forecasts China- Africa bilateral trade to double in 4 years to 300 billion from 150 billion dollars.
There is a lot of dependency and poverty in Nigeria and other African countries, unemployment is high, crime and insecurity are rife health care is poor and the uneven distribution of wealth is widening but the Chinese are throwing a lot of money around at the moment.
So why aren't other Nigerian States aggressively competing or preparing themselves for this mammoth of investment? Through trade and direct investment China is broadening its resources supply base with Africa as one of its key trading partners.
If the Chinese language is successfully taught and spoken in Lagos State's Schools bearing in mind that in 2012 Chinese Africa investment concentrated mainly on Nigeria and 4 other African countries. Other Nigerian States may lag behind as Lagos State may have further gained an additional commercial advantage over other Nigerian States and African countries of Chinese interest.
Lagos State's commercial success began decades ago and the wheels are already in motion in turning Lagos State into A SUPER WEST AFRICAN STATE.
Let's look into the existing mindset of Lagos State's current administration.
During Governor Fashola's election campaign and in the early days of his administration, he aggressively tapped into the knowledge and skills of Nigerians at home and in diaspora. I was privileged to be affiliated to an informal think tank that regularly met at a restaurant in Bethnal Green in the East End of London.
I was asked for my ideas on a better Lagos and I pitched on strengthening consumer confidence to boost business in the State and Nigeria as a whole, stressing on the need for improved security by increasing salaries and training for law enforcement personnel.
This initiative was supported by an article that I wrote titled " Jeopardising the life of one Nigerian Police Officer means Jeopardising the lives of 500 Nigerians" as in my view, Nigeria was loosing more revenue to insecurity than we were netting. It is important to note that Governor Fashola was also instrumental in pushing for increased Police salaries a few years ago and some of us are aware of a recent documentary highlighting the unacceptable conditions in which Nigeria Police trainees were exposed to during training.
It was in this meeting that I met the Governor for the first time. He shook my hand and gave me a bear hug, he was in the company of Wole Soyinka and his aides.
The Governor came across as a very simply person, easy going, accessible and an extremely good listener. Through these meetings a lot of Nigerian professionals pitched progressive ideas of which the administration took on board and are evidently working with and building on today.
Federal and State Govt cannot single-handedly employ all or cure the ills of Nigeria but they can directly or indirectly encourage or influence local and foreign investment in regions and states by offering tax breaks and other hard to refuse incentives that would attract investors to a particular State or Region.
I agree that State Govt incentives to attract investors are in place but it may need to be continually followed up by more robust and aggressive campaigns to get the message across to any hard to reach target groups.
It may be the only option at the moment to reduce unemployment in any particular region or State. Federal Govt can set strict quotas for foreign investors in order to draw them into States that they may not have originally picked as their first or preferred choice.
Federal Govt has to decentralise the intense concentration of commerce and industry in the former and current capital cities of Nigeria as one may agree that other States have been dwarfed by Lagos and Abuja's competitive edge.
The Federal Govt took the lead in influencing aggressive development of these cities and the knock on effect from this unbalance has partly caused poverty and fuelled different shades of crime all over the country today. These are factors that can no longer be ignored as the remaining 35 States in Nigeria have to develop and develop now.
I am all too familiar with the repeated cry of South Eastern State Governors encouraging their indigenes to come home and invest. Many shy away or ignore this call due to the lack of infrastructure, insecurity or shortage of skilled labour caused by the overwhelming talent or brain drain and emigration of citizens from others States into Lagos and other western countries.
In my own opinion, one way to address or tackle these concerns are by taking that initial bold step to invest in one's home State. This move in the long term would help to reduce unemployment, improve infrastructure and starve out crime.
So don't go pointing your finger at Lagos State that it has used you and dumped you, rather replicate what you did in Lagos State in your own States as Lagos State has now become a Super West African State.
God Bless you all
God Bless Nigeria