Phillip Isakpa in Marrakech, Morocco
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, head of the government of Lagos State, Africa’s fastest growing city, today in Marrakech, Morocco, at the ongoing 2023 Africa Investment Forum, made a strong pitch to investors for a raft of big ticket projects for which he needs $1 billion to finance.
Appearing in the Forum’s ‘Market Days’, Sanwo-Olu said Lagos does not just want to be a big elephant in Africa but a big one that works, one that is liveable and predictable for investors. “We have a city that has the audacity to make it first [in Africa],” he said.
He told investors that what the government of Lagos has done to make this happen, is to remove all the red tapes, creating a one-shop stop for investors; adding that it has made the regulatory environment and judicial environment accommodative, ensuring that there is sanctity of contract and that even when there is a dispute it does not take forever to resolve legally.
Governor Sanwo-Olu outlined the big projects that the state was pursuing for which he called on the global investors gathered in Marrakech to take a positive interest in, noting that investment was needed in project areas like transport, including rail, of which he said one line carried 500,000 to 600, 000 persons daily, a guarantee that investors will have good returns on their investment; waterways, which the state was developing for the purpose of moving the large population of the state from one part to the other; an airport project that he said would decongest the federal government owned airport at Ikeja, also in Lagos State, and serve the regions, including the West African region.
He also said that the state was working on a Film City which will be the biggest in Africa and would cost $100 million, for which investors are required to help the state realise.
The governor said that the state was working to make Lagos a ‘small Africa’ where everyone comes to and that investment partners were needed to make this possible.
According to Sanwo-Olu, Lagos was doing things differently to attract funding and that one of the ways it was doing this was through PPP (public private partnership), adding that it was creating the environment to make this happen.
“We are looking at the assets that can be handed over to the private sector … those that are clogging the books,” the governor said, adding that these pockets of investable assets are being prepared to attract investors.
Other ways the state was looking at financing its big projects were long term bonds, including green bonds, Sanwo-Olu said. To be able to do this, and make them bankable, the governor said, was to ensure that the state has audited accounts and that it operates in a transparent way.
“We are trying to raise about $1 billion. We are working on a mix of projects, projects that can generate funds on their own when completed. But there are also projects that would be pursued that may not generate funds too,” Sanwo-Olu said.
He spoke about using the power of land title, certificates of occupancy (C of O) to free up dead assets to attract investors to them.
Lagos, the governor said, had always shown resilience in times of crisis, citing Covid-19 as one of those times. “We were able to respond adequately,” he said, adding that “one of the things we did was communicating effectively across all levels and with the people.”
Fielding journalists’ questions, including from Business a.m., after the session, Sanwo-Olu said he presented a bouquet of projects to investors and that the idea was to rub minds with them and understand what their own needs were.
“What are they actually looking for, because there are several things. I just want us to know in what areas, because I don’t want to waste people’s time and I don’t want people to also waste my time. But [in terms of projects] they are still infrastructural projects. There will be projects that will touch people’s lives and help change the current … either transportation or food logistics or the film industry or in roads and bridges,” the governor said.
Governor Sanwo-Olu said the general responses from investors were looking good. He simply said, when asked by Business a.m. how investors had received his pitch: “Looking good.”