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Government urged to provide infrastructure to aid port operations

Chief Executive Officer, Lagos Free Zone, Mr. Dinesh Rathi

Posted on October 31, 2022

The Chief Executive Officer of Lagos Free Zone, Dinesh Rathi, has called on the government at both state and federal levels to support the private sector in creating a port-based ecosystem that encourages the diversity of businesses around it as this would help advance the economic prosperity of not just Nigeria but the entire West-African region.

He stressed the need for government to provide road infrastructure and develop barging facilities to help decongest existing and upcoming ports.

Rathi, who made these remarks at the 2023 Ehingbeti Lagos Economic Summit, said: “There is no reason why cargo that is ultimately consumed in Nigeria should be diverted to Lome or Cotonou. The potential of Nigerian ports and coastline is not fully exploited. Today, Nigerian ports are handling about 1.1 million containers as against ports in Egypt or South Africa, which handle 5 million containers.”

He said with Nigeria already signed on to several trade & investment treaties, such as the Africa Growth Opportunity Act, Lagos stands a real chance of becoming the manufacturing hub of Africa.

The free zone boss noted that the support of the Lagos State Government, particularly in the area of security, together with a combination of factors driven by private sector in infrastructure, power, e-commerce & logistics space, have been primarily responsible for driving trade and commerce in the state.

He stressed the need for government to provide road infrastructure and develop barging facilities to help to decongest existing and upcoming ports.

The Secretary-General of the African Shipowners Association, Mrs Funmilayo Folorunsho, who commended stakeholders, including promoters of Lekki Port on the port initiatives, noted that government should intensify efforts in providing the much-needed infrastructure that would enhance the efficiency of the Port.

“What a cargo owner needs are to be able to take his cargo to the port. We need to utilise the barges as a way of evacuating cargoes. First of all, we need to transport the cargo. If it is by road or barge, it is an investment opportunity because it creates a lot of employment. I see more opportunities than problems. A lot of cargoes meant for Nigeria are being diverted to neighbouring countries like Togo (Lome) because our ports are not efficient”, Folorunsho said.

She noted that a substantial potential needs to be harnessed, especially with the African Free Continental Trade Agreement coming on stream, stating that Nigeria can become the maritime hub of the African region provided necessary port facilities are put in place.

Executive Director Lotus Bank, Isiaka Lawal-Ajani, identified the lack of a suitable skill set, uncertainty in the business environment, lack of access to financing and inadequate infrastructure as well as forex as some of the problems or challenges facing MSMEs in Lagos.

He, therefore, noted that the Federal Government has a significant role in providing financial education to business owners to assist in navigating the risks associated with running an enterprise.

Also, the Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Public Private Partnership, Ope George, stated that the state government is doing a lot to remove obstacles that could hinder opportunities available for MSMEs owners.

George noted that the state government has developed initiatives to support entrepreneurship beyond instituting reforms for businesses to thrive.

“The Lagos state government is doing a lot within its capacity to create enabling environment for businesses to thrive. To ensure that we get prepared for investment, we are documenting the details of all Lagosians. Beyond that, we have set up an institution such as LSETF where business owners or aspiring entrepreneurs with great ideas can access loans for their businesses,” he said.

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