Africa – Nurturing an explosion of new sustainable businesses

Amy Jadesimi: Africa - New Sustainable Businesses

Sustainable Economic Zones, such as LADOL (Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Base), are the solutions to unlock the full potential of Africa. In this fascinating and exclusive interview, Dr Amy Jadesimi, CEO of LADOL in Nigeria delivers insights into the major opportunities that are given to Africa, especially Nigeria, thanks to LADOL’s daily business. Amy emphasises the key requirements that are necessarily to develop a sustainable infrastructure in West Africa and shows how the world can benefit from Africa’s sustainable economic growth.

Dr Amy Jadesimi (MBA from Stanford University, MA (OXON) and BMBCh from Oxford University) is the CEO of LADOL, a $500 million Industrial Free Zone. Amy was a Commissioner for Business & Sustainable Development Commission. Amy got financial training at Goldman Sachs & Stanford Graduate School of Business & medical training at Oxford University.

Her accolades include being voted as the Young CEO of the Year (2018) by the African Leadership Forum, an Archbishop Tutu Fellow, working to reduce maternal mortality, Young Global Leader (WEF), Rising Talent (Women’s Forum for Economy and Society), 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa (Forbes), Top 25 Africans to Watch (Financial Times), named as one of the 2018 Most Influential People of African Descent (Under 40) Worldwide, in support of the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent (UN IDPAD), named as one of 50 Influential Women in Business by The Africa Report, Jeune Afrique and the Africa CEO Forum and she is a member Advisory Board of Prince’s Trust International and contributor to Forbes.

LADOL – a vital pathfinder for Nigeria’s sustainable economic growth

Amy, first of all could you tell us more about LADOL? What are the goals of this outstanding organisation?

LADOL is the largest private indigenous special economic zone in Nigeria and a strategic facility, where unique infrastructure is being built and operated with a ten times multiplier on job creation.

LADOL now aims to create 50,000 direct and indirect jobs across a range of industries, from technology and agriculture to education, light and heavy manufacturing.

The Zone has been built on a secure island, inside the Port of Lagos out of a disused swamp, allowing the developers to create a new sustainable industrial village. LADOL has already proven its value to the Nigerian and global economies, by using its sustainable strategy to halve the cost of offshore oil and gas production. By doing this sustainably, LADOL has ensured that the resource curse will be reversed with more local jobs being created through deep offshore exploration. LADOL also ensured that the largest shipyard in Africa for fabrication and integration was built in West Africa. This is helping to make the most populous region in Africa an ideal hub for African industrialisation, where the largest projects in the world can be conceived and constructed.

What are the major opportunities given to Nigeria thanks to LADOL’s daily business?

LADOL is built as an ecosystem to support a range of local and international companies that want to operate sustainably, to engineer and manufacture products for a wide range of industries in a safe haven. For decades companies have struggled trying to find a way to unlock the potential in Africa. Sustainable Economic Zones, such as LADOL, are the solution. The lure of the large African population has never been bigger or in more urgent need of transformation into an engine growth for global peace and prosperity. Nigeria, being the largest market in Africa and the most underserved is the easiest market in which companies can develop and deploy new products and solutions. Although Nigeria is a poor country, its spending power is massive and local solutions can easily outcompete the expensive, inadequate imported products that the country currently relies on.

In phase 1 of the development the founders focused on the petroleum sector, as that is the largest industry in West Africa. The arrival the EGINA FPSO (the largest in the world) to LADOL Free Zone in January 2018 showed that the most challenging industrial projects in the world can be supported in Africa. Leveraging the infrastructure built through this Phase LADOL has created 3,000 jobs and attracted over USD 10 billion of new investment into Nigeria.

Phase 2 will be launched in 2019, focusing on supporting companies in non-petroleum sectors and completing the role out of its sustainable masterplan. This includes opening an Upskilling Academy, supported by a new LADOL Foundation. The Academy will partner with a range of local and international institutions, NGOs and educational companies to provide a wide range of courses and classes. Graduates will also have access to career advice and support.

Due to the diversity of the operations being targeted by the Zone some of the graduates will be employed in the Zone. Overtime the aim is to attract Africans from across the continent and support them as they work in many African countries and regions.

Let’s look into Nigeria’s near future

In your opinion, what is needed to develop a sustainable infrastructure in West Africa?

The Business and Sustainable Development Commission’s report, Better Business Better World proved that achieving the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) opens up USD 12 trillion of market opportunities in just four economic systems (Source: Urbanisation, Healthcare, Energy and Agriculture) representing 60% of the global economy. The USD 12 trillion will come from business savings and revenues and turn the largest markets in the world, particularly countries in Africa into powerful drivers of global prosperity. The total economic prize from implementing the Global Goals could be 2-3 times bigger, assuming that the benefits are captured across the whole economy and accompanied by much higher labour and resource productivity. That’s a fair assumption. Consider that achieving the single goal of gender equality could contribute up to USD 28 trillion to global GDP by 2025, according to one estimate.

Countries like Nigeria are the most attractive for the role out of these new economy business models. For example, in the area of urbanisation Nigeria is an ideal place to roll out new mobility solutions with a massive and massively underserved market of 180 million people currently reliant on expensive inefficient solutions. Nigeria also has a proven track record of rapidly taking up new local solutions – such as mobile telephones. Nigeria skipped landlines altogether, mobile phones were introduced in 2001 and now have over 75% penetration, wireline penetration is 1%.

The market case for Nigeria and for sustainable business models have been made – but investment is still not coming. The missing ingredient is local developers and investors such as LADOL. The local private sector needs to take the lead, spurred on by the unmatched market opportunities and their local resilience – these companies will lead Africa’s transformation and create loci into which international investors and business partners can flow.

How can Africa create new opportunities for job creation within the next ten years?

Africa needs to focus on creating jobs on a daily basis through support for the indigenous private sector. The governments of African countries need to move away from rent seeking, monopolistic business models which we can no longer afford and focus on the wealth that will be created from free and fair markets tilted towards and not away from local companies. International companies and governments will have to do the same, stepping away from decades of deliberately corrosive policies and multinational practices through which they have greatly benefited from local rent seekers and monopolists. The later business models are highly reductive and the problems they cause now clearly impact Western wealthy nations as much as they do more African ones. A joint focus on value addition and market growth, guided by the UNs SDGs is needed immediately. Not just to arrest the environmental and social problems sweeping the globe but also to reduce inequality and create more wealth than the world has ever seen.

Countries such as Nigeria are blessed with enough local resources and a large enough market that with enabling regulatory policies the local private sector can lead the way, leveraging local finance. LADOL is one of the largest examples of this business model in practice. Lessons can be learned from LADOL’s history, with almost two decades of strife and struggle and its recent success enabled primarily by the outlawing of monopolistic practices in Nigeria. However, the continent needs hundreds of thousands LADOL’s and part of the company’s mission is to encourage this development however it can.

The growth of the AU into a strong continental alliance with free movement of goods and people, greatly spur African growth as well – provided the AU looks inward for solutions and products.

Nigeria’s notable advantages for our globalized world

How can the world benefit from Nigeria’s sustainable economic growth?

The Nigerian market is supporting the development of hub facilities that can support whole regions, such as LADOL. Neighbouring countries will immediately benefit from cost savings and local innovations that will flow out of Nigeria. Nigerian companies already have a track record of pan-African investment, both in terms of finance and people. As Nigeria industrialises, this will naturally increase, building local companies in a range of African markets – particularly if the AU becomes and force to be reckoned with. The UN’s 17 SDGs are the optimal choice for all businesses but the indigenous Nigerian private sector has an unmatched opportunity to lead the world in proving that sustainability equals higher profitability.

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