Speech: Lagos GDP is bigger than Ghana’s as a nation by Akinwunmi Adesina

Building the Wealth and Prosperity of Lagos for a Better Future’, Opening Plenary Session
Lagos Economic Summit (EHINGBETI) 2021,
Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Your Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria;
Honorable Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, Executive Governor of Lagos State;
Your Excellencies, Executive Governors, Honorable Ministers,
Honorable Commissioners and senior members of the Lagos State Government
The Youth and the Women of Lagos
Esteemed members of the media
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen

I wish to commend you, Governor Sanwo-Olu for your visionary leadership and selfless commitment to the people of Lagos State. You are young, dynamic and focused with an eye on the future – the future Lagos.

I will like to congratulate all the past governors of Lagos State, who have worked to make it what it is today. Just last week, we lost one of them, the late Chief Lateef Kayode Jakande, the dynamic, people-centered governor – the “action governor” of Lagos. May his soul rest in peace.

As a child growing up in Nigeria, some of my most fun memories was to have a chance to travel to Lagos. I loved the beans “ewa aganyin” sold by the incredible women – local chefs – and would do anything to travel more than 120 kilometers from Ibadan just to have a taste and go back.

Lagos is a melting pot of fun, always buzzing with such excitement, that I used to ask my Dad “when are we going to the Bar Beach in Lagos?”.

Everyone wants to be in Lagos, forget the noise, forget the traffic — so much so that the population of Lagos grew from 500,000 persons in 1959, just before Independence in 1960, to nearly 20 million inhabitants today.

The city is expanding at an astonishing rate of 77 persons every 60 minutes. By 2030, Lagos is projected to be one of the ten largest cities in the world, alongside Cairo and Kinshasa.

To understand the potential of Lagos, think of the size of the economy. The GDP of Lagos estimated at over $80 billion, is far larger than that of Ghana at $67 billion, and compares closely to Kenya’s GDP of $95.5 billion.

If you are looking for a place to invest in Africa: think Lagos! According to the United Nations, Lagos will become the third-largest consumer market in the world within the next decade, with its population projected to reach 36 million people.

The greater wealth of Lagos, in the future, will come from the youth of Lagos. Today, almost two-thirds of the population is under the age of 30. That means some 2/3 of my speech should be devoted to how to unlock this demographic youth advantage and turn it into wealth for Lagos!

The youth are not the problem of Lagos, the youth are the assets of Lagos. It is time to create youth-based wealth in Lagos.

The past must yield to the present, the old to the new. The dominant phrase should not be “the young shall grow”, it must be “the young have arrived”.

Not only must there be a generational shift, there must be a wealth shift by unlocking the potential of the youth. We must not see the youth as risks, we must see the youth as assets.

The young shoots are springing up. Today, Lagos has its own Silicon Valley. Yabacon Valley has emerged as one of the leading tech hubs in Africa with between 400 and 700 active start-ups worth over $2 billion, second only to Cape Town.

Andela, a global technology start-up based in Yabacon Valley, recently attracted $24 million in funding from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

The $200 million investment by Stripe (a Silicon Valley firm) in the local payments company Paystack, and $400 million into three Fintech companies in just one week in 2019 signals the huge potentials of Lagos to attract global digital commerce and financial services.

The African Development Bank is implementing a program to support Africa’s youth in computer coding for employment. Launched in 2018, the Bank’s “Youth in Africa Coding for Employment Program” has already equipped over 80,000 young people with ICT skills to enhance their employability in this digital era.

I applaud the government of Lagos for launching its “Digital Skills Initiative Lagos” to equip one million students with digital skills by 2023.

The youth do not need empowerment. Look around, often those who say they are empowering them are actually simply empowering themselves. The youth do not need handouts. The youth need investment.

That’s why the African Development Bank is developing the establishment of Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Banks. They will be financial institutions for young people, run by first-rate young bankers and financial experts, to drive youth-wealth creation in Africa.

The African Development Bank will put its capital at risk for the future of the youth of Africa, and that is a risk worth taking!

The wealth and prosperity of Lagos must be for all – a Lagos by all, a Lagos for all.

Progress is being made, as the poverty rate in Lagos has declined in the past one decade, from 40.3% in 2009 to 4.5% in 2019. That is a remarkable achievement. Congratulations!

Yet, more than 50% of the population of Lagos live in slums, without water, sewage, or electricity. While some advocate for slum upgrades, I do not believe in slum upgrades.

There are no five star slums!

Significant investments will be needed for decent and affordable housing for low-income people, in roads, electricity, water, sewage systems, and waste disposal, for local governments, especially those in poor areas.

A prosperous Lagos must also be a healthier Lagos; and a healthier Lagos will be a more productive Lagos.

The future Lagos must be knowledge-based. Two of the universities in the State, Lagos State University and the University of Lagos, rank 2nd and 3rd in University rankings in Nigeria. They also rank 10th and 14th among African Universities.

A lot more work is needed to deepen the tertiary education system, especially in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and connect them to well-funded secondary and primary schools, to build the human capital for growth and prosperity.

We must turn the universities in Lagos to world-class universities, and connect them better to industries, to provide the students with the knowledge and skills for the jobs of tomorrow.

The future Lagos must be one that is climate-smart, green and resilient. With global climate change, and rising sea-levels, the city faces significant risks of flooding and coastal erosion. Climate-proofing the development of Lagos must therefore be an urgent priority.

The landmark Eko Atlantic project, to save the sea shores of Lagos, and the rest of the state from the waves of the Atlantic, is one of the most innovative climate resilient urban infrastructure development that I have seen, anywhere.

There is a need to invest massively in greening the transport system, reducing pollution, and making the transport system more efficient.

The African Development Bank is looking into supporting the Lagos Metropolitan Transport Authority in its drive to introduce Compressed Natural Gas into the public transportation system.

And by using drones, CCTV cameras and satellites, Lagos should be turned into a smart city, to enhance security, which will further boost attractiveness for investors.

This is all the more important with the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area, the world’s largest free trade zone worth $3.3 trillion in combined GDP.

Lagos is well positioned.

Developing inter-connections with the Apapa Port (when you can get there!) with more efficient road and rail systems will enhance its linkage to countries along the Lagos-Abidjan corridor, a major part of the Trans-African Highway.

The African Development Bank will continue to support transformative projects that will benefit Lagos State and the Nigerian economy.

For example, the African Development Bank is financing the development of the Abidjan-Lagos Highway Corridor. This project, which is part of the Trans African Highway, will dramatically improve road connectivity between Lagos and other coastal cities in West Africa.

The African Development Bank will support the Lagos Sky-Train project, which will help to decongest the city and provide safe, reliable and affordable public transport services.

The African Development Bank is also supporting the Lagos State government to implement our first sub-national financing operation in the power sector. This will pilot the rollout of electricity cooperatives, as franchises, that will provide reliable electricity services to 60,000 households in unserved and under-served periurban and rural areas.

To make faster progress, the private sector must be mobilized to support the creation of the new Lagos – the Lagos we want. Public-private partnerships should be prioritized.

Fiscal incentives should be provided for the private sector to invest in infrastructure, housing and digital financial services for wider financial inclusion, especially for women.

After all, women run Lagos!

Resource mobilization will continue to be critical, especially leveraging the institutional investors such as the pension funds. Lagos itself should have its own sovereign wealth fund to finance its future.

Taxes have been the key for financing Lagos, the highest in Nigeria, estimated at N 400 billion in 2019.

But to whom much is given much is expected.

Taxes require a social contract between the government and the citizens. The taxes of the people belong to the people, not in pockets of individuals.

There must be accountability for the taxes collected from citizens, through transparent tax collection and administration.

Your Excellency, Mr. President, Your Excellency the Executive Governor of Lagos, distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

I see a greater Lagos.

A Lagos where dreams are made.

A Lagos where visions are turned into realities.

A Lagos where women thrive.

A Lagos where the youth shine.

A Lagos, thriving and prosperous, with wealth shared by all.

A Lagos, where like my experience growing up, we can pass on to the
future generations to come and see — with pride.

Lagos is a center of excellence.

Lagos — arise now and excel!

Thank you all very much.

Credit: Lagos Economic Summit (EHINGBETI) 2021- Keynote Speech by Dr Akinwumi A. Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group

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