Nigeria goes for special economic zones

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Nigeria has signed investment agreements with Afreximbank, Bank of Industry and the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) for the development of special economic zones.

And with the signing, President Muhammadu Buhari, who presided over the ceremony at the Council Chambers of the Aso Rock Villa, declared the investment company in the special economic zones will become operational.

“Today, we are here to witness the signing of investment agreements, following which the Nigeria SEZ Investment Company Limited will become fully operational,” he said.

The Federal Government set up NSEZCO Limited as a vehicle for participating in Public-Private Partnerships involving Federal and State governments and local and foreign private investors.

They are  to develop new Special Economic Zones all over the country, offering world class infrastructure and facilities at competitive costs.

The projects in the pilot phase include Enyimba Economic City, Funtua Cotton Cluster and Lekki Model Industrial Park.

The three DFIs are among the five to partner with NSEZCO and the Ministry of Finance Incorporated. NSEZCO intends to raise at least US$500million in equity over the first five years in order to execute its ambitious strategy of becoming a leading investor in special economic zones in the country.

The other investment partners are African Development Bank (AfDB) and Africa Finance Corporation (AFC).

Called Project MINE (Made in Nigeria for Exports) the development of special economic zones under the direct supervision of the President Muhammudu Buhari, is a Presidential special priority intervention aimed using the zones to attract substantial foreign and domestic investment for the development of world-class facilities dedicated to export-oriented manufacturing in a range of industries across Nigeria.

Project MINE seeks to position Nigeria as the pre-eminent manufacturing hub in sub-Saharan Africa and as a major exporter of made in Nigeria goods and services regionally and globally; as well as boosting manufacturing’s share of Gross Domestic Product to 20 per cent; generating $30bn in annual export earnings; and creating 1.5 million new jobs all by 2025.

The President said, the Federal Government was implementing a comprehensive plan.

The plan includes, “the invitation of experienced Special Economic Zone developers and operators to partner with us to upgrade the Federal Government owned Free Trade Zones in Calabar and Kano, to offer world class standards of infrastructure and facilities’’.

Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, whose ministry, Industry, Trade and Investment is implementing Project MINE, recalled President Buhari’s choice for special economic zones to hasten industrial development and the mandate to the ministry to attract investors to participate in the project.

“This is the reason we are here today. The investors have all agreed to partner with us,” he confirmed.

He said the initial projects such as the Enyimba Economic City are underway, while feasibility study is going on in eight states.

The signing of the agreement was done by Professor Benedict Oramah, President of Afreximbank; My Kayode Pitan, Managing Director of Bank of Industry and Mr. Uche Orji, Managing Director of NSIA.

Mr. Femi Edun, a director of NSEZCO and Dr Bakari Wadinga, Director, Ministry of Finance Incorporated, signed on behalf of the company.

Speaking separately, they all thanked the Federal Government for the opportunity to participate in the project and said they are happy to be partners because they believe in it and are confident of its success.

Project MINE seeks to achieve structural transformation of the Nigerian economy by increasing the manufacturing sector’s contribution to GDP to 20% by 2025.

It would contribute to sustainable inclusive growth by creating 1.5 million new direct manufacturing jobs in the initial phase of Project MINE and also increase and diversify foreign exchange earnings to at least US$30 billion annually by 2025, by increasing manufacturing sector exports;

It would create local models of global best practice in provision of world class infrastructure at competitive costs connecting SEZs to international and regional markets with transport links, uninterrupted power, ICT, water, sewage and other services to ensure smooth and efficient operation of SEZ businesses.

MINE would promote the “cluster” effect to be gained by locating similar export-oriented manufacturing businesses within the same locality and   attract world class investors with strong positions in global supply chains and investors with potential to increase the scale of operations rapidly to set up operations in SEZs.