As one of the world’s mega cities and Africa’s leading development center, Lagos state is on its way to becoming a trillion Dollar economy in the next 30 years.
This was the summation of Ms Solape Hammond, the Special Adviser to Lagos State Governor on Sustainable Development Goals and Investment, (SDGs&I) at the Ehingbeti 2022 Tech Hub Roundup which took place at the Impact Hub in Lagos on the 5th of October, 2022.
The tech roundup was one of the 12 hub activations organized by Africa’s leading and most-read technology platform, www.Techuncode.com in partnership with the Lagos state government.
The event which had over 100 participants in attendance equally witnessed experts from both public and private sectors as well as notable persons from the various tech hubs in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, among the special panelists who joined Ms Hammond to dissect the robust economic plans being implemented by the Lagos state government which have seen the state on a fast-paced growth trajectory towards becoming a trillion Dollar economy in the next 30 years are Tariye Gbadegesin, the MD and CEO of a famous Nigerian institutional investor organization, ARM Harith Infrastructure Fund Managers (Armhith); Shola Ladoja, the CEO Simply Green, a farm-to-table company specialized in growing fresh agricultural produce; and Branka Mracajac, the CEO of 9PSB, a digital financial institution providing banking solutions to the unbanked Nigerians through the provision of easy access to useful and affordable financial products and services.
Others were Mr Tubosun Alake, the Special Adviser to the Lagos State governor on Innovation and Tech; Tomilola Majekondunmi , the Co-Founder and CEO, Bankly, a digital financial institution providing digital infrastructure to store & move cash for Africa’s financially underserved population.
Also among the panelists at the event were Ms Abisola Olusanya, the Hon. Commissioner for Agriculture, Lagos state; Dr. Rabiu Onaolapo Olowo, the Hon. Commissioner for Finance, Lagos state; Mrs. Teju Abisoye, the Executive Secretary, Lagos state Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) and Mr. Sam Egube, the Hon. Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, Lagos state.
Equally present were Mary Iwelumo, Partner, Head-West Africa Strategy Team, PwC; and representatives from various hubs such as Ingressive for Good, She Code Africa and Space Universe.
Earlier, the ever knowledgeable, ingenious and dogged Founder and CEO of www.Techuncode.com, Mr Charles Edosomwan noted during his welcome speech that the Ehingbeti tech hub activations are a precursor to the grand Lagos Economic summit which would be taking place on the 11th and 12th of October, 2022.
He said the hub activations are to showcase what is happening in Lagos, drive conversations on what is happening in Lagos as well as further drive investments around Lagos.
“The idea is to come together and say, ‘what are we going to do to make Lagos better in the next 30 years?”
“We’ve had the best of persons come around; we’ve had the presence of commissioners, we’ve had CEOs come around and really tell us how they envision Lagos and really tell us the Lagos of their dreams.”
Meanwhile, speaking further on the economic developments in Lagos and how the state is meeting the sustainable economic goals, Ms Hammond said “we started testing the business initiatives of Lagos with everyone, students, private bodies and experts to know what Lagos means to them.”
She said the Lagos state economic plan is centered along four cardinal pillars which include achieving a Simple and thriving economy to attract investment; human –centric city so that people can love to live in Lagos; Security and modern infrastructure; and effective governance.
She said with these policy ingredients creating the needed enabling environment for the state’s economy to thrive, that Lagos is on the growth trajectory to becoming a trillion dollar economy.
According to her, private investments can work if the government is inclusive.
“When you create an environment that is working, then you can achieve development.”
Speaking on the various developmental projects by the state government, she said Lagos has commissioned about five data centeres in 2022 alone, adding that “We are trying to build smart cities in Lagos.”
“We are building the largest publicity centre in Lagos.”
Speaking on the need for financial inclusion for all, the SA to the governor on SDG &I said the state understands that it should first include everyone into Laos economy to attain financial inclusion of all.
According to her, “Before you get to financial inclusion, you have to get to economic inclusion.”
She said trust is another factor to be considered in achieving financial inclusion, noting that “we have to think about finance differently.”
Ms Hammond, however, decried the situation whereby people distance themselves from government and fail to utilize the opportunities that the government is providing them. She said instead, people abandon government projects or even refuse to know or pay attention to what the state government is doing in terms of growing the economy and creating enabling environment for them to grow.
“People all over the world don’t trust government. “But government needs to come 90% while you come 10%.”
She said the state organizes talent developments, virtual hubs talent fairs and many other fairs to connect the people with developmental opportunities.
“There are projects that people are not accessing.”
She said Lagos will create a data base of hubs where government programmes designed for the people can be pushed out to reach the masses.
Meanwhile, in her own contributions, Tariye Gbadegesin said Lagos needs new hybrid models to become a trillion dollar economy.
According to her, “new Hybrid and new models need hybrid and new finance” too.
She said Nigeria needs to solve for the borderless.
The Armhith CEO commended Lagos for being a responsive state.
She said Lagos state is responsive at the calls by private investors as regards partnerships and supports.
Speaking on what Lagos state needs to attract more developments, Mrs Gbadegesin said “We need to have practical converging plan.”
“What Lagos needs is plan. It’s very important that Lagos makes practical plans that are achievable.”
“What is the competitive advantage of the state? What is the policy framework in place? Who are the recipients of the policy?” she asked.
She said Lagos needs to attract more private capital, especially foreign private capital even though “Some projects are too sensitive and so, require the state to fund.”
Private sector capital, according to her, is the capital that the private sector brings in to further support the growth of the state and this is achievable under a conducive policy environment.
“The kind of issues that drive success is a match between what is the need and what the capital wants?
So, the government needs to partner with the private sector in a way that the environment is conducive for them to thrive.
“Lagos is in a position to build clusters of investments and opportunities.”
“But to deliver on clustering, you need working infrastructure.”
Speaking further and on government’s support for startups, she said, governments need to come in during the early stages of a startup’s life.
“There is so much government intervention to create winners instead of supporting startups from scratch when it’s risky.”
“When government intervenes in startups, it should be at the early stages.”
Speaking on how Lagos can attract international capital to come in and invest, she said the state should develop an economic framework specifically for international capitals to incorporate with local markets.
She said this framework is necessary because “International capitals have done very poorly when they invest in naira equity.”
So, “what is the framework for international capital to incorporate with local markets when exchange rates are high against the naira?
“There should be a KYC (Know your Customers). The KYC should be done in partnership with the foreign capital providers, ” she said.
Also speaking at the tech roundup, the CEO of 9Payment Service Bank (9PSB), Branka Mracajac lamented that Nigeria is too dependent on import from China instead of ensuring that Chinese firms situate their manufacturing plants in Nigeria to produce from the country like it should.
She said “infrastructure, agriculture, import are things Nigeria needs to tackle to grow.”
“Nigeria imports so much from China and Europe instead of focusing to make its own products locally.”
“Nigeria should focus on bringing in Chinese companies to make productions here in Nigeria and then export them.”
She said the over-dependence on importation is making life too expensive for Nigerians, especially in Lagos.
“Everything is so expensive here in Lagos.”
Speaking on the need for Lagos to ensure that the great economic developments taking place in the state reaches the underserved and unbanked areas, the 9PSB CEO said “technology per se will not move a needle. We need a lot of leg work in translating all the tech growth into simple languages so those in rural areas can understand.”
According to her, those areas need to benefit from the tech growth via inclusion.
“The people need to be technologically-savvy.”
She said her digital bank is making impact in Nigeria through financial literacy and inclusion.
“We are focusing on that part of Nigeria that doesn’t have access to the technological growth going on in the country.”
Tech companies don’t want to go to local areas because they (rural dwellers) lack understanding of the tech growths.”
“Some people have bank accounts but are not making transactions (profits). Yet, they are “experiencing financial losses.”
“Government support needs to be in place to transform Nigeria from cash to cashless society.”
“This will automatically decrease the cost of governance for the government; This will support the growth of small and medium entrepreneurs in the country,” she concluded.
In his contributions, the SA to Lagos State governor on Innovation and Tech, Mr Tubosun Alake, said technology tripled innovation in Lagos.
He said his ministry set up the Lagos state Innovation council to help build startups and support them with funding.
According to him, infrastructure talent, diversion and legal frameworks are pillars to drive tech innovations in Lagos.
“We all know that tech requires massive development in research and development (R&D).”
“We have about 50 R&D projects currently in Lagos. The projects are unique projects which the private sector may not necessarily need to spend on.”
“In a 30 year plan, the goal is to drive technology talents in Lagos.”
He however lamented the situation whereby people just focus on criticizing the government instead of getting involved in governance to better it.
“Bashing government doesn’t get us anywhere. Collaboration is what will yield result.”
“It is the responsibility of everybody in the ecosystem to be a part in shaping the laws driving the ecosystem instead of bashing the government.”
Equally speaking on funding for startups, Mr Tubosun said Lagos has Lasric.gov.ng, a portal that is there for tech startups to access funding and other supports from the government.
He said Lagos state has periodic callouts for applications for tech startups to apply for funding after pitching their ideas to a panel set up. Startups can get as much as five million naira (5, 000, 000, 00) as support.
“We fund two types of research: Applied research and practical research.”
He also said that Lagos, via Lagosinnovate.ng, provides spaces and internet services to innovators who want to design but have no such infrastructure.
“We are going to develop deep tech inventions; government will do them since typical VC may not be able to do those.”
The SA however, urged researchers to work with universities where they can get equipment and professors as guide.
Equally at the event, the CEO of Simply Green, Shola Ladoja spoke on the key requirements to boosting food production.
According to him, the “Key thing to boosting food production is mechanization.”
“Mechanization is the only way we can solve the problem of food insecurity in Nigeria.”
He decried the challenges faced by some farmers which hamper their progress, urging them to “never make your finished product someone else’s raw materials, as a farmer.”
Other discussions at the roundup centered on food security.
The panelists noted saying the problem of food insecurity must first be tackled at individual homes before it can be tackled nationally.
“Let us all learn how to grow our own homes.”
“No matter how small, let us plant vegetables, fruits, crops in our homes. Those flowers we plant on our corridors that don’t solve our food needs, let us replace them with food crops.
The Executive Secretary, Lagos state Employment Trust Fund (LSETF), Mrs. Teju Abisoye, said “a lot of businesses are not digitized and this affects their chances of getting funding. They lack digital presence.
She said “Lagos hence, started Lagos programme to target youths, teaching them how to build businesses with digital presence. The programme also helps them with funding.”
Also, speaking on the importance of women empowerment, Tomy Lola, Ms Yinka Oke and the other panelists said data is important to track and train the girl child as well as place them in employments.
Data is necessary in tracking of talents and matching them with jobs.
Data can track how many women are trained and how many are placed in jobs. Data will help ensure everyone is trained and placed in jobs.
They however decried the growing trend where “Our girl child is becoming more responsible than the boy child because the interventions are focusing more on the girl child in detriment of the boy child.”