– Says it is greatly rewarding for Lagos to host conference as Nigeria’s commercial capital and the largest sub-national economy on the Continent
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Thursday flagged off an International Bar Association (IBA) Conference in Lagos saying discussions on Mergers, acquisitions and inward investments has become inevitable for Africa as the economies of the Continent continue to perform better.
In his remarks at the Convention Centre, Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island venue of the Conference, Governor Fashola, who noted that Mergers and Acquisitions are an integral part of commercial and industrial activity, said with better performances in the economies of African countries, business would inevitably begin to look to strategic decisions.
“We have noted with keen interest that strategic business decisions have become an important channel for investment in Africa, allowing both global and continental players to consolidate their positions translating into growth and creating JOBS!”, the Governor said.
According to him, “The position that the African continent now occupies as a business destination should not surprise the discerning mind. The African renaissance in trade and commerce has been an opportunity waiting to happen – natural resources and good public policy is an inevitable path to conducive business climate”.
Pointing out that “Africa now ranks easily as one of the fastest growing regions in the world with an average GDP growth rate in excess of 5% per annum”, Governor Fashola added that the continent currently has 1 billion-strong consumer market which, according to him, is expected to double by 2050 in addition to the increasing diversification of her economies.
“There is no indication that this will change anytime soon and, as economic recovery in the West remains in progress, expanding multi-nationals are predictably focusing on pro-growth emerging economies in Africa”, the Governor said adding, “In the first six months of this year alone, Mozambique, South Africa and Nigeria have already been recorded by Thomson Reuters as being the top targeted destinations for M&A in Africa”.
Providing more statistics to buttress this claim, Governor Fashola quoted a current report by KPMG which showed that the total value of M&A transactions in Nigeria increased by 379 percent to $7.415 billion from 37 deals in 2012 up from $1.548 billion in 29 deals in 2011.
“As the fastest growing economy in sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria is therefore a key player in the African economy, having also been identified as one of the “Next Eleven” – eleven countries that have a high potential of becoming, along with the BRIC countries, the world’s largest economies in the 21st century”, he said. The Governor noted that as Nigeria’s commercial capital and the largest sub-national economy on the continent, Lagos is a strong contributor to these statistics.
According to him, “Lagos is the smallest state in Nigeria with a land mass of barely 3577 square kilometres and yet the most populous with almost 21 million residents. Our human capital in Lagos exceeds several European nations and of the 54 countries on the African continent, only 18 of them have higher populations than Lagos State. This means that Lagos is more populous than 36 African countries”.
“Lagos is home to about 2000 industrial concerns; 10,000.00 commercial ventures and counting, and 22 industrial estates. Lagos accounts for over 60 percent of Nigeria’s industrial and commercial activity, 70 percent of the national maritime cargo freight, over 80 percent of international air traffic into Nigeria and 58.30 percent of domestic air traffic”, the Governor noted.
Lagos, he also noted, accounts for over half of Nigeria’s energy consumption and is the leading contributor to the non-oil sector Gross Domestic Product (GDP) adding that regionally also the Gross National Product (GNP) of Lagos is three times that of any other West African country making it the economic hub of the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) sub-region.
Also describing Lagos as “an international financial centre and the only mega city in sub-Saharan Africa”, Governor Fashola said the rapid changes the metropolis in the last six years has resulted in Lagos being ranked by two renowned international bodies; Citigroup and the Urban Land Institute (Cape Town being the other) as one of the two most innovative cities in Africa.
“It is therefore greatly rewarding that Lagos was chosen amongst other African cities to host this important international conference; the privilege of hosting this conference is not one that we take lightly”, the Governor said adding “Historically, Lagos has always been an important trading centre because of its strategic location on the coast of West Africa and along the major trading route between the West and the East”.
According to him, as a result of the rapid socio-economic development that soon followed, Lagos has grown to become the largest and most populous city in sub-Saharan Africa and remains a key driver of the Nigerian and consequently the African economy.
Rooting the rapid socio-economic growth in the State in some economic policies of the Government such as the biennial international investment summit and the Lagos economic summit or Ehingbeti, the Governor declared, “The Summit is now firmly established as a credible forum for the stimulation of economic growth in Lagos State”, adding that it has become “the rallying point from where ideas that engender prosperity for Lagos and growth for the Nigerian economy are conceived and pursued with utmost diligence”.
He said the next Summit would hold in April next year adding that it would continue to focus on four key sectors of the economy Power, Agriculture, Transportation and Housing (PATH) adding, “We intend to mobilize and sustain the continuous inflow of investment to Lagos to help us achieve our PATH to greater economic performance”.
Governor Fashola urged members of the IBA to take part in the next Summit adding, “We believe strongly that investing our time and resources more aggressively in these key areas will be the quickest drivers to economic development and greater common wealth”.
Wishing the members successful deliberations during the conference, the Governor urged them, “While you are here in Lagos experience the spirit of Lagos – a spirit of hope; a spirit of creativity and a spirit of determination to find the opportunity in every challenge and use it as a stepping stone on our path to economic prosperity”.
In an interview with newsmen later, Governor Fashola said Lagos stands to gain from the conference being a city that hosts about the largest industrial and commercial concerns and considering the size of the contribution of the State to the Nigerian Economy adding that it is also an opportunity for most of the country to benefit from the many businesses coming into Lagos.
Speaking particularly of the Power sector, especially the recent handover to the private operators the Power assets and distribution, the Governor declared, “The opportunities are limitless, the markets would grow, ownerships might change, partnerships would be formed, those who are probably challenged by size of the undertaking may find bigger partnerships, bigger buy-ins or buy them out”.
Earlier in his welcome address, the President of Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Okey Wali (SAN), urged other Bar Associations and Law Societies in Africa to support law and judicial reforms that encourage foreign investment inflow into their countries adding that the on-going IBA Conference offers Africa the opportunity to build the capacity given the topics and the highly skilled resource persons invited to make presentations during the period.
Also speaking, the Lagos co-Chairperson of the African Regional Forum, Mrs Funmi Oluyede, urged lawyers to take attendance at the conference very seriously in order to deepen their knowledge and professionalism adding, “Africa has become a beautiful bride being wooed and courted globally in glorious splendour as corporate finance, merger and acquisition continue to make the world headlines”.
The Conference co-Chairman, Mr. Sergio Sanchez Sole, in his remarks, said the conference represented an opportunity for all participating lawyers to know more about the IBA and get involved adding that it also provides an opportunity for several of the foreign delegates to know more about Lagos which he described as very vibrant.
Also present at the occasion were former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of Lagos State, Mr. Supo Shasore, Co-Chairman of the Conference, Mr. Gbenga Oyebode, members of the NBA as well as other legal luminaries, both local and international.