May. 12, 2019

Lai Are


Lai Are

Managing Director, Catamaran Group

The Catamaran Group is working closely with the Nigerian government to find solutions for the country's transportation needs.


Lai Are is the Managing Director of Catamaran Group, a leading transportation consultancy company providing specialized services to the government and private clients in the areas of infrastructure development, operations and maintenance and PPPs in the transportation sector. He has over 20 years of professional experience. Are is a graduate of the Harvard Business School and holds an MBA from the Lagos Business School. He has also attended several local and international trainings, conferences, and seminars on transport and infrastructure project planning, implementation, and management. His key skills include project planning, development and management, PPP, and technical advisory services.

Can you elaborate on your milestone projects?

The establishment of our maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) center was extremely important for us. It is an important facility focused on aircraft maintenance, and we are advisers to the Federal Ministry of Transportation (aviation). The procurement process is ongoing. We are working on a PPP for a truck-transit park for the Nigeria Shippers Council that will be a rest area for truckers, so they do not end up parked on roads. We are also working on the Agge Deep Seaport. We are working with state and federal governments on various projects across Nigeria.

Moving forward, which areas promise the greatest opportunities for growth?

Provision of road infrastructure and electronic tolls will represent a large area of growth. This includes the development of toll roads, truck parks, and logistics facilities. Rail will also be another growth sector over the next decade. We need to truly look at our rail strategy, because one of the things I am focused on is recovering our investment via utilization. We have to think about what we want to put on rail before we build the rail infrastructure. Rail is not city-driven; it is driven from the perspective of the provision of infrastructure. The rail system should have a primary rail line to major cities and secondary rail lines to smaller cities. We currently have a rail line that greatly reduces the efficiency of travel between cities that should have extremely speedy rail connections. There is a great deal of opportunity in aviation as well, and this comes in the form of airport concessions of the international airports, which need complete upgrade and expansion. When Lagos Airport was built, it was meant to cater to about 500,000 passengers per annum; today, it is doing 8 million. We need to transform the airports and subsequently the experience of travelers. As the industry grows, there will be opportunities for ground handling companies as well. All over the world, the growth of private aviation is expanding.

How would you assess the transportation and infrastructure sector in Nigeria?

The transportation sector is filled with opportunities, and as our country grows the opportunities will grow. There is a whole gamut of investment that will be required. Power is a great example of a growth area that is also extremely complex. However, these sectors need long-term investment. In the past, we sold assets in foreign currency that will only generate naira returns, which makes it hard to hedge against risk. There is thus a great opportunity, though it is critical for the government to review the processes of all these opportunities. I am not a great fan of bureaucracy; we need to address the things that make our economy slower and less efficient. Our infrastructure issues cause the government to turn more to the private sector, and the private sector needs to move at the speed we are used to. We need a joint understanding that we have a large infrastructure deficit, and we need to come together to find an efficient and effective way forward. We need to move faster and guarantee that people invest. We see improvements, though we need to greatly improve the speed with which we do transactions.

What is your outlook for Catamaran Group in 2019?

We want to expand our offerings in terms of PPP advisory services in 2019. We are looking at certain opportunities in the maritime sector that we want to invest in. We are also looking at opportunities in toll roads, both in Nigeria and West Africa. We are actively putting in proposals for toll roads, and we hope that over the next one to two years we will be able to start that. We also hope that our inland container depot will begin operations, and we want to expand our maritime training operations. Our container tracking business will also start in 2019.