GAINING MOMENTUM

Nigeria 2016 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Simone Volpi, Business Development Director of Orlean Invest Africa Group, on their involvement with Eko Atlantic, and the economic potential of Lagos.

Simone Volpi
BIOGRAPHY
Simone Volpi studied at The American College (Franklin College) in Lugano, Switzerland where he gained a BA in International Management in 1996. He obtained a Master’s Degree in Integrated Logistics in 2002 at the Universita degli Studi di Genova. After joining the Orlean Invest Group, he was posted to Angola where he started his career as a Commercial Coordinator. One year later, he returned to Nigeria. He is currently the Managing Director of Orlean Invest Africa Group and a naturalized citizen of Nigeria.

Have you seen an increase in investment interest since President Buhari's election?

In the past year and half, interest in the Eko Atlantic project has grown steadily. However, even with the increase in interest, it will take some time for this to translate into actual business. Individuals and corporate bodies are waiting to see how the government will modify its agenda and which types of projects will be prioritized. As soon as the buildings are completed, we will no longer require extensive marketing but that is not to say we will not be looking for more clients. At that point, people will begin to appreciate these new facilities and seek us out on their own.

What are INTELS' plans for Eko Energy Estate, as part of the Eko Atlantic project?

We have commenced Phase One, which entails the construction of the first three buildings. These are slated for completion by the end of 2017, each with a total planned capacity of 160 one-bedroom or 80 two-bedroom apartments, depending on clients' requirements. We plan to turn the entire 45 ha into a residential estate within the Eko Atlantic City. In order to maintain a certain level of output, we need infrastructural investments in Nigeria. It is expected that additional investments will commence early 2016. We are now witnessing a lifestyle change in Lagos and the Eko Atlantic will be a completely different type of development. There will be a high level of security as well as new infrastructure, which will ensure electricity and water supply. Two major issues in the country today are low standards of educational and a lack of medical facilities. Few people would consider bringing their families to a place where there are problems with sanitation and security. Nigeria already has a vital position on the African continent, and the commissioning of this major economic city will position us even better in this regard. Although the Orlean Invest Group plays a relatively minor part in the project, which is spearheaded by The Chagoury Group, we are very proud to be a part of it.

Which other projects is your company involved in?

Lagos is poised to become a huge market unrestricted to oil and gas, and the Eko Atlantic project will be accessible to many other industries. Over the next 20 to 30 years, organizations from many sectors will be welcomed in Lagos. The conditions here now are similar to those in South America back in the 1970s because we have the necessary manpower with the sufficient level of education to support the activities of these industries. All the major industries in South America, like the automotive industry, came into being in the 1970's and we expect to see a similar trend here in Nigeria. Eko Atlantic will be a special economic zone with an offering of new benefits including offshore banking, which is not currently offered in Nigeria. The project will garner a lot of interest and will in turn trigger a lot of opportunities far beyond the oil and gas industry.

What are your expectations for the year ahead?

In 2016, we hope to see an increase in investment activities and a continuous approval of major capital projects. The country requires a significant level of infrastructural development to enable the utilization of gas in the domestic market, as well as the generation of power and electricity. The government will need to make some important decisions in order to make this a reality.