CREATING CHANGE

Nigeria 2019 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

A city like no other, Lagos has its sights set on becoming a 21st-century economy to drive development and transformation.

Babajide Sanwo-Olu
BIOGRAPHY
Babajide Sanwo-Olu won the election for Governor of Lagos State in early 2019. He entered politics in 2003 after a career in banking when he was appointed Special Adviser on Coprorate Matters to the then-deputy governor of Lagos State. He was later made acting Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget until 2007, when he was appointed Commissioner for Commerce and Industry by then-governor Bola Tinubu. Sanwo-Olu was then appointed Commissioner for Establishments, Training and Pensions by Governor Babatunde Fashola. In 2016, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode made him Managing Director of the Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC). Sanwo-Olu holds a degree in surveying and an MBA from the University of Lagos. He is an alumnus of the John F. Kennedy School of Government, the London Business School, and the Lagos Business School.

What are the main economic policies to bring Lagos to the next level?

We have our policy document called project THEME, an acronym for traffic management and transportation; health and the environment; education and technology; making Lagos a 21st century economy; and entertainment, tourism, and sport. It features all the major areas of interests and needs that our government will address to drive our economic policies. However, the main thrust of our policy is to make Lagos a 21st-century economy, and we will thus focus heavily on public infrastructure. There is a significant to-do list because this is a massive city with massive movements of people. The rail system also needs to be completed, as does the highway infrastructure to connect Lagos to the West African coast. This 10-lane highway needs to be actualized. Additionally, we need to invest heavily in energy, including developing different kinds of captive energy. We will figure out what we can do to bring about quick deployment of captive energy to our people. Waste disposal and waste management is another huge area of our focus. Moreover, innovation and technology are key to driving the youth population and will also need to be stimulated in a creative way, so we can have more start-ups and innovative ideas. This can assist us in catching up with developed nations. We need to leapfrog to make rapid developments in a relatively short period of time. In general, we are dedicated to creating an environment that will truly enable the economic development of the nation. The public sector only contributes around 20% to GDP; the private sector controls the remaining 80% and therefore needs the right environment to drive development and transformation. We want to maximize ease of doing business, cut red tape, and reduce inefficiencies.

Will private-sector funding feed your envisioned development of Lagos?

It has to. The budget of Lagos State is just about USD3 billion, which is dramatically lower than any other major city in the world. We need to develop funding sources not by increasing taxes but by widening the tax net. Another aspect to look at is our GDP-to-loan ratio, which is still low. We can look at how we can raise financing targeted at infrastructure that will bring about long-term economic growth. We need to make sure we act promptly and do not procrastinate, so that funds do not leave the country. We are serious about creating real change.

What will you do to harness the potential of the entertainment industry and change the global perception of Lagos?

We need to sit down with the industry and ask its practitioners what would specifically help its development. We will work with local and foreign stakeholders to facilitate the creation of a fully equipped and functional film city that will include a world-class academy to encourage training for relevant skills and expertise required to improve the creative arts industry in the state. It will also be a one-stop destination where the industry can come together and grow organically. I will have the industry nominate someone who can join my government as an advisor in this area. We intend to brand Lagos as the home of the Nigerian entertainment industry (Nollywood and Afrobeat) in order to take the full commercial benefits of the brands and to further attract destination tourism from both within and outside the country as well foreign direct investment. We will create employment for up to 1 million people over the next five years by formalizing the sector. We will strengthen collaboration with industry and federal agencies to improve the enforcement of laws to curb piracy. We also need to sit with our tourism ministry to make Lagos a tourism destination, for instance through festivals and activities that attract an international crowd. Finally, I intend to set up a special help desk in Lagos Global to serve as liaison between stakeholders in the industry and the state.