Industrial Zones that are emerging in the South-West Geopolitical Zone (2)

The Lekki Free Trade Zone is perceptively going to become the leading hub and major driver of the Nigerian economy and West Africa as a whole by the time all the infrastructures that are planned for the territory come into being. The Zone encompasses an area of roughly 155 square kilometers in the Ibeju Lekki Local Government Area, southeast of Lagos, Nigeria, some 50 kilometers from the city center. This zone has been designed to become a new Lagos and has been granted a series of preferential policies and incentives, worthy of being designated as a special economic zone in Nigeria. It will indeed be a unique landmark for the future development of Lagos state and the South-west geopolitical zone in particular and Nigeria as a whole; and it will have the capacity to provide an ideal platform to open up diverse market for all investors and enterprises in the world.

A Free Trade Zone, by explanation, is an area within which goods may be landed, handled, manufactured or reconfigured, and re-exported without the intervention of custom authorities. It is a region where a group of countries have agreed to reduce or eliminate trade barriers, the basic objective being to enhance foreign exchange earnings, develop export-oriented industries and generate employment opportunities for the host country. The idea of free trade zone was borne as a well-developed system of attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) into a country; and this idea has been practically developed to work, and has been in practice in advance economies around the world. It was introduced into Nigeria with the establishment of the Nigeria Export Promotion Zone Authority (NEPZA), which took a queue from the initiative to create different free trade zones across the country.

The Lekki Free Trade Zone is the first private free trade zone in Nigeria and the biggest in the whole of West Africa. It is a joint venture partnership established in May 2006 pursuant to the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Act (NEPZA). A collaboration of the Chinese and Nigerian governments, the LFZDC comprises a consortium of Chinese Companies by the name China-Africa Lekki Investment Ltd (CALIL) with 60% stakes and Lekki Worldwide Investments Limited (LWIL) owned by the Lagos State Government holding 40% stakes. Currently, the zone is under the management of Lekki Free Zone Development Company (LFZDC).

Lekki Free Trade Zone is facing the Atlantic Ocean in the south and bordering with Lekki Lagoon in the north, which makes it easy to access the Western African market with a population of over 300 million, and the European and USA market with a population of over 600 million. By having special transportation conditions both by Land, Sea and Air as well as having unique geographical and regional advantages, the zone serves as the best springboard for any investors and enterprises who desire to open up to markets all over Africa, Europe and the USA.

Because of all this the Zone is fast attracting local and foreign investors. Investors from all over the globe are always seeking for methods to cut costs and increase returns on investment, and they always gravitate to Free Trade Zones because of its attractive incentives and enabling environment. Free Trade Zones are often preferred for investment because of the favorable business rules and regulations that governments have put in place to encourage manufacturing and promote the export of completed goods. This eventually leads to an increase in industrialization, which usually results in job creation, skill upgrade, export promotion, and economic development.

Thus, it is not surprising to see that the largest oil refinery in Africa, a fertilizer plant, petrochemical plant, as well as a sub-sea gas pipeline project – valued at $19 billion and owned by African richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote – are progressively under construction in the zone. The Dangote refinery which is the largest single line refinery in the world has a processing capacity of 650,000 barrels of oil per day while the gas pipeline and power project is meant to supply 3 billion cubic feet of gas daily to Lagos and its axis which can guarantee uninterrupted power supply in Lagos on completion, and will generate up to 12,000 megawatts of power. Though the plant is not yet operational, the Refinery has already been commissioned. The commissioning took place on May 22, 2023. The plant is said to be the world’s largest single-train refinery, meaning the plant has one integrated distillery system which can produce a variety of products and petrochemicals, instead of having different units for each type of product. Hence, apart from the refinery, the plant will incorporate a power station, deep seaport and fertilizer plant.

There are several other multi-billion dollars investments, mostly driven by various Chinese companies. So far, the Zone has already attracted about 300 domestic and foreign investors, over 50 of which have started operating. Among the industrial set ups in operation in the area are Power Oil and Indomie factories. There is also the integrated Agrochemical factory built by CANDEL FZE, a leading Agrochemical company.

A World Bank Report has already listed Lekki Free Trade Zone as the fastest growing free zone in the world.

In terms of job creation potentials, the Lekki Free Trade Zone area is expected to churn out 300,000 direct jobs and 600,000 indirect jobs with the Dangote Oil Refinery expected to create employment for about 235,000 people.

With the construction of the Lekki Deep Sea Port, the New International Airport, Dangote Oil Refinery, Pan Atlantic University, St Augustine University, Eleganza Industrial City, different beach resorts, the proposed 4th Mainland bridge, and other amazing infrastructure, it is obvious that an investment in land around Ibeju Lekki especially in areas along the Lekki Free Trade Zone will reap massive returns few years from now.

Another feature that makes the Lekki Free Zone appealing is the proposed integrated seaport’s transshipment capabilities. The draft is 16.5 meters, and the capacity of phase one is 1.2 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). With seven ship-to-shore cranes and a draft that allows larger boats to dock, the Lekki Seaport will be able to handle 100 movements per hour when completed, which, although not amazing by world standards, is light years ahead of what is currently being done at Apapa and Tin Can Island. It will transform Lekki into a 21st-century port.

Experts predict that once the free trade zone and Lekki seaport are operating at full capacity, the Ibeju Lekki axis would see an increase in trade volume of about $25 billion by 2030. It is then not a surprise to see why real estate investors are buying land all over Ibeju Lekki. Whether you are buying land for residential buildings or for industrial purposes; or to resell when the price comes up, you are on the right track to come to Lekki. If you’re an investor refusing or delaying to purchase land in Ibeju Lekki while it is still available for as little as 1.2 million for a complete plot, you may be making a big mistake. There are numerous secured estates in the market, ranging from N900,000 to N18,000,000, which have not been bought; so, you can still choose from this portfolio.

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