Friday, 29th September 2023

Building smart, prosperous Lagos for all 

By Kehinde Olatunji
02 March 2021   |   4:12 am
Creating a smart city has become the vision shared by many countries across the globe, as the journey to build a robust economy becomes intensified.

Abolore Salami, founder, (left); Frederic Oladeinde, commissioner for Transportation, Lagos State; Olatunbosun Alake, special adviser, innovation and technology; Joseph Tegbe, partner, head of advisory, KPMG, and Sam Egube, commissioner for economic and budgetplanning Lagos State, during a discussion on unleashing disruptive innovation and development, at the recent Ehingbeti Lagos Economic Summit 2021 in Lagos.

Creating a smart city has become the vision shared by many countries across the globe, as the journey to build a robust economy becomes intensified.

Today, cities such as New York, London, Singapore, Dubai, Oslo, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Dubai, are ranked among the top 10 smart places in the world. These countries have become top destinations for individuals, who wish to fully enjoy what technology has to offer.

A report by the International Data Corporation (IDC) in conjunction with Future Cities Show indicates that spending on smart city technology is expected to grow by $135 billion this year. Going by this, it’s no doubt that creating a smart city is the future of any serious and forward-looking country.

Experts believe that the key components of achieving smart city solutions that would enhance service delivery, citizens’ well being and economic development include, Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain, smart infrastructure, smart mobility, and sustainability.

Notable Nigerians at Ehingbeti Lagos Economic Summit 2021 tagged: “Setting the tone for a greater Lagos”, added their voices to the importance of making Lagos State a digitally-driven city to enhance the financial, social and environmental lives of the estimated 21 million people.

While speaking at the event, the newly elected Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, stated that the future is changing and becoming very dynamic, hence, the need for Nigeria to follow the global trend.

She emphasised the need to provide decent jobs for the teeming youths, who dominate the population of the country, leveraging the nation’s peculiar demographics.

She urged the government to strengthen the digital economy through the provision of broadband infrastructure to boost connectivity. This, she said, would enable e-commerce businesses to gain an additional leg up and improve infrastructure (hard and soft) from power and transportation to other forward-looking components.

“The future is artificial intelligence and digital economy, and it is here to stay. Nobody can do anything about that. Nigeria, Lagos or Africa should get on board or be left behind. If it is possible, it is best to create access to the Internet for all households, if we can do that, everybody can be on the Internet.

“I think the biggest challenge for Lagos State is infrastructure, I mean infrastructure of the future, not just roads. It’s time to have telecommunication infrastructure. It is time Lagos state started preparing for the future as its population continues to grow. Forward-looking infrastructure is what we need.

“The world is going digital; e-commerce is here to stay. The amount of transactions in e-commerce that is ongoing in the U.S is over $500 million; the question is how can we tap into that digital economy?”

On his part, President, African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, said the state should invest in education by turning tertiary institutions to world-class.

“Youths are not the problem of Lagos, they are the asset. The slogan should not be the young shall grow, but the youths have arrived. Youths do not need empowerment or a handout, what they need is an investment.

“The poverty level in Lagos has reduced from 30.3 per cent in 2009 to 4.5 per cent in 2019. 20 per cent live in slums. A prosperous Lagos will bring a healthier Lagos. A lot needs to be done in tertiary education especially in science. We must turn tertiary institutions in Lagos to world-class.

“The climate situation in Lagos should be attended to urgently. There is a slow need to invest more in the transport system,” he said.

He further said: “Private sector needs to be mobilised to support the new Lagos. The taxes collected in the state belong to the people. There must be accountability in taxes collected. I see a greater Lagos. A Lagos, where visions are turned into reality, where women and youths thrive.”

President Muhammadu Buhari, while giving his remarks at the opening session, said Lagos State is central to Nigeria’s economic fortunes and development.

He said the Federal Government has made it a priority to support the state in unleashing its socio-economic potential, which would help to accelerate economic growth in the country.

President Buhari also noted that the Federal Government, through the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF) has embarked on several projects that would have a positive impact on the Lagos economy.

According to him, these projects include the rehabilitation of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway and the upgrading of the Apapa-Oworoshoki expressway.

Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu noted that the state has proven to be a master of invention and re-invention.

He added that it was in line with this responsibility that his government developed the administration’s T.H.E.M.E.S agenda – Traffic Management and Transportation, Health and Environment, Education and Technology, targeted at making Lagos a 21st century economy, entertainment and tourism as well as security and governance – as a road-map that will guide the state on the journey to the Lagos of everyone’s dreams. “I encourage everyone present here to get familiar with this road-map,” he stressed.

Further, Sanwo-Olu said: “Since the year 2000, under the vision and direction of Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Ehingbeti Summit has been a cherished platform for the conversations we should be having about where we want the city to be headed, and how to fast-track that journey. The narrative of progress and development in Lagos State over the last two decades would be incomplete without acknowledging the catalysing role of the Ehingbeti Summit.”

Sanwo-Olu urged the private sector to be aggressive in seeking out opportunities to partner with and support the state government, saying the government alone cannot make things happen.

“We cannot single-handedly finance or execute all the ambitions that lie ahead. Ehingbeti speaks to what governments, the private sector and civil society can come together to accomplish through deliberate bilateral and multilateral partnerships.”

He urged the youths to support the government and not spite it, saying they have a huge role to play in achieving a greater state, while commending their ability to create true value out of whatever they are confronted with.

“U.N. data posits that the average age on the African continent to be 19. So, indeed, we understand that the future is the youth, and the youth is the future. So, to deny our youths the support they need to make credible successes of their endeavors would be to short circuit our own development plans and agenda for that greater Lagos.

“We recognise and take cognisance of the role the youths have to play in this Greater Lagos dream, and we want you to know that we will create the right and enabling environment for you to establish, grow and thrive. We want you to succeed with the support of your government, and not despite the government. And we are daily demonstrating it through our actions and will continue to do so, he added.”

In the resolutions reached at the end of the three-day summit, and read by the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Obafemi Hamzat the summit examined six thematic areas such as the Destination Lagos: Shaping Up as the World’s Best Investment Destination, Strengthening Governance, Institutions and Legislation, 4th Industrial Revolution: The imperatives and prospects for the Digital Economy, Roadmap to Shared Prosperity – Ensuring Inclusive Human Capital Development, Funding Growth Sustainably and Sustainability, Resilience and Impact.

The summit recognised that dramatic shifts have been brought about by the realities of the 21st Century as well as the roles of technology in all aspects of lives, and it is recommended that the government continues to provide an enabling environment and support of technology hubs.

“It was also requested that the state continue to provide venture capital to budding businesses and SMEs to boost their start-up capacity as well as sustain them. We as a government will look to deepen our work in this area through existing and new programs at LSETF, LASRIC, and the Ministries of Wealth Creation, WAPA and Youth and Sports development and welcome collaborators to work with us.

The summit also recognised the need to improve the state education system through a thorough overhaul of the curriculum to provide an education that meets 21st Century realities thereby reducing youth unemployment.

“The state government must continue to build strong law enforcement institutions, develop zero-tolerance for law-breaking and indiscipline as well as hold its public officers accountable for unethical behaviour. Investment in technology to drive e-government, e-commerce and security must be intensified.

“The current level of public enlightenment and publicity of government’s plans, projects and programs needs to be improved. There is a need to ramp up and find new ways of creating public awareness and improving participation in government programmes.

“All parties stressed the importance of and renewed commitment to improved partnerships and collaboration across national, state and other sub-national governments, the private sector, civil society and the international community.”