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Stakeholders see Alaro city, free trade zones as key to economic recovery

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Following dwindling fortunes of the nation’s economy, stakeholders have advocated for an increased focus on industrialisation and vibrant trade flows in Nigeria’s free trade zones (FTZ).

Government officials and business leaders, who spoke at a one-day lunch and learn event on “Free Zones As Engines of Growth: A spotlight on Alaro city,” organised by Alaro city, harped on the need for the zones to operate without trade barriers, bureaucratic bottleneck and customs interference to attract new businesses and foreign participation.

Alaro city is an ambitious scheme in the Lekki Free Trade Zone (LFTZ). Launched in January 2019, the city is planned as a 2,000-hectare mixed-use, city-scale development with industrial and logistics locations, complemented by offices, homes, schools, healthcare facilities, hotels, and entertainment.

It also offers 150 hectares (370 acres) of parks and open spaces. Alaro city is a partnership between Rendeavour and Lagos State Government. 

Currently, more than 30 companies are operational, designing or building their facilities in the city, and 3.5km of initial road networks and a modular 50MVA power plant are under construction.

One of the companies in Alaro city, Ariel Foods FZE, is the largest and most technically advanced ready-to-eat therapeutic foods producer in Africa, with an yearly production capacity of 18,000 metric tonnes.

Essentially, speakers at the event included Managing Director, Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority, Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, Deputy Comptroller-General of Customs, Dr. Patience Iferi, Managing Director, Rosettee Construction, Mr. Maroun Awad, Managing Director, Omar Gardens, Mrs. Mimi Ade-Odiachi and the Chief Executive Officer, ASB Valiant, Mr. Ayo Ikumapayi. 

The Chairman, Alaro city, Ayo Gbeleyi, who set the tone of the discussion, noted that the event was part of efforts to sustain conversations, especially between the government and private sector, on effective ways to jump-start economic revitalisation. 

“We must think of our economy beyond oil, and that is why we need free trade zones to generate export revenue,” he said.

“We need to expand our industrial base in a strategic way, and I think that the place to be is in the LFTZ, where the Lagos State Government and all relevant agencies are present to breakdown all bottlenecks.

“Alaro city is a product of a great partnership, which has achieved remarkable success in such a short time. Alaro city is serving as a major attraction for foreign direct investment to the state and the country. 

“Every day at Alaro City, we see how the numerous benefits of a free zone and our work in building the perfect home for businesses have catalysed growth,” added Mr. Gbeleyi.

“As Alaro city grows, it is becoming a model for effective urban development and a demonstration of how free trade zones benefits aggressively from industrialisation, employment and economic development. Our partnership with Rendeavour is one which we are proud of and will continue to work hard to sustain.”

An avid campaigner for increased cooperation between the government and private sector in free zones, Prof. Adesugba, explained that free zones provide protection against the disruptions and strain on global transportation and logistics systems caused by COVID-19.

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He urged the business community to partner with Nigeria’s 42 free trade zones to reduce the economic impact of the pandemic. “The pandemic, as we are aware, continues to distort business logistics globally, and so global investors are looking for workable free trade zones to move into,” Prof. Adesugba said.

He said: “Doing so would guarantee the preservation of the supply chains and their investments. The supply chain management is going to be critical as COVID-19 has changed business logistics, but if we can take advantage of the various incentives which include tax holiday, absence of customs duties and absence of several other multiple taxes charged outside of the zones, then our businesses can stay afloat.”

The founder and CEO of Rendeavour, Stephen Jennings, said “Alaro city is a symbol of our commitment to Nigeria, and of the continuity of a partnership anchored in three administrations of the Lagos State Government. The progress we have seen at Alaro City is underscored by the number of businesses and individuals we have welcomed to our city in such a short time. It is also evidence that the market is ready for high-quality, inclusive city-scale developments designed for business and living.

“We at Alaro city and Rendeavour believe free zones will play – indeed are playing – a pivotal role in accelerating economic growth and development in Africa. In fact, we believe our cities across Africa will be home to the entrepreneurs and enterprises that will propel Africa into a new age.”

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