It is always a pleasure to be among my professional colleagues. I thank the Lagos State Public Service Chapter of ICAN for dedicating this 7th Annual Public Lecture to the Lagos @ 50 anniversary celebrations. The theme of this year’s lecture is particularly very significant as it is premised accurately on the fact that our State has economic potentials yet to be optimally harnessed.
The need to identify, explore and exploit the untapped potentials of the Lagos economy has become imperative especially when you consider the enormous challenges we face as a government. The State has to surmount a host of issues top of which are a high population growth rate of 3.2% annually, high migration rate estimated to be one of the highest in the world today and rapid urbanisation.
For us, what is certain is that we must be more strategic, innovative and long term in our thinking and planning. We must deliberately and actively fully harness our comparative advantages as well as develop and implement viable reforms that will ensure that the future of our dear State will be even more prosperous than it is today.
As a government, we understand that the most effective and efficient way to unlock these economic potentials is to open up the economy for private enterprise to thrive. And the only way to achieve this is to facilitate the delivery of first class infrastructure and put in place the right policies within a secure and business-friendly environment.
One sector where our State has massive potential is in tourism, entertainment and arts. We have the potential to become a major entertainment and tourism destination in Africa. Epe and Badagry have tremendous tourism potentials. The Lekki axis is already an entertainment hub. Our government is currently executing projects which will transform the landscape in the East and Western axis as well as the Lagos Marina and Onikan axis to generate tourism revenues. We are also creating infrastructure to support the entertainment industry.
One key to unlocking the economic potentials of our State is power. We have embarked on a power reform aimed at generating up to 3,000 MW of captive power within the next few years for the benefit of Lagosians. This will go a long way in reducing the cost of doing business as well as improve the living conditions of the people in Lagos State.
Our ‘Smart City’ initiative will help to ensure that the State is cleaner, safer, productive, and more resilient, thereby also making it more attractive for foreign direct investments.
Upon assumption of office in 2015, our administration created the Ministry of Wealth Creation and Employment. Subsequently, we launched the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund in 2016. As of today, over 3,000 entrepreneurs have benefited from the Fund through access to low-cost credits for their businesses.
Lagos State is also actively involved in the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria Commission (“DAWN”), a body comprising all the south-western States. Through DAWN and other platforms we are working on collaborative development plans for regional economic integration which will help minimise some of our current challenges such as high migration, infrastructure deficit and traffic congestion.
Asides from the regional collaboration, we have entered into several partnerships locally and internationally. Our LAKE rice project has been very successful and we are taking the project to a new level by establishing value chain for agricultural commodities like rice, wheat, groundnut, onions, maize/sorghum and beef. We have partnerships with the international community which will kick-in later this year.
Our government is committed to diversifying the Lagos economy and opening it up to the world. Through the Office of Transformation and Innovation, we are continually improving the ease of doing business in the State. Consequently, we are continually open to welcoming and partnering with international investors and development partners towards achieving sustainable economic and social development in the State.
However, despite all these initiatives and many more, it is clear that government alone cannot implement these reforms. As accountants in the State public service, you all seated here have a role to play. You must see yourselves as key stakeholders in bringing about the desired outcome. Part of your responsibility within the context of achieving sustainable development is to ensure that the financial base of the State is strengthened in order to execute infrastructural projects that are vital to economic growth and development successfully.
I am proud to be in your midst today, once a former member of this exclusive chapter of ICAN, now a patron. So, my charge to you all is to be your best in any endeavour you find yourself. The sky is the limit.
In conclusion, what I have done in these few minutes is to give a rough sketch of what our government is thinking and our approach. It is my strong belief that the Lead Speaker for this lecture will deliver an insightful and thought-provoking lecture which will not only give new perspectives on this topic but further enhance our knowledge about economic potentials and sustainability of Lagos State as financial and commercial hub of West Africa.
On this note, I declare this event open and wish you all a successful deliberation.
Itesiwaju Ipinle Eko lojewalogun