Efforts towards building a regional architecture for economic integration towards actualising sustainable development in the South-West geopolitical zone have commenced, as investment promotion stakeholders within the region convened on Tuesday at the Lagos State Capital, Ikeja.
The Stakeholders who converged for the first edition of a two-day conference tagged “Investment Promotion Agencies Conference (IPA-1) 2022” to gather intelligence towards heralding the process, eyed the benefits the integration would produce for the region within the larger purview of sustainable development for the zone as a home for investment.
In his position, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, submitted that “to further strengthen this alliance and effectively connect businesses to achieve effective sustainable development, it is highly recommended that the region develop a ‘Trade and Investment Hub’ primarily to support interventions that strengthen the region’s value chains to boost commerce, urbanisation and infrastructure.”
The structure, he said, “will directly encourage effective regional cooperation and integration among member states by supporting efforts towards deepening regional markets, enhancing trans-boundary cooperation, boosting intra-state trade, accelerating industrialization, fostering market institutions and tackling the challenges of structural transformation.”
“Significantly, our policies and decisions must be influenced and shaped by the economic strength and potential of each of the participating States towards building a resilience and enduring bloc that can drive commercial expansion,” Sanwo-Olu who was represented by the State’s Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, Mr. Sam Egube, recommended.
“This investment strategy should include facilitation of regional trade and investment policy dialogue, capacity and institutional development on trade facilitation, research and information dissemination and building partnerships with other institutions and stakeholders,” Sanwo-Olu said.
Sanwo-Olu mentioned that the gathering offers the prospect of harmonising emerging investment strains in this promising region.
According to Sanwo-Olu, the “primary essence of regional integration is to stimulate the allocation of resources based on the perceived comparative advantage of each state.”
“Thus, our coordinated and collective efforts to facilitate the flow of trade, capital, energy, people and ideas should inadvertently solve issues prevalent in key economic sectors, such as transportation, the environment, housing, health, infrastructure and security,” he submitted.
Sanwo-Olu said his Administration understands and appreciates the strategic importance of regional integration as a pathway to ensuring easier access to markets and increased levels of trade that can yield higher economic growth.
“This important session is coming at a crucial time that we are all exploiting every opportunity to ignite economic growth and deliver sustainable development across every sector of our economy, taking cognizance of the damage done by the COVID-19 pandemic to the global economy.
“The common goal of good governance is to develop policies and execute programmes that will make life more meaningful for our people. This gathering therefore, offers the prospect of harmonizing emerging investment strains in this promising region,” he said.
He submitted that to turn the economic gains into sustainable growth and shared prosperity, public and private sectors must work together to connect the region’s markets, deepen regional integration and adopt reforms that enhance competitiveness.
He identified the Lagos-Ogun Development Commission and the newly remodelled Lagos–Shagamu interchange road network that was commissioned by the President last week in Ogun State as instances of such regional i integration.
Sanwo-Olu who said the conference is strategic in Lagos given its economic status, said the investment climate in Lagos “is enticing due to its world-class finance industry with global hedge, private equity funds, multinational companies, sophisticated industries and supply chains that can help accelerate even development within the region.”
He applauded Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) for their insight towards supporting member states to ensure investment policy coherence with the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063.
In his remarks, Ondo State Governor, Akeredolu Oluwarotimi, represented by his Special Adviser on Development and Investment, Mr. Boye Oyewumi, said the economic sustainability of the region may be threatened without integration.
According to him, such integration does not require the approval of the Federal Government, mentioning that it would eliminate undue external influences, while adding that uniformity in ease of doing business was highly needed to boost investors’ confidence.
In her remarks, Special Adviser, to Lagos State Governor on SDGs and Investment, Mrs. Solape Hammond, said the theme for the Conference; “Southwest: An Economic Bloc for Investment,” aptly captured the need for collaboration towards harnessing investment potentials among the States within the Southwest region.
According to her, “one tactical way to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by globalisation is through regional integration and greater openness to trade and investment.”
Hammond submitted that with the dynamics of the changing world amid the workings of globalisation, the task for all governments and institutions is to maximise emerging opportunities to improve the lives of its citizens.
”We must also begin to lay emphasis on policies that promote impact investing, derive new focus towards market discovery, capacity building, identifying and connecting local investors with key industries,” Hammond asserted.
Among the issues Hammond submitted would drive the process of investment for sustainable development under the architecture of the regional Integration include, macroeconomic stability; a strong political commitment to prudent fiscal policy; rational cost of doing business; and coordination of tax policies.
According to her, reorganising strategies to blend these demands with coordinated processes would vitalise an elaborate architecture towards developing the integration for sustainable development through robust investment friendly environment.
Assuring the support of Lagos State in the proposed integration, she said: “For us in Lagos State, we are ready to share this progressive platform with other states.
“Our recent accolades as the SDGs Innovation and Accelerator hub for the South-Western States by the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) highlights the state’s aspiration to support growth and improve living standards among citizens of the region.
“This would also further strengthen our alliance to significantly enhance evidence-driven solutions to scale up interventions on sustainable development initiatives,” Hammond said.
In his submission, the Chairman, Odu’a Investment Company Limited, Dr. Segun Aina, mentioned that the collective region’s economic strength can competitively stand at par with some Countries in the African Continent.
He, however, mentioned that though there were concrete opportunities in the region, there were challenges as insecurity among other unfriendly parameters, threatening large scale investment in the zone.
He submitted that there was no shortage of investment funds in the world, but what is short is great ideas to attract such funds, submitting that such ideas are needed to attract world commitment for funds to promote SDG projects in the South-West
He added that as investment funds are focusing more on Africa, it is important for the South-West to develop fair system of responses and productive environment to attract these investments.
In his remarks, the Director General – DAWN Commission, Mr Seye Oyeleye, said the contemporary development advocacies in Nigeria require multi-faceted approaches, demanding quality input from different stakeholders.
According to him, one of such is regional centred conversations among relevant investments agencies such as the IPA-1 2022 conference.