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Nigeria expands Free Zones, creates textile, medical, agric FTZs

Prof Adesoji Adesugba, MD, NEPZA

ABUJA – The Nigerian government has approved expansion of her Free Trade Zones alongside activation of existing ones in response to demands of continental free trade and Covid-19 pandemic, the Managing Director of Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), Prof Adesoji Adesugba has declared.

Speaking while receiving the leadership of the Nigerian Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture in his office led by Hajiya Saratu Iya Aliyu, the NEPZA boss said new FTZs include Funtua FTZ for textile and cotton, Lagos for Medical FTZ and Kwara for agriculture FTZ.

He speaks further: “To support Mr. President’s industrialisation agenda, upon my appointment in July 2020, NEPZA strategic plan was revised to include “to increase the number of functional and optimal SEZ’s” as one of its key goals. 

“There are several planned and ongoing strategies targeted at achieving this goal.  A main strategy is the creation of SEZ models of global best practice by establishing world class “plug and play” technically driven zones and providing an enabling environment for business in the following thematic areas; MEDICAL, MINING, TECHNOLOGY, AGRICULTURE. 

“To this end, four of the six approved SEZs by Mr President, namely Lekki FTZ, Lagos State and Ilorin SEZ, Kwara State shall be developed into model zones. Two other zones, Funta SEZ, Katsina State and Gombe SEZ, Gombe State will also commence preliminary studies. 

“The Lekki FTZ Lagos State has been earmarked as the site for the first fully equipped and functional Medical Special Economic Zone (MSEZ) in Nigeria to provide world class, in-country healthcare comparable to what Nigerians seek abroad. 

“The conceptualisation of the zone was done in response to the emergence of the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic that most countries were ill-prepared for which has taken its toll on the economic and healthcare systems of even the most developed countries. This has led everyone to re-evaluate and develop new strategies for building additional capacity in the medical arena. Nigeria is no exception to this. 

“The MZEZ aims to reduce medical tourism from Nigeria, revitalise the health systems, create jobs and conserve foreign exchange. If approved, the project will be executed in partnership with the Lagos State Government (LASG) and the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH). Discussions are already under way with high-level stakeholders and potential investors to discuss the implementation arrangements for the zone which has been met with huge positive response.

“The Funtua SEZ in Katsina State is the proposed site for the Cotton and Textile SEZ whilst Ilorin SEZ in Kwara state has been earmarked for the Agricultural SEZ.

“Furthermore, NEPZA is collaborating with several state governments which includes Lagos and Taraba States in the development of their free trade zone landscapes to support the states agenda of providing an enabling environment for increased investments into the state whilst at the same time boosting economic development.

“Following Nigeria’s ratification of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) late last year, NEPZA seeks to leverage on its opportunities to service the African market by increasing exports. 

“Accordingly, the goal of the AfCFTA resonates strongly with the aims and objectives of SEZ in promoting trade and services which, is why NEPZA is currently repositioning its SEZ strategy to support the Agreement. The Authority is implementing this by focusing its investment facilitation and capacity expansion on goods and services that the country has high comparative advantages. 

Additionally, there are several additional ongoing reforms aimed at improving efficiency of our zones and boosting exports. 

“These include;

1. Review and update of the NEZPA Act to accommodate new initiatives and goals 

2. Realign the required institutional arrangements and build the capabilities and capacities to deliver

3. Focus on overcoming infrastructural and logistics challenges such as access roads and power within zones

4. Seek to reduce high operating costs within zones to support increased participation of SME’s in the SEZs”, Prof Adesugba noted.

Describing SEZs as a tool to Industrialisation, the NEPZA boss said the determination of government to develop the SEZs space is in “pursuant to the strategic plan of accelerating Nigeria’s industrialisation programme through the use of Special Economic Zones (SEZ’s) to create jobs and promote exports.

“This aims to improve the investment climate in Nigeria by providing competitive incentives and world class infrastructure that will attract both local and foreign direct investments.The SEZ model is being sought to accelerate implementation of the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) which aims to build Nigeria’s competitive advantage, broaden the scope of industry in order to create jobs and promote exports, which in turn will facilitate economic growth”, he affirmed.

He therefore called for closer collaboration of the private sector In order to improve the functionality of our existing zones, adding “there is no doubt that private sector collaboration is key to help boost investments and provide infrastructure support. This is our focus going forward. 

“A collaborative engagement between NEPZA and NACCIMA is therefore, very timely in view of NACCIMA’s role as the “Voice of Nigerian business” committed to leading organised private sector growth by providing an enabling business environment to promote and develop their business interests, whatever that may be.

“With over 60 years’ experience under its belt, NACCIMA is more than qualified to support NEPZA in this quest.I welcome you all to this engagement and look forward to fruitful discussions. My hope is that our organizations will work together towards achieving the industrialization agenda and the economic development of our great country”, he noted.

NEPZA was established through the NEPZA Act 63 of 1992 as a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, with the mandate of licensing, regulating, monitoring, and promoting the operations of all free trade zones in Nigeria with goal is to provide a conducive investment climate by offering a competitive incentive regime, streamlined administrative procedures and world class infrastructure.

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