Nigeria’s Special Economic Zones have attracted over $66bn in Foreign Direct Investments and N620bn in Domestic Direct Investments.
The Chairman of the Nigeria Economic Zones Association, Nabil Saleh, disclosed this at the association’s annual general meeting on Wednesday in Lagos.
He said the investments had led to the creation of 35,000 direct and indirect employments, driving socio-economic development in the country.
Giving the sectoral breakdown of the investments, he said the manufacturing sector led with 45 per cent of the total investments, followed by the service sector at 30 per cent.
He added that the oil and gas sector accounts for 11 per cent of investments while the trading, logistics, and agriculture sectors also made significant contributions.
According to Saleh, the establishment of SEZs in Nigeria has led to the development of Africa’s biggest oil refinery, a deep sea port with the capacity to handle around 6 million twenty-foot equivalent units of containers, a gas processing hub along the Atlantic Coast and an oil and gas downstream manufacturing hub, among others.
“The success stories of countries with well-established SEZ schemes underscore the transformative potential of these zones. Nations such as China, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates have harnessed the power of SEZs to attract foreign direct investment, drive industrialisation, and foster innovation.
“In these countries, SEZs have become beacons of economic progress, contributing significantly to their GDP and job creation,” he said.
In Nigeria, the Free Zone programme was introduced in 1992 through the enactment of Act No. 63 of 1992, which provided for the establishment of Special Economic Zones in the country.
The Act empowered the Nigeria Export Processing Zone Authority as the sole government agency responsible for establishing, licensing, regulating and monitoring of Free Zones/Export Processing Zones in Nigeria.
Some of the most prominent free zones in the country include the Lekki Free Trade Zone in Lagos, Ogun-Guangdong Free Trade Zone, Abuja Technology Village in FCTA, KoKo Free Zone, Delta State; Warri Industrial Business Park, Delta State; and The ICT Park Asaba, Delta State.
He noted that the theme of the AGM, “Unlocking Opportunities: Harnessing the Power of Nigeria’s Special Economic Zones Scheme”, speaks to the essence of its mission—to tap into the immense potential that the economic zones hold for the growth and development of Nigeria.
According to the Managing Director of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority, Olufemi Ogunyemi, it has become imperative for SEZs to be re-engineered, bearing in mind the unfolding of the fourth industrial revolution, the heightened focus on sustainable development, and the new wave of global value chains.
“Accordingly, it is envisaged that the interactive sessions will provide an opportunity for stakeholders to discuss critical issues in more detail as it concerns standardising free zone operations; tax administration in the free zones; sharing experiences on free zone policies and operations, and developing actionable solutions.
“With the advent of global, continental, and regional economic realities, it is envisaged that outcomes from this two-day event will therefore serve as critical inputs to be adopted by SEZs regulators and other key stakeholders, and Nigeria as we all aspire to chart a new course,” he asserted.
On his part, the Managing Director of the Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority, Bamanga Jada, noted that despite the challenges that had been confronting operators and licensees, the Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority had attracted $24bn investment.
He added that the free zones under the authority’s regulation had over 100 licensed companies.
The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Olayemi Cardoso while acknowledging the successes of SEZs in Nigeria, called for a collaborative approach that would engage both the public and private sectors to provide a more coherent and consistent operational environment in ameliorating the challenges faced by stakeholders in the scheme.
The challenges, he noted, are constraints in areas of regulatory complexities, infrastructure deficits and inadequate access to finance amongst others.
In recent months, data from the National Bureau of Statistics indicates that Nigeria has struggled to attract Foreign Direct Investments into the country.
However, experts have advised the government at different levels to leverage the platform provided by special economic zones to boost FDI inflow.
The PUNCH had reported that the country’s FDIs declined by $470.8m in the last five years