• Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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BusinessDay

Enter the Dragon: A tale of two Governors

fashola (3)

Victor Adigun

The governors of Lagos and Ogun State are forward thinking. Both hosted a train of Chinese investors over the week. But their approach to attracting investors, gathered from local dailies on 2nd July, stands Gov Fashola apart from Gov Daniel. Fashola exudes the confidence of someone at home with where the shoe aches are; both today and tomorrow.
The 32-man Chinese delegation was led by Mr Lu Zushan, governor of
Zhejiang province on the East China Sea. Zhejiang is one of China’s prominent urban centres of entrepreneurship. During the meeting with
Gbenga Daniel, Mr Zushan was matter fact about how alluring and inviting the natural endowments in Ogun State were to Chinese businesses.
Zhejiang, as the leading industrial area in China is endowed with electronics, machinery,chemical engineering and other infrastructural and natural endowments. Zhejiang, on the face of it, is a partner worthy of doing business with Ogun State. Still, the mutual benefits from the partnership were lost to this curious observer.

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Particularly when compared with a similar meeting Lu Zushan had with Gov Fashola. In clear terms, Fashola asked that Chinese expertise be relocated to Nigeria. Note: the boss of Lagos State is dictating the terms and speaking on behalf of a wider audience: Nigeria. Yes, Lu Zushan did say the MoU (now a buzzword) with Ogun State would be beneficial to both states for the benefit of mankind. Sounds nebulous.
An aside, the MoU between Nigeria and Russia’s Gazprom, the state-owned oil and gas company, has unleashed a cyber war against racism. The joint company is called Nigaz a monumental slip of tongue.
Back to Lagos and Fashola’s big picture problem-solving approach. Fashola listed areas where he saw convergence of interests: manufacturing, jobs and enterprises. Oguns deal sweetener, on the other hand, is open-ended. A wee bit like the one Dr Taminu Yakubu, President Yar’Adua’s economic adviser, offered Mr Jiang Jianqing, the boss of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC).
Gov Daniel assured the Chinese group of a liberalised regime of policies, commitment to easy access to land for agriculture, housing and industry, a competitive banking environment etc. Whatever those are? Phrases culled from a business management textbook. Lagos didn’t offer Mr Zushan and his team a blank cheque. No, Mr Fashola specifies.
For him, mechanised fish farming and rice production are top of his agricultural agenda. If the Chinese take the bait, graduates in Lagos can be assured of employment. Lagosians, likewise, will be guaranteed of fish and rice on their tables as another global food crisis looms. A far more proactive deal in contrast to the farmlands-for-cash deal Yakubu offered to ICBC.
China is now considered the big new power in African matters. Fashola, aware of China’s ravenous appetite for raw materials, insists that the resources and manpower are here in the country. Shipping down some Chinese capital and technological expertise, not just financial capital or finished goods, is a fair bargain.
In other words, Fashola wants to see Nigeria, and the continent, move from being a raw materials procurement centre to a manufacturing hub like China. Nigeria can serve as the China of West Africa if Ghana doesn’t beat us to it. Or, if we’re daring enough, Sub-Saharan Africa’s manufacturing hub.
Like Daniel, Fashola plays the free trade zone card. A deft move by both. Lu Zushan is the boss of one China’s numerous trade zones. The others are Shenzhen (a city in Guangdong), Wenzhou (a city in Zhejiang), Shanghai and Jiangsu. Ogun State has established a free trade zone called Ogun-Guangdong Free Trade Zone; in addition to other Chinese feathers in its cap. Guangdong is where China’s, successful and rewarding, experiment with capitalism began.
Granting concessions to attract business isn’t a bad idea. But the fact that commuters shuttling the Lagos-Ibadan expressway have to travel with their hearts in their mouths is befuddling. Tankers, double parked in specific areas along the Ogun State stretch of this road, and the makeshift community sprouting around them are an eyesore. Compounded by needlessly snarling and time-wasting traffic.