• Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Highway to hope: Can Nigeria’s coastal corridor unlock economic prosperity?

Highway to hope: Can Nigeria’s coastal corridor unlock economic prosperity?

The availability of adequate infrastructure is a catalyst for economic growth, industrialisation, social progress, and regional integration. Yet, Nigeria, like many developing nations, faces significant infrastructural challenges hindering its potential. Addressing these challenges is not just an economic imperative but a moral one, essential for the nation’s holistic development.

A stark reminder of the cost of inadequate infrastructure is highlighted in a 2024 study published in the International Journal of Traffic and Transportation Engineering. The study estimates that Nigeria suffers an annual loss of $7.8 billion due to poor road infrastructure, a staggering figure that equates to 1.6 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). This loss exceeds the GDP contribution from the transport sector, underscoring the urgent need for infrastructural improvements.

Read also: Can Nigeria coastal highway drive industrialisation, economic transformation?

In this context, the ongoing construction of the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway is a beacon of hope. This ambitious 700-kilometre project aims to connect Lagos to Cross River State through the coastal states of Ogun, Ondo, Delta, Edo, Bayelsa, Rivers, and Akwa Ibom. It signifies a crucial step towards economic and infrastructural development, promising to unlock the economic potential of Nigeria’s coastal regions.

As with any major initiative, the project has sparked diverse opinions. Amidst the debates, one question persists: Can this highway truly lead Nigeria’s economic and infrastructural transformation, ultimately benefiting its population by improving accessibility, facilitating trade, creating employment opportunities, and fostering social and economic development?

With Nigeria’s GDP experiencing fluctuations and unemployment posing persistent challenges, the timing for such a venture could not be more opportune. KPMG’s 2023 International Global Economic Outlook report projects Nigeria’s unemployment rate to rise to 40.6 percent, up from 37.7 percent in 2022. This grim forecast highlights the urgent need for job creation and economic stimulation.

The construction phase of the coastal highway project promises to inject vitality into the national economy, creating thousands of jobs and stimulating industries. It is projected that the construction will generate nearly 10,000 jobs, resulting in a 0.015 percent increase in overall employment. Women and members of surrounding communities stand to be among the primary direct beneficiaries.

The true economic windfall, however, lies in the highway’s completion. It will serve as a lifeline for trade, tourism, and commerce, facilitating seamless connectivity from Lagos to Calabar and all points in between. Enhanced accessibility will catalyse economic activity along the entire corridor, unlocking the untapped potential of coastal communities and hinterlands alike.

The Lagos-Calabar coastal highway project is aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 9, which focuses on industry, innovation, and infrastructure. Nigeria’s rural road network is in dire condition, with 87 percent of the 200,000-kilometre network deteriorating. This project aims to bridge this gap by improving access to markets, healthcare, and education for rural communities.

 “The successful completion of the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway holds the promise of reshaping Nigeria’s infrastructure landscape and catalysing a broader West African transformation towards sustainable development.”

Other SDGs impacted include SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities), and SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities). By reducing travel time and fuel consumption, the highway promotes environmental sustainability, paving the way for cleaner, greener urban spaces.

Infrastructure is a major determinant of industrial success, yet Nigeria’s transport systems are inadequate. The completion of the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway is expected to significantly improve Nigeria’s Logistics Performance Index (LPI), potentially contributing 0.5 to 1.0 points to the LPI upon completion. This improvement will foster trade and industrial clusters, enhancing Nigeria’s economic landscape.

A notable aspect of this project is its reliance on the public-private partnership (PPP) model. Collaborations between the private sector and the federal government, exemplified by partnerships between Hitech and the federal government, are instrumental in driving infrastructure development. These alliances bring together the expertise, resources, and efficiency of private enterprises with the regulatory oversight and public accountability of governmental bodies.

As Nigeria charts its course towards sustainable development, investments in infrastructure like the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway are essential. They address immediate challenges and lay the foundation for long-term prosperity, demonstrating Nigeria’s commitment to building a brighter future for generations to come.

The successful completion of the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway holds the promise of reshaping Nigeria’s infrastructure landscape and catalysing a broader West African transformation towards sustainable development.

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By creating a more efficient trade corridor, this vital artery will not only boost Nigeria’s economy but also serve as a blueprint for similar infrastructure projects throughout the region. The improved connectivity will foster regional collaboration, economic integration, and knowledge sharing, propelling West Africa towards a brighter future.

This coastal highway is more than just layers of cement and asphalt; it is a symbol of Nigeria’s commitment to progress, a pathway to shared prosperity, and a testament to the transformative power of infrastructure development.

As construction progresses skeletally, Nigeria sets a precedent for the entire region, inspiring its neighbours to invest in similar initiatives that can unlock economic opportunity, improve living standards, and pave the way for a more sustainable future for all West Africans.