• Saturday, June 15, 2024
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Can Nigeria’s coastal highway drive industrialisation, economic transformation?

Can Nigeria’s coastal highway drive industrialisation, economic transformation?

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.

A 2024 study published in the International Journal of Traffic and Transporation Engineering – which examined the direct economic impact of poor road infrastructure in Nigeria, estimated that the country suffers an annual loss of $7.8 billion owing to inadequate road infrastructure.

According to the study, the disruptions account for 1.6 percent of Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) annually, a figure that exceeds the GDP contribution from the transport sector.

Read also: Five things Nigeria must do to fix-old problems hurting its industrialisation

In response, the ongoing construction of the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway, a 700-kilometre highway project designed to connect Lagos to Cross River State through the coastal states of Ogun, Ondo, Delta, Edo, Bayelsa, Rivers, and Akwa Ibom, signifies a crucial step towards economic and infrastructural development.

Like any significant initiative, the project has sparked diverse opinions within civil society and policy circles.

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?

Investment in economic transformation

With the country’s GDP experiencing fluctuations and unemployment posing persistent challenges, the timing for such a venture could not be more opportune. According to projections by KPMG, Nigeria’s unemployment rate is expected to rise to 40.6 percent as compared to 2022’s 37.7 percent.

This forecast was detailed in KPMG’s 2023 International Global Economic Outlook report, which highlights the factors contributing to the anticipated rise in unemployment including limited private sector investment, low industrialisation, slower growth, and the consequent inability of the economy to absorb the four to five million new entrants into the job market.

The construction phase alone of the coastal highway project is poised to inject vitality into the national economy, creating thousands of jobs and stimulating industries.

It is projected that the construction of the highway will generate nearly 10,000 jobs, resulting in a 0.015 percent increase in overall employment. Among the primary direct beneficiaries will be women and members of surrounding communities.

While the estimated number of direct jobs created by the project is around 10,000, this figure does not encompass other indirect and induced employment opportunities that will arise due to the project and the subsequent increase in economic activity facilitated by the road in the future.

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However, the true economic windfall lies in the highway’s completion. Upon its completion, the highway will serve as a lifeline for trade, tourism, and commerce, facilitating seamless connectivity from Lagos to Calabar and all points in between.

This enhanced accessibility will catalyse economic activity along the entire corridor, unlocking the untapped potential of coastal communities and hinterlands alike.

The completion of the Lagos – Calabar coastal highway project is expected to significantly improve the Logistics Performance Index for Nigeria. Given the project’s scale and its impact on trade and transport infrastructure, it is estimated that the project could contribute at least 0.5 to 1.0 points to the LPI upon completion.

As a result, the new highway creates avenues for better connectivity amongst areas closer to it and the rest of Nigeria, this will aid the rapid development of previously underserved areas and communities.

It is also set to result in additional tourism and commercial hot spots as all types of activities in any industry will be more commercially viable due to the increased connectivity.

In addition, the project is expected to stimulate the growth of commercial and residential expansions alongside its path.

Enhanced transportation connections are likely to encourage developers to pursue mixed-use ventures, including office spaces, retail hubs, and residential communities, addressing the varied requirements of the expanding populace. This project is anticipated to draw in businesses, residents, and investors, thereby enriching the vitality and economic prosperity of the neighbouring states.

Similar initiatives were completed in India such as the Goa/Karnataka – Kundapura NH17 highway project along the Arabian Sea coast which has resulted in dramatically reduced travel times, less wear and tear of vehicles, increased savings in fuel consumption, and enhanced pollution control. More recently, the Mumbai coastal road was inaugurated in March 2024 and has already brought immense relief to commuters navigating the country’s busiest city.

The road which included sections built on reclaimed land, bridges, twin tunnels, and three interchanges is facilitating smoother transportation of goods and people, fostering economic growth and regional integration.

Steering infrastructural development for SDG attainment

Aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the coastal highway project emerges as a catalyst for progress across multiple fronts.

By enhancing access to all-season roads for rural populations, the project directly contributes to SDG 9 focusing on – Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure. Currently, Nigeria significantly lags in rural road accessibility.

The country has a rural road network of about 200,000km, 87 percent of which is in deteriorated condition, thereby negatively impacting economic activities in the nation.

The coastal highway project aims to bridge this gap, especially in terms of increased connectivity for rural communities located within 2 km of the shoreline by improving their access to markets, healthcare, and education. Given the project’s significant impact on rural communities, a projected increase in accessibility can be seen, potentially elevating the SDG 9 indicator by 10 to 20 points.

Other SDGs to be impacted by the project include SDG 8 -Decent Work and Economic Growth, which focuses on promoting sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all; SDG 10 – Reduced Inequalities, which focuses on reducing inequality within and among countries; and SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities, which focuses on making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.

Moreover, by reducing travel time and fuel consumption, the Coastal Highway Project promotes environmental sustainability. This reduction in carbon emissions and improved transportation infrastructure pave the way for cleaner, greener urban spaces, setting a precedent for sustainable urban development.

The implementation of a train system alongside the road will allow for less traffic, less pollution, and a more efficient way of travelling alongside the coast of Nigeria.

Driving industrialisation

The availability of adequate infrastructure is also a major determinant of the success of every country’s industrial sector; however, Nigeria does not have adequate infrastructure to grow businesses, especially developed transport systems such as roads and railways connected to the nation’s seaports.

Experts believe that the completion of the Lagos – Calabar coastal highway project will significantly improve the Logistics Performance Index for Nigeria.

Given the project’s scale and its impact on trade and transport infrastructure, it is estimated that the project could contribute at least 0.5 to 1.0 points to the LPI upon completion while fostering trade and industrial clusters.

Read also: Jake Riley is committed to championing industrialisation in Nigeria MD

Role of PPP

One 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, one of Nigeria’s top civil engineering companies, and the federal government are instrumental in driving infrastructure development across Nigeria.

Such alliances bring together the expertise, resources, and efficiency of private enterprises with the regulatory oversight and public accountability of governmental bodies. This partnership not only accelerates project implementation but also ensures sustainability and long-term viability.

As Nigeria charts its course towards sustainable development, investments in infrastructure like the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway are essential. They not only address immediate challenges but also lay the foundation for long-term prosperity.

By prioritising projects that catalyse economic growth and enhance the quality of life for its citizens, Nigeria demonstrates its commitment to building a brighter future for generations to come.

The successful completion of this transformative project not only holds the promise of reshaping Nigeria’s infrastructure landscape but also carries significant potential for catalysing broader West African transformation towards sustainable development, offering a model for future endeavours in the region.