BusinessDay

Lafarge sees opportunity for economic growth in creating livable, productive cities

Lafarge Africa, a leading cement manufacturer in Nigeria, says there is opportunity for the growth of the country’s economy more livable and productive cities are created. It describes that action as one of the best strategies for economic growth.

Khaled El Dokani, the company’s CEO, who made this observation at the fourth edition of its Concrete Ideas series with the theme, ‘PPPs in Urban Regeneration: Global Best Practices, Nigerian Opportunities’, added that the strategy has capacity to improve the welfare of millions of Nigerians.

“More than 80 percent of global GDP is generated in cities. Making our cities more livable and more productive is thus one of the best strategies for growing our economies and improving the welfare of millions of our people,” El Dokani noted.

He pointed out that the world’s greatest cities today were once marred by slums but urban regeneration projects have helped global cities attain their status. He was of the view that Nigeria had so much to gain from urban regeneration in terms of reducing poverty, improving the health of its citizens, tackling climate change etc.

“Successful urban regeneration requires an integrated approach and this is why Lafarge has assembled architects, economists, finance professionals, lawyers, sociologists etc. to discuss the potential of urban regeneration in Nigeria and provide workable, action-oriented solutions,” he said.

He commended the continuous support and engagement of thought leaders from the private and public sectors who have worked with Lafarge to make Concrete Ideas the leading platform for continuous dialogue between the public and private sectors on real estate, infrastructure and construction.

Babatunde Fashola, minister for works and housing, noted that the acute housing deficit all over the world is mainly an urban phenomenon, adding that, historically, cities all over the world have partnered with private investors to transform slums, boost the stock of housing and provide economic opportunities for urban dwellers.

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“Our government is committed to exploring tested strategies to alleviate Nigeria’s housing challenges. I have encountered very innovative ideas for partnership with the private sector in the Concrete Ideas series,” he said.

The minister noted that being the Special Guest of Honour in Concrete Ideas for the third time was a reflection of government’s commitment to working with the private sector in transforming these ideas into concrete solutions to the housing and infrastructure problems for Nigerian cities.

“The beauty of Concrete Ideas is that there is an in-built mechanism for follow-up. The government will keep its side of the bargain by formulating policies out of these good ideas,” he assured.

Adebode Adefioye, chairman of Lafarge Africa, also noted that urban degeneration was a global challenge that could be solved through urban regeneration projects resulting in the advancement of socio-economic and technological development of economies including the creation of more efficient transportation systems, sustainable livelihoods, employment generation, foreign investment, healthier citizens etc.

“We believe that through robust discussions and effective collaboration at all levels, we can transform our urban centres into vibrant communities that attract investments, generate jobs, boost productivity and power economic growth,” he said

Adefioye expressed the belief that regeneration projects could “nurture vibrant hubs for the creative and digital economy”, thus enabling Nigeria to scale up the multimillion-dollar investments the country’s technology sector is attracting.

On hand at the session to discuss the theme were renowned experts in public policy and leading industry players. They included Mohamed Yahya, Resident Representative, UNDP Nigeria, Tosin Osinowo, Principal Architect, cmDesign Atelier, and Basirat Oyalowo, Research Manager, Centre for Housing Studies at the University of Lagos.

Others were Emma Okas Wike, President, Nigeria Institute of Estate Surveyors and Valuers; Simon Gusah, an Australia-registered Urban Development Planner and Femi Yusuff, Head, Technical Products and Innovation, Lafarge Africa.

The experts shared many examples and insights on how PPPs have been used to regenerate blighted communities all over the world, sharing ideas on how relevant policies could be adapted for Nigeria.

The Concrete Ideas platform embodies Lafarge Africa’s thought leadership interventions and has become a catalyst for the attainment of sustainable change and continuous improvement within the sector.

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