FZW talks with Dr Amy Jadesimi about LADOL Free Zone’s place in Nigeria’s economy
As the managing director of a large offshore oil and gas logistics free zone, what is your long-term vision in terms of your place in Nigeria’s and West Africa’s petrochemicals landscape?
LADOL’s vision is larger than petrochemicals. Provision of support for the petroleum sector will continue to be important to LADOL’s growth, particularly in the short to medium term, but we are building an industrial Free Zone as a hub for high value industrial projects and companies. Our logistics, fabrication and integration capabilities are key to achieving real local content in Nigeria; however, simultaneously, we’re always looking for opportunities that will help Nigeria become a more competitive business environment, whether that manifests into the installation of an agri-processing facility or manufacturing plant for technology products.
You have ambitious goals for your company in terms of its contribution to Nigeria’s infrastructural and economic development. As Nigeria navigates a difficult period in international petrochemical markets, how is your perspective evolving to fit the current realities?
At LADOL we firmly believe that the current economic environment in Nigeria is an opportunity. Now businesses, particularly in the oil and gas industry, must re-evaluate the ways in which they do business, this is most pressing for the IOCs. The high-costs associated with operating offshore acreages is no longer sustainable nor is the high cost of them doing business in Nigeria. With IOCs looking to cut operational costs, they need real local content as well as reliable and transparent local partners such as LADOL. LADOL, and similar local companies, must continue to invest in human capital development, high-value service provision and facility/infrastructure development to create an optimal business environment. Business leaders that are committed to transforming Nigeria now have the opportunity, and the rule of law to support them in their pursuit.
The downturn in oil prices has the potential to make foreign investors more willing to invest in building backward linkages with local industry. Is Nigerian industry well-equipped to meet the needs of these investors?
Yes and no, Nigeria has a small but growing and highly significant real private sector. Local companies that operate transparently and add tremendous value to the economy. With the new government and increased pressure on anti-corruption initiatives worldwide, Nigeria’s real private sector companies are now very attractive partners both locally and for international companies looking to do business in Nigeria and access the world’s next big growth area.
To what degree is the fiscal regime of Nigeria’s free zones competitive on a regional and global level? How might free zones benefit from further liberalisation and stronger incentives?
Nigeria is West Africa’s largest economy and regional leader. Successes and failures in Nigeria, for better or worse, reverberate to our neighbours, so it is important that Nigeria set the region’s standards of business. Nigeria has a well-developed but bloated and inefficient onshore oil and gas industry and a deep offshore industry that is rapidly developing, based on new economy, sustainable locally driven business models and is capable of creating vast wealth across the country, if managed responsibly. To ensure that Nigeria’s free zones remain competitive and continue to add value to the regional economy, the market must remain open and transparent. Continued transparency will generate confidence among local authorities and businesses in the value these sites can bring – a cycle that is favourable to the global economy.
Building a diverse labour pool is often a goal of free zone programmes. To what extent are you involved in training local labour and creating career opportunities for people who may have been marginalised in the past?
The development of Nigerian human capital is at the core of LADOL’s vision. Nigeria’s free zones cannot be competitive from a cost perspective without trained, highly capable local staff onsite. Importing skilled labour is expensive and stunts Nigeria’s growth, so we’re building an innovative upskilling academy that is effectively a campus housing several training schools for our workers as well as those seeking further education. As part of this initiative we also want to bring more women into the industry and equip them with the skills they need to be successful and resilient in a market that is rapidly changing.
Where do you look for inspiration in charting a course for your free zone, the companies and investors therein, and the people employed there?
Fortunately inspiration is all around, there are many companies and leaders seeking to forge new norms that will bring more of the world’s population into the economic fold. I am a commissioner for the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, which was founded by Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, and Lord Mark Malloch Brown, former Deputy Secretary-General of the UN. In the commission I am surrounded by inspiring leaders that believe commercial enterprises, government and society can collaborate to achieve more for the world’s citizens. To kick start this process there is an onus on business leaders to create sustainable, socially inclusive and efficient companies prepared to meet the challenges of today’s world as well as any that we may face in the future.