In the words of Harvey Firestone, foremost American businessman, “Capital isn’t so important in business. Experience isn’t so important. You can get both these things. What is important is the idea. If you have ideas, you have the main asset you need, and there isn’t any limit to what you can do with your business and your life.”
Similarly, famous Nigerian success coach and motivational speaker, Sam Adeyemi, once affirmed, and rightly so, that ideas rule the world. The quality of ideas available in a given society determines the quality of life and opportunities available in such society.
Many people seem not to understand that the quality of our lives as human beings is substantially a reflection of the quality of ideas we generate. Many still seem not to comprehend that the ideas which we conceive, like kola in Igbo culture, is life itself. It is the kind of ideas that we give to our space that it gives back to us.
In Lagos State, the Lagos Economic Summit, popularly referred to as Ehingbeti, is one of the several innovative ideas that the government initiated to promote sustainable growth and development. It is a platform through which the state engages the organised private sector and the international community to generate policies that will enhance the state’s socio-economic development.
Since the first edition was held in 2000, the Summit has developed into a constructive and engaging forum for the stimulation of socio-economic growth not only in Lagos, but the country as a whole. As a result of the need for realistic assessment of implementable goals against set benchmarks, the summit, which started as an annual event turned biennial in 2008.
The first three editions were deliberately planned to be diagnostic in nature. This is to ensure that the challenges are properly identified and articulated so that short, medium and long term solutions could be found for them. However, by the 4th Summit in 2008, a blueprint had been developed for implementation. The government has since implemented over 150 resolutions reached at past editions of the Summit.
For instance, a review of the implementation of the resolutions and recommendation of the 2012 Summit with the theme “From BRICS to BRINCS: Lagos Holds the Key” revealed that a lot of successes have been recorded with achievable targets in full focus. The core areas of the Summit in 2012 were Power, Agriculture, Transportation and Housing, which gave rise to the acronym PATH.
In 2014, the Summit with the theme: ‘Powering the Lagos Economy: Real Opportunities, Endless Possibilities’, focused mainly on the crucial issue of constant and sustainable electricity supply in the state. The essence of the 2014 summit’s focus on power was for the private sector to draw the attention of the government to places where its activities would enable the private sector achieve its potential in terms of delivering of service, provision of opportunities and growth of the economy.
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Massive investments and initiatives have since been undertaken by the government in those sectors in conjunction with the private sector and other development partners. This is a clear evidence of the resolve on the part of government to ensure that the Summit is not just another talk shop. Through the Summit, the delivery of landmark projects such as Independent Power Plants (IPPs), Lekki-Epe Expressway, Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge, Pen Cinema Bridge, Agric Isawo Road, International Airport Road, opening of Regional Road and rehabilitation of Ibeju Lekki-Epe road network, among others have been made possible. It is not, therefore, surprising, that Lagos, in the last 21 years, has become a model for governance in the country.
To sustain and surpass the current pace of development, the 2021 Ehingbeti Summit with the theme: ‘“Greater Lagos: Setting the Tone for the Next Decade”, was recently held on both virtual and physical platforms. Over 11,000 people in 10 countries participated in the event, with an average record of 5,500 participants globally attending sessions daily.
There were 146 speakers and panelists who facilitated six plenaries and 20 deep discussion sessions held during the event, which focused on six thematic areas, including making Lagos investment destination, strengthening governance and institutions, Fourth Industrial Revolution opportunities, funding growth and ensuring inclusive human capital development and sustainability, resilience and impacts.
In his opening remarks, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu pledged that the learnings and recommendations emanating from the Summit would be developed into a policy framework to forge a new action plan and implementation that would bring the envisioned future of Lagos to reality.
The Governor said Lagos took lessons from the disruption of economic activities created by the spread of COVID-19, stressing that the experience would make the state deepens its scenario planning capabilities to bolster its resilience against such an emergency.
At the end of the summit, Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, outlined 11 key highlights that encompasses the resolutions to be implemented by the government before the next Summit.
With the absence of the Economic Summit in the past five years, there seemed to be a decline in the rate of public-private collaboration in the State. With the successful holding of this year’s edition, the government has been able to reconnect with the private sector. The quest to strengthen the existing relationship between government and the private sector is one of the major goals of the summit. This is quite understandable because greater private sector participation in governance is a prerequisite for a functional State.
According to Governor Sanwo-Olu, Lagos State has set off an ambitious plan for its development over the next decade. By 2030, the State, which has the 5th largest economy in Africa, will have a running city-wide network of colour-coded Metro Lines that will move over 34.5 million people monthly and cut travel time in the metropolis drastically.
Similarly, water transportation infrastructure being put in place will make waterway transport systems a central element of life in the metropolis. It is also expected that the Fourth Mainland Bridge will come to define the cityscape of the 2020s in the same way the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge defined it a decade earlier. By 2030, Lagos will be a Smart City, fully covered by a network of several thousands of kilometers of fibre optic infrastructure that will carry broadband internet into homes, offices and schools. The foundation for this is already being laid by the current administration.
If effectively implemented, the various recommendations of the 2021 Ehingbeti Summit would, no doubt, help accelerate the socio-economic development and growth of Lagos. Given the centrality of Lagos to the overall economic prosperity of Nigeria, it is essential that the state government and its developmental partners continue to support new initiatives, ideas and visions that could enhance socio-economic growth in the state and, indeed, the country at large.
Ogunbiyi is Deputy Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.