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246  the second-floor ballroom of Park Lane’s Four Seasons Hotel welcomed some 300 representatives from London’s fiscal hub, the Square Mile. Mostly men and all dressed almost identically in smart dark suits, the international crowd were engaged in managing private wealth funds. Most were on the look-out for investment opportunities for their African clients in Europe seeking to invest in their home country.   For Mr. Chen Xiaoxing, the Chinese managing director of the Lekki Free Zone Development Company, the principle task was to convince his audience to put their clients’ money on Nigeria. In a speech titled “Lekki, The New Model City”, he laid out key incentives for potential investors.   “In the past 100 years,” began Chen in immaculate English, “Africa has missed the tide of industrial revolution. Now there is a new chance.” His presentation sketched Lekki as a city that would not repeat the mistakes of Lagos. Rather, he explained, it would feature better housing, top-notch hospitals and an unprecedented digital infrastructure. Not only would there be a limitation on red tape, the city would also be eco-friendly and above all, safe.  Central to his plan was the proposed exhibition centre. “Every year, 200,000 Nigerians travel to China to buy products for trade. In the future, they can do that in Lekki.” Continuing his theme, Chen went on to stress that the zone would be open to anyone seeking to profit from low taxes, and with a product or service idea to appeal to the expanding Nigerian middle class. “Good health care in Nigeria is too expensive halls that house the first factories. So far, though, there are no visible signs of the hotly-anticipated economic boom. “There,” says Doherty, directing our gaze. “That piece of land was just sold to a Ukrainian company that makes mayonnaise.”   He turns up the volume on the radio, the pop star’s lilting voice breaching the zone’s current, temporary calm: “Girl I want to make you sweat…” As we continue in the four-wheel drive over unpaved roads bordered with palm trees, Doherty shouts over the music, “It feels like a safari! Now I’ll take you to the lagoon. You’ll definitely go: Wow!”  The master plan for the first phase of the Lekki Free Zone is a heavy, solid A3-sized tome, prepared by the Shanghai Tongji Urban Planning and Design Institute. The design has all the hallmarks of a typical Chinese urban extension plan, with a symmetrical central axis, an exhibition centre, large plots with sizable setbacks, and at its heart, a man-made lake. The reference pictures for future buildings are all Chinese. Significantly, the Lekki Free Zone is completely fenced-off from the rest of Nigeria, meaning residents will live in a gated, privatised city. Workers of the factories inside the zone won’t have that option. For them, designated workers’ accommodation will be erected just outside the gates.  A NEW CHANCE In October 2013, the developers of the Lekki Zone took a flight to the world’s top financial centre in search of potential investors. One Wednesday afternoon in the UK capital,


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