ment, we prosecute our local refiners as illegal, and we close them down. Instead, we should put them in the Free Zone and give them a chance to do what they do!” Fundamentally, says Balogun, the Lekki SEZ is very different from the Shenzhen SEZ. “China started as a socialist planned economy that evolved into state capitalism. Nigeria already has a hedonistic consumer market. You can find the latest model of every product here.” Laughing, he continues, “Do you know what the first products made in Shenzhen were? Toys! For children! In a country with a one-child policy! Those toys were clearly not meant to be bought in China! They were meant for export. China was saving money, developing their economy and the government kept consumption low. That is totally different from what we are doing in Nigeria.” Not everyone agrees with him. “People are moving to cities, and these people need jobs. They need to be elevated out of informality. They have aspirations. The Free Trade Zone can help a lot,” explains Reinaldo Fiorito, partner at management consultancy firm McKinsey in Lagos, and a supporter of the Lekki zone. According to Fiorito, bankers, manufacturers, government officials and consultants all expect much from the Lekki project. For backers of the project like him, even if the zone does not immediately bring the millions in foreign investment and the thousands of new manufacturing jobs hoped for, Lekki still represents a new and improved urban model on nowadays! If you start a hospital in the zone, with internationally educated Nigerian doctors from Europe or the USA, I guarantee that you will start making money.” But will it work? That seems to be the main question that everyone disagrees on. “Please, excuse the mess,” apologises Dr. Dele Balogun as we enter his admittedly cluttered office. Surrounded by chairs, a fridge, small television and shelves that are groaning under the weight of books and magazines, the University of Lagos economist explains the fundamental problem with Nigeria’s economy of today: almost everything is imported. “Just take a look at me. My suit, my watch, my glasses, my wedding ring, my shoes – they are all imported. If you count it all together, I paid maybe 100,000 naira Nigerian currency for it, of which 80% goes to foreign producers. That means that our need for foreign currency is immense.” Balogun has strong doubts as to whether the Lekki Free Zone will bring Nigeria the foreign currency he says is needed. “The zone is aimed at selling products on the local market. That means that it will create appendixes of foreign companies. That’s no use to us. We need to turn the system inside out, start producing local products for export.” This is especially true for refined oil. Although Nigeria is one of the world’s major oilproducing countries, it is also the largest importer of refined petroleum. “We should be focussing on domestic refinery capacities instead of giving these concessions to foreign refining companies. At the mo- 247 Thika Superhighway, built by Chinese contractors, in Nairobi “Over there the apartment blocks, over here the convention centre. And there the shopping malls.” Business director Phil of the Lekki Free Trade Zone, Nigeria. China’s ‘stadium diplomacy’: a National Football Stadium for Tanzania.
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