248 MADE IN ETHIOPIA To see how it all could play out, you only have to take a two hour drive from the African Union Building in Addis Ababa to the underdeveloped countryside outside the Ethiopian capital. Suddenly, a large gate appears, with above it, in both English and Chinese characters, “Eastern Industry Zone”. We are greeted by the manager of the Hua Jian Shoe Factory, the first company to set up shop. He takes us inside, for an impressive tour. We see massive halls where hundreds of local villagers are working in a modern and clean shoe factory. Along the walls and under the ceilings are red banners with typical Chinese slogans to stimulate workers to do their best. “Late arrival is delay”, says one. But also: “Early arrival is waste”. And: “Those who don’t work hard today, will have a hard time looking for a job tomorrow.” The workers are Ethiopians. The management is Chinese. The shoes are for Mark Fisher Footwear, an American company. There is a guy from a Brazilian company that does the quality checks. And after the shoes are being packed into cardboard boxes, we learn, they are being shipped to stores all over Europe. Now this is quite something. This might not be a new form of colonialism. This could just very well be the next leap in globalisation. Nigerian soil. “Currently, the situation in Lagos is a nightmare for business. There are power cuts all the time and traffic is hell. It is time for big and bold solutions. Lekki might be just that.” TWIN CITIES As with many developments, it is too soon too tell what the Lekki Zone will bring to Nigeria. That said, early 2014 the project won the support of none other than Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, owner of the Dangote Group. He recently announced a whopping US$9 billion investment in the Lekki Free Trade Zone to develop Dangote Refineries and Petrochemical Company. The move will call on the services of some 8,000 engineers, he claims, as well as create new jobs. “I can assure you that this is going to be the biggest free trade zone on the African continent,” Dangote declared at the plan’s unveiling. “And I know that the people will begin to show their appreciation.” His plans would mean that the Nigerians could finally refine oil themselves, in their own country. If all goes according to plan, the Lekki Free Trade Zone will be a completely gated, privatized city, run by the joint venture. You can only enter the city when you live there. Your car will have a tag that identifies you when you go through one of the 11 gates. Inside there will be companies and upper class people. And this is not the only way Lekki is demarcated: in fact the zone will be outside Nigerian customs. Consequently, Lekki is planned to become a sort of non-Lagos, having all things Lagos lacks: an accurate transport system, a proper drainage, solid spatial regulations, a constant power supply and a reliable police force. At the same time, Lekki will also miss all elements that make Lagos so exciting: the dynamic environment, the complete mix of people and functions and the unexpected encounters. In that sense, the Lekki SEZ is an idea that is both utopian as distopian; it considers the existing city as a failure, and creates a new one next to it. In that sense, one could consider the Lekki Free Zone a true export product: that of the Chinese urban model. The phenomena of the twin city is a something we have seen all over China, most prominently in Shanghai, where the new, spacious and modern Pudong district was created face to face with the colonial Bund and the chaotic Chinese city behind it.
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