80% creation potential: SMEs integral to achieving SDGs —LADOL MD

A medical doctor-cum investment banking expert, Dr Amy Jadesimi, the Managing Director of Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Base, was one of the discussants gathered by the World Bank Group to discuss how to galvanise the private sector to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which aim to reduce extreme poverty in the world by 2030. DARE ADEKANMBI spoke with her after her presentation.


During your presentation, you advocated for a paradigm shift in calling for a diversion of capital from low growth to high growth investments, particularly in the SMEs. How is this important towards achieving the SDGs?

The Nigerian market is huge. Nigeria needs $14 billion infrastructure every year and the huge market can justify that. SMEs is the way to go because they can create 80 per cent of the jobs. If we don’t factor the SMEs, we may as well forget about the SDGs. The $17 billion made available for projects by multilateral bodies should be channelled towards empowering SMEs.


How do you think Nigeria which is already borrowing heavily to finance projects could make money available to the SMEs?

The Nigerian government has made it clear that it wants to create an enabling environment for the private sector. The Managing Director of the Nigerian Port Authority, the Comptroller General of Customs visited LADOL and they all said the same thing that government is committed to creating a conducive atmosphere for businesses to thrive and creating a level-playing field. When President Muhammadu Buhari spoke at the African Business Forum two weeks ago, he said the same thing and even mentioned specifically the Free Trade Zone which is where we operate. So, what our government is creating environment to attract investment.


How key a development partner is the private sector in the realisation of the ambitious SDGs?

THE private sector is the key to solving world’s problems and achieving the SDGs and that is the case we put forward here at the World Bank using LADOL as a prime example.  At LADOL, we built the only privately developed port facility inside the Apapa Port in Nigeria. We invested $500 million, turning a disused swamp into the largest shipyard in West Africa. We also built a deep offshore logistics base that is going to save our offshore oil and gas industry billions of dollars over the next few years.

So, this is a prime example of how private sector investment can add value and transform the market. What we have done at LADOL is going to create 50, 000 jobs directly and indirectly and has 10 times multiplier effect. The indirect effect is very important and that come about because it is a very strategic investment. We are building investment that enables the biggest jobs in the world to be done in our country. This makes it easy to do a whole host of related services that will transform fabrication and engineering. We have already increased the local demand for fabrication by a factor of four. We are going to have fabrication across the country, from the south to the north. This is because we have cracked the biggest part of the barrier, which is being able to do business in Nigeria.


Against the background of complaint of a near-toxic business climate in Nigeria from potential investors, how easy has it been for your company?

It has been an uphill task for the team behind LADOL. The company was founded by my father, Ladi Jadesimi and others and has been run as a labour of love, a patriotic effort because he saw in his lifetime that Nigeria was moving in the wrong direction and that it was not developing new capacities and not making long-term investment. So, for him and other founders of LADOL, it is about making sure that when we go through the next 30 years of oil and gas exploration, we use it to develop our country and to diversify the economy.

Of course, being the first, we came across a lot of opposition. Many of you would have seen that we have had court cases. We have had our detractors. In the maritime sector, there is a well-known monopoly that has tried very hard to keep us and a few others down and push us out. But they have never succeeded because this is bigger than one company or monopoly. We are committed to growing the industry for everybody because Nigeria has the capacity for 10 more LADOLs. Nigeria has the capacity for thousands of fabrication yards. We want to see more millionaires and billionaires. We want to see Nigeria become the hub for West Africa and this will create thousands of jobs.