Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Thursday advocated further nurturing of the business relationship between Nigeria and Singapore through visits by Singaporean entrepreneurs to Lagos and Nigeria.
Governor Fashola, who spoke at the Lagos House, Ikeja where he played host to the Singaporean High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr Shabbir Hassanbhai, said such visits would also enable the entrepreneurs to know and acquaint themselves with the environment in which they expectedly want to invest.
According to the Governor, “The biggest impediment now probably, if that is the right word to use, is the very slow movement of Singaporean entrepreneurs outside their own shores. Leaving their shores and coming here will enable them to see the environment in which they expectedly want to invest”
Also while accepting an invitation by the High Commissioner to speak at an Africa-Singapore Business Forum coming up mid next year in Singapore, Governor Fashola again suggested that such a forum be held in rotation between Africa and Singapore to act as a vehicle of interchange of knowledge and nurturing of business relationships.
“I think, maybe if we begin to have this kind of fora in rotation, maybe host it in Africa one period and in Singapore another period, it will facilitate the crossing of channels and direct contact with the people and the place rather than dealing with them on laptops and telephones”, the Governor further suggested.
Governor Fashola charged the High Commissioner to take it as an assignment “to get Singaporean entrepreneurs to actually leave the shores and comfort of their country and really go and see the world, particularly Lagos and many parts of Nigeria”.
Acknowledging that he has been a beneficiary of Singaporean hospitality and business efficiency, the Governor declared, “Many members of my team have been largely inspired by what you have done in your country and we have been back here since that very first contact trying to surpass ourselves as it were and the Singaporean ethos of work still runs very deep in this Government and we will continue to keep that alive”.
Governor Fashola also called for the deepening of relationships between Lagos and Singapore in the area of medical knowledge and capacities pointing out that by the time his administration completes a few of the State’s specialist health facilities it would require training and capacity building in the health sector.
“I have seen the advances and frontiers of Medical Science in Singapore. I have also had cause to know people who have benefited from the opportunity and I think that with the level of facilities that we are developing here, it wouldn’t be difficult to create an exchange of personnel when we can have your people come and work with us and help develop the knowledge that we have. I think that is the area we want to pursue and explore as we go further”, the Governor said.
On the investments by Singaporean entrepreneurs in Nigeria and particularly in Lagos, Governor Fashola expressed joy at the development, notably the investments in Lagos being driven by Tolaram Group adding that a few weeks ago, he met with the Group and reached some compromise on land which, according to him, has been on the way of the project.
“That project is our project and it is as much our project as it is theirs. So we have a mutual self-enlightened interest to see its actualization and we will continue to work with them to see that we give the necessary governmental support to deliver that baby”, the Governor said.
Congratulating the High Commissioner on the progress and development he has achieved in the deepening of relationships between Nigeria and Singapore, Governor Fashola particularly commended him for the arrival of the first cargo flight from Singaporean Airlines to Nigeria.
“I am convinced that in the event, men and women will follow the cargo and then we will have full service passenger flight. I recall this was one of the constraints when I met the Minister and you when I spoke about visiting Africa and he complained that given that he was much advanced in years, connecting flight was a consideration”., the Governor said.
Governor Fashola was optimistic that the process of completing the air services agreement that would enable the flight to be permanent would “in a very short rather than long term” be in place adding, “Our two countries will be better for it”.
Earlier in his opening remarks, the Singaporean High Commissioner said he was in Lagos to acquaint himself with the Governor and people of Lagos State as well as see how he could strengthen the already existing relationship between Lagos and his country.
According to him, in the last three years, the Government of Singapore has been very focused in wanting to create a larger economic footprint in Africa adding that the political relations Singapore has enjoyed particularly with Nigeria has been a great fortune for his country in building this economic footprint in Africa.
Recalling that Singapore has many on-going economic activities in Nigeria at the moment, the High Commissioner cited as the most important, the inauguration of the first cargo flight of the Singaporean Airline to Nigeria on December 5, 2011.
“For me, this is a very significant event in trying to bridge the connectivity issue we have between Asia and Africa and, I think starting with cargo we hope that as soon as we sign the agreement with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, we will conclude the agreement early next year”, the High Commissioner said pointing out that he had already met with the NCAA Managing Director and the Aviation Minister on the matter.
Areas Singapore is seeking further investment opportunities and partnership with Nigeria and Lagos, according to the High Commissioner, include Technical Education and Skill Acquisition for youth empowerment which according to him is the key to the success of Singapore adding that a Singaporean company has recently signed an agreement on rice production and processing in Nasarawa State and has invested close to $50 million.
Other areas Singaporean companies are investing; the High Commissioner said is the Lekki Free Trade Zone adding that while all that is going on Singapore has been very active also in creating more awareness on Africa.
On the Singapore-African Business Forum, the High Commissioner, who said the first edition was inaugurated in August 2010, added that the second seminar would be coming up on August 30, 2012 and pleaded with Governor Fashola to come and be one of the keynote speakers at the forum to talk about Nigeria and Africa.
Also present at the occasion were Honorary Consul-General, Republic of Singapore, Mr Haresh Aswani, the Commissioner for Commerce, and Industry, Mrs Sola Oworu and her Home Affairs and Culture counterpart, Mr Oyinlomo Danmole as well as the Commissioner for Agriculture and Cooperatives, Mr Gbolahan Lawal.