Most International Companies Still Prefer Nigeria — Dr Jadesimi - DAILY TRUST
BY Abiodun Alade
Dr Amy Jadesimi is the chief executive officer of Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Base (LADOL), a privately owned logistics and engineering facility in the Port of Lagos, Nigeria. In this interview, she speaks on some topical issues in the business sector.
How did you tackle the COVID-19 challenge?
The past two years have been challenging for the whole world. One of the advantages we had at Ladol in tackling the COVID-19 crisis is that we already had a high standard of plans in place. This means that when COVID started we were able to curb it; we created a sterile area in the organization. As one of the essential services, we established an isolation centre where we bring staff and clients.
Are we making progress? Well, what we are trying to do right now, like all other business organisations in Nigeria is to be well-positioned. We cut our costs by 50%, the government gave a deadline of debt payment for one year which I think should be extended, we are not in a business environment, but a survival environment.
I think things will improve and when the Nigerian economy bounces back, I think business organisations have already figured out how to keep their heads above water. So, we at Ladol are making more use of IT, we are being more productive. We now know that local content is the best way forward, not just for Nigerians but foreigners. Look at what happened even with the international companies, they had to send all their expatriates home.
What are the new opportunities for LADOL?
We are focused on agriculture, logistics and local manufacturing. What that means is we are investing in more infrastructure and we are investing in people, so we can accommodate a wide range of companies in the agriculture, new technology and manufacturing spaces.
These companies are being attracted to Nigeria because when you look at the global market, a country like Nigeria is where the opportunities are. You’re not going to get a return on investment sufficient to pay for the western lifestyle, unless you are investing in a low-income high growth economy like Nigeria, that’s the reality.
What we are doing is building infrastructure and facilities to support agricultural exports and some of that is leveraging our existing facilities.
How can Nigeria benefit from the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement?
Concerning the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement, I think the government showed the right level of caution before they entered the agreement. I think we entered at the right time; at a time when the government put made-in Nigeria as the focus. I’ve always said that if we are going to grow the economy and create a huge number of jobs, it’s going to come from the private sector.
We need to ensure that our private sector is allowed to participate in the market and remember that 80% of jobs are created from small and medium-sized enterprises, so we have to give the private sector access to the market.
In addition to access, we have to support the private sector. The private sector needs to have the resources to make made-in Nigeria a reality.
Is Nigeria taking adequate advantage of its maritime sector?
We have the longest coastline in West Africa. What that means is that in theory, the maritime sector could add more to the economy than any other sector. We have a population that is the highest not just in West Africa but the whole continent, so if you combine the potential of the maritime sector with our high population, can you have a huge mark?
Shouldn’t our port be controlled by Nigerians, instead of foreigners?
Do we want the ports to be controlled by Nigerians? Not necessarily, in my opinion, if it’s more efficient for an international company like Dubai ports or whoever to come and operate it. What is important to me is how we ensure that Nigerians are being trained; that the guy who is running Dubai ports in Nigeria is a Nigerian, that they are maximising the local content within the company. I’m not so hung out whether it’s local or international. What is that local or international company doing to advance the Nigerian economy and do they understand that by advancing the Nigerian economy, they are advancing the global economy?
Now concerning the importers and exporters, to me it’s about made-in Nigeria; so, if finished goods are being imported into Nigeria, I don’t care about the nationality of the person doing the import, I care that we are importing finished goods. So how can we reduce the percentage of finished goods and if an Indian based on the industrialization of India wants to come and set up a car factory in Nigeria so we reduce the import of cars, then thank you!
Your organisation seems to have many young people, why is this so?
One of the lessons we had from COVID-19 is that very few people are indispensable. What I know about young Nigerians is that they are very trainable. Meaning that they work hard, they’re open and then they’re ready to learn and so we’ve had a lot of success in training junior staff to fill gaps of those that left the company.
So, the question is not what qualifications they have in school, the question is how trainable they are and I found out during the COVID that they are very trainable.
As a Nigerian, are you not bothered that international companies are leaving Nigeria for neighbouring countries?
Again, we have to be careful how we characterise these things. I think the majority of the companies that want to do business in Nigeria come to Nigeria. However, to the extent that some international companies want to make most of their money from Nigerians but do not want to be in Nigeria, to me that’s not acceptable, I don’t think that’s correct, I think we should have policies in place not to allow that. That means we need to have an environment that allows those international companies to operate. I would advise those companies to look for qualified Nigerians and when it comes to the young people as I said, our young people are highly trainable, we have a tech sector that is booming and growing.
I think those multinationals really have to study the reality on the ground and not be distracted by propaganda.
So, the messaging is important and the actions of the international companies are important, and the framework that the government gives under which those companies are allowed to make money from Nigerians is also important.