LADOL enabling ‘Made-in-Nigeria’ to create, sustain 80% new jobs through SMEs
On this episode of ‘CEOs Talk Business’ on our programme ‘At The Marina Today,’ Managing Director of LADOL Free Zone, Dr. Amy Jadesimi, shares on how her company prepared the foundation for a continued support for SMEs, with an assurance of about 80 per cent job creation through the SMEs and naturally presenting Africa as the heart of the future for global trade, considering the advantage of her demographic distribution.
She talks on the gains of capacity building and how it supported sustenance of their service provision even in the heat of the Covid-19 crisis lockdown, and what good lessons came out of the situation for introspection – building home-grown products for sustainable development is crucial to economic survival.
Africa’s potential for economic growth must be put to work for the reality that the continent needs, Jadesimi says, as she points to more attainable gains.
LADOL services a number of businesses, providing them with support services, particularly in agribusiness, what have you started doing now as the economy reopens gradually?
Fortunately, throughout the Covid-19 crisis LADOL remained operational and even busier, as an essential service provider.
When the crisis started in February, we started a business continuity plan. In March, we activated that plan and having strict access control. But, we have over 100 staff who were living and working full time inside the Zone, which is a facility inside Apapa Port and we operated 24/7.
So, we continued to service our clients and I will say the business wrapped up quite a bit. I will thank staff and management. We were having management calls like once or twice a day and they were quite long, reacting to the crisis, putting in policies and procedures in place.
LADOL is ISO 45001, ISO 18001, and ISO 9001 certified. We also have ISPS certification. In other words, we have the DNA in place to react quickly to crisis like this and start to follow up with the procedures. And we are able to adapt and grow.
In terms of how the market is changing, it is important that we use this as an opportunity to make ‘Made-in-Nigeria’ reality. We have seen a lot of huge energy around making this reality happen now, both locally and internationally. We have to also bear in mind that the rest of the world is struggling. We have seen countries come out of lockdown and now they are returning to lockdown. Meanwhile, I think in Nigeria we can develop and continue to open up in a steady way because our leadership reacted very early.
The Economic Reality?
The government and private sector are now focused on doing things locally, and that is what LADOL is all about. It is a conversation we were having about how local agricultural processing have skyrocketed. And we are looking at processing, not just for Nigerian market, but for West African market. We are looking at green energy, manufacturing and assembling in Nigeria for the whole region and through the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement for the whole continent. So, there are lots of opportunities, which are now coming up because people realised two things; one, the future is Africa- you cannot run away from that. Two, there are lots of capabilities in Africa that people didn’t recognise before. We suffered from this negative perception hangover, and the Covid crisis forced the Western countries to take a good look at themselves and realise that maybe they had some links they need to work on. When you have that kind of crisis and introspection, you also see other people’s assets more clearly and you can see the positive that is being done. We have a lot of work to do in Nigeria.
LADOL has been ran now for over 20 years, developing and growing. It is hard to do ‘Made-in-Nigeria’ and that is why Nigerians have to do it. Nobody is coming to do it for us. We suffer because we allowed some foreigners to just come here, take and go away and not to give. We now have to look past that, past the legacies of the past and look at the opportunities we have today.
For job- creation, we have to enable SMEs. One of the things we are doing at LADOL is building facilities and infrastructure that will enable small companies to deliver products to the market, by operating on our platform.
So, think about the fully-serviced office, where instead of you as an entrepreneur have to pay for the furniture, the fuel and other facilities, you just come her to work, for an hour, a day or a year. And we do that by providing even workshops and small factories. So, we have to empower SMEs, because 80 per cent of the jobs would come from the SMEs. At the same time, for the SMEs to have work, we have to be doing major projects, and that is why LADOL has really excelled. We have been pushing the boundaries and enabling things to be done in Nigeria that have never been done before. If you can do the really big things, there is a huge market drive and a market demand for smaller things. And it is in doing the smaller things that a majority of jobs are created. But being able to surmount the hurdles to do the big things like provide 24/7 support for deep offshore logistics, provide a facility where you can do integration and fabrication of the biggest vessels in the world, provide staff who are trained to the best international standards, these are though things to do. That is why it took us a long time. Now we have done that, we want to leverage LADOL to enable other businesses because that is where the real value addition comes. We always talk about the multiplier effect we have through a facility like LADOL.
Key area LADOL is drawing strength to build on, considering this new normal caused by Covid-19?
We continue to invest – this is a great time to invest, for local and international companies. Again, Africa is the future and Nigeria is the biggest country in Africa, because of our demographic dividends. The youngest people in the world already in Africa. So, if you are thinking about who is going to be producing goods, who is going to be using the goods in the next 10, 20, 30 years? It is Africans. That is why the investment you make in Africa would always give you a good return in real market terms.
So, we are investing in more facilities, investing in bringing in new clients to the Zone, who are going to work on agriculture, work on green technology solutions, technology backbones to build on our circular economy. This is the time for us to come together as Nigerians, as foreign investors, multilateral institutions and use the platform for the change that Covid-19 has given us to make the potential of Africa the reality of Africa.