Dr Amy Jadesimi, Managing Director of LADOL Free Zone, joined a high-level panel convened by UNCTAD (The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) and GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH), under the auspices of the World Investment Forum 2020, Investing in Sustainable Development, to launch the long-awaited “Handbook on Special Economic Zones in Africa: Towards Economic Diversification across the Continent”.
Despite Special Economic Zones (SEZs) having been widely used for decades, there is relatively little systematic research on their performance or social, economic and environmental impact, especially in the context of Africa. UNCTAD’s World Investment Report 2019 presented a comprehensive analysis on the number and types of SEZs. However, large gaps remain concerning data on their design and on the benefits that they accrue to the host economy.
Similarly, although the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement is set to impact SEZs on the continent significantly, there is a lack of research and policy guidance on how zones can adjust to the new regulatory environment. In this context, UNCTAD, with the support of GIZ, has developed a handbook for SEZs on the continent. The handbook provides best practices and policy recommendations across a wide array of topics relevant to zones and also features case studies from a number of different zones within and outside Africa.
In addition to the dissemination of the handbook’s findings, UNCTAD and GIZ are also arranging a series of technical cooperation workshops in different parts of Africa. The handbook and the related technical cooperation have a particularly strong emphasis on helping SEZs adjust to the new trade and investment environment in Africa, after the full implementation of the AfCFTA.
Dr Jadesimi was one of the speakers at a round table held during the launch, alongside Mr. Harouna Niang (Consultant, and Former Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Promotion, Mali), Mr. Ahmed Bennis (General Secretary, Africa Economic Zones Organization), Mr. Ken Poonoosamy (CEO, Economic Development Board of Mauritius, Mauritius)and Dr Pierre Voges (CEO, Atlantis Special Economic Zone Atlantis SEZ Atlantis SEZ, South Africa).
Speaking at the event, Dr Jadesimi strongly advocated the role Nigeria will play as the industrial hub for West Africa as well as being an economic engine for the rest of the continent, enabled by its free zone regimen “Nigeria is a natural pan-continental hub. Public and private free zones across the country will be able to drive local manufacturing using a range of models across the country from mono-industrial zones to multi-industrial and financial zones – all of which will create a multiplier effect on job creation.
The launch of this handbook will help trigger an influx of investment into these zones as it provides a set a global standards that investors can use to assess and invest in zones based on the strong market cases we have in Africa. This is another step towards making fit-for-purpose, long-term, low-cost funding available for free zones across the continent.”