Nigeria embarks on vast free trade zone with China

Wed Sep 1, 2010 11:29am GMT

By Chijioke Ohuocha

LAGOS (Reuters) - Nigeria is building a multi-billion dollar free trade zone with Chinese investors on the edge of its commercial capital Lagos to try to develop a local manufacturing base and help reduce its import dependence.

The $5 billion first phase of the Lekki Free Zone, a 3,000 hectare site on the eastern fringe of the city, is 60 percent held by Chinese investors and 40 percent by the Lagos state government, the deputy head of the project told Reuters.

The consortium will provide basic infrastructure including roads, power plants and water plants before manufacturing firms are invited to set up business, Lekki Free Zone Development Co (LFZDC) deputy managing director Adeyemo Thompson said.

"We have a number of Chinese companies which are coming in the manufacturing area," Thompson said in an interview.

"They are coming to produce furniture, electronics, pharmaceuticals and heavy machinery. We are having a fair in November, that is when we kick off operations."

The Chinese shareholders in the project include China Railway Construction Corp., the China-Africa Development Fund Ltd and the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation Ltd.

A total of 16,500 hectares of land bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and the Lagos and Lekki lagoons has been earmarked for the whole free zone, which will include a deepwater sea port and a new international airport in close proximity.

The aim of the free zone is to make it easier for foreign investors, particularly manufacturers, to build a foothold in sub-Saharan Africa's most populous nation and second-biggest economy while still owning 100 percent of their firms.   Continued...

<p>Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan (R) stands with military aides in a parade convoy during Army Day celebrations in the capital Abuja July 6, 2010. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde</p>
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