Lagos deserves attention as an emerging market, says Koehler
By Kamal Tayo Oropo
THE President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Mr. Horst Koehler, has called for a new momentum to discuss a global infrastructure programme, which should focus on African emerging markets and the poorer regions of the continent.
The German President, who was accompanied by his wife, Eva, spoke at the Lagos House Ikeja on Tuesday during a courtesy call on the state governor as part of his one-day state visit to Lagos State.
According to him, it has become necessary to focus on emerging markets in view of the current world financial crises, adding that Lagos is clearly one of those emerging markets deserving attention.
His words: "I do think in the context of the world financial crises, there should be a new momentum to discuss the global infrastructure programme which should concentrate on the African emerging markets countries and the poorer regions of Africa. If this would happen, I think Lagos should be one of the chosen places".
President Koehler said Lagos, as a centre of excellence should get the attention of the outside world because of what it is doing and achieving which have sent very positive signals to the outside world.
Lagos, according to the German president, is indeed a centre of excellence in cultural land business terms and would want to know the challenges the state faces and how Germany can be supportive of the state government's efforts.
President Kohler, who also led the German team to a meeting and presentation on the Lagos Mega City project reiterated that right from his journey from the airport to the Lagos Government House, Ikeja, the green areas he saw are indicative that the direction of the work by the state government is right and responsible.
To Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN), what Africans and Nigerians need is partnership and not aids as the various challenges facing the continent also present opportunities and possibilities.
Fashola said that investments in infrastructure in the state would create enormous opportunities and prosperity.
"We must continue to find ways to ensure richer ways of cooperating on issues of renewable energy, environmental challenges, skills and youth development and attention for the women", Fashola said, adding that he remains convinced that as we all reach out to touch each other in an increasingly globalising world, the things that separate us are not as much as what unite us.
He expressed the belief that there are still areas of continued engagements between both countries as Nigeria and Germany share so much in common as a nation and as major trading partners who have both business and cultural interactions and exchanges.
Speaking during the presentation on the Lagos megacity, Fashola said with the fifth largest population in the world and the need to sustain life and provide general social amenities to over 18 million people, the state's capacity is limited by funds.
However, limitless opportunities, Fashola said, exist for survival and sustenance of the economy through continuous and large scale entrepreneurship for the people, regretting that the state is contending with a budget of barely $3 billion with over one fifth of it coming from federal transfers.
He said the state is continually faced with the challenge of maintaining a balance between taxation and poverty as the government believes that it is people who are employed that should be taxed.
While reacting to a question by the German President on how well informed the people were about government programmes, Fashola disclosed that various policies have been put in place to communicate with the people on the programmes of the administration.
The German President also informed that the presentations he saw at the bilateral meeting was indicative that there is something special about the spirit of the average Lagosian which he would want to be replicated all over the world.
While agreeing with Fashola that there is an opportunity in every challenge, Koehler said the presentation at the meeting has demonstrated a remarkable degree of information and possibilities, which shows that the people know about their problems.
He said that there is a need to workout a better concept to shape globalisation as what Lagos and Nigeria need is infrastructure provision in various areas. Koehler reiterated that he foresees a situation where governments can work together at the political level with the civil society groups toward providing solutions to some of the problems.
Presentations on the Lagos megacity were made by Prof. David Aradeon and Mrs Kofo Adeleke followed by an interactive question and answer session.
Gifts were exchanged by the two leaders at the end of the courtesy visit which also had in attendance the wife of the Lagos State Governor, Mrs. Abimbola Fashola; Deputy Governor, Mrs. Sarah Adebisi Sosan; Speaker, State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji; Deputy Speaker, Mrs. Funmi Tejuosho, some members of the State Executive Council and members of the delegation of President Kohler.
The German President had earlier touched down in his Airbus Presidential jet at 10 a.m. at the Presidential Wing of the Murtala Mohammed Airport where he was received by the State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN) and his wife, Abimbola and many distinguished Lagosians like former Governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Chief Imam of Lagos, Alhaji Garba Akinola, Chairman of the State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Monsignor Okoduwa, Chief Molade Okoya Thomas, Oba of Badagry, Aholu Menu Toyi, Oba Babatunde Akran and Ayangburen of Ikorodu, Oba Oyefusi Oguntade. The brief but impressive Airport reception featured cultural dances by different groups.