Special Economic Zones in Nigeria Drive Economic Growth and Employment Surge,

Nigeria’s Special Economic Zones (SEZs) have emerged as powerful catalysts for economic growth, generating 35,000 direct and indirect employments and propelling socioeconomic development across the nation, according to Nabil Saleh, chairman of the Nigeria Economic Zones Association.

Speaking at the association’s annual general meeting in Lagos, Saleh revealed that the SEZs have not only spurred employment but have also attracted substantial investments. He disclosed that these zones have drawn over $66 billion in Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) and N620 billion in Domestic Direct Investments (DDI).

A breakdown of the investments highlights the dominance of the manufacturing sector, which claimed 45% of the total investments, followed by the service sector at 30%. Additionally, the oil and gas sector accounted for 11% of investments, while trading, logistics, and agriculture sectors also made noteworthy contributions.

Saleh underscored the transformative impact of SEZs, citing the establishment of Africa’s largest oil refinery, a deep-sea port with a capacity of handling approximately 6 million twenty-foot equivalent units of containers, a gas processing hub along the Atlantic Coast, and an oil and gas downstream manufacturing hub as significant developments.

“The success stories of countries like China, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates highlight the immense potential of SEZs in attracting foreign direct investment, driving industrialization, and fostering innovation,” Saleh remarked.

In Nigeria, the Free Zone program was initiated in 1992 through Act No. 63 of 1992, empowering the Nigeria Export Processing Zone Authority as the primary agency responsible for establishing, licensing, regulating, and monitoring Free Zones/Export Processing Zones in the country.

Prominent free zones in Nigeria include the Lekki Free Trade Zone in Lagos, Ogun-Guangdong Free Trade Zone, Abuja Technology Village in FCTA, KoKo Free Zone in Delta State, Warri Industrial Business Park in Delta State, and The ICT Park Asaba in Delta State.

The theme of the AGM, “Unlocking Opportunities: Harnessing the Power of Nigeria’s Special Economic Zones Scheme,” underscores the importance of leveraging these zones for Nigeria’s growth and development, as emphasized by Olufemi Ogunyemi, managing director of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority.

Ogunyemi stressed the need for SEZs to adapt to the fourth industrial revolution, focus on sustainable development, and align with evolving global value chains. He anticipates that the interactive sessions at the AGM will facilitate discussions on critical issues such as standardizing free zone operations, tax administration, sharing experiences, and developing actionable solutions to propel Nigeria forward in its economic trajectory.