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Tinapa, Nigeria’s $450m White Elephant



  • Tinapa, Nigeria’s $450m White Elephant

With its futuristic film studios, luxury shops and elevated light railway, Tinapa should be a showcase of Nigerian dynamism, a commercial hub for West Africa raking in millions of dollars.

But 10 years after it opened, the resort in south-east Nigeria is a ghost town and has become a symbol of monumental waste.

Its majestic contours and avant-garde domes rise defiantly out of the bush and palm trees. At the entrance, a giant signboard proclaims “Tinapa back on track!”

But the few visitors who venture inside are quickly disillusioned.

Apart from a few idle employees, not a soul stirs in the endless aisles of shops and warehouses that should have made the capital of Cross River state, Calabar, famous across Nigeria’s south.

“It’s empty there, we have no clients, it’s like a cemetery,” said one shop assistant in Da Viva, which sells the popular brand of wrapper skirts.

“Many have left already,” he added, pointing to shuttered premises.

A huge supermarket still displays clothes, furniture and foreign-made knick-knacks but in virtual darkness: the electricity was cut off some time ago.

Inside, an old man snoozes in the suffocating heat.

Tinapa, with its 80,000 square metres (861,000 square feet) of warehouses and shops, cost $450 million (413 million euros) to build.

But it has become a financial black hole for its backers.

– Economic development –

At the turn of the century, Nigeria was on the point of becoming Africa’s biggest economy and leading oil producer. Newly returned to civilian rule, everything seemed possible.

A handful of businessmen and architects got together and imagined an international centre of commerce and tourism in a free-trade zone.

Nigeria’s biggest banks fell over themselves to finance the project, which was opened in 2007.

“At that time, everyone was excited. Tinapa was going to boost economic development of the whole region and create thousands of jobs,” said Bassey Ndem, who was in charge of the project.

It aimed to attract Nigerian millionaires, who ordinarily jetted off to Dubai or London to go shopping, as well as make Cross River a commercial crossroads on the Atlantic coast.

A plush 242-room hotel with a view over the lagoon and a water park with slides were built to cater for the cream of high society and their families.

Alongside luxury tourism, imported goods would provide for Nigeria and its neighbours such as Cameroon, Chad and Niger, competing with the country’s commercial capital, Lagos.

“Everything was going well at first,” said Ndem. “At the peak, in 2009, we generated $30 million of revenue. But we faced a lot of resistance from the customs.

“They really didn’t want the tax-free zone to work.”

Goods were supposed to be exempt from import duties in the free-trade zone.

But from the beginning, the customs — which has a reputation for rampant corruption — blocked containers destined for Tinapa in the ports, paralysing business.

– Top down, trickle up –

Ndem left in 2012. None of his successors has managed to get Tinapa off the ground.

“There was clearly a lack of political will” to make the project succeed, he said, describing himself as angry and frustrated at a “wasted opportunity”.

For the economist and blogger Nonso Obikili, Tinapa’s downfall was largely because of a lack of existing infrastructure to transport goods: bad roads and an average-sized port.

“It was a wide project conceived with the deep sea port, which was supposed to enable big ships to come to Calabar,” said Obikili.

“It was the responsibility of the federal government but finally it wasn’t done,” he told AFP.

In the end, no big-name jeweller or pret-a-porter line wanted to invest in the paradise promised by its promoters and the hotel remains desperately empty.

The cinema studios have likewise been unable to attract Nollywood’s stars, who have largely preferred to stay in Lagos.

In “Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria”, the British-Nigerian author Noo Saro-Wiwa castigates the leaders in the country of her birth.

Few of Nigeria’s nearly 190 million inhabitants have benefited from the riches brought by oil; most still live in extreme poverty.

“This top-down approach to boosting Calabar’s economy seemed hollow,” she wrote.

“I’d heard Nigerian politicians’ endless talk about theme parks, tourist resorts, shopping malls and their ‘trickle down’ effects on the economy.

“But there’s no such thing as ‘trickle down’ in Nigeria — money trickles upwards or evaporates on contact with air,” Saro-Wiwa wrote in 2012.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.


Nigerian Brand, JR Farms Acquires 11% Stake in Rwandan Firm




Nigerian Brand, JR Farms Acquires 11% Stake in Rwandan Firm

JR Firms, an agribusiness firm with headquarters in Nigeria, has announced partnership with Sanit Wing Rwanda through the acquisition of 11 per cent stake in the company.

The CEO of the company, Mr Rotimi Olawale, explained in a statement that the partnership was in furtherance of its goals to ensure food security, create decent jobs and raise the next generation of agrarian leaders in Africa.

The stake was acquired through Green Agribusiness Fund, an initiative of JR Farms designed to invest in youth-led agribusinesses across Africa.

Sanit Wing Rwanda is an agro-processing company that processes avocado oil and cosmetics that are natural, quality, affordable, reliable and viable.

The vision of the company is to become the leading producers of best quality avocado and avocado by-products in Africa by creating value across the avocado value chain.

With focus on bringing together over 20,000 professional Avocado farmers on board and planting of three million avocado trees by 2025 through contract farming, the company currently works with One Acre Fund in supply of avocado to its processing facility.

The products of the company which include avocado oil, skin care (SANTAVO), hair cream and soap are being sold locally and exported to regional market in Kenya.

With the new partnership with JR Farms- the products of the company will enjoy more access to markets focusing on Africa and the European Union by leveraging on partnerships and trade windows available.

Aside funding, the partnership comes with project support in areas of market exposure, capacity building, exposure and other thematic support to grow the business over the next four years.

JR Farms has agribusiness operations in Nigeria, Rwanda, United States and Zambia respectively.

In Nigeria, the company deals in cassava value chain processing cassava to national staple “garri” which is consumed by over 80 million Nigerians on daily basis, while in Rwanda, it works in the coffee value chain with over 4,000 coffee farmers spread across the East Central African country.

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Shut Down Depots Selling Petrol Above Approved Price – Marketers




Shut Down Depots Selling Petrol Above Approved Price – Marketers

The Federal Government should close down depots that are selling petrol above the approved price, oil marketers said on Thursday.

National President, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Sanusi Fari, said the sale of petrol above government approved price by depot owners would soon lead to a hike in the commodity’s pump price.

Fari told journalists in Abuja that the government through its agencies such as the Department of State Services and the Department of Petroleum Resources should curb the development to avoid crisis in the downstream oil sector.

He said some private depot owners were selling at N165 per litre to independent marketers, way above the government stipulated price of N148 per litre.

Fari said, “Our challenge is the inconsistency in the pricing of petrol. Up till a week ago, government was still insisting that the February price for petrol remained unchanged.

“And most of the private depot owners are selling above the government stipulated price. As at today ( February 25, 2021) private depot owners are selling at N165 per litre to independent marketers.”

He added, “In the last six years, only NNPC imports refined products into this country and these tank farms buy their products from NNPC under a controlled price.

“This has affected our businesses seriously because government is insisting that we sell at the rate of N165, which is not going to work.”

The IPMAN president said filling station owners buy the product at N165 per litre from the private depots and incur other expenses such as transportation, rent, etc.

“So government cannot expect us to sell less than what we buy,” he said.

Fari added, “This is why we are calling on government and agencies that are saddled with the responsibility to control petrol pricing to urgently clamp down on depots that are selling above the stipulated price.”

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the country’s sole importer of patrol, recently stated that it never hiked the cost of petrol to depots.

It also enjoined the depot owners to sell the product at the approved rate and called on the DPR to enforce the stipulated price across the depots.

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Nigeria Will Benefit Less From African Trade Deal – NESG



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Nigeria Will Benefit Less From African Trade Deal – NESG

Nigeria and other resource-based countries will benefit less from the African Continental Free Trade Area than economies that are more diversified, the Nigerian Economic Summit Group has said.

The NESG, a private sector-led think-tank, said in its 2021 Macroeconomic Outlook that Nigeria could reap more gains through export diversification away from crude oil.

It said trade in Africa remained dominated by raw materials and less processed products, adding that on average, minerals and agriculture accounted for 44 per cent and 16 per cent of intra-African trade respectively between 2007 and 2017.

The NESG said, “Evidence has shown that African economies that are more diversified and have improved transport infrastructure, would benefit more from the trade pact than others that are resource-based and agricultural dependent.

“Putting this in context, South Africa currently accounts for 40 per cent of intra-African manufacturing imports. On the other hand, resource-based countries, such as, Algeria, Egypt and Nigeria – which collectively account for approximately 50 per cent of Africa’s GDP – contribute only 11 per cent to intra-African trade.”

“Another bone of contention is the issue of ‘rules of origin’, which constitutes a significant risk factor. This implies that protectionism practices by some countries could constitute a setback for the establishment of the ambitious single market for Africa. But there are several reasons to be optimistic,” it added.

The group said the World Bank estimates revealed that the AfCFTA would promote manufacturing exports over natural resources, agricultural and services exports, and that manufacturing exports would account for one-third of the projected total exports of $2.5tn by 2035.

It said, “Nigeria could reap more gains through export diversification away from crude oil, as manufacturing exports currently account for an average of nine per cent of the country’s total exports.

“This suggests that efforts should be directed at strengthening domestic value chains, particularly the agro-allied industrial base.

“To achieve this, there is a need to attract private capital, most especially, FDI, that would allow for knowledge and technological transfers.”

According to the NESG, for Nigeria to maximally benefit from the trade deal, there is an urgent need to also address transport infrastructure bottlenecks and provide improved logistics.

It said, “Finding a lasting solution to the Apapa gridlock by creating similar ports in other regions of the country, so as to ensure speedy clearance of consignments needs to be prioritised.

“Nigeria also needs to set standards for locally-made goods to enhance their attractiveness in the regional market.

“The Nigerian government as a matter of urgency needs to operate an efficient and corruption-free land border system, so as to guide against the importation of low-cost sub-standard products into the country.

“It is only when these and many more reforms are implemented that Nigeria can begin to reap the benefits of the trade deal.”

The group noted that owing to the outbreak of COVID-19, the implementation of the AfCFTA was postponed from July 1, 2020 to January 1, 2021.

It said, “The key goal of the free trade pact is to expand the volume of intra-African trade, which stood at 16 per cent in 2018 .“Till date, 36 countries, including Nigeria, have ratified the agreement. The trade deal is expected to create a single market with a combined GDP of $2.5tn and total population or market size of 1.2 billion.”

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