Experts, however, argue it would make a “minimal difference” if existing pitfalls are not removed, including ensuring connections between ports and inland areas.
“There is poor and underinvested rail network connectivity, and the roads are not in top-notch condition," said Ayotunde Abiodun, an economic analyst with the Lagos-based SBM Intelligence firm. “Also, the automation of processes at the port must be prioritized.”
As the port begins to operate with the first commercial vessel arriving Sunday, the Lagos governor said ships docking at the port "could be up to four times the size of vessels that currently berth at both Tin Can and Apapa ports,” the other two ports in Lagos.
The project would drive economic development not just for Lagos but for the entire country, according to Cui Jianchun, Chinese ambassador to Nigeria.
“This is (the) engine of the economy not only for (the) governor of Lagos but also for the Federal Republic of Nigeria," Jianchun said. “This is equity of investment. This is not a loan, this is not borrowing — this is investment."
Agriculture and trade are key drivers of Nigeria’s economy, but widespread insecurity in the agricultural-rich north, dwindling foreign direct investments and endemic corruption have slowed economic growth amid reduced earnings from crude oil.
The government has turned to international lenders and funders to help grow the economy through critical projects, among them China, whose footprint are on some of Nigeria’s most important infrastructure such as rail networks and airport terminals.
The port has “immense potential” for the economy of Nigeria, which is battling a 33% unemployment rate and an ailing economy, said Abiodun, the analyst who added that industry players must work together for this to happen.
In the maritime sector, “there needs to be interagency engagement on important issues affecting industry operators," Abiodun said. “A more troubling challenge has been the focus of these agencies on revenue generation rather than on value service delivery. This needs to change.”