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Business News/ Companies / People/  ‘Lagos Free Zone in talks with Tata, TVS, Bajaj for investments’
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‘Lagos Free Zone in talks with Tata, TVS, Bajaj for investments’

The LFZ is looking to attract Indian investment in segments such as consumer goods, pharmaceuticals and chemicals

Navin Nahata, managing director for fintech and infrastructure at Singapore-based Tolaram Group, the promoter for the Lagos Free Zone.Premium
Navin Nahata, managing director for fintech and infrastructure at Singapore-based Tolaram Group, the promoter for the Lagos Free Zone.

The Lagos Free Zone (LFZ), a privately owned free trade zone in Nigeria, is in talks with Indian conglomerates, including Tatas, TVS and Bajaj, for investments, said Navin Nahata, managing director for fintech and infrastructure at the Singapore-based Tolaram Group, which is the promoter for the trade zone. In an interview, Nahata said that talks with some companies are at an advanced stage. The LFZ is looking to attract Indian investment in segments such as consumer goods, pharmaceuticals and chemicals. He added that the LFZ was in talks with generic drug manufacturers for investments. The zone has been marketed as a foothold for Indian firms to expand their presence in a major African market, with the possibility of exporting to the American market. This comes against the backdrop of growing commercial linkages between India and Africa, with bilateral trade expected to cross $100 billion. Edited excerpts:

What is the progress in attracting Indian investment in the free zone?

Our hope is that we can get the Indian corporates to get excited about Africa and Nigeria in particular and see the opportunity that is there. Because Nigeria is the largest country in the continent, and it is projected to be the third largest country in the world by 2050. So anyone, and everyone who wants to be a world player, cannot ignore that. And we understand that Nigeria is not an easy place. It’s a difficult territory to operate, especially for new businesses. But we are an example of the success that can be achieved and the value that can be created. We are very hopeful that we will be able to double the investment in the Lagos Free Zone.

Are there any Indian firms that have invested in the zone?

There are no Indian firms as of now. We do have some joint ventures with international MNCs like Kellogg’s. In addition to that, there is a German company called BASF, which is a Fortune 500 company. They’ve also been operating within the zone for the last three years. There is a Lebanese-owned but Nigerian firm, which is into building materials, and a host of other smaller firms. So, all together, around 25 companies are operating within the zone.

Have there been any discussions with specific Indian firms?

At this point in time, we have spoken to quite a few Indian corporates who are already there in Nigeria. So, the likes of Tata, Bajaj and TVS are the people we have had conversations with. Each conversation is at a different stage. We’ve had conversations with a lot of Indian pharma companies, especially those with generic drug manufacturing facilities.

China’s economic presence in Africa, particularly in infrastructure, has shot up in recent years. Can Indian infrastructure firms help meet Africa’s large infrastructure-building needs?

Because of our involvement with infrastructure development in Nigeria, we do have a certain ringside view of how things are happening. And if you really ask me for one major area where Indian construction companies can make a mark for themselves in Africa, that would be financing. Bring in the money. I think the only reason why a lot of Chinese construction companies are successful in Africa is simply because of the massive financing support which comes along with that. So, if an Indian infrastructure company can bring that in, then yes, there is a big market for them to tap into.

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Published: 25 Sep 2023, 11:56 PM IST
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