Nigeria's hopes pinned on Airport City for economic growth
“Yes, many of you, what you read about Nigeria must be a negative: corruption, insecurity, particularly when you talk about Niger Delta today,” said the Governor of the State of Niger, Mu’azu Babamgida Aliyu, earlier this week. It was in the headquarters of Arup that he chose to make the announcement that Nigeria is set for change and soon to open for business.
“I have to explain to many people that Niger State is not part of Niger Delta, Niger State is in fact in the centre part of the country amongst the most peaceful areas. It has a population of about 3.9 million and it has the largest land mass, 80% of which is agricultural and it has the largest mineral deposit in the country. And so we thought, why not change the face and perception of Nigeria from negative to positive, and why not bring people who can help us.”
The announcement outlined plans for a new Airport City that could turn around the Nigerian economy and provide a model for African stability. Nigeria has been identified by Goldman Sachs as one of the countries that will assume commanding status in the future global economy, and the President of Nigeria has outlined a 7 Point Agenda in order to achieve this status by 2020. Minna Airport City is set to become the cornerstone of this Agenda and will be instrumental in developing the international ties that will be essential for this to be achieved. Some of the biggest international players in the construction, engineering and architectural world have been enlisted to help deliver this change - Sheppard Robson has been appointed as master planner to lead the design team which includes Arup an Davis Langdon and Cortis Capital, together with Nigerian business services organisation Maevis Limited will combine efforts to see the project through.
Currently under feasibility study, Minna Airport City would stretch across Minna connecting it with surrounding cities Bida and Nigeria's capital, Abuja, and creating a new economic development zone, one which it is hoped would become the gateway to Western Africa. The project would create road and rail links throughout Niger State and provide conference facilities, offices, hotels, retail, medical centres, residences and centres of tourism.
While Nigeria, with the largest population in Africa being home to one in four Africans, is no stranger to the negative connotations listed by the Governor, it is in its 11th year of democracy. Its wealth of natural resources means that the country has the means to develop and now, it seems, also has the will to do so. But the legacy of previously erratic ruling and war means that there are many hurdles to clear before this can be achieved. The 7 Point Agenda addresses the issues as power and energy, food security, wealth creation, transport, land reform, security and education. Tunde Fagbemi, partner at Maevis, Government consultants for the project, described the situation as a 'chicken and egg' conundrum. In order to deliver on the 7 Point Agenda, you need the existing infrastructure, in order to gain the infrastructure, you need the 7 points to be delivered. With international assistance secured, however, Fagbemi uttered the words that summarise the ethos of the Minna Airport City plans: "Build it, and they will come."
Niki May Young