The Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) has unveiled plans to establish Medical Special Economic Zones across the country.
Speaking while formally presenting the concept to the Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Chief Niyi Adebayo in Abuja, Adesugba said the authority in its attempt to use the zone scheme to fast-track the country’s industrialisation process found it expedient to extend such a mandate to scale-up the country’s healthcare system.
He explained that it was important for the concept to be adopted by the Federal Executive Council as a national project, adding that such show of political-will was needed to ward-off the would-be investors’ fears and reservations.
Adesugba also provided an introduction and rationale for the project based on the COVID-19 effect, adding that the prevalence of communicable and non-communicable diseases in a more threatening manner unequivocally necessitated the urgent need to improve and invest in the country’s healthcare.
The NEPZA boss stated that the over $2 billion capital flight on medical tourism annually was a needless astronomical cost of medical services abroad which had a serious negative effect on the economy.
“The medical special economic zone remains a tool to reduce medical tourism and to reinstate buoyancy in our economy.”
He also outlined the authority’s vision for the project with details on the pilot project, benefits to Nigeria, components of the MSEZ, criteria for site selection, criteria for success, the steps taken to date which included stakeholders’ engagement, gazetting of MSEZ in third schedule of activities, state engagement and budget allocation as well as the proposed implementation strategy.
“The statistics as of this morning indicate that we have lost 2,057 people to COVID-19 but we have lost more to malaria this year as we speak, we have lost more to TB, HIV. So, our intention is to put together the kind of scheme that would holistically address the country’s healthcare challenges.
“We have been able to pick some locations and we discovered that it’s even easier for us because there are some states that have already indicated interest to host the project.
“Lagos, Kwara and Katsina states are waiting for the commencement of this initiative. While Katsina is on the verge of allotting us 400 hectares of land near the airport for the scheme, we have taken delivery of large sites in Lekki, Lagos and Kwara respectively,” Adesugba said.
On his part, Adebayo expressed delight on the initiative and promised to take it to FEC for consideration.
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