China Infrastructure Deals: Four Things African Governments Must Get Right Before Negotiating

China is the leading infrastructure finance provider on the continent – as demonstrated by a recent pledge of US$60 billion (£47 billion), most of which is for infrastructure projects. Big projects on the slate include hydropower plants in Angola and Guinea, an oil refinery in Nigeria, and a new city in Egypt.

Yet, when you look closely at what happens on the ground, some African countries are much better at negotiating with the Chinese than others. Railway projects in East Africa appear to be a good example. In Kenya, the Standard Gauge Railway is the largest infrastructure project since independence from Britain in 1963. China Eximbank provided most of the finance for the first phase – 472 kilometres of track between Nairobi and Mombasa – at a cost of US$3.2 billion.

In neighbouring Ethiopia, an electric train line from Addis Ababa to Djibouti, which is also Chinese-financed, opened two years ago. The cost for this more expensive type of railway was US$3.4 billion – for 756 kilometres. Kenya claims that its railway cost more for reasons like the terrain and the need to carry higher volumes of cargo. At the same time, however, many believe other issues to have been at play – including failures around the negotiation process.

Ongoing research into China funded infrastructure projects is confirming that African governments can learn from best practice in this area. The best deals depend on the following four conditions being met.

1. Involve everyone

The process in Chinese deal-making tends to go like this: Beijing will begin by making financial pledges, often aimed at a number of countries; these are followed by meetings at state level between a Chinese delegation and the African head of state and their senior officials. Infrastructure projects under discussion have often already been passed over by Western donors.

Once a project is broadly agreed, the relevant Chinese contractors, mostly state owned enterprises, will typically contact African civil servants in the relevant branches of government to get detailed negotiations underway – with support from the Chinese trade mission and local embassy. Topics to be discussed will include costs, but also the use of materials and workers; technology transfer; and the effect of national regulations in areas like labour, construction and the environment

In countries like Togo and Cameroon, key ministries like finance, planning or even the cabinet will lead the negotiation. In the likes of Benin and Senegal, the relevant technical ministry, such as transport or housing, will lead instead or take over. They are supposed to consult with departments like finance and planning, but they often press ahead on their own to speed up the process – sometimes without any experience of dealing with China.

In practice, such deals can be less beneficial to the country in question. Where one arm of government is not clear about what another is doing, it increases the potential for corruption – there has been a corruption investigation in the case of the new Kenyan railway, for example, and I have been told during my research that this was also linked to coordination failures during the negotiations.

When all relevant government departments are involved in a negotiation, it does take longer. The process is more coherent, however, and the resulting project is less likely to breach national regulations.

2. Empower the negotiators

The president or his senior advisors also frequently intervene during negotiations. This is likely to be politically motivated – a need to fulfil electoral promises around infrastructure development, perhaps, or pressure from the Chinese authorities.

Where civil servant negotiators are being pressed to hurry up, it can mean that national regulations get ignored. In Benin, for example, during negotiations over road projects several years ago, the Chinese contractors were unhappy about certain conditions being imposed. Then president Yayi Boni agreed to intervene on their behalf to bypass national regulations in areas including labour and construction. Such situations are best avoided.

On the other hand, some outside interventions can be positive. In Togo, Senegal and Tunisia, and the current government in Benin, there have been examples of the cabinet hiring international law firms with experts who have worked in the Chinese government and its development banks. This can bridge the differences in Chinese and African negotiating styles.

The Chinese often adopt a take-it-or-leave-it approach. In many cases, Africans are not confrontational enough in return. They don’t appreciate that China has a surplus of domestically produced materials they are seeking to offload, for example. Wiser negotiators will play China off against other countries seeking to finance infrastructure projects on the continent, such as South Korea or the United Arab Emirates.

3. Keep the public onside

China tends to be popular in Africa – more so than the US in around 60% of countries on the continent. Yet the public also see negatives: many think Chinese products are poor quality, while there is a growing perception that dealing with China tends to favour Chinese labourers.

African governments need to bear these concerns in mind. If not, they risk being denounced by the media or civil society organisations – as has happened in Kenya over the railway, for instance.

4. Increase knowledge

African governments are still relatively new to dealing with China; they should take every opportunity to share lessons with one another. There is a role for African universities here. They should set up more centres of Asian studies to close the gap in information and knowledge.

Some have argued in the past that many African governments fail to negotiate successfully with the Chinese because they lack a strategy.What is required is a more coordinated and coherent approach – something China has been working on from its own perspective. It is better for African governments to have no deal than a bad deal. With the right approach, they can achieve much more than is often thought to be the case.The Conversation

This article was written by Folashade Soule, Senior Research Associate,University of Oxford.

Types of Commonly Used Paints

Oil Paint

Oil based paints are slow drying paints which consist of particles of pigment suspended in drying oil or oil varnish as the basic ingredient. The commonly available oils are linseed oil, Tung oil, poppy oil, nut oil. Oil-based paints are thicker and harder. They are also glossy and smoother.

Synthetic Paint

Paints produced using synthetic resins as binders instead of natural oils or resins. Although most of the paint resins used nowadays are synthetic, use of synthetic paint term for defining alkyd resins is still common.

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Water paint

Water paints are is mostly opaque, the paints are made of pigments suspended in a water-based solution.

Emulsion paints are water-based paints in which the paint material is dispersed in a liquid that consists mainly of water. For suitable purposes this has advantages in fast drying, low toxicity, low cost, easier application, and easier cleaning of equipment, among other factors

Varnishes

Varnishes are in effect paints without pigment; they provide a protective coating without substantially changing the colour of the surface, though they can emphasize the colour of the material.

Cellulose Paints

Cellulose paints are mostly used as spray paints in car industry because they dry quickly by evaporation of solvents. They are not satisfactory for general building work, but can be used for furniture and fitting in houses.

Specialty Paints

Among the many kinds are aluminium paints, bituminous paints, chlorinated rubber paints. These are used for special applications and manufacturer’s instructions should be followed for thinning and application of the required number of coats.

THE TIME FOR CITIES TO GET SMART IS NOW

The standard criticism of the smart city concept is that it’s all talk and no action. Smart cities – based on ultra-efficient technologies and infrastructure responding to real-time data – seem to be always five to 10 years away.

The smart-city project most people are talking about is not in Asia or South America – but Glasgow. Glasgow was announced as the Technology Strategy Board’s winner of the Future Cities Demonstrator, having beaten competition from 60 other cities.

Much of the work has already begun. “We are developing an integrated operations centre, looking at social transport, street lighting, energy efficiency and active travel … [for example] we can harness the physical infrastructure of street lighting to be able to do more things than just light up streets, using this network as a digital platform for the city. This can be as basic as new CCTV for community safety, or as complex as a city-wide data collection and sharing network. That is already happening – we’ve got a pilot with 1,000 lights, and are talking with Green Investment Bank and others to extend that to 20,000.”

Data handling is central to the smart city model. By learning how people use the city, Glasgow will be able to design new solutions. Burns admits that up until now a lot of this has been based on guess work and a “guy with a clipboard”. Whereas a central operations system houses, “a data repository to collate data and bring it out the other end to help us understand city behaviour and design future services.

Another smart city that is well underway is Barcelona. Vicente Guallart, chief architect and director of urbanism at Barcelona, explained that a central operations system is also crucial to its model, as are lamp-posts: “We are making fibre optics in parallel to power to every lamp-post in the city. So from that we can have sensors everywhere and Wi-Fi everywhere.” These sensors can monitor everything from noise levels to C02 emissions and simple street use – if no one is using the street, the lights turn off. Such intelligent use of lighting combined with LED technology could save a city up to 80% off its lighting bill.

This combination of sensors, central data and citizen input is what Guallart calls “slow data and fast data – slow data, such as which buildings are meeting which regulation. And then fast data coming in from sensors and from citizens”. The ultimate goal is to be a “slow city within a smart city”, says Guallart.

Barcelona’s digital infrastructure intends to lure business and industry back into the city limits, meaning more people can walk and cycle to work; some municipal green space is also being transformed into urban orchards. Smart cities need not mean bright lights and big screens; in Barcelona, much of the technology will remain below the surface, allowing people at street level to revert to a slower, greener way of life.

Delivering smart cities increasingly requires the private and public sectors to work together. The days of city governments being able to forge ahead on their own are long gone. The Glasgow project, for example, is a partnership between the local authority and private firms. As Gareth Macnaughton, points out: “We can’t operate in this sphere alone, we need partners. The more we share our technology, the more the energy sector, the water sector and the healthcare sector will take our technology and do far better things with it than we originally imagined.”

But local government mindsets can be hard to change. Kaveh Memari, chief executive of Renew, told how his smart bin design for recycling pods coupled with live information screens and Wi-fi hubs struggled with some local authorities for the very reason that they address several problems at once: “You could see the fear in their eyes as they realised how many people would have to sign off these things … there were four committees that had to say ‘yes’, but nine that could say ‘no’,this is the matrix in which we are trying to bring out innovation [and] that is one of the barriers to the smart city concept.”

Some feel that this is slowly changing. The need to collaborate and innovate is greater now than ever as budget restrictions force departments out of silos. And a willingness to embrace new technology is seeing success stories emerge; with each success, others will follow.

Why these 10 African cities are the fastest growing in Africa

For decades, Africa has been growing in the shadows, nearly invisible to the Western business press. But behind the biased news coverage of Africa is a continent that is poised to take the lead and burst onto the world stage.

Africa is home not only to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies but also the majority of the world fastest growing cities. Keep in mind that the average annual population growth rate for the average city is 1.84%, whereas most African cities are growing at rates between four and eight percent. In Nigeria,Port Harcourt and Abuja are growing at 5.1% and 6.2% respectively.

And according to the consulting firm, McKinsey, 24 million Africans will move to cities each year between 2015 to 2045, compared to 11 million in India and nine million in China. All this matters because productivity doubles in urbanised settings compared to the countryside, thereby significantly growing a nation’s GDP at the macro level.

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Factors driving urban development

So given all this growth, what are the reasons fuelling this rapid concentration into urban areas? Among the dozens of factors being debated among experts, three stand out as being the most impactful

1.Migration caused by connectivity. Before 2000, a tiny fraction of Africans owned cell phones. Today, hundreds of millions of Africans own not just cell phones, but smartphones. The level of connectivity this has enabled is impossible to measure and will only grow throughout the 2020s. But aside from improving Africans’ ability to communicate, these devices have also allowed Africans to better collaborate. For example, those who live in cities share the promise of jobs and opportunities with their rural family members and friends, encouraging them to migrate into urban areas by the tens of millions annually.

2.Push factors. Opposite to the migration driven by the attraction toward better opportunities, sadly, migration is also being driven by more negative push factors, like famines and droughts, rural conflict, environmental degradation, and more.

3.Organic population growth. Africa’s population is among the fastest growing in the world, so an obvious factor driving urban growth is the increasing natural birth rate—a rate that is far surpassing the natural death rate.

On the whole, one of Africa’s biggest challenges will be to figure out how to manage the growth of its cities sustainably. Whether its building sufficient housing projects, sanitation and water drainage networks, roads and transit systems, all of these fundamentals of urban life will need to be built to accommodate both today and tomorrow’s population. With this in mind, let’s review some of Africa’s fastest growing cities:

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo

If you think a population of 12 million is a lot today, Kinshasa, in the DRC, is forecasted to grow into the second largest city in Africa with 75 million people by the 2050s. Located along the Congo River, Kinshasa is a chaotic urban center attracting people looking to escape war and poverty, as well as searching for opportunity.

Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania

By population, Dar es Salaam is both the largest city in Tanzania and eastern Africa overall. The city is also a regionally important economic center and trading hub. Between 2010 and 2025, this city’s growth will outpace all other African cities, especially as its population is set to double to over six million people by 2025.

Nairobi, Kenya

As the capital and largest city of Kenya, Nairobi is seeing its population grow by 500,000 annually—and like Dar es Salaam, this pace will see Nairobi’s population double to over six million people by 2025. Fortunately, the city is already investing in new housing to accommodate this growth.

Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

The cultural hub and largest city in French-speaking West Africa, Abidjan is Côte d’Ivoire’s economic capital. The city’s massive industrialization and urbanization growth rates will see its population rise to 6.3 million by 2025.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

One in every four urban Ethiopians lives in the country’s capital and largest city, Addis Ababa. But with a population of 3.6 million (2018) and an annual growth rate of 3.8%, the city is expected to see its numbers swell to 4.7 million by 2025, making it the world’s largest city in a landlocked country.

Luanda, Angola

An industrial seaport gateway for the export of iron ore, petroleum, fish products, and diamonds, Luanda, Angola’s capital, is not only the country’s largest city at seven million, but is also among the most expensive African cities to live in. The city is thriving and is well positioned to fund its growth sustainably.

Casablanca, Morocco

Both economically and demographically, Casablanca is not only the heart of Morocco, but it’s also the largest city in the Maghreb. Given its position as Morocco’s center of commerce, Casablanca is well positioned to manage its growth well into the future.

Cairo, Egypt

Across the Middle East and the Arab world, Cairo is without question the region’s largest metropolitan area, along with also being Egypt’s capital and largest city. Due to economic and political hardships in recent years, it has proven difficult for the city to keep up with the demands of its growing population. To address this concern, Egypt is investing in the development of an entirely new city just 40km to the east of Cairo that is expected to house seven million people in its first phase alone.

Johannesburg, South Africa

The center of a large-scale gold and diamond trade, Johannesburg is South Africa’s largest and wealthiest city. It even ranks in the top 50 largest urban areas in the world.

Lagos, Nigeria

Last, but not least, though not the capital of Nigeria, Lagos is the country’s commercial hub. This growing coastal city not only has the highest GDP, but also one of Africa’s busiest and largest ports.

Source: Ronald Chagoury is the Vice Chairman of Eko Atlantic city, a new state-of-the-art-city set to become the new financial center in Lagos, Nigeria.

Top 7 house builder trends to look out for in 2019

Certain trends stick around for what seems like forever, while others only last for a year or two, or sometimes even less. The house-building industry is at the moment under a significant paradigm shift, as new trends pop up in the sector on a constant basis.

Digital technologies, stricter regulations and the need for better collaboration and communication are some of the main focal points in the house-building sector today. Fast and efficient communication lies at the heart of this shifting effort and can pave the way to a more open and integration-friendly future for home providers.

It quickly becomes clear that house-builders have to take into account a vast number of parameters in order to succeed in their mission. That comes as no surprise if we consider the complexity of house-building projects and the challenges that appear during the different phases.

Good news is that the industry starts realising the big effort needed for the successful completion of a house-building project and the valuable help that digital solutions can offer to that direction.

However, for this endeavor to be rewarding, house-builders should have a good understanding of the most notable trends that are coming their way. With that in mind, we prepared a detailed list of the most interesting points that house-builders should keep an eye on moving forward.

Without further ado, here are 7 house-builder trends that everyone in the industry should know about:

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1. The sector goes digital

In the course of the last decade, digital tools have managed to acquire a significant place in the house building sector. Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go before we can claim that the industry is fully-digitised and that the level of collaboration and communication between the numerous project stakeholders is where it should be.

The advent of digital solutions could accelerate the development and completion of a project while creating at the same time a more flexible and consistent building process. For this to happen, though, a reliable software is required. In that way, house builders will have the ability to address a substantial problem for the sector: the collection and good management of data.

It is no secret that house-building projects generate tons of data. The big question that needs to be addressed is what happens to these valuable bits of information. This is where digital tools come in the picture. Through the collection and analysis of the data, house builders gain access to a whole new universe which allows them to build more efficiently both in the present and future.

In other words, it is a source of intelligence for future projects as it enables the creation of certain building patterns based on which the house building sector could examine and eventually optimise the entire construction process.

2. Data ecosystems show the way

We just referred to the power that data holds for the industry. Nonetheless, it’s not always the collection and analysis of data that matters. The way we share it throughout the value-chain is another substantial factor that the sector should take into serious consideration.

Simply put, the future of the house building sector is based on collaboration. Data should be seen as the gas which drives the industry forward. By being able to share their data with other field experts, house builders can unlock incredible opportunities for the entire ecosystem and contribute to the establishment of an unhindered information flow which can be critical for minimising cost and boosting efficiency in the house building industry.

3. New government regulations

One more parameter that can have a direct impact on how we design, operate and build in construction has to do with the stricter state regulations that are introduced around the globe. Of course, the type of these regulations might differ depending on the country in which a house-builder is based.

It goes without saying that regulations can generate additional workload for people in the sector but not all of them are necessarily bad.

Another good example is the stricter regulations when it comes to life and fire safety. There is an imminent need for new and more carefully elaborated specifications in regard to fire protection. A good start would be the adoption of better fire safety practices by facade designers. With good engineering and top quality materials a change in this direction is possible.

Regardless of the type of regulations, we are talking about, governments and house builders should sit on the same table and try to come up with a detailed plan which can improve the quality of the entire.

4. New competition

As we already mentioned, the house building sector is at the moment under a significant change. The Asian market has gained remarkable momentum and as a result, European and American house builders have started feeling the pressure.

The Asian house building industry has done some great steps forward, such as the adoption of innovative building techniques which can reduce cost and completion time. A very representative example is the production of 3D printed houses. 

A Chinese construction company is making use of a huge 3D printer which can spray cement and construction waste to build homes. The firm claims that the cost for each house doesn’t exceed $5,000, while up to 10 homes can be produced in a day.

If we also take into account the lower cost of the building process due to reduced pay rates and the absence of strict labour regulations it is evident that house builders from Europe and US should try hard in order to compete for the Asian market.

5. Housing crisis

One of the most troublesome house builder trends, especially in Western societies, has to do with affordable housing. Only in the UK the government has set as a target the production of 300,000 new houses per year. However, the target seems to be hard to reach so far. On top of that, London tries to help by planning to build 10,000 council homes by 2022. But, unfortunately, these numbers are not enough given the existing needs.

 

To make matters worse, the continuous expansion of urban centers has made the problem even more imminent. In an effort to pursue more stable and long-term careers people are massively moving to the big cities around the world. As a consequence, the demand for a new affordable home is rapidly increasing, while the offer remains the same if not lower. To give you an example, only in Germany 350,000 new homes  are required on a yearly basis until 2022.

That being said, both the state and the house builders have to become better in recognising the needs of the market. Instead of the creation of large and expensive building structures, the support of building affordable smaller houses close to the big urban centers should be prioritized. It’s a tough and long process which comes hand in hand with the issue of productivity and digital maturity in the construction sector.

6. Green building materials

Thanks to the increased interest in a building process with low environmental footprint, many new green building materials have emerged in the course of the last years. The way we build is changing and a shift to a greener building approach has been noticed.

Bricks made out of cigarette butts, light generating cement, and martian concrete are a few examples of revolutionising materials which can truly change the way we build. This new type of materials has already provided sustainable construction with an admirable boost which is anticipated to be extremely beneficial both for the workers on the field and the residents of these buildings.

Innovative materials are also seen as a valuable weapon in the tough mission of the construction sector to reduce waste. Waste is one of the biggest nightmares for the house building sector and this has to change. As reported in the media, construction is to blame for 34.7% of the total waste in Europe, as the building industry produces approximately 830 million tons of waste on a yearly basis. No surprise then that green materials are regarded as one of the hottest house builder trends at the moment.

7. Interior and exterior design changes

Things are also rapidly changing when it comes to the design of new homes around the world. New trends and techniques are followed as a response to the wishes of the new residents. In short, here are some notable house builder trends in regard to interior and exterior design that come on the surface lately:

  • Open floor plans: Open floor plans have been around for years now, but homeowners’ love for them is changing how house builders construct their homes.  While modern homes have seen open floor plans for years, traditional homes were still being built with tiny rooms and numerous hallways. Nowadays, home builders are choosing to construct their traditional homes with open floor plans to meet the needs of the homeowners that they are trying to lure into a contract.
  • Wider Doors and Hallways: Many homeowners are choosing to stay in their homes as they get older, which means that they want and need to be able to maneuver around it using a wheelchair, walker, or other devices.  Unfortunately, in older homes, this is not possible due to the smaller doors and hallways, which means that renovations always are a good idea. The trend to have wider doors and hallways in newer homes are a lucrative choice for both older and younger generations because neither group will need to worry about doing renovations before it is too late.

 

  • Roof Decks: They have become popular on apartment buildings over the years, but homes that have extraordinary views (and even those that don’t) can benefit from one. These decks can be constructed in addition to one in the yard so that homeowners can have two spaces to sit and relax at the end of the day.  Of course, a roof deck is a wonderful option for homes that do not have a lot of yard space, because it may be the only way that the homeowner can have a deck or patio. Roof decks can incorporate everything that a regular deck has including furniture, flowers, lighting, and more.
  • Tankless Hot Water Heaters: For years, home builders had two choices when it came to hot water heaters and they were gas or electric. However, nowadays, home builders are conscious of how homeowners want to save money on their energy bills while also being eco-friendly. That means that more home builders are installing tankless hot water heaters in the homes that they are building. These tankless hot water heaters offer a continuous supply of hot water, but the water is only heated when it is needed.  They are also much smaller, which means that homeowners will have more usable space in their home.

 

Why You Must Verify Land Titles Before Buying Land

This is a story based on real-life events. 

Segun Abeju is a businessman who decided to invest in real estate. His decision was based on the need to secure a long-term investment and a retirement plan. After talking to an old friend about his plans, his friend came up with a fantastic idea that could save him some good money. Apparently, his friend claimed to associate with a family who was selling out parts of their large estate at a give-away price at Sangotedo. 

Segun saw this as an excellent opportunity to cash in, coupled with the fact that his friend was handling the transaction. Right away, he made the first deposit of N4,000, 000 to his friend’s account. Later that week, his friend scheduled a site visitation to inspect the land. Segun noticed the shabby signboard at the entrance, but his friend argued that it was a family property, hence its shabby nature. Segun didn’t mind, after all the land reportedly had a C of O; he didn’t know much about land verification process and he really didn’t want to bother himself with all that stress.

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Two weeks passed after the site visitation and Segun hadn’t heard a word from his friend. He tried calling him yet no response, it became one story after the other. But, after about a month of no responseSegun decided to take matters into his hand and went out to check the land and get in touch with the family that owned the land. 
To his surprise, everything had been an act; there were no signboard and even the man. His friend had brought claiming was the first son of the family was nothing but a paid actor. It turned out the land belonged to the government.
For months Segun struggled to get a hold of his friend, which he later found out had travelled out of the country. Segun couldn’t believe it, in his words, “God will punish all those peopleit will never be well with them. I cannot believe my own so-called friend did this to me.

As sad as it sounds, Segun is just one out of the many Nigerians that fall into the trap of fraudsters. When it comes to acquiring propertyverification is a crucial process. It doesn’t just end at inspecting the property. You need to ensure the land you saw falls within the coordinates of the survey plan.

Recently, we had another client who had been previously cajoled into buying property he thought had a C of O. It turned out the land document he had seen belonged to another property, completely different from the property he had inspected. 
How is this possible? You might ask. 

Benefits Of Verifying Land Documents:

  • It assures proof beyond doubt of the validity and ownership of the property.
  • It acts as a form of insurance.
  • It also gives you the freedom to do anything you wish to do with the property; be it construction or re-selling.

The fact isit goes beyond a site inspection, and it’s about longitudes and latitudes. Precision! Always ask for a copy of the land documents. 

How to Confirm the Authenticity of a Property Title

  • Ask for a copy of a survey plan and get a Surveyor to ensure the site you’ve visited fall within the stipulated survey plan.
  • Ask for a copy of the land document. Check the authencity of land documents at the Land Bureau at Alausa.
  • Schedule a site visitation; ensure the land you visit falls within the coordinates stipulated on the survey plan. At the site, ensure you go with a Surveyor or use a GPS to pick the coordinates of the site.
  • Use the coordinates to cross check what the plot of the land has been set aside for from the Master Plan in the Ministry of Physical Planning. Avoid lands that’s been set aside for agricultural purposes or allocated for government use. Stick to lands allocated for residential purposes.
  • Demand to see the layout plan and pick a suitable plot.
  • Ask Questions about out if there’s any dispute or litigation over the land. Find out if the land was inherited or bought. 
  • Make sure dates check out. Cross-check documents to ensure they aren’t fake. 
  • Documentation is vital for referencing, and you should ensure the documents are detailed.
    Inspection of the Land.
  • Document every single part of the transactions involved in buying land in Nigeria. Every single part of the deal needs to be documented; from the cost of land to the survey fees. Keep every receipt. Treat every land transaction as it should be, a business transaction. 

It doesn’t matter is the person you’re buying from or interfacing with is your uncle, aunty, bossfriendpastor make sure they provide all the documentation you need before proceeding to make payments. 
Also, take the time to read the documents you’re given carefully. 

What you need to know about land flipping

We all procrastinate at some point in our lives like, waiting to the last minute to complete a project or waiting to the last day to take advantage of a discount. One of the reasons why we procrastinate is our need for wanting everything to be perfect before starting out. This is exactly why those who’re able to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves, reap huge profits. One of such opportunities is land flipping.

What is a ‘Land Flip’

A land flip is a type of real-estate investment that involves buying lands at a low price and selling at higher prices to make huge profits. This type of real-estate investment is profitable when land buyers buy land in an area that’s rapidly growing. You can make up to 300% on your investment in a few months or in some cases a few years.

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Reasons why land flipping is an incredible form of reaping profits

Value Appreciation Of Land

The value of land compared to other forms of investments like cryptocurrency or stocks doesn’t fluctuate over time. Preferably, the value of land appreciates by day. The value of land (depending on the location) can increase by up to 30% in one year. Certain areas like Lekki Phase 1 have seen a 500% value appreciation in the cost of land in just five years.

Lower Maintenance Cost

Land unlike other forms of real-estate investments require minimal maintenance. With buildings, you’d need to renovate frequently to maintain the integrity of the property. With land, you can let it sit fallow for years without spending much in maintenance and it will still appreciate in value. Land flipping is the ideal business for people who have low start-up capital and still want to reap huge profits within a short time period.

Ease Of Managing The Investment

One of the downsides of other forms of real-estate investments like rental properties is dealing with tenants, tax issues and other issues associated with maintaining buildings. We all know the stress that property owners face when it comes to relationships with tenants, government, etc. One bad tenant could cause a landlord to incur unnecessary expenses or deal with delayed payments. Flipping lands cut off all these contingencies. Plus, it’s easier to sell lands.

Ease Of Sale

With lands, there’s relatively no need for special effects pictures or need much advertisement before selling the land. All you need is buy land in a fast developing area and wait for buyers to come knocking at your door, plus it’s easier not to have any emotional attachments on lands. It’s possible to resell land without the help of a realtor. You can take advantage of the many websites available to get the deal closed from the comfort of your room. The simplicity and stability that comes with owning the right piece of land, bought at the reasonable price, surpasses a wide range of problems that come with other forms of problems involved in other types of real-estate investments.

Land Investors Have Very Little Competition to Deal With

Buying land spares you the stiff competition that comes with every other property on the market. Plus, as a land investor, you can call your own shots.

How To Make Money Flipping Lands

The key to making money from land flipping is determining the most advantageous location. Like we said earlier, people generally procrastinate doing important stuff like investing in areas that are developing. Most people would rather wait until the area has attracted value and relatively more costly before investing.

What makes a smart land flipper is the ability to identify potential high viable areas and buy lands while the prices are still relatively low and then wait for the ‘procrastinators.’

To make huge profits in flipping lands, follow these tips:

  1. Research thoroughly, pick out areas that are rapidly developing, have the potential for developing in future or already developed areas. Depending on the location and economic viability, certain areas mature faster than others. If you’re opportune to acquire land in a more developed area at a fair price, go for it. More developed areas are the easiest to flip in a couple of months and earn profits compared to developing areas. Developing areas may require a couple of years to fully appreciate.
  2. Ensure that the seller is the rightful owner of the land and has complete land documents including a Certificate of Occupancy or a Governor’s Consent. Avoid lands with inconclusive land titles like Excision in Process or Gazettes. Since you’re reselling, you must avoid getting caught up in land title issues. Go for clear, genuine lands with the appropriate land titles.
  3. If you’ve secured the perfect land at an ideal location, do some work on the land. Clear the land, create a path or road to the land. Get a surveyor to get the area marked and craft a brilliant description of the area; highlighting advantages to cajole a potential buyer to opt in.
  4. If you cannot write professionally, employ the services of experts in the field and then, run adverts on the land, utilizing the numerous social media sites and other forms of advertisement.
  5. Avoid getting attached to any property, so it’s easy to let go and sell to someone else. Always keep in mind that it is business, and you’re out to make a profit.

 

The Three Biggest Challenges The Construction Industry Faces In 2019

2018 was quite a year for the construction industry. Not only has it seen an explosion of new technology across surveying, engineering, and environmental consideration, but some of the most severe changes in the laws and policies that dictate how the industry functions. As the world changes, and more people are turning a critical eye to the construction industry, new challenges and problems are arising, that everyone from business owners to carpenters, cannot afford to ignore.

At the rate at which new construction projects launch rises in direct correlation with an influx of new challenges, now, more than ever, owners, foremans, and workers across the spectrum are not only going to have to be better informed, but more adaptable, if they want to survive. The ability to not only solve today’s problems, but forecast what’s coming down the road, will play just as much a role in survivability as the foundation does in making a structure that lasts through the ages.

A Reduced Workforce

This is the big one that is going to kill the industry quicker than anything else. It doesn’t help that there is a growing deficit in not only the number of people pursuing construction positions, but are also qualified to do so. The trades are not prioritized in schools anymore, so potential future builders are turned off from the industry before they even graduate. To combat this, the industry is going to need to do several things:

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Educate the Students:

If the Department of Education won’t, construction professionals will have to take matters into their own hands. They’ve got to start partnering with local and prominent schools through the country, and educate young people on the marketability and benefits of the construction industry. They’ve been told that computers are the future, and that may very well be – but computers have to sit in a building somewhere too, and someone has to build them.

Take Better Care of Employees:

Construction is a very come and go industry, and it always has been. It’s not unusual at all to put together a crew for a contract, complete the job, and then move on to a new project, with an entirely different team. The reality is that costs won’t allow most firms to bring full-time benefits to part-time employees, but for the ones who turn up, job after job, week after week, you’d be best served by treating them like royalty. That means regular raises, promotions, comprehensive healthcare, and retirement benefits. Once they’re gone, they’re probably not coming back, and they’re taking their experience with them.

Stricter Laws and Working Conditions

For better or worse, the construction industry just can’t operate the way it did even just 20 years ago. I don’t believe for a second that the foremans and project leads of yesteryear meant to harm anyone, not even for one moment, but the reality is that we haven’t always done the best job ensuring that job sites were safe and efficient for protecting people, or creating a structurally sound building. That’s caught up with us in the last few decades, and it’s not going to get any easier. If the industry is to survive, leaders and owners at all levels are going to have to know the law, know the issues impacting changes to the law, and structure their own procedures around safety, even at the cost of speed.

Not only that, but firms find themselves under increasing scrutiny to complete jobs to the exact outline of the contract. Gone are the days when you could take an extra six months, or jump to a cheaper steel, just to get a job done. Now, for firms that fall behind schedule, or don’t deliver on their promises, there’s a growing list of failed businesses that they’re being added to.

Developments in Technology

Though this also presents a great opportunity for the industry,it could potentially be a massive setback, for those who don’t learn, adapt to, and integrate these technological shifts quickly. Advancements in everything from project management software, to drones used to survey sites and calculate measurements, have left many in the industry scratching their heads, and wondering just what in the world they’re supposed do with all this technology.

The answer is simple – get it, and put it to work. You may be one of those old breed construction types who got his start hammering nails in someone’s house, and believes that no fancy computer program can replace human smarts, drive, and experience. I wholeheartedly agree with you, but if you give these advancements to a worker who has all three characteristics, and put him up against a man with only paper blueprints and hand tools, the tech guy will win out every time.

How These 7 Construction Technology Innovations Will Shape 2019

2018 was a big year for technology innovation in the construction industry,and that pace is unlikely to slow in 2019. This is good news for companies that embrace technology to improve cost, safety, efficiency, and quality of construction.

If you plan to be among the leaders, here are 7 construction technology innovations to watch in 2019.

1.Virtual Reality

Virtual reality has finally made its way out of the gaming industry fully into the real world. 4D virtual reality models fully immerse owners and other stakeholders in the environments of planned construction during planning and design stages for major projects.

 

While virtual reality has previously been the domain only of the most cutting edge organizations, it is becoming increasingly mainstream, and increasingly in demand from owners. 4D environments allow construction companies to plan every aspect of the construction project, improving everything from safety to efficiency, and delivering a more consistent and quality final product.

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2. Augmented Reality

 

While virtual reality allows users to “walk” through 3D and 4D model environments without actually moving their feet, augmented reality allows users to walk through real 3D environments, with their feet, while gathering and/or viewing additional real-time information about that environment.

For instance, a new iOS app called MeasureKit allows users to point their phone or iPad at an object or building component, and interact with that component through the screen in three useful ways: Measure, level, and place objects.

We predict that many new augmented reality applications will arrive in 2019,, and that some of the existing applications will become mainstream, such as the ability that BIM 360 Glue provides for subcontractors to point a device at a component and get information from the 3D models laid against the image that is framed in the device.

3. Wearable Technology

 

The construction site has never been safer than it is today, and we think it’s only going to get safer with the introduction and mainstreaming of wearable technology. Companies like Triax offer wearables that trackwhere workers are on the job site, alert them in real time of potential hazards, and identify when someone has tripped, slipped, or fallen, so help can be sent right away.

We think there will be more and more products like Triax available, and that companies who take advantage of them will become more and more in demand, especially as the industry begins to develop benchmarks for safety that become part of the bid process.

4. Machine Learning

 

While we’re on the topic of safety, take a look at some of the past year’s innovations in machine learning, and their implications for the new year. Smartvid.io for instance aggregates visual data from the job site and intelligently analyzes it for a variety of purposes including safety, quality, progress tracking, and marketing.

Smartvid.io constantly analyzes photos, videos, and other visual data coming from the job site, and looks for safety violations (failure to use PPEs, for instance), as well as tagging items by room and associating them with plan data. This allows folks in the job trailer or the office to quickly find visual information about the site without having to sort through masses of data. Additionally, it makes it easy to identify visual data to use for marketing purposes.

We think technologies like Smartvid.io are going to transform the way companies do business in 2019, by making existing data more accessible and easier to use to improve everything from quality and timelines to safety and marketing.

5. Prefabrication

 

Prefabrication is hardly a new innovation in itself. The construction industry has been using prefabrication in various applications for decades. However, new technologies are making the benefits of prefabrication easier to access, and changing the way the construction industry integrates prefab into the process.

For instance, ManufactureOn,provides  a mobile technology that provides complete visibility into the prefabrication process, so that anyone involved in the project can see what is being manufactured, where it is the process, and when it will be delivered. A new integration with BIM 360 Docs will make it possible to view that information in one workflow from beginning to end of the design and build process.

We predict that companies who take advantage of these technologies to streamline and increase their use of prefabrication will gain competitive advantage in 2019.

6. Predictive Analytics

 

Often, the difference between a successful construction company and a struggling construction company lies in your ability to manage risk. Predictive analytics is about to make risk management much easier.

In 2018, BIM 360 Project IQ ran beta tests with leading edge companies to see how much we could help them manage their risk through the use of predictive analytics. Project IQ analyzes data from subcontractors, materials suppliers, design plans, and the site itself to analyze risk factors based on historical data. It provides a dashboard where GCs can identify which elements of their project are highest risk and need attention, and allows them to drill down to see the reasons for the risk assessment. Project IQ learns both from past data and from how the GC interacts with the information it provides, in order to continuously provide better and more accurate risk assessments. We expect Project IQ to roll out to the wider industry in 2018, and we predict it’s going to massively improve how its users manage their risk.

7. Connected Job Sites

 

Communication delays between the job site, trailer, design office, and engineering can be costly and aggravating. In short, a disconnected job site can quickly burn up your profits.

Fortunately, job site connectivity is catching up to becoming easier and easier to achieve. With a connected job site, everyone on the site has access to up-to-the-minute drawings and documents, and holds the ability to file RFIs and issues in the palms of their hands. Likewise, everyone in the trailer and design and engineering has immediate access to everything that is happening on the job site.

Communication around RFIs and issues is reduced from days or weeks to mere hours or minutes. Mistakes due to miscommunication are nearly eliminated. And change orders and rework are significantly reduced. We think very few construction companies will thrive in 2019 without moving toward the connected job site.

6 Architectural Trends To Watch Out For In 2019

Architecture is all around us even though it’s often so seamlessly blended with the surroundings, you don’t even notice it until somebody else draws your attention to it. Moreover, like every other industry, it’s also developing and changing to suit our needs and preferences. With that in mind, here are a few architectural trends that are likely to become very popular next year.

1. Nature and recycling

This trend is probably expected, since preserving nature is becoming more important by the day. Therefore, you’ll soon be able to see more green rooftops,living walls, and indoor gardens. Besides being eco-friendly, this is also a great way to introduce more nature into our daily environment. This is especially important for all the commercial buildings located in the middle of large cities with not much nature around them.

Furthermore, there will be an increase in the use of recycled materials. It’s a way to fight the climate change and reduce the effect of the production process on the environment; recycling glass, concrete, plastics, etc. is much less harmful to the environment than making new materials.

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2. Open-space design

The open-space design has been dominating both commercial and residential buildings for a while now. At work, people want to communicate, share ideas, and be more engaged, in general, which is not really possible in small cubicles. At home, open spaces create an illusion of spaciousness, and they allow people to express their creativity by finding unique ways to both combine and separate different areas through décor.

Besides the many benefits, architects are still looking for new ways to define those segments of open spaces. They want to prevent the transitions between living areas from looking flat and dull. One way of doing this, for instance, is by incorporating changing floor levels, so there would be a clearer visual border between different areas.

3. Visual identity

Architecture can also be used to showcase a company’s identity. For instance, incorporating nature, using recycled materials, and all the other design-related details can serve to represent a certain company’s values. Moreover, good branding design can not only increase a company’s sales but also motivate the employees to work better. It can remind them why they are working for that company. All of these things can increase that company’s reputation, which is why this is an architectural trend that’s here to stay.

4. Small designs

Due to the environmental impact of larger houses and their costs, many people are choosing to live in smaller but just as functional homes. Since the interest in such a lifestyle is growing, architects are doing their best to make small homes much more interesting, multi-functional, and perfectly suitable for more than one generation. So, even though such a house is physically small, it’s definitely big in terms of ideas, comfort, functionality, and potential. As challenging as creating such homes can sometimes be, many architects are rising to the challenge.

5. Solar roof tiles

Even though solar panels are still a suitable option for creating your own energy source, solar roof tiles are taking this to the next level. One of the reasons for their popularity is the fact that they are less bulky, and they come in many different styles. This means that they are much easier to integrate with your chosen roof design, which makes them much more attractive. They are also cheaper than the conventional solar panels, which again makes them available to more people.

6. Sustainable architecture

Another way to preserve the environment is by making architecture more sustainable, and this is exactly what 2019 will be about. So, you might see water-filtration systems in commercial buildings that should help preserve water. Also, all the usual appliances that are meant to make our lives more comfortable – like AC units, space heaters, and ventilation systems – will be designed in a way that will reduce their energy consumption. As for the residential buildings, they will be built with much better insulation, water-saving fixtures in the bathroom, and energy-efficient appliances in the kitchen. All of these things will reduce the carbon footprint of the home. Good insulation also means less energy wasted on heating and cooling the home, which is another sustainable aspect.

Architectural is a field that can often be unpredictable since it’s affected by many other fields, from technology to the economy. However, some trends are here to stay, like eco-friendly materials, sustainable architecture, and using architecture to represent a company’s brand. Some trends, on the other hand, depend on the current generation’s preferences and financial limits, like open-space designs and smaller homes. Nevertheless, they will definitely dominate the next year –  and probably many years after as well.

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