Exciting developments are taking place in the Nigerian real estate sector where investors, especially those involved in building new cities, are scaling up their developments with innovative designs and world-class infrastructure.
One of such developments is the Alaro City—an inclusive, mixed-use city-scale development in the Lekki Free Trade Zone, where the developer has adopted innovative infrastructure building systems intended to serve as a benchmark for new cities in the country.
The new city is a joint venture project between the Lagos State government and Rendeavour— a new city builder in Africa. The city project, which was launched in January 2019, is sitting on 2,000 hectares of land in the North-West Quadrant of the Lekki Free Trade Zone.
The city is designed to include industrial and logistics locations complemented by offices, homes, schools, healthcare facilities, hotels, entertainment and parks and open spaces.
Currently, the city’s first 3.5 kilometre road – a four-lane, asphalt thoroughfare with a four-metre median that has adopted modern best practices and delivered an efficient drainage system—is being constructed.
Bailey Ligtas, the city’s construction manager, told journalists on tour of the project site last week that the city’s road infrastructure, designed by leading engineering firm, Arup, is the first of four major access points from the Lekki-Epe Expressway, just metres away from the gate of the city.
“We are also developing an independent power plant solution by connecting to a nearby gas pipeline. Water supply for the first phase is also at an advanced stage,” Ligtas said.
“In building Alaro City, Rendeavour has provided solutions to urban planning and city-building problems unique to Lagos,” Ligtas noted, adding, “to ensure effective flood management, Rendeavour has adopted a rain garden drainage system that not only provides a unique landscaping opportunity, but also ensures the development is not afflicted by open drainage systems.”
Green areas, parks and open spaces in the cover more than 150 hectares and form part of the drainage strategy of the city via five ‘greenways’. These are designed to provide an area for leisure activities and also carry surface water to the lagoon.
As a city, Alaro has gained increasing recognition for its world-class master plan and the innovation it represents in modern city building. In July, the city’s master plan won the international Architizer A+ Popular Choice Award, beating prestigious projects such as the Amazon HQ2 supersite in Dallas and the 5M project in San Francisco. In September, Alaro City was also voted ‘Emerging Project of the Year’ by PropertyPro.ng at the Africa Real Estate Awards.
Odunayo Ojo, CEO of Alaro City, says the city has already sold out phase one of its residential ‘buy-and-build’ plots, with phase two well underway, adding that several Nigerian, regional and multinational companies are building commercial and industrial facilities in the city.
“Alaro City lies in the growth path of Lagos and aims to serve as a model for what a modern mixed-use city looks like,” he said, adding, “we have partnered with renowned experts in various fields to ensure that our culture of high standards is sustained.”
Rendeavour’s pedigree has been identified by industry experts as a key contributor to the growing success of the satellite city. Rendeavour is currently building seven new cities in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Zambia and Democratic Republic of Congo, with over 60 industries already building their businesses at the cities and over 6,000 homes in development.
The World Bank Group and the International Finance Corporation, have promised to continue to support Nigeria in bridging its infrastructure gap.
Both organisations said this in a statement issued by the World Bank’s Senior Communications Office in Nigeria, on Monday in Abuja.
Mr Hafez Ghanem, the World Bank Vice President for Africa, Mr Sérgio Pimenta, IFC Vice President for the Middle-East and Africa and Mr Hans Lankes, IFC Vice President for Economics and Private Sector Development, were quoted to have discussed at a just-concluded visit to Nigeria.
The meeting discussed how the World Bank Group could help Nigeria leverage private and public investments and expertise for inclusive growth.
According to Ghanem, the Bank can together with the private sector leverage government resources to bridge infrastructure gaps in Nigeria.
“We have supported and seen success in transport, energy and power sectors using Public Private Partnerships models.
“The Azura power project is an example of how we have attracted private sector investment in the power sector.
“We are happy to work with the Government of Nigeria on power sector reforms, which will create a better environment to attract more private sector financing,” Ghanem said.
Pimenta said that the financing needs of developing countries often surpassed their own budgets and available donor funding.
He, however, said that private sector resources and expertise could go a long way in bridging the gap.
“In Sub-Saharan Africa, we are increasingly seeing the private sector design sustainable business models that are creating jobs and lifting people out of poverty,” he said.
According to the statement, the National Integrated Infrastructure Master Plan, Nigeria faces a 100 billion dollar annual investment gap in infrastructure.
It added that the new approach to mobilising development financing was also presented during a workshop with key business leaders and policymakers.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, says it is difficult for Nigeria to achieve the $3trn infrastructure investment needed for the next 30 years.
She said in order to bridge Nigeria’s growing infrastructure gap, the federal government intended to cede 48 percent of the infrastructure needs to the private sector to build and own.
She stated this in Abuja at a workshop on Maximizing Finance for Development of Infrastructure in Nigeria, organised by the World Bank Group.
She said the 48 percent of the infrastructure would be largely in the transportation and energy sector which accounted for over 50 percent of the investments, the minister said.
She said: “It is estimated that $3 trillion infrastructure investment would be needed for the next 30 years” for Nigeria, a situation she said it’s impossible to achieve through budgetary provision. “Nigeria core infrastructure stock is currently estimated at 30 percent of the GDP which falls far short of the international benchmark of 70 percent.”
The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, said on Friday that the present administration was committed to human capital, economic and infrastructure developments to boost Nigeria’s global competitiveness.
Fashola made the statement while delivering a keynote address on “How Government Policy Affects Business, Society in National Development and Changing International Environment” at the Lagos Business School.
Speaking during a session on Social, Political and Economic Environment of Business, the minister advised critics of the administration to always consider the nation’s peculiarities when judging policies.
He said that systems of government in most African countries and globally which some analysts used as basis for calling for restructuring of the nation were faulty as Nigeria operated on different indices.
He explained that government’s strides for economic development had always been met by criticisms of analysts, who did not understand problems holistically.
Fashola added that even issues of nomination and portfolio of ministers elicited so much reactions and controversies that impacted on economic decisions because of some misinforming analysis.
Citing examples, Fashola said that some analysts misinformed the public while making submissions on government’s budget for education and health care, which he noted, were not domiciled in just two ministries.
He said that the budget of those sectors were also captured in other ministries, including works and housing, adding that the works ministry was constructing roads in some tertiary institutions.
According to him, education and healthcare sectors cannot function effectively without the Local Government, the third tier some analysts usually leave out while making assessments.
“I don’t think that arguments that Nigeria is spending less on health care and education is correct. 52 per cent of the spending is what you see in the budget. You cannot run a home without considering states and local governments spending.
“In Nigeria, spending is in three parts. Investments in education and health are not only domiciled in those ministries, it spreads to environment, works and housing ministries as well as other areas of needs.
“Today Federal Government is building internal roads in universities and the budget is captured in works not education.”
Fashola said that although primary education and primary healthcare were the responsibilities of local governments, yet some analysts blamed the Federal Government.
He said that 3,139 projects which employed more than 20, 0000 people and impacted about a million Nigerians were being executed under the government’s Sustainable Development Goals.
He said that human capital development was a priority of the Buhari regime, adding that, “no investments can be too much for humans”.
The minister said that global economies were changing and making solutions seem more difficult and that Nigeria was not an exception, calling for private sector investments and support for the nation’s growth.
He said the edge advanced economies had over Nigeria was that they developed their infrastructure early, adding that the present administration was now focusing on infrastructure development.
Fashola explained that the drive was massive such that road reconstruction projects were going on simultaneously in all states of the federation, adding that budgetary allocations had now risen from N18 billion in 2015 to N300 billion.
“If we mobilise resources from October to May, it would help us as we complete roads for the Nigerian economy.”
Fashola condemned criticisms of Federal Government’s borrowings, which he noted, were targeted toward the development of the nation’s over-stretched and dilapidated infrastructure.
Reeling out statistics, he argued that developed economies evolved through phases of borrowings to attain current status.
“I do not support debt for consumption but debt for productivity.”
He said that fusion of the academia was important because the academia “is where human capital is prepared”, adding that the collaboration would impact on all sectors.
Lamenting the negative effects of social media, organised crime and criminally, he said that every generation must anticipate and prepare to tackle the problems of technological evolution.
The minister offered graduates of the Lagos Business School opportunities for internship in the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing to further strengthen learning and private sector collaboration.
Threatens to terminate contracts in Galuwyi-Shere scheme
Determined to bring sanity to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the Department of Development control of the administration has demolished over 30 houses, shanties and other illegal structures in Mpape community in Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC).
The exercise has equally render over 60 families in the community homeless even as many were seen running helter-skelter to salvage the remains of their belongings, while others wept uncontrollably.The Guardian gathered that similar demolition was carried out in the area last year where over 20 houses were pull down.
One of the affected residents, Michael Ogbeh told The Guardian that he invested all his money in his building early this year, only for the department to demolish it in a matter of minutes.Ogbeh said that at present, his family have no other place to go take shelter, because the demolished property is all what he has and pleaded for assistance from individuals and government.
“In fact, I am confused, because I don’t even know what to do or where else to go with my family, as a result of this demolition. I must tell you that this is the only house I have in the whole of Abuja and it has been demolished.”He claimed to have acquired the land from a Gbagyi indigene in the area, through the community leader, adding that the chief of the community knows about all land business in his domain.
Speaking with newsmen at the end of the exercise, an Assistant Director of the Development Control Department, Oyewale Oyedola, explained that the demolition became necessary to create way for the construction of an approved layout/railway corridors that traverse the area.Oyedola, who monitored the demolition exercise, on behalf of his boss, Mukhtar Galadima, added that the residents were served necessary vacation notices for over three weeks before the demolition exercise.
Meanwhile, Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) has ordered the contractors handling infrastructural projects at the Galuwyi- Shere resettlement scheme in Bwari Area Council to complete work or have their contracts terminated.FCDA Executive Secretary Jubril Umar who gave the warning after the inspection of facilities at the scheme in Bwari, expressed displeasure over the poor handling of access roads, electricity and water projects in the resettlement estate.
Umar also disclosed that the authority will soon begin the eviction of illegal occupants in the, stressing that the administration will soon commence the resettlement programme.He said that out of the nine communities earmarked for the scheme, Jabi Yakubu Community would be the first beneficiary.
While conducting the Executive Secretary round the site, FCDA Director of Public Buildings, Anthony Odigie explained that the project started in 2005 with the intention to build 2, 266 houses and by 2009 only 1400 were completed while others were at various stages of completion.
Odigie however said, due to problems such as the non-payment of contractors, litigations among others led to the dilapidation and vandalization of the completed houses until 2017 when FCDA began rehabilitation to make them habitable ahead of the resettlement.
Hos words: “The project started in 2005 with the intention to build 2,266 houses and by 2009 we had about 1400 completed, then others were at various stages of completion. So there were problems along the line, problem of payment and so on and those who have not completed their award left the site and then the houses were vandalized, those that completed became deteriorated.”
Earlier, Speaker of the Bwari Legislative Council, Julius Adamu called on the Federal Government and the FCT administration to provide basic infrastructure, including roads, water, electricity, schools and health facilities before the resettlement of the affected communities, noting that the present state of the camp was not descent for human occupation.
The Lagos State Infrastructure Assets Management Agency (LASIAMA) has commenced the assessment of public infrastructures such as schools, hospitals, public buildings and MDA’s across the State towards the formulation of a strategic and economic reinvestment plan.
A statement issued by the Public Affairs department of the Agency said the assessment will determine the current condition and level of maintenance of assets to enable the government to prioritise maintenance as well as draw up an appropriate budget to fund the reinvestment plan.
The release revealed that the assessment of public schools, which has already taken place at Low-Cost Estate Nursery and Primary School Jakande Estate Oke Afa, Lagos will be conducted by a team of engineers from LASIAMA in collaboration with the Ministry of Education.
According to the statement, “LASIAMA has also engaged other technical staff to provide employment for residents in the affected communities during the assessment of public infrastructure project”.
It called on the general public to call 09052236539 and provide information on any damaged public infrastructure requiring government intervention.
The enabling law for Lagos State Infrastructure and Assets Management Agency (LASIAMA) was passed by the Lagos State House of Assembly in 2014 to create better management solutions for public facilities, improve cost efficiency as well as establish a system for regular maintenance and refurbishment of assets for better service delivery.
As Nigerians grapple with the problem of mounting housing deficit, even with real estate owners expanding their business frontiers in the nation’s capital, there seems to be no hope in the horizon for the poor who populate the informal sector as cost of rent in Abuja continues to be neck-breaking for residents in the city.
Aside the artificially-made-high cost of living in Abuja, a city that has become more expensive than other African giant cities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town, as reported in Mercer’s 2018 ranking on Cost of Living Survey which placed the city as the 90th most expensive in the world, renting an apartment in Abuja for an average citizen appears most often to be beyond the bound of possibility, this is just as landlords’ position on rent continues to remain almost irreversible amidst difficult times.
Since the 1990s, the cost of accommodation in Abuja has been well beyond the average professional’s wages. Moreover, indications are that it will continue to skyrocket as more and more people continue to troop in to the city from neighbouring states due to security reasons, while poor housing planning and implementation on the part of the government still act as impediments to affordable housing.
Worse is that rent contracts are only available on a one or two-year lease, and it is not uncommon for the landlord to require that the total amount be paid up front, rather than in yearly instalment.
Even with thousands of unoccupied buildings littered all over the city, particularly in highbrow areas, majority of residents in the FCT cannot afford to rent apartment in choice areas, thus they have to turn to the ever growing and populated satellite towns and villages where landlords are kings waiting to milk them dry of their life savings.
“Living and saving in Abuja is almost impossible because of the cost of rent. Landlords don’t care unless for those who see life differently”, said Ugochuki Amaze, a resident of Karu who lamented that tenants are at the mercy of house owners in Abuja.
“I have lived in this city for 12 years after relocating from Jos with my family. I can’t save because I have to train my children and shoulder other bills, including rent to have something over our heads. House is a necessity, even in your village, you must have a roof over your head,” he said.
Shelter is the most important of human needs after food.
Housing has been identified from various fronts as very important. Home ownership enhances the sense of self-worth in an individual and ministers to man’s rights to dignity of his human person but in the FCT, rent appears to be “life” in its own.
Ask most residents in Abuja what gives them concern most every year, the first thing that comes to their minds is rent.
“It gives me heartbeats and my blood pressure goes up whenever the year is running out and you remember that there is an unavoidable bill waiting for you to pay and the worse is that this thing is on the high side”, Mrs Felix Agbegi, a single mother of five, told LEADERSHIP Weekend.
“Things cannot continue like this. I think the government needs to do something to help low income earners to have buildings of their own,” Felix lamented while showing a text message recently sent to her by her landlord, where a month notice was unofficially given to her to vacate a two-bedroom apartment she has been living in with her children for four years now.
“From 2016 to this year, I have moved to three different locations looking for affordable house to keep my family because of the economic situation in the country. Nothing has changed and these landlords are not ready to cut down the cost of rent”, said Emeka, a civil servant and resident of Jikwoyi.
“In other towns outside Abuja, places like Jikwoyi where roads are not tarred, rents are relatively low but here, the case is different. Any beautiful house here almost goes like what you get in town because people keep flooding into Abuja yearly.”
Although prices of rent in the FCT may be different and this depends on the property owner, the concern, however, is affordability.
Medina Lisa Umar, a fashion designer and resident of Lugbe, who was interviewed by our correspondent on telephone said, she had monitored the rate of rents in Lugbe since 2016 submitting that though rents were still expensive, there had been a relative slash with certain percentage by some landlords.
“For instance there is this house, three-bedroom, a very standard one at that, in my area that was fixed at N1.2m but the landlord had brought it down to N800,000. But in the same area, a poorly built and substandard two bedroom apartment is fixed at N1m and the landlord is not ready to shift ground.
“In my case, for instance, I recently moved to a one bedroom apartment for N450,000 with service charge of N50,000 and another N20,000 which brings the total amount I paid to N520,000.”
Asked if she was comfortable paying such amount for a one bedroom, she said no.
“Do you think I like staying in satellite town when there are good houses in town?, asked Medinat who said people flood satellite towns because those houses in town are not affordable and they pay price at the end of the day.
She further blamed agents for the continue hike in prices of rent. According to her, “sometimes agents are the problem and even the landlord may not be aware. They may ask them for instance to put the price of a house for N200,000 for instance but they will go on their own to add N50 or N100. I was once a victim”, she said.
For Andy Onekpe, a resident of Jikwoyi, his perception is that the cost of living in Abuja was artificially created by those he described as “house lords”.
According to Onekpe, you can’t have a society where people earn less and pay high for living and call it normal. It is insane!
“We can’t live in city centre and here at the outskirts of Abuja, rent are still almost impossible to pay. We pay our electricity bill, we buy water and have to cater for our children school bills. This is too heavy for average salary earners to bear.
“Go to Benin, Edo State capital city for instance, the cost of one-bedroom in a village in Abuja can get a good three-bedroom apartment in GRA in Benin. That is a huge difference. That tells you something is wrong with us as a people. The government must do something about this imbalance,” he said.
Beautiful empty houses
Abuja is known to be notorious for not just land grabbing but abandoned and uncompleted and unoccupied buildings littering the major city centre.
Billions, if not trillions of naira have been sunk into real estate businesses. The irony of it is that, the now over-populated Nigeria capital city cannot accommodate its citizens.
Former president of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, Bolarinwa Patunola, had in a report attributed it to corruption. He said most of the the unoccupied buildings in the FCT were built from proceeds of corruption and because government did not place tax on these houses, owners did not care what happened to those buildings because they were not from their hard-earned money. He urged the government to impose heavy tax on them to crash high cost of house rent in the FCT
Bolarinwa had advised that, “the government must be involved in two key areas: social and investment housing that will incorporate everyone. The Nigerian government should take a cue from Singapore; there should be a scheme to produce flats on a continuous basis yearly”.
Any way out?
Access to shelter by the poor and even the middle class is one of the main challenges facing government and policy makers in Nigeria. This follows poor policy implementation or abject lack of it in the housing sector in the face of huge urban migration and uncontrolled population explosion.
Although the current administration has invested so much in the housing sector, also partnering with the private sector to reduce the housing deficit in the country and ultimately cut the cost of rent, stakeholders have opined that a lot still need to be done to get things right.
For decades, successive governments have been enormously challenged with the provision of affordable human settlements. Though various policies have been put in place to address housing problems, particularly for low in-come earners, but most of these policies have hardly changed anything.
Much of government’s efforts are focused on the provision of subsidised housing in bid to bridge the ever-increasing housing deficit but no one actually builds for the poor and those at lowest rung of societal ladder.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) projects that the nation’s housing deficit stands at about 17 million. This means that there are about 85 million Nigerians in desperate need of roofs over their heads. This translates to over 50 per cent of the nation’s population of estimated 200 million people.
Over the years, there has been half-hearted address of the ever-increasing housing cost, limited access to land and housing finance, regressive land taxation, and low supply of subsidised housing, all of which have pooled to make it difficult for the poor, and low income households to own homes. The effect is that, residents will continue to pay through their nose to have a place to stay, some analysts have postulated.
Given all of these, experts in the housing sector have argued that private sector housing initiatives remain the way to go. A peep at Nigeria’s mortgage policies over the years equally leaves much to be desired.
At the moment, experts, policy makers, key players and professional bodies interested in housing sector continue to unveil new roadmaps that will not only guarantee shelters for the ordinary Nigerian but also provide a vast array of job opportunities for Nigerians.
‘‘The approach changed from government-led approach to housing delivery to private sector-led approach in housing delivery but the problems that inhibited growth in the first approach are still present in the new approach. We have not addressed them,’’ Dr Paschal Onyemaechi, a researcher in public private partnership, PPP and urban housing said during a presentation before the Senate Committee on Works, chaired by former Kano State governor, Senator Kabiru Gaya.
Onyemachi through research propounded a PPP low-income housing model which hasfurther been developed into a pro-poor housing programme called “Build For Nigeria,” told our correspondent that “the new model is capable of substantially addressing the housing challenge.”
The initiative is now being leveraged by the Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities-CVC as a suitable model for addressing the challenge posed by student’s hostel accommodation in public tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
“Build for Nigeria” deeply takes into consideration affordability and the informal sector where bulk of the Nigerian population operate.
“The issues are source of suitable and sustainable housing finance for the low-income and poorer groups in the informal sector and the lack of suitable model that administer housing finance in the informal sector.
“The model that will work must overcome these two challenges to be able to tackle affordability and deliver to the targeted group. You will agree with me that the Nigeria’s informal sector is characterised with too many informalities, starting from identity issues, small and irregular income to the uncertianties of informal settlement. These have to be considered before you can offer a workable framework”, he said.
“When I say pro-poor housing, I mean pro-poor in all intents and purposes. The design, financing model, accessibility, participation and so on, not pro-poor with elitist’s assessment criteria. That method will not achieve the desired result even in the next 50 years. In fact, most of those difficult criteria automatically exclude the poor and pave way for the rich and powerful to strengthen their position in the market and this is why the deficit figures keep growing,” Onyemachi said.
According to him, “The very interesting contribution from this new thinking (Build for Nigera) is that the model does not require funding from the national budget to operate. It thrives on equity funding.
“I can’t remember any country that have achieved affordable housing for its poorer citizens through commercial mortgage, none. The lead question is how do we make millions of poor Nigerians own decent homes without having millions in their pocket? The answer has led us to the new model. An approach that combines a demand and supply side solution.
“The major objective of the programne is to provide a pool of equity-based fund for implementation of low-cost housing.
“The second objective is to enhance access to housing finance for the bottom 40 per cent of our population. It provides a platform to effectively and efficiently harness the opportunities in the sector to create an equity fund,” he revealed.
“Build for Nigeria” housing programme is designed to accommodate different categories of low-income Nigerians, ranging from those living in the slumps, to petty traders, market women, okada riders, young start-ups, indigent students(in the case of hostels accommodation in tertiary institutions) etc.
Also the Ag. Head, Marketing and Communication of Millard Fuller Foundation, Mr John Olugbemi, a body that said to have dedicated its time solving housing challenges in the FCT, wonders why there are a lot of unoccupied houses in Abuja housing units being left for so long.
“The reasons are not far-fetched. The cost of those housing units, he told LEADERSHIP Weekend.
“Some of these units are clearly out of the reach of the civil servants of whom majority of them stay around the satellite towns,” said John who complained that most developers have adopted the habit of targeting only the rich while low income earners are ignored even at the detrimental of their investments.
“While many developers are comfortable building for the rich and the middle class, not many of them have the low-income earners in mind”.
He said affordable housing could only be made possible for low-income earners in Nigeria through collaborative partnerships with individuals and organisations and that has become what the objective of the Muller Filler Foundation is premised on.
He added that they had been able to build 700 affordable home (studio, one bedroom and 2-bedroom apartments) which falls within the range of 2-5million naira.
He further disclosed that the “housing units are being taken up through long-term mortgages as provided by mortgage institutions.
TheTurkish HVAC&R Exporters Association is set to provide sustainable innovations and technology advancement for all sub-discipline; heat transfer, thermodynamics and fluid mechanics among others.
In a statement delivered by the Chief Executive Officer, Elan Exhibitions West Africa, Jude Jide Chime, the ISIB Expo and Seminar slated to hold on September, 16-17, at Four Points by Sheraton, Victoria Island, Lagos, will feature about 00 meetings at the B2B session, display world class, sustainable and new products in the HVAC &R industry.
The event will also attracts over 1000 professional visitors and 30 nternational participants, with the trong support f American Society of Heating, Refrigerating nd Air -conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), Nigeria chapter nd Nigeria nstitution of Mechanical Engineers (NIMECHE ).
The VAC &R ISIB Exhibition is said to be known for its creative roduct isplays, world – class exhibition tand hat showcase sustainable innovations and rends that encompass arious spects of the HVAC &R ndustry hich ncludes all sub-discipline f Mechanics; Heat transfer, Thermodynamics, fluid mechanics.
The exhibition will feature sessions rom various exhibiting companies speaking from rounded angles of their Specialty, Experience, and Production strength.
Some of the topics to be discussed include; Air ilter election for VAC ystems nd hygenic pplications, Industrial ce machines, obil last Freezers, Mobile Shops, Plate Heat exchanger applications nd omestic ater Heater Systems, amongst others.
These opics re ocused n rends hat ill ncourage anufacturing f VAC &R echnologies, innovations hat ill reate ore pportunities f financial xchange, partnership, awareness and corporation or ederal and state nstitutions, EOs, business developers, consultants, ngineers, mporters , arketers/ dealers, Associations , keystakeholders, policy makers, rtisans and Traders in the HVAC &R Industry.
Aliko Dangote’s plan to reduce Nigeria’s dependency on fuel imports will carve out an even bigger slice of the nation’s $376 billion economy for his empire.
The best way to appreciate the scale of Aliko Dangote’s empire is to hitch a ride on one of his private jets. A half-hour after his Bombardier Challenger 605 takes off from Lagos Airport, it descends into a seemingly desolate area of Kogi State in central Nigeria, dusty fields and clusters of trees stretching to the horizon. Suddenly a tangle of exhaust stacks, silos, and kilns pierces the sky to the left of the aircraft as Dangote Cement Plc’s Obajana plant comes into view. It’s already the biggest in Africa, churning out enough sacks of cement to fill 1,000 trucks a day. A fifth production line now under construction will make it one of the world’s largest.
The cement plant and its two sister factories in Nigeria have long been the bedrock of Dangote’s fortune, Africa’s biggest. But Dangote’s future—and, as he likes to say, that of the entire continent’s economy—lies to the south on the Nigerian coast. About 40 miles east of Lagos, on more than 6,700 acres of former swampland bound by a lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean, contractors are putting the finishing touches on a fertilizer plant valued at $5 billion. Next to it, construction of a vast oil refinery—a $12 billion project—is under way.
If all goes according to plan, the complex will immortalize the 61-year-old Nigerian businessman as Africa’s most prominent industrialist, vaulting Dangote Industries’ annual revenue from $4 billion to about $30 billion, roughly 8 percent of Nigeria’s gross domestic product. Oil industry experts such as London-based CITAC have questioned the project’s timeline, citing logistical and financial challenges. But Dangote insists the refinery, which will be Africa’s largest, is on track. “By 2020 I will finally dispatch oil,” he says during a January interview at his Lagos home.
Despite controlling the world’s 10th-largest oil reserves, Nigeria has only four aging, inefficient state-owned refineries, leaving it almost wholly reliant on imports for its fuel needs. Dangote says his massive refinery could end that dependency and lift electricity generation in a nation plagued by blackouts: “It will change the entire economy of Nigeria.”
The fertilizer plant, which Dangote says will come online in a few months, will be capable of producing up to 2.8 million metric tons of urea a year. “It’s probably the largest-volume urea plant ever executed at one time,” says Alistair Wallace, head of fertilizer research at Argus Media in London. Nigeria’s natural gas prices are the lowest in the world, meaning Dangote’s fertilizer will likely be profitable even in the competitive export market. “It will generate hard currency and bring in dollars. It will be a good look for the administration and for Dangote,” Wallace says.
Born into a wealthy Muslim family of traders in the north, Dangote incorporated his own business selling cement at 21. He shifted to manufacturing the building material in the 1990s, convinced his homeland, the world’s seventh-most-populous country, could meet its own demand for staples. Dangote factories churning out sugar, flour, and salt followed. A vertical integration push gave rise to other businesses, including oil, property management, packaging, and port operations.
Four publicly traded companies under the Dangote Industries umbrella account for about a third of the value of the Nigerian stock exchange. While shares of Dangote Cement tumbled 26 percent in the past year amid a sell-off in emerging markets, the fertilizer plant has helped boost Dangote’s net worth to $17 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. (No value is attributed to the refinery in Bloomberg’s analysis because it’s still under construction.)
In many ways, Dangote’s ascent recalls that of Gilded Age tycoons such as Andrew Carnegie and Cornelius Vanderbilt, who accumulated great fortunes as they created industries. While the emergence of a new generation of business titans that includes Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has drawn attention to rising income inequality in the U.S. and elsewhere, Dangote’s net worth is particularly disproportionate to the lot of ordinary Nigerians, almost half of whom live in extreme poverty.
Critics have attacked him for holding much of his wealth offshore and say he’s a shrewd monopolist who has plied his political connections to secure an advantage over competitors. They claim his market-dominating cement company squeezes local consumers with prices three times the global average while slashing prices in neighboring markets to crush rivals. A World Bank report published in 2016 found that African cement prices averaged $9.57 per 50-kilogram bag, compared with $3.38 globally. Dangote’s cement business has also been accused of exploiting a government-run investment promotion program to secure generous tax breaks.
Dangote shrugs off such criticism, while preaching the gospel of markets as the best way to narrow the divide between the haves and have-nots. “China in 30 years has taken almost 500 million people out of poverty,” he says.
Soft-spoken and unfailingly polite, he offers up his chair in meetings to guests and serves food for others during a lunch in an office conference room. But the courteous chief executive officer is also a hard-driving manager. “ ‘Not possible’ aren’t words he understands,” says Giuseppe Surace, chief operating officer of the refinery project, as our convoy of Toyota Land Cruisers sets off on a four-hour tour of the site. “In his own way, he is very tough.”
Nigeria’s $376 billion economy is, by some measures, Africa’s largest, but the operational challenges for companies are also outsize. The World Bank assigns the country a lowly score of 53 on ease of doing business (Kenya gets a 70, and South Africa a 66). Besides an overabundance of red tape and weak protections for investors, the country is perceived to be more corrupt than many of its neighbors. Nigeria’s chronic logistical logjams, infrastructure failings, and political risk are why CITAC says Dangote’s 2020 timeline for the refinery may not be feasible.
Even the so-called smart money has stumbled here. Five years after pledging to invest $5 billion in infrastructure alongside Dangote, Blackstone Group LP is in the process of exiting an African subsidiary called Black Rhino Group because of a dearth of suitable opportunities, a person familiar with the matter has said. KKR & Co. disbanded its Africa deal team in 2017.
Dangote, for his part, has decades of experience negotiating Africa’s pitfalls. Yet even by the continent’s standards, the refinery project could be characterized as a heavy lift. Dangote Industries bought the plot for $100 million at the end of 2013, but it ultimately took almost three years—and many truckloads of sand—to prepare the swampy ground for construction. The company erected a jetty and widened and reinforced roads to accommodate shipments of cranes and other equipment.
Dangote’s existing empire gives him advantages. The new refinery is a big customer of Dangote Cement, and the roads to and from the surrounding quarries are clogged with his trucks. Also, his timing was fortuitous. The project geared up during a recession, giving him more bargaining power over contractors keen to land work. Plus its location inside a free-trade zone means the complex should be better insulated from the Nigerian political scene, according to Dangote’s lieutenants. “We’re an island,” says Surace, an Italian who previously worked at oil services company Saipem.
Talk to ordinary Nigerians and plenty crack smiles at the mention of Dangote, who’s featured in internet memes, while a recent single by Nigerian singer Teni plays on his wealth. It’s the kind of name recognition any politician would envy. Results from Nigeria’s Feb. 23 general election, which was marred by delays, technical glitches, and violence that killed at least 39 people, saw President Muhammadu Buhari beat his main challenger, Atiku Abubakar. But Dangote, who’s long avoided playing political favorites and deflected questions on the election throughout the campaign, says he’s not interested in governing. “If I exit from business and go into politics, nobody can actually sit in Dangote Group and take the kind of risk that I can, because I’m the owner,” he says. “My real job is to see how do I transform Nigeria and Africa and to take this kind of risk.”
While Dangote has confined his business activities to Africa so far, he expects to expand beyond his home continent after revenue tops $30 billion. There’s not “capacity to be able to invest that kind of money just in Africa,” he says.
Signs of his burgeoning fortune abound. His namesake foundation spends as much as $100 million a year on projects such as hospitals and malnutrition, according to its CEO Zouera Youssoufou. Dangote’s offices feature photos of him with Bill Gates and Barack Obama, and he says he’s in the process of setting up a family office that will have outposts in London and New York. Carlyle Group’s David Rubenstein is helping set it up and the unit will invest alongside the private equity firm, Dangote said. Rubenstein, who hosts a show on Bloomberg Television, declined to comment.
“It’s very much on paper now,” Dangote says.
He could even acquire that archetypal billionaire trinket: a professional sports team.
An Arsenal fan, Dangote says he’s prepared to stomach the multibillion-dollar price tag the English soccer club would command once the refinery is finished.
“I will go aggressively after Arsenal,” he says.
For now, though, his focus is on the vast project taking shape on the Atlantic coast.
The last time I see Dangote, it’s past midnight at his Lagos home. He’s sitting at the head of the dining room table, near a barely touched bowl of fish stew and a chunky Casio calculator. He turns his head, with closely cropped hair flecked with gray, toward the accounts in front of him.
He’s absorbed. Seconds tick by in silence, then minutes. Finally he’s satisfied. He signs off and—ever the host—patiently fields a few more questions before seeing me and his other guests out before heading to bed.
Waiting for my ride, I turn back and see Dangote, the $17 billion man, climbing the stairs.
Rwanda’s Infrastructure Development deserves some study. With 12 million people, barely $2 billion in total annual government revenues, not much more than a billion dollars annually available for capital expenditure, and a per capita GDP below $800, it’s quite easy to see that Rwanda is a decidedly low income country; with significantly constrained public sector resources available for development.
Yet, this small, landlocked, densely populated country, located as it is in an incredibly challenging geopolitical postcode has managed over the past 25 years to triple per capita income, achieving “high growth (which) has raised income levels and reduced poverty, (although) incomes and labor skills are still catching up to peers,” according to IMF’s latest review of the country’s economic performance..
By any measure (and despite some valid criticism of its statistical methods), a historically important economic miracle has been pulled off in Rwanda since the horrific its crisis in 1994– average annual public and private sector investment levels consistently higher than 20 percent of GDP per annum points to one of the more important sources of that growth.
Much energy has been expended in examining the political model that produces these outcomes (a very important area for consideration, and long may it continue), but that vital debate need not detain us today. My particular area of interest and expertise is in exploring the principles of economic governance that made these kinds of development outcomes possible.
Financing large infrastructure projects in Rwanda (Africa Finance Corporation has funded a power plant that is nearing completion, and we are now working on a new airport for the future) provides a vantage point from which to observe the approaches and principles that drive economic development and attract investment into the country.
How does Kagame do it? This is without a doubt, a deceptively simple question that is impossible to answer comprehensively in any kind of summary manner. Keeping aside the question of politics and state security (areas with evidently very little room for compromise), some common themes are easy to observe.
The first is a systematic approach to attacking development problems. It is impossible to overstate the importance of this seemingly innocuous original step. In the area of public infrastructure delivery in Africa, there are quite simply, no simple problems.
Taking the time upfront to scope out the multiplicity of interconnected factors that prevent or delay success in the implementation of a project (or a series of projects in any sector) is invaluable best practice. Often, a comprehensive and well-documented technical, commercial, legal and regulatory assessment will be the most proper instrument for achieving this.
Next, for each developmental challenge or objective, a carefully thought-through institutional framework is conceived of, with all the required parties for a solution mapped out. In practice, this will often lead to the creation and promulgation (or more often, when they exist already, restructuring and amendment) of appropriate institutions and legislation required for an effective intervention by the state. Extensive consultation with private sector, donor and development partners will also take place at this point in time.
Finally, it will not be unusual to observe that incredibly smart, typically quite young and very often female, citizens have been identified, recruited, trained and handed sufficient responsibility for driving the desired solution, within the context of an already well laid-out framework. From here on, development tends to take on a life of its own. The results are clear to see: remarkable public sector accomplishments and large private investments in the areas of education, technology, healthcare, tourism, manufacturing as well as infrastructure, combining to deliver the enviable and much-talked-about economic growth and poverty reduction.
More can be done evidently (this is still a poor country, with up to 40 percent of the population living below the poverty line according to some of the more critical, non-government analyses). And Rwanda is a small country with a peculiar history of its own, so caution is always necessary in reading results across to other African countries.
Critically, a major area of concern is in the area of sustainability, and the extent to which outcomes depend entirely on the currently applicable political system and leadership. But if our objective is to learn from economic development everywhere we encounter it, then there is a great deal of pedagogic value that must be taken from the work that has been done in Rwanda.
Some ambitious ideas for infrastructure development lie in the future of Rwanda. In particular, establishing communication by rail with important regional trading locations, and ultimately with a deep-water seaport on the coast would be a transformative development for the country’s economy. Already, the same energy and discipline that I have tried to describe above is being applied to this challenge, and with a lot of luck, more successes lie ahead.