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Saturday, 25 October 2014 09:16

Nigeria: Booming Business for Urban Construction

4933_LAGOS ISLAND, October 25, 2014 (Buziness Africa) -- As Nigeria’s economy continues to grow rapidly, thus overtaking South Africa, it has attracted many of its highly skilled professionals from abroad. Founder and CEO of African Development Global Experts (ADGE), Eric Macxrydz Eyutchae, says his greatest achievement and courageous step is the fact that he becomes the first African architect to have gone into full-fledged architectural practice in Russia after the fall of the Soviet empire in 1991.

And the fact that he participated in helping partly to urbanize modern day Russia was quite thrilling, considering it was quite a difficult terrain back those days. In the next five years, Eyutchae hopes to fully establish his company’s presence and foothold in the real estate development market in Nigeria, and possibly expand to the West African market.

 

Interestingly, Eyutchae has had great mentors in life. First, was his late father, Mr. C.X. Eyutchae, who was a famous journalist and highly prolific writer during Nigeria’s struggle for political independence from the British administration and rule. The other great mentor was his Russian chief consultant/supervisor for his final academic project (thesis) at the Moscow Architectural Institute, Musafa Marufovich.

 

Eyutchae says “if I had the chance, I would like to have dinner with Russian President Vladimir Putin who I admire greatly for his strength, faith and courage in rebuilding and modernizing Russia.”

 

In this interview, Architect Engineer Eric Eyutchae tells Kester Kenn Klomegah (Regional Editor-in-Chief for Russia and Eurasia at Buziness Africa Media Group) about the intriguing challenges, the changing conditions in construction landscape and booming prospects in real estates business in Nigeria.

 

Below are interview excerpts:

 

BA: How did you get involved in real estates business especially building designing and development?

Eyutchae: Really, I’d say it was sort of accidental. I was in search of how far architecture goes as far as cities were concerned and their development. Initially, after bagging my Masters Degree in Architecture from the Moscow Architectural Institute in Russia, I was caught up in a situation where my country, Nigeria, had just experienced another coup d’etat, that was in 1993, a month before my final degree exam.

 

To add to that, Russians, then the late President Boris Yeltsin was engaged in a physical fight with the Russian parliament. The Soviet Union had collapsed two years earlier and really there was a global turmoil, however the real estate market had then emerged from the collapse of the Soviet empire and I felt this was a good opportunity immediately after school to get involved with this new and promising times.

 

I wanted to learn a lot about buildings, the environment and practical contribution to the economy and urban development, so a friend of mine introduced me to Century 21, a US based company that had come to Russia headed by a friend of his. I became a real estate agent. That was my first experience with real estate. I was involved in the buying and selling of properties, also renting out space.

 

That really was an opportunity to get practically involved with buildings and how they breathe, then I came to understand how buildings and spaces are valued, how to increase estate values of certain areas and how the market works. So with my design talent as an young graduate architect, it all started to fall into place especially after reading Donald trumps biography, I realized I was simply heading for urban development as my profession on the long run. From that time, I have been involved in all aspects of urban development activities, designing, construction etc.

 

BA: Can discuss your previous experiences in Russia? Do you find it useful after returning home?

Eyutchae: My previous experiences in Russia was awesome because at at the time I graduated in 1993 there was a great transformation going on in Moscow and other parts of the former Soviet republics and all over the world in general. However, particularly in Russia, there was a need for modernization from the old Soviet style of things, especially the real estate market.

 

Development was fast occuring. My first job as an architect was really to work as an assistant architect to a group of developers from Los Angeles. We had to design and manage a new modern restaurant on the old Kalininsky prospect, I believe that should be Novy Arbat now. It was a prime location. Well, my services were needed not only as an architect but also I had to build the bridge for the language barrier since I speak both English and fluent Russian.

 

That made the work easier for everyone, and so it was a relevant double role. I am quite grateful for that experience. I also found myself doing some part-time expert assistance to Mosproekt-1, which opened up a lot of bureaucratic experience too. I had the rare opportunity to work in North Russia in many cities such as Cherepovets, Vologda, Sheksna, just to say a few. I have found my Russian experience very useful in urban development, I participated actively in rebuilding Urban places back then.

 

BA: What is the landscape like in Nigeria? What are the main challenges and problems in the urban development in Nigeria?

Eyutchae: Nigeria is a developing country with a huge population and the biggest economy in Africa, overtaking South Africa. We hope that the present democratic climate will continue, so that development here can move faster. The major challenges here stem from lack of proper infrastructure like electricity, drills for example need electricity to function and a whole lot of stuff like that, including some outdated colonial mentality which still prevails in society. Things like the usage of feet and inches as against international metric system can slow things down because most artisans are used to feet and inches.

 

Really, such small details count in time management, and of course, the issue of government bureaucracy when it comes to things like land acquisition and some other government approvals have to be overcome, but on the whole these are not very serious hurdles to hop over. The main issue is to understand that over here things don’t move as fast as in developed countries, hence there is an urgent need for very well qualified artisans in the construction industry.

 

In this case, there is need for foreign technicians and specialists to assist. That will be a major plus, though I suspect we can get more Africans from the Western and European diaspora to engage here so we that time of production/construction can be properly controlled. I think the government should do more by building and equipping more technical schools where artisans are taught properly.

 

BA: Is the market competitive and how can one stand up to the market requirements and meet the challenges?

Eyutchae: Nigeria is a huge market for real estate development and business. This is a virgin land with so much still to be done here. Cities to be built and developed. There are 36 states that require urban development individually. Population growth with little cash available is the huge challenge. Abuja, for example, is growing at a rate of 9% every year and Lagos just about 3,7% yearly growth. In this case, I see a need for more foreign investments here. Already there is a lot of Chinese investment on the continent, and I hope to see some substantial Russian presence and footprints. Russia has expertise and experience which will be needed in Nigeria. Market requirements are almost the same as everywhere else. Land and available funding is the main thing. Foreign investments can ease up a lot of the pressure down here as far as funding is concerned.

 

BA: Having said all that, what are your key goals and focus? And who are your clients in the country?

Eyutchae: My key goals and focus now is to try and develop the 36 plus states in Nigeria, starting from the South Eastern region of the country, and truly this region needs a lot of developmental activities. More factories are to be built and more residential properties needed too, which of course bring about recreational and shopping activities, sporting activities, hence the high prospects for urban development. To help build a megacity in the South East is my ultimate aim.

 

So far my clients have been businessmen and women, though we have some proposals with some state governments, but as usual, bureaucracy works slowly. If, at last, we can get over these hurdles then there will be such an economic boom in these parts, endless activities and massive employment would be witnessed because right now the population growth in Africa is really creating massive problems and so we need to move fast before it gets catastrophic. Recently, according to the world bank, there are likely to be 400 million more people in African towns and cities by 2050 than there are today.

 

BA: Do you plan to look for foreign contracts and some kind of business collaboration with foreign partners in this sphere?

Eyutchae: Foreign contracts and foreign collaboration is much welcome. Firstly, the business of urban development is not a destination, it just keeps evolving, and of course, the exchange of culture really helps all parties. It would be good for foreigners to have a real in-depth knowledge of the opportunities abound here. We would be glad to work with knowledgeable foreigners and investing partners, and I’m sure they too would be glad working with us. There are enough opportunities for everyone, if and when we engage one another rightly with the right goals in mind.

*African Development Global Experts (ADGE) is one of the leading firms specializing in urban development, social engineering and financial services based in Lagos Island, Nigeria.

(Source: Buziness Africa)

 

 
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