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Developing Diaspora cities in Nigeria: no place like home

With one of the largest Diasporas in the world, Nigeria is trying to charm its citizens overseas to invest into the country’s property market through the Nigerians in Diaspora Housing Programme (NIDHOP), through which ‘Diaspora cities’ will be created across the country.

The Nigerian Diaspora totals 15 million around the world, according to Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and The Diaspora, in March 2017. Nigeria competes with India, the home country of the largest Diaspora in the world standing at 16 million, and other countries such as Russia and Mexico as one of the largest Diasporas globally.

Furthermore, according to The World Bank’s Migration and Remittances, Fact book 2016, nearly USD21billion was sent home in 2014, making the Nigerian Diaspora the sixth largest in terms of remittances.

Given these numbers, it comes with no surprise that the government is trying to lure the Diaspora to invest in Nigeria’s property market, through the Nigerians in Diaspora Housing Programme (NIDHOP).

The project, designed to provide safe and sustainable home ownership to Nigerians abroad, is a partnership between the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), who will act as the project’s developers, the Federal Ministry of Power, Works & Housing (FMPW&H) as project facilitators, and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) as the project promoters, and is divided into two phases.

The first phase kicked off in 2017 and involves the creation of Diaspora cities in the main centres of the country: Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Benin City. The second phase, expected to start in 2018, covers other cities such as Enugu, Kaduna, Asaba, and Ibadan.

According to FHA’S Managing Director, Prof. Mohammed Al-Amin, besides meeting the housing needs of Nigerians overseas, Diaspora cities also aims at providing another non-oil channel for an inflow of forex of at least USD10 billion per year into the Nigerian economy, aligning with the government’s economic development plan.

The project’s investment is estimated at USD630 million for construction of the first phase and is funded through three different channels. One channel is through a beneficiary funding model by which the Diaspora can make staggered payments for the houses; the second stream is funding from the FHA; and the third is a government intervention loan.

The Diaspora cities, with a total of 15,680 housing units, will have independent power supply and sewage treatment plants. The project is part of the broader efforts to address housing deficits in Nigeria, with this plan catering specifically to the Diaspora and other plans to increase affordable housing options.

Encouragement for the Nigerian Diaspora to invest in the country’s real estate sector, however, is also coming from the private sector. Kelly Nwogu, Managing Director of Lagos-based Livelihood Homes, has urged the Diaspora to channel some of their resources into buying a house in their home country to create a better future for when they return home.

He said, “So many people have been duped by their friends, relatives and quacks in the process of trying to help them purchase properties. A number of others have also been frustrated by cumbersome processing of necessary title documents on landed property while on short visit to the country; hence few of them want to buy properties anymore in Nigeria.” Streamlined processes through the Diaspora cities will make investment in real estate easier for both Nigerians abroad and in Nigeria.

Another company, The Anirejuoritse Global (TAG) Nigeria Ltd, is the organizer of Nigeria’s Real Estate Exhibition and Trade Show for its Diaspora in the UK and the US. TAG EXPO aims to foster trade relations between the real estate market in Nigeria and its potential customers in the Diaspora.

Fine and Country West Africa, a London-based real estate firm, found that Diaspora investment in Nigeria’s real estate increased by approximately 25% in the 18 months prior to August 2017.

Their business development and sales consultant for West Africa, Nonye Mike-Nnaji, has advised the implementation of an improved, transparent, and automated title system; a more efficient legal framework; and week-structured mortgages to encourage more real estate activities by Nigerians in the Diaspora. She said: “Investment in infrastructure and tax reads for a specialized real estate will also boost the confidence of high-level investors.

It is noteworthy that Lagos State as the nation’s main gateway to real estate investments is leading the way in improving its real estate titling system. We hope that other states will follow.”

There is no place like home, they say. Wherever in the world, Nigerians are proud citizens attached to their traditions and culture, and a great number of the 15 million living abroad will be interested in investing in a home, either to enhance the standard of living of their families still in the country or simply because they plan, one day, to return home.

The Diaspora city project serves two purposes by providing home ownership opportunities in the motherland of the Diaspora as well as re-invigorating the economy through large inflows of forex and a vibrant real estate market. Therefore, it may be one of the most astute measures and another step forward of the current administration toward economic diversification and sustainable growth.

By: Silvia Lambiase, Country Editor, Nigeria, the Business Year

Culled from Business day

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