Tokunbo Omisore is the Chief Executive Officer of Top Services Limited and President of African Union of Architects. In this interview with MAUREEN IHUA-MADUENYI, he talks on effect of Naira fluctuation on property development and the need to encourage retail mall development as a means of job creation
Read excerpts below:
A lot of developers are focused on residential buildings due to the high deficit. What is your interest in retail mall development?
Housing provides shelter; mall development provides opportunities for employment. Now, when everybody is employed, people are able to live in decent housing estates and those housing estates are properly maintained and where mortgages are involved, there are no defaults because of unemployment. It’s been proved all over the world that once you live in a housing estate, whether given to you through government subsidy, if those within are not employed or have something to do, they turn such estates into slums.
You can imagine 50 or 60 per cent of the youths of such places or even those that are not youths but losing their jobs and having to live in such estates, it becomes derelict. Crime rate increases out of boredom.
When you look at the developed nations of the world such as the United States of America, what runs its GDP is retail. It runs the GDP of all the developed nations; it is the only way to keep above waters. It gives employment opportunities to many. It develops more brands, more innovations. And when you look at the tradition of the Africa, especially Nigeria, we have always been traders; we have night markets, day markets, weekly, monthly and bigger markets. Marketing, trading and being retailers have been part of our people. The only difference is that the developed nations may say ours is not structured but if we really go down into what they did in the past, it was structured in their own way. This is because they knew which days of the week to trade and what sections to display their wares.
Whatever structure we have, we should improve on that, infuse it with Information Technology and put it forward as an African solution. People have to eat. After the death of Kingsway Stores, the UTC and others, we lost over 20 years not improving structured retail business. But when Shoprite came about 10 years ago, it gave opportunities to those in the food and business sector. There were many people that loved to go into food processing but had nowhere to sell their products. Most felt frustrated and moved away. But when it came, it has helped those in packaging to improve. It has helped those in food processing too because the concept behind Shoprite is not to say no to your product if it is properly packaged. And if consumers buy it off on displaying it, then you are in business.
It’s been a big help and a showroom and something to develop the minds of the youth in seeing that they can be out of school and develop themselves as entrepreneurs and develop businesses that can do well. To miss out of retail will be a big minus to us. Everybody has tried to be in oil and gas but the future of that sector is no longer the same. But we have all seen that food will always be in demand. You need food, shelter, clothes and of course entertainment; these make the total package and this is why as a nation with over 160 million people, we need to be more involved in retail growth rather than paying lip service to it.
What is the impact of the naira fluctuation on property development?
It has had a lot of impact; we don’t even know what it is affecting right now. As a standard for malls internationally, it is denominated in dollars because international brands coming in do so on dollar rating. The CBN regulations and demands put restrictions on what foreign exchange should be, which at the end of the day, will have impact on the economy. But the immediate impact is that it will kill a lot of businesses, opportunities and, if care is not taken, it will increase unemployment.