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Nigerian real estate market is attractive to foreign investors – Afolabi Imoukhuede

This interview with Mr. Afolabi Imoukhuede, Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the NG President on Job Creation and Youth Employment, Office of the Vice President addresses the lingering unemployment issue in Nigeria and how we can harness the opportunities in real estate for the benefit of the country.

He also noted that the sector is very wide and attractive to foreign investors.

Read his interview below

NREH: How can real estate help solve the problem of growing unemployment in Nigeria?

Mr. Imoukhuede: In terms of housing, real estate is actually an aspect where you can create a lot of jobs within and without the sector; jobs within the value chain. Right from professional skills that are required from land to design to the actual construction itself, facility management, maintenance and post-construction. That’s for the professional level.

For the mid-level artisans which will be needed in the building and also for post building maintenance will also be engaged. They include the carpenter, plumber, electrician, e.t.c.

When you look at the real estate space, its got huge potential to employ and engage thousands and thousands of people and that’s why no economy disregards its housing construction sector. It’s a big sector.

NREH: How can integrity issue and lack of delivery by developers be addressed?

Mr. Imoukhuede: We know there have been issues that a lot of our master artisans are already in advanced age, retiring and even dying. Now, of course, the kind of informality by which they learnt the trade, the sector has a lot of young people who are not attracted go into that space. But now, the whole point is how do you rebrand that old space, how do you remove that stigma that you are a second class citizen as an artisan. That has been The Big Issue. But society has been working with all stakeholders to redress the issue. And that’s why you see that Federal government working with various sectors and champions to really refocus that space.

The last 2 years of the budding cycle just from the social investment programme alone, that’s asides what other arms of government at State and Federal may have done, we have invested in 40, 000 Nigerian youths in raising them for relevant skills for the construction industry, automobile industry, and the hospitality industry.

Now what this does is that it immediately empowers them to work both for employers and themselves as contributors to the value chain. So clearly, when you talk about building integrity, it’s where you talk about the fact that you have ill-trained professionals working in your site and then it leads to building collapse or questionable integrity of the facility of your building. But that is now obviously being corrected. Like I said earlier, the construction sector just from this social investment alone now has 28, 800 new skilled professionals across the country.

So how much of this uptake will the developers be able to absorb and how many more of this demand do we require for the government to know how to respond by supplying more skills.

These are things we would continue to work with in partnership with all the developers association, the council for registered builders and institute of building to address this skills gaps and also ensure we place them into veritable jobs.

NREH: With the challenge of security in the North now growing significantly in the West, how does that impact on foreign direct investment particularly in real estate as well as ease of doing business?

Mr. Imoukhuede: Well, that’s a very broad question but then we heard from one of our foreign guests(America) that Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa is a deliberative captive market for a lot of western countries at the moment. Yes, we have security challenges but I’m also aware that the government is doing all it can to arrest it and also engaging the community to be more proactive in guaranteeing our communal safety. That said, we do not believe it has gotten to a stage where it’s now reducing FDIs. There are concerns but it has not gotten to that point but of course, the fact that the government is also pro-actively checkmating it and we are assured and confident that it will not get to that point that it will now have an adverse effect on foreign investors. But the reality is, this is a market that is emerging, it is untapped and it is really attractive to foreign investors particularly the housing sector.

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