Nigeria: Booming Business for Urban
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
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
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
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
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
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)