‘Real estate can diversify the Nigeria economy with government deliberate efforts’
Stephen Akintayo is the chief executive officer of Gtexhomes – a top real estate firm in the country. In this interview with Josephine Okojie, he spoke about the impact Gtexhomes is making in the Nigerian real estate industry and his momentous entrepreneurship journey so far.
Can you tell us about some of the work that Gtexhomes is doing in the Nigerian real estate industry?
Gtexhomes has been doing a lot in the country’s real estate industry. This year, we are building one thousand housing units and we have started already, a lot of contractors are already mobilized, and we are getting more on board, and also by the end of the year, we would be having more than 20 branches in the country. People have been asking why are we expanding despite the rising insecurity in Nigeria, but again the concept of entrepreneurship is solving problems that is why we are investing a lot in conferences and training because we just need to start changing the mindset of Nigerians. There are applications that some of our brilliant young Nigerian can come up with that will solve these issues, that will give you satellite imagery where kidnappers are keeping people with the coordinates, you just need to tap into that youthful, young energy.
Tell us about the smart city concept?
Right! The United Kingdom has said that it will reduce its CO2 emission by 78 percent by 2035. So, we are having countries give 15years deadline, 20years deadline, so everything is becoming smart, green but Africa is not even having that conversation. I wanted to change the narrative, so I said to myself, we have to be ahead, so we started this concept of green smart homes wherein our estate and in the houses, we have built, with your phone you can handle everything about the house. In fact, for some people from the wristwatch you can see what is going on in the house, you can even talk to those at home, so a lot of security gadget, a lot of smart gadget but more importantly green, so we are not connecting any of our estates to the national grid, we are not interested, everything is renewable, we are doing a hybrid of solar and recycling on the waste we are producing in the environment, using hybrid biogas and solar.
Is this project going on right now or you are talking projection?
We are already on site, buildings have commenced, we are just making sure that our estates are self-sustainable, it’s in line with the millennium development goals, and like I said, it’s just that Nigeria keeps shifting the goal post, all these things are the things that the world has agreed that we need to start moving in this direction but we know how we do our things.
Can the real estate industry diversify the Nigerian economy away from oil?
The answer is definitely yes. To achieve this is solely in the hands of the government. The Dubai government made an intentional decision by the sheik to develop its real estate industry. The country was deliberate to diversify its economy from oil by going into real estate and tourism among others. To do this, they started building the right infrastructures to enable other industries to thrive. It was a decision the government chooses to make. The Nigerian government can also decide to diversify the economy through the real estate sector. It will happen but I honestly see the private sector doing it and not the government. Do you know the most expensive land in the world is in Nigeria Lagos, banana island, in New York, they sell floors they don’t sell land, I would have said maybe New York will top them, it is only in Lagos that you buy land 600 square metres for $2 million. There is no place else in the world, that is why even the private sector has jumped in and they are making this thing mega, so all we just need is a little government support to make things easier. Look at what is happening with Ogun state and Oyo state, investment is moving to those places because it is easy to get your C of O, so those are little things government can do to create the much-needed jobs for the economy. There is no other bigger employer of labour in any sector than real estate.
Don’t you think that the real estate policies of other governments are friendlier?
Before there was no government policy guiding them, just now they are trying to control the sector, take for instance the social media, when it started there was no policy, some people started it without law from scratch and built it to what it is today. We must sell the same narrative in Nigeria. Young people should go and pick a sector and hustle it out. I am not saying it easy. I also started small, I trekked Ikeja along to Sango for many days because I couldn’t afford N200 then to go back to Sango. I often slept in my office with mosquitoes. I use to paste postal, do photocopy and buy bulk SMS at 70 kobo per SMS. So, it wasn’t easy but we can do it.
What inspired your entrepreneurship journey?
I started business on campus, my mother was a civil servant and my father’s business had crumbled before I was born. My mother was left alone to raise five children. Each time I was going to school, my mother will knock on doors for help. This is the reason why we invest a lot in kids’ tuition fees and so far, we have paid over five thousand tuitions for them. I grew up being pained and this is not normal. I was lucky I had a cousin who started a business immediately after I completed my secondary school education that was how my entrepreneurship journey started.
Can you share a painful experience you have suffered as an entrepreneur?
A lot, the biggest single loss was N120 million in the real estate sector but that was the single loss that made me say in this business we will build billions. Land ownership is still a big problem in Nigeria. We purchase our land in bulk and the day we were to take possession of the land, the whole family came out and said who sold the land to you, we don’t know him, and that was how we lost the money. We have learned and made success in acquiring properties through the appropriate agencies.
What has been your comfort resolution strategy?
Elders! The wisdom of elders, my uncle sold most of the lands in Omole, Berger, you know I didn’t know him until I got into real estate, but later on, I went into real estate, these are the people you go to for advice, you are having these issues and how do we handle such, we have had to leverage on not just him but several people.
What are the things that Gtexthomes is putting together aside this event to inspire the Nigerian youths?
One of the things we have started doing is to mentor intentionally; media men, celebrities, actors, and actresses. So what is missing is a role model, it is not that the Nigerian youth can’t be patient. They need to be inspired and supported to tap opportunities across industries.