• Thursday, July 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

A foreigners view of Lagos

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Although it seems as a nation we constantly complain about our decaying infrastructure and lack of maintenance, it is still always interesting hearing foreign visitor’s views about our country and comparing this to our own long held views.  I attended a conference recently where I met a delegation from Cape Verde island which is a small relatively unknown island surrounded by water just off the coast of West Africa by Gambia, They were in Lagos to seek investment in their growing property and tourism market. Although they only have a population of about two million people, they are aiming to be the next Dubai in terms of property and tourism development. Their population has 97% literacy rate and their standard of living is very high. Their minimum wage is set at about $140 per month, which in naira is about N23, 000.00; this is for a country that does not have power or transport problems or any other major issues of importance to spend their money on except their utilities and food. They have four international airports which meet international standards, which brings me back to the point of this article. I was talking to one of the delegates who told me that he was shocked by the standard and state of our MMI Airport. This is his comment in full “For a country the size and wealth of Nigeria, the condition of the airport is shocking! I have travelled all over the world and the airport here in Lagos is the worst I have seen anywhere. It is not good for the image or reputation of the country”

I am sure as you read this you are cringing and also feeling the shame I felt, if you are not, I guess the country has desensitized some people from the decay around us. For an outsider visiting Nigeria, a country he has heard so much about and looked up to for the first time with high expectation, it is indeed a shame to hear this, and he is no way alone in his views, some visitors are just too polite to tell us because of what they stand to gain from us. However we must be honest with ourselves. The Airport and infrastructure all around is not a pleasant welcome into Lagos. The non-functioning air conditioners makes immigration and luggage waits a misery. The air conditioners actually function like heaters and pump hot air into an already steamy arrival hall. The toilets do not work and stink up the whole airport. I have written about this many times over the years, yet it just seems to get worse. The car park area is a disaster and not usable. These delegates visiting Lagos were from so called “small” countries coming to look to their “big brother” for finance and advice to develop their country further, yet we are unable to provide the same standard of infrastructure and service in our own country. Cape Verde is already rich in almost every aspect of their economy but still want to grow further. Maybe Nigeria should visit Cape Verde and learn some lessons from them. We hear constantly how our country’s GDP is one of the fastest growing in the world, yet this does not translate into visible realities for the everyday man on the street whose standard of living is not good at all.

I also gathered some fascinating facts on our own population and evolving property market. It is reported that the population in Nigeria is now between 170-190 million and over 90 million are under the age of twenty. What this shows is that even though there is already a critical shortage of housing for those who can afford it, there are millions of young people still living with mum and dad who will in the near future need their own homes. Therefore there is going to be a massive demand for land and housing in years to come. There will also be a growing demand for infrastructure like roads, hospitals schools and shopping outlets to support the population. A city like Johannesburg has 2.1million people yet has 74 Shopping centres. Lagos has a population of over 10 million, yet only has 16 Malls/Shopping centres. Lagos as a capital city is growing so fast, that demand in most areas will outstrip supply. For the housing industry this means that there is room for so many more developers to make their mark in providing affordable accommodation. There is an oversupply of high end accommodation already, many of which sit empty for months or years. So for wannabe developers, start working on your business plans and get ready for the rush.

Caroline Adeola Akinlotan is the Managing Director of RSG Property Services Lagos [email protected] 0803 251 6955