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‘Entrepreneurship Is key to economic recovery’

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Dr. Kennedy Okonkwo

Dr. Kennedy Okonkwo

Kennedy Okonkwo, the CEO of NEDCOM Oaks Limited, a property devel­opment company, which aims at meeting the housing needs of middle-class Nigerian is a highly motivated and innovative entrepreneur who has attended diverse management courses in Mauritius, USA and the United Kingdom in order to improve himself. From inception, the company made it a policy and priority to build the best properties at affordable prices.This strategy has elevated the company to be one of the leading property development companies in Nigeria. The recipient of diverse honours including NWACHINAEMELU OJOTO and honourary Doctorate from the European-American University spoke on the Focus of a CEO.

What influenced your choice of business?
MY foray into property development is deliberate because I discovered early in life the importance of housing to human existence. You could say real estate was a deviation from Psychology which was my course of study at the University of Ibadan, but I understood the place of housing in the hierarchy of human needs, so my focus is to contribute towards the alleviation of the housing needs of the average Nigerian. Nedcom Oaks was formed even while I was the strategy advisor of an oil and gas servicing company, providing real estate consultancy for a leading bank in Nigeria. In one of our strategy session, I lost a major business deal that would’ve brought in a huge chunk of money so, I decided it was time to leave the job and focus on building Nedcom Oaks as an organisation. To the glory of God, since I started the organisation, there has not been any regret whatsoever.

Assessment of the industry:
The industry is quite lucrative and evolving; don’t forget that Nigeria has a housing deficit of about 17million, if you translate that into value; it means we have a 360 million dollar business that is untapped. The industry will in the nearest future increase in GDP value of Nigeria. As at today the industry produces about 7.2 to 7.6% of the GDP of the country and if the industry is providing that percentage to the GDP, it means that if we have more support and funding from the government, the industry will do a lot better. If you check out the number of houses being churned out annually all over the country, it goes a long way to tell you the potential and the contribution of the industry to national economic development. I believe that as Nigeria begins to tilt towards over-dependence on oil, real estate will take its pride of place in the economic recovery of Nigeria.

Government can do:
The role of government is to provide easy access to funding as well as partner with genuine Nigerian property developers to grow the sector. They equally need to provide the infrastructures to open up new cities and towns. The land use act is a major impediment to the real estate industry but if the industry must grow, government needs to identify genuine developers and entrust them with land at subsidized rate for property development. They should be wary of fake developers who will acquire land for speculation purposes. Partnership with the private sector will help Nigeria achieve its vision of providing affordable housing for Nigerians.

Challenges:
If I did strategy for a couple of organizations, the least I could do for my organisation is strategy. I equally understand that as an entrepreneur, you don’t need to fly as you can start small and organically build the organisation. Challenging situations must occur in the life cycle of any entrepreneur but the ability to stay focused and persevere will definitely result in success. As an organisation, we know where we are going as we want to be the leading property development company in Nigeria and the West African sub-region.

Unique factors that stand your organisation out of the competition:
Like I said, our goal is to be the leading property development company in the country and the West African sub region, in trying to reach our goal; we listen and understand the needs of the customer. We are poised to serve a diverse portfolio of clients. For example, if you earn money and you need a home anywhere in the country, “dream it and we will build it” as we serve the diverse needs of the low, medium and high networth individuals and organizations.

Projections:
Despite the current economic realities in the country, we are very bullish about the economy and the country and the moment the economy stabilizes, we hope to take our projects into major cities of the country. I believe the major reason for the high concentration of property development in Lagos is because it is private sector driven whereas Abuja is public sector driven. Currently, we are talking to some South East state governors for access to land to enable us invest in the states.

You’ve won so many accolades at a relatively young age, what does success mean to you? The accolades mean that there is more work to be done. Remember that to whom much is given, much is expected. I look forward to more awards but most importantly; these awards belong to my team who are giving their best to the success of the organisation. Success to me means the totality of the people you are able to influence their life positively. To the glory of God we have contributed immensely to the development of the economy by redefining the real estate sector through the provision of affordable housing, as well as providing employment opportunities for thousands of people.

Outstanding projects:
Victoria Crest, a collection of 92 units of 3 and 4 bedroom terrace duplexes, all rooms ensuite built for first time home owners or smart investors has put us on the world map as we used it to cater for mid income earners. Beyond that we have successfully put up several massive projects such as Kiryan Court, Dream Court IV, Crystal Dreams Apartment, Crystal Court, Sandton Court while work has fully commenced on the Victoria Crest II which is presently on sale.

Philanthropy:
We have the foundation that has over the years paid WAEC fees for indigent students in my hometown of Ojoto in Anambra state as well as a youth empowerment scheme where we provide revolving interest free loans that will enable the youths be useful to themselves and the country. I discovered that entrepreneurship is key to national economic recovery, so we take it very seriously as a way of contributing our quota towards national development. We have a water scheme in my village that is running 24hours daily to improve the lives of my people and we have equally commenced the construction of a multipurpose sports complex to enable the youths channel their energy into more productive ventures. In Lagos state where we operate, we have the Ojomu family five-a-side football tournament that we sponsor every year.

What drives you?
I always have it at the back of my mind that if God has given me the means, why don’t I use it for the benefit of the society. I always tell people that the only sacrifice you can make to get wealthy is to get up and work. If you get up every day and work, there’s a high tendency that you will achieve success. I watch football a lot but most importantly, I spend quality time with my family. Young Nigerians should not get disillusioned about the state of the Nigerian economy as things will get better and better. If you compare Nigeria with other African countries, you’ll agree with me that the potential in Nigeria is unlimited. Nigeria is our only country, so we must believe and pray for Nigeria to attain its full potentials.


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