Evolution of the real sector
I LOOK forward to the incoming government providing periodic transparent reports on all aspects of governance. In addition, we should also appraise the retail sector evolution to ensure the creation of more employment opportunities as well as empower all stakeholders to develop the nation, region and continent at large.
Government needs to make provision for future developments as well as integrate cultural values and economic consciousness into the built environment in order to ensure sustainability.
To achieve this, the nation needs to support Research and Development (R&D) and ensure that innovative ideas are celebrated and translated into reality. We need government, partners and investors to assist in the development of these ideas and solutions.
Nigeria, the most populous black nation in the world, should be more involved in R&D as a way of determining and charting a new course for its diverse communities and the economy. Research and Development should become the target of the new change, which recent continued professional development programmes have proven to be key to poverty eradication and control of capital flight.
As a nation, we hardly talk about R&D or innovation and lately, there is an increasing demand and desire to seek African solutions to our developmental needs. Though we have many Nigerians taking up these challenges across our various higher institutions, it appears that the relevant government organs fail to recognize and encourage such innovations and would rather patronize foreign products.
There is a huge propaganda about creating employment opportunities for the youths, yet we fail to encourage R&D which is the key to achieving our goal. It will regenerate our dead and forgotten industries that were originally set up for the purposes of development growth and employment creation. Unfortunately, most of these industries have been converted from their primary purposes over the years and now serve as religious houses or have become commercialised as events centres. We watched our industries lay off thousands of workers in exchange for the handful of employees running the new enterprises.
As a nation, we need to promote and proudly recommend Made-in-Nigeria products, produced from locally-sourced materials. This will promote research reviews on the products and bring the transformation our dear nation requires to a successful and rewarding reality.
The banking systems are mainly into trading in oil, gas and energy. In my dealings with most banks, they claim they only have short-term funds available, leaving the real sector at the receiving end of the cash drought. Unfortunately, short-term loans leave developers and landlords with no choice but to hike rents or sell property in order to at least, repay the banks within the usual three to five year loan tenure.
One would ordinarily think that the panacea to the shortage of long- term funding needed for developmental projects would be the national contributory pension fund which is currently in excess of N4.6 trillion. However, accessing the fund has been a major challenge. This accessibility challenge requires the urgent attention of the incoming government, private sector operators, particularly the pension fund administrators and investment bankers. There is an urgent need for all stakeholders to come up with the right framework to make the funds available for real estate and other infrastructural development in the country.
The harsh local environment does not provide the basic human needs of affordable, humane shelter and abundant food supply. Should these two needs be in adequate circulation, corruption will become unfashionable.
While demanding ‘Shelter for All’ from government remains a tall order, and a discussion for another day, another sad aspect is government’s lip service to growing the retail market industry.
The retail market evolution, through mall development, commenced 10 years ago with The Palms. The AOS Mall, Surulere, Lagos is a neighborhood mall designed to ensure affordability to local retailers which commenced operations in 2010. Today, we all woo the international brands and are happy to mention how they have contributed to our mall development. But, sadly, l wonder when we will celebrate local brands such as food companies, supermarkets, Ruff N Tumble, Health Plus, MedPlus, Montaigne AH to mention a few that are still standing despite the harsh and unfriendly financial market.
Where are the pension funds that developers use in other parts of the world to grow their retail industry? As earlier mentioned, the cost of funding the real sector development is suicidal for local developers, and as such, an impediment to growth.
As an architect-developer with expertise in developing tools for the retail market, I sincerely and with all humility, hope that the Gen. Muhammadu Buhar-led government will set a vision and strategy for the real sector and retail market growth. These sectors are a continuous pool for employment as a neighborhood mall of 10,000sqm gross rentable area will provide direct and indirect employment to at least 1500 people.
The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) remains a dream if Africa wants to catch up with the developed world. Rather than “catch up,” the continent needs to “wake up” to the reality that we must look inwards and use the experience of others to create cost-effective home-grown solutions.
The Shoprite team has done commendably well for their belief in continuously investing in Nigeria and the African continent at large. This major anchor-tenant, that commenced retail supermarket business about 40 years ago in South Africa, currently has in excess of 2300 stores all over Africa. In the last 10 years, the company has supported several SMEs in the food processing and packaging industry, thereby driving a retail market evolution that complements our growing cities.
Our people deserve better lives. As a representative of a body that is a lead partner in the UN Habitat World Urban Campaign, we all need to work collectively as city changers to ensure that we build sustainable and better cities. The Shakespearean phrase remains a constant reminder:
“What is a City but the People?”
Revamping our economy should be of utmost importance to all. It is time to wake up to take our rightful position in the development of our country, the African continent and the world at large. Change is inevitable if our nation is to commence on a new era of growth.
•Chief Omisore is a Fellow of the Nigeria Institute of Architects.
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