The Chief Executive Officer of the African International Housing Show, Festus Adebayo, in this interview with DAMILOLA AINA, highlights the importance of AIHS to housing development in Nigeria

The theme for this year’s edition of the Africa International Housing Show is ‘Beyond Rhetoric: Making Housing Happen’, Can you give some insights on this topic?

The theme for this year’s Africa International Housing Show scheduled to hold from July 24-27 was chosen after due consideration of what has been happening in the real estate sector. A lot of workshops and seminars have been taking place with a lot of empty talks without seeing the houses needed. So, we decided that it is time for practicality, time for action and to make the places happen, because every year the population of Nigeria is increasing in geometric progression while the building of houses for Nigerians is not up to the level of arithmetic progression.

The choice of this well-thought-out theme is a call for practical activity in the housing industry and it is coming at a time a new government is in power. It has indicated policy change in the housing industry and it is seeking investors to come to invest in various sectors of the Nigerian economy.

So, there is no better time for us to call for practicality in the housing industry than now under a new administration, leadership, new thinking, and new plan. It is not going to be all talk as usual but practicality in the mortgage sector, in the area of social housing, land allocation or access to land, urban development, and housing finance. That is what we are planning to do this year AHIS.

This housing show has been on for 16 years. How has it helped in impacting the growth of the housing sector?

One of the reasons this annual event was established was to influence government policies. I can state here clearly that the journey has been very fantastic. Through collaborations with other relevant agencies of government and professional institutions, I can report to you that AIHS has impacted policymaking decisions in Nigeria and some other countries in Africa.

Let’s start from the area of some amendment that has been made to land registration. Today, we can boast of a digitised land registration system by the Federal Government and in some states. These initiatives came from recommendations made during previous AIHS events.

The National Housing Show has at various times called for the establishment of a specialised ministry for housing. We can report to you today that some of the states in Nigeria can boast of the Ministry of Housing as a separate ministry that is concerned with housing. The Federal Government is also considering this and we are happy about it.

We have also called for the establishment of an organisation that can assist in building affordable housing for the people that are below the ladder and that led to the establishment of the Family Homes Fund, which is responsible for the building of houses not for the rich but solely for the poor. These were part of our requests years back and have been actualised.

We have also made an impact in the area of pension funds because at various levels we have called for the need to allow Nigerians to get access to their pension fund for home ownership. We have so far been able to achieve RSA, the window that PENCOM has allowed.

We have impacted the lives of many Nigerians. This show has not lost any sponsors or partners in the last 10 years. That shows that something is there that makes people keep coming and one of the things that make them keep coming is because they get the networking they are looking for. The exposure and target buyers they are looking for and lead for their business sales.  This show has recorded over N200bn in transactions that have taken place through this platform and not to talk of the networking opportunities that the platform has created among professionals.

AIHS has become a neutral platform where a builder can network with an architect and where the architect can network with an engineer and they also network with town planners. It is where the private sector can meet the government. So, it has been a platform that has done so well in impacting the area of private-public partnership. Over the years, it has become a unique show that everyone wants to attend to know the global trend. The value chain of AIHS is very huge through the number of people coming into the country and other logistics. We can’t even mention in monetary terms how AIHS has impacted the Nigerian economy.

A peek into the event programme shows that there are 32 guest speakers lined up. What will they be discussing? 

Africa International Housing Show will be declared open by the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senator Kashim Shettima. The United Kingdom, Secretary of State for International Trade, Kemi Badenoch and Katsina State Governor, Dikko Radda have been invited. The Governor of Benue State, Hyacinth Alia; the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, George Akume, will also be in attendance.

The opening ceremony of the housing show will feature leaders from the Nigerian political and construction industry because we can’t continue to keep talking to ourselves. We have to talk to the necessary authorities, who are in a position of implementing our resolutions and suggestions. That is why AIHS will continue to bring political leaders around this platform.

After the opening ceremony, we shall have the first session on a very critical issue raised by the former Minister of Housing, Babatunde Fashola, at the tail end of his tenure. That has to do with data and a reliable source of data on real estate in Africa. The lack of this very important tool has no doubt affected policy planning in various African countries. To solve this dilemma, we have invited a former Statistical General of the Federation and CEO of the National Bureau of Statistics, who is currently the Chief Economist of KPMG, Dr Yemi Kale, to come and give his deep research on the issue of data as it relates to the real estate in Nigeria and proffer solutions to stakeholders. Immediately after that presentation, a team of panellists, involving top government, will discuss these issues extensively and chart the way forward on the lack of real estate data. We hope this issue will be addressed and made a thing of the past after AIHS.

And during this year’s event, we will ensure the consolidation and get other stakeholders like the Nigerian Population Commission, Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, and the Central Bank of Nigeria to get involved in the discussion of data.

We shall also be having the United Kingdom government showcase investment opportunities in the real estate sector and how both countries can work together to improve development in the sector.

Beyond that, we shall be having a session powered by the International Finance Corporation that will focus on the issue of how to get funding from the IFC for affordable housing. They will also be explaining opportunities through their green affordable housing window. And at the end, they will issue a certificate of completion to participants who pass through their certification processes.

From there, we will have a session with a team from a pan-African bank, Shelter Afrique, with the Board Chairman, Dr Chii Akporji, speaking to us on what the new government can do to provide housing for the citizenry and the impact housing has been making in advanced countries such as America, Canada, UK, etc. And how Nigeria can go on the same way to help its citizens access fund during the question-and-answer session.

Two years, we had a session on Shelter Afrique where we discussed that a good number of Nigerian developers have not been able to access their funding and we proffered a solution that instead of giving developers money in foreign denominations, it should be paid in local currency so that the fluctuations in the price of the dollar will not be a problem when it comes to payment.

Today, we can boast that the company has raised bonds in our stock market and developers who can fulfil their conditions will benefit.

It is a moment any right-thinking developer must not miss. And after that, we shall be looking at the issue of land and climate change. We have been witnessing flooding, building collapse and all sorts but we don’t know to what extent climate change has contributed to our problems. How do we mitigate its effect on our environment? So, we have invited experts who will talk about these issues.

After that, we will be having some discussions on PropTech in collaboration with the Nigerian PropTech Association. The world is going digital and technology can no more be neglected. AIHS won’t be an onlooker. It will champion the use of property technology for real estate development in Nigeria.

On the third day, we will be having the whole day dedicated to a master class on affordable housing by the University of Lagos.

This programme by UNILAG will be attended by participants from not less than 36 countries under their international programme. In the master class, those expected to participate are from different states of the federation. We have a new government and they need to be enlightened on how their manifesto in the area of housing can be implemented. That is why this master class is coming at the right time to enlighten and educate those who are in charge of housing policy across Africa.

Nigeria has a huge youth population. What does this programme have in stock for them?

On the last day of the event, professionals will interact with each other under a platform called U-40 Entrepreneurs. AIHS has decided to begin the journey to raise a new generation of leaders in the real estate sector. We are committed to raising new leaders in engineering, architecture, and town planning, leaders who will believe in working together and not be in rivalry.

AIHS is committed to bringing these youths together and letting them know that they are the next leaders of this country.

And we are bringing experts from other countries to interact with them to tell them that japa is not the solution. They have a responsibility to help their country. There are opportunities here. So, the hope of these young boys will be raised.

After all the discussions, how do you ensure the implementation of these recommendations?

AIHS is setting up a Policy Advocacy Development Follow-up Group. The committee will discuss with the National Assembly Committee on Housing to ensure that all outstanding bills in the National Assembly are looked into. This is our own agenda and we are going to inaugurate that group at the event.

Politicians are going to be around so that they can listen. A lot of people say it is a dirty game but we have to be there to make things happen for the betterment of this country.

The issue of land grabbing, building collapse, regulations in the sector, and real estate fraud are some of the issues that will be extensively discussed and tackled. We will not use our platform to promote criminality and quackery but to entrench professionalism in the real estate and construction industry for the benefit of Nigerians.

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