Dr. Samuel W. Ugwumba, an investor and expert in the real estate industry, insists that to make any appreciable development impact on the deplorable statistics of home ownership in Nigeria, the private sector and policy makers should make purposeful efforts to encourage increased Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) targeted at developing the real estate sector.
He laments with singular, yet discomforting, clarity: “The housing crisis is fundamentally a human development imperative. At the core of our individuality are non-negotiable values such as privacy, freedom, and rationality. These values are constitutive of development. But, without adequate housing, it is impossible to enhance these values because living spaces remain the primary site to nurture our individuality without interference.”
Only estimated 10% of Nigerians who desire to own homes can afford to, according to data by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Various factors have contributed to this – ranging from an insufficient mortgage system to lack of access to finance. High construction costs, especially in states like Lagos with an above national housing deficit, has been identified as a major hinderance.
This development has further discouraged home ownership, leading to a rapidly increasing housing deficit that has resulted in tenants in rented apartments paying as high as 60% of their average disposable income, far higher than the United Nations’ recommended 20-30%.
Dr. Ugwumba, the founder of Wilbanks Properties Development Ltd., with operations across Nigeria and Dubai, operates a real estate portfolio in the Lekki-Ajah Corridor of Lagos with over 50 homes, with some occupied and others in various stages of construction.
“The home ownership statistics in Nigeria is poor, especially when compared to the 72% and 78% rates obtainable in the USA and UK respectively,” he said.
“However, in this challenge lies a vast investment potential. The World Bank estimates that over ₦60 trillion is required to bridge the more than 20 million housing deficit in the country. This is a huge incentive for discerning private investors, including public-private partnerships, and our Nigerian operations have confirmed this.”
Dr. Ugwumba holds a First Class Law Degree, as well as a Ph.D. in Law from University College Cork, Ireland, where he was the College of Law and Business Scholar. He also has an LL.M. from Columbia Law School where he was awarded a Burton Memorial Fellowship.
This background and his experience in the real estate industry across various markets has enabled him to navigate the terrain in Nigeria effortlessly, building homes, and creating hundreds of direct and indirect jobs.
“Growing urban communities, especially such as Lagos with its high population and migration rates, urgently need affordable housing,” he said.
“There is therefore a need to encourage increased FDI that is targeted at developing this sector, and we hope that our work at Wilbanks Properties can serve in a modest way as an example of the impact of such FDI. The just released June 2023 McKinsey Global Institute report: ‘Reimagining economic growth in Africa’ shows that FDI flows into Africa declined in 31 of Africa’s 54 countries, falling fastest in in Nigeria and South Africa, the two largest economies. We must therefore do more to arrest this slide.”
“According to the report, ‘the future of Africa lies in its vibrant cities. Although 57% of its population lived in rural areas in 2019, the continent is urbanizing faster than any other place on the planet. Since 2000, Africa’s urban population has grown 3.7 percent, outpacing global population growth of 2.5 percent. Over the next two decades, the continent will become majority urban as more than 500 million people arrive in its cities and create the largest total number of urban dwellers in the world’. At Wilbanks Properties, we are therefore focused on showing the investment value in these numbers, and progress is being made to attract FDI into the real estate market.”
Dr. Ugwumba is a serial investor, and together with partners from Ireland and the United States, operates in the real estate industries across multiple markets. Wilbanks Properties Development has injected over $10 million into the Lagos real estate market, and there are plans to scale up operations.
“I am an advocate of increased FDI into this critical sector, and the most efficient way to do this is by jumping in and using my own experience to convince foreign partners,” he said.
“I am passionate about transforming lives; and in the grand scheme of things, the vision is to eradicate housing deficits with robust and sustainable affordable housing. I am positive we can do it. In fact, this is one area where private and public incentives align properly.”