Kennedy Okonkwo is the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Nedcomoaks Limited, a property developing company in Lagos. He spoke to Anayo Okolie on some of the activities of his company and the journey to becoming one of the leading property development and management companies in West Africa.
Tell us about your background?
I’m a 38 year old native of Ojoto in Idemili south Local government area of Anambra State. I attended primary education at the Lady Lak Primary institute in Sabo Yaba then I proceeded for my Secondary education at Mobolaji Bank Anthony High School and University of Ibadan from where I graduated from in the year 2000. I was once an Employee of Chinto Technology Limited, an IT firm, XL Human Resource Outsourcing, where I rose through the ranks and also worked at Amazon Energy, where I was the Business Strategy Advisor to the MD/CEO. I finally left Amazon to focus primarily on my company, because I needed to nurture the company. From that point till today life has never been the same because the challenges of being an entrepreneur are enormous and I have had to face and overcome them.
What is Nedcomoaks about?
Nedcomoaks is one of the leading real estate companies engaged in the acquisition, development and management of properties across Nigeria. Its properties are highly diversified with respect to design and styles. From inception, we at Nedcomoaks have made it our policy to build the best projects at the most economical prices throughout Nigeria.
This strategy, coupled with our unwavering reliability and dedication to quality buildings, has made Nedcomoaks one of the most highly respected building construction companies in the property development business. We are dedicated to providing custom-tailored solutions and high standards of advice. We take account of each customer’s budget, timeframe, social status and the opportunities available. We take a pragmatic approach to solving problems, prioritizing our customers’ specific needs to give them the value they deserve.
Nedcomoaks will be 10 years in 2016. We started at the Oniru family land area. In the past years, we have developed over 600 properties. Presently we are working in the Chevron area where we develop about 60-70 family units each year. Through the development of these properties, we have provided employment for over 1100 people, directly and indirectly at our different sites.
What motivated you to go into real estate?
I am motivated by the fact that an abandoned or uncompleted project is a product of poor planning; I keep asking myself how this house can be completed knowing fully well how much the owner may have sunk in. Each time I see them I wonder what the owner plans may have been or probably the impact of lack of adequate finance on the project going comatose.
One of the major things about real estate is to know the size of your pocket, knowing if you have the capacity to fulfil your want is the key. In real estate, the longer the construction period, the more the money to be spent. Don’t also forget that World Bank research indicates that there is a huge housing deficit in Nigeria, so we are only trying to fill in the gap at Nedcomoaks.
Looking at the vision statement of your company, it states that Nedcomoaks aspires to be a leading property development and management company in West Africa. By next year it will be 10 years, how far have you gone?
Well, for a small company that used to operate from the briefcase doing build -operate and transfer properties at Oniru to have grown into becoming a multi-million company today, we have not done badly. Rome was not built in a day, for a company that used to build 10 units of houses a year, to building over 80 to 100 units this year we are progressing; looking back we have made progress, and as the years go by, we will continue to improve. Looking back at our vision statement, even though we have not covered the whole of Nigeria or West Africa, we have grown also serving Nigerian clients who reside in the diaspora.
Some of our successful projects includes; Ryans Court, Kiryan Court, Dream Court series consisting of Dream Courts 1-4, presently Dream Courts 5 and 6 are in the design phase, hopefully they will be commenced before the year runs out. Every living person needs a home either rented or purchased and that gap we must fill.
Presently in Nigeria, due to the stringent foreign exchange policies being put in place by President Muhammadu Buhari led government, businessmen are complaining as it is not business as usual, especially when it has to do with importation and exportation. Knowing that some of the facilities you install in your properties are imported, what steps have you taken to ensure that your progress rate is not marred?
Thank you very much for that question. The truth remains that every business has its own peculiar strategy, deployed to ensure it runs smoothly. In the past we used to do the importation of some needed materials ourselves, but today we have left that in the hands of accredited vendors. We are not in the business of importation; we are in the business of design, build and sell. So, we are focusing on our core of construction rather than doing backward integration.
Let the professional concrete block producers earn their own living producing blocks for the builders. To buttress this point, instead of producing paving stones for construction of homes, you rather get the HFP’s and Eco Building Systems of this world to provide you with the paving stones
In what ways do you think the government can step in to ameliorate the problems real estate developers face?
Government should rise up to its responsibilities in the provision of basic and needed infrastructures. Government should also make available easily accessible funds to real estate developers, so as to make the job much easier.
No doubt, you have contributed immensely in alleviating house problem in Lagos State but have you been able to extend your expertise to your state Anambra?
Well, we have a plan to expand our operation to other States in the country, most definitely Anambra State and the South-east would not be left out. Anambra State will benefit from my expertise as a real estate developer. Presently, we are in Lagos State, but soonest we will start reaching out to some state government to partner with us in the area of land provision. If we have access to land with good legal title then we are set for business anywhere.
What are the challenges facing real estate developers in Nigeria?
Well, I think it should more like the challenges facing the country as a whole. Challenges like infrastructural deficits; a situation where a developer after completing a building, has to provide power and build roads to services those houses, all these add up to increase cost to the cost of owning homes in the country because developers transfer the cost to buyers. Most importantly, we have the problem of huge interest rate being charged by banks, mortgages are not readily available and where you have these mortgages, they go for double digits, which is not what is applicable in other countries of the world.
Most Nigerians would like to own their own property despite the slim pay in the country, how has your company been to help the middle and average earners to fulfil their dreams of owning a house?
We have different categories of houses that we have developed because we know that not everyone will live on Banana Island or Ikoyi. We are presently building some terrace homes, that we call “Victoria Crest”. Victoria Crest consists of 3bedroom terrace homes, with ample parking space, to be delivered in about one year.
It is sold for N25million per unit, for the people who will purchase off plan and most of these people will pay in instalments over a period of 6months to one year and end up owning the houses depending on the payment plan you choose.. When they make their first initial deposit of 30% the money, which represents about N7.5million, they are immediately allocated a house and they know that by the time they complete their payments the house would have been completed then they will then become the proud owner of a completed and fully fitted house.
Victoria Crest, when completed, will consist of about 92 family units. Some of the expected facilities are: power generating sets to ensure they have uninterrupted power supply; a mini astro turf for football and a playground where children could play; an industrial borehole to provide portable drinking water; 24hours security guards, in all, it will be a community of like minds foran affordable price of N25m only.
As a successful businessman, how have you affected your community positively with your wealth?
We have diverse CSR programmes we have instituted to impact positively on the society. We have amongst others a scholarship programme at Idemili south local government area of Anambra State, what we have done there is that every year; we make sure we pay the WAEC fees of the indigenes of the town in the town’s schools, which are at the WAEC level. When we educate the youths we are building a future for our country. We also have a widow empowerment programme where release funds to the widows, which will help them do little businesses and sustain their families.
We also have a foundation that distributes food items every Easter, in commemoration of my late father who died 4th April 1993. In Lagos here, we have been able to empower youths by providing them with start-up capitals to trade; some of them produces blocks and we buy from them. We have also given out tricycles to some of them, to help them channel their energy into positive use, while others who are in school enjoy our companies scholarship programme get their tuition fees paid by Nedcomoaks.