Private sector participation in Nigeria’s housing sector has been a long time coming. More so, since principal stakeholders and experts in the sector had, for a while, clamoured for decisive private-public partnership to augment the deficit in the sector.
This concern, have led the Federal Government (FG) to invest in the sector, making it attractive for private investors to come in. This fact remains; there is a compelling need to swift and smart solutions to the problems of housing in Nigeria. This may have prompted the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Mrs Akon Eyakenyi, who recently in Abuja, while speaking at a pre-summit meeting on the proposed Nigeria Housing and construction summit/expo, acknowledged that affordable housing delivery for the low and middle income earners cannot be achieved without the private sector involvement.
Faced with the grim reality that millions of Nigerians are homeless, add to the fact that the government alone cannot, despite its best efforts, cannot provide affordable 167 million homes, specifically now that government revenue is depleting by the minute due to the fall in oil prices, the housing minister, therefore, called on the organised private sector, manufacturing outfits, finance houses and multilateral agencies to support the drive for affordable housing delivery.
Responding to the call for private involvement in providing housing to millions of Nigerians, Lafarge Nigeria, the French Development Agency (AFD) and LAPO announced a N1.3 billion collaboration effort on providing affordable housing in Nigeria.
Tagged “Ile Irorun”, the first ever operation to be launched through the AFD and Lafarge Group partnership, is aimed at improving housing conditions through microfinance in Africa. This, industry analysts believe, would go a long way in minimising hitherto urbanisation challenge in the country.
As emphasised by the Country Director of AFD in Nigeria, Hubert Dognin, “the development of housing financial products adapted to microfinance bank’s customers is an innovating concept which can be replicated at wider scale to break the vicious circle of housing market in Nigeria.”
Lafarge and AFD, leveraging on its expertise and the field experience of LAPO, the largest microfinance bank in Nigeria with 900,000 clients and 323 branches, have proposed “sustainable solutions adapted to the needs of local population in terms of housing.”
With the planned nationwide beneficiaries of the “Ile Irorun” scheme, as announced at the launch of the pilot phase of the scheme, industry stakeholders believe that this initiative is a major development towards turning the tide against lack of affordable housing in Nigeria.
The housing minister, Eyakenyi, had previously outlined that there are several factors mitigating against affordable housing in the country. These include: the long period of building construction; leading to the phenomenon of buildings left uncompleted for many years; the absence of advice from qualified professionals resulting in poor construction, a high percentage of independent builders lacking access to funds and the increasing population growth in urban areas.
The question, therefore, was: how would Lafarge combat these to make housing affordable to its beneficiaries? According to high level official of the company, the scheme was well thought out to tackle these challenges, as they are prepared to effectively by providing free high quality technical assistance which is available to the home builder throughout the construction process. These come in the form of architectural design, materials selection and application, construction supervision and quality control. With the partnership with AFD and LAPO, ease of access to funds and flexibility in its repayment is assured given a small rate of 1.63 per cent per month on loans from N100, 000 to N1 million.
Guillaume Roux, Group Managing Director /CEO, Lafarge Africa Plc, described the scheme a major steps towards the realisation of his firm’s ambition to help build better cities in Nigeria during the pilot launch of the scheme two months ago, saying: “Lafarge’s commitment to building better cities is unwavering, hence, we initiated this project to help provide access to affordable housing for Nigerians.”
So far, more than 5, 000 people have been impacted by Lafarge Easy Home (Ile Irorun) through 850 constructions, with the programme currently being expanded to five states: Ogun (Abeokuta, Ijebu Ode, Sagamu, Sango/Ota axis, Mowe/Ibafo axis), Oyo (Ibadan and Oyo), Lagos (Ikorodu), Ondo (Akure and Ondo) and Edo (Benin City) with the support of eight technical assistants and 32 branches of LAPO.
Explaining how beneficiaries are drawn, Lafarge said “prospective beneficiaries under the scheme are identified through the network of branches of LAPO or the distributors of Lafarge WAPCO, and their loan applications are supported by free technical assistance from Lafarge. This technical assistance enables clients to lower their costs, choose their designs among a catalogue proposed by Lafarge Nigeria and ensures the quality of the construction through selected construction material retailers as well as help on construction supervision.”
An excited Godwin Ehigiamusoe, Managing Director of LAPO Microfinance, speaking on the implications of the “Ile Irorun” scheme, said: “For low-income people, houses are not just mere dwelling places, but also business locations. This is why our organisations have taken the affordable housing initiative seriously. This scheme will be the start of hope for many and we embrace the momentous difference it will make in their lives and businesses.”
According to him, “this scheme will be the start of hope for many and we embrace the momentous difference it will make in their lives and businesses.”
Speaking, Project Manager for Lafarge, Aurelien Boyer, explained to the press that the “Ile Irorun” scheme is a social and business initiative of Lafarge aimed at providing housing for people who otherwise would have had serious challenges owning their own homes.
Boyer said through such schemes as “Ile Irorun”, among numerous others, the company is only staying true to its “Sustainability Ambitions 2020,” through which Lafarge has committed to improving housing conditions for two million people in 16 selected countries where it operates.
SOURCE: Nigerian Tribune
Apr 23, 2010 26
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