source & image: The Guardian Newspaper
TAF Africa Homes has remained one of the leading property development companies on the continent with presence in eight countries. How did you achieve the feat?
We’ve focused on what we’re known for all these years and not seek to put our hands on different industries despite the offers and opportunities. I’ve been in Construction for over 40 years starting from the very bottom of the ladder to learn the basic rudiments of construction, earning my way up to managing projects before starting my company 26 years ago.
You can only get better when you invest that much time in perfecting your craft. With this wealth of experience, I have great appreciation for apprenticeship and expect that from all my staff in anything they do. Lucky enough my team has caught my vision so the race is swift. We then collectively focus on our core business and challenge ourselves to be innovative and build our brand. This has caught the attention of our customers and partners within Africa and as a result we are often sought after by both Governments and Private sectors within Africa.
In Africa, when there is a mass production of items, including houses, quality of such product is often lowered. How do you ensure your estates have highest standard of quality in delivering durable and affordable homes?
First, we believe in our brand and quality is at the core of it. A home is one of the most important purchases in anyone’s life, so ensuring that we associate our homes with quality is critical for us. We also leverage on technology to drive our cost down without compromising quality.
We also have partners who we have done business with over the years, to ensure qualities of products used are not compromised. For example, in our RIVTAF Golf Estate project, we used earthquake resistant pre-fabricated steel frame structures imported from U.K to build 38 blocks of apartments for a total of 608 flats. Because of the volume, we benefitted from economies of scale, which ends up cheaper than conventional building and much faster. This also ensures that columns are more accurate and leveled. We also use our proven quality control processes to ensure that our contractors, suppliers and staff are held accountable to the highest quality possible.
In 2013, TAF Africa Homes entered into a partnership with Rivers government to develop mass housing for middle to high-income earner in Port Harcourt, consisting of 900 homes on 38 hectares of marshland. In less than two years, you were able to pump 350,000 square meters of sand to reclaim the marshland and built 38 apartment blocks. Did you at first believe that the Nigerian project would receive such massive support from prospective homeowners?
Yes, we never doubted the potential for the RIVTAF Golf Estate project although we had to earn the confidence of many that didn’t know about us. We are aware that Nigerians have an eye for quality and once you can provide them with proven quality they will pay for it. We worked from a disadvantaged position of an existing project, which was warmly received but is yet to deliver. Armed with all the pros and cons, we went into the project being very transparent and carrying our customer along every inch of the way having identified that it was the way to mitigate all hurdles on our way. We also used local contractors, and engaged the community to play a positive role in other to execute the project in a speedy manner.
Works on site started in January 2013 and you projected to complete the 1st phase in June 2014, the second phase in December 2014 and the third phase in June 2015. What is the level of completion? If there was delay, what prompted it?
The project in its entirety has been 80 per cent delivered. Presently we have over 200 families already living in it, considering the project is barely over two years old. This feat is a major milestone, which has further built more confidence in the mind of the investors. We have had some unavoidable challenges that were beyond our control and the economic downturn has obviously impacted everyone, but we remain hopeful for the future.
In your housing scheme, you were able to adopt Reid Steel for structural works, which you claim have a life span greater than 50 years. What are benefits of such technology?
We have enjoyed over 20 years mutually benefiting business relationship with Reid Steel Company in UK. Some of the benefits of using their steel products for our construction include, faster turnaround time in construction which reduces cost of construction, economies of scale in construction cost derived from the mass estates we develop, top quality structures etc. These structures are also earthquake resistant. We also have the privilege of making changes to our steel structures at no extra cost. We are currently working with them to fabricate steel models for our next generation housing projects aimed to bridge the housing gap by providing affordable housing.
Did you plan to transfer the technology to Nigerian contractors? How did you minimize the effects on the environment, especially the swampy areas?
I am of the firm belief that the untapped capacity of most Africans is enormous. They are just waiting for opportunities to be expressed. I am a product of this belief so yes; I came prepared and ready to transfer technology. This I have been able to do in the Rivtaf Golf Estate in Port Harcourt. Over 40 local contractors were empowered after training to deliver on the project. They have not only improved in knowledge but have been empowered to become employers of labor with their expanded their business.
Geotechnical studies were carried out to determine the impact on the environment. We are also very ecofriendly with a lot of green areas in the estate. There are many fruit trees and grasses in the estate
Comparing Nigeria project with other countries, what was the challenges?
Nigeria is the biggest economy in Africa. It is the heartbeat of Africa commerce as such; many opportunities exist with their challenges. One major challenge we faced was with procurements of certain raw materials used for construction. This is so because of the decreasing value of the Naira yet our goods’ prices were Naira denominated and fixed.
In the TAF Nigeria Homes Limited project, you created employment opportunities for various skill sets such as engineers, electricians, builders, construction labourers, and a whole lot of people in the entire distribution chain. What inspired you to use our local contractors and supplier? What are the lessons learnt in property development in Nigeria?
TAF as a person believes in Africans developing Africa. Having been trained as a local to attain the height I am today. Through my work experience and my interactions with people as I travel within the African countries I realize that Africans have a lot of untapped potentials that once empowered and given the opportunity will deliver. Although we have some non-African partners we have always used through the years, we have been able to discover some local suppliers who we’re already sourcing some materials from and we intend to use them even more in our future projects in Nigeria and beyond. Our patronage has expended their businesses to warrant them employing more hands thereby creating job opportunities.
Nigeria has embarked on partial restriction on foreign exchange. Has the move affected your importation of building materials and projects?
We are in a global business so whatever impacts on other businesses in the world in general also impacts on us. Again, some of our customers are resident outside Nigeria. This restriction has hampered their ability to invest.