Giving back to society does not necessarily revolve around engaging in philanthropic acts. There are various ways that individuals and corporations can positively impact society without making any physical donation. When you engage in an act that improves the lives of people and helps them find a purpose for their existence, you have in your little way positively impacted society.
Like Winston Churchill, a two-time former British Prime Minister noted: We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. Any contribution that makes a difference in the lives of others is a way of giving back to society.
Nigerians in the Diaspora or migrant workers’ direct investments in the shores of their motherland have in immeasurable ways contributed to the GDP of the country.
Like Abike Dabiri-Erewa, chairperson of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), once noted, remittances from citizens abroad are now an economic factor for development, hence the term, ‘Diaspora Direct Investment (DDI)’.
One of the sectors that benefit most from this DDI is the real estate sector. To say that Nigerian migrant workers have kept the real estate sector busy, would be to state the least. Whether building for their aged parents, relatives, retirement homes for themselves, or investment purposes, they have been contributing to the sector in no small measure.
But most especially, they have kept members of the built environment busy. Not a single one of the seven professions that make up the built environment is not positively impacted by their investment in the sector.
Understandably too, the property market has for ages proven to be a haven for investment as it offers steady growth and long-term value.
Statistics indicate that Nigerians in the diaspora are the biggest investors in the Nigerian real estate sector. At a property investment conference last year, the Managing Director of Romax Properties Limited, Ugoada Orji revealed that a survey they conducted indicated that 70 percent of the investment in Nigeria’s real estate comes from Nigerians in the diaspora, while just 30 percent accrued from Nigerians at home. She disclosed further that Nigerians abroad were pumping fresh capital to replicate the same infrastructure they enjoy in developed countries.
Also in the submission of Modupe Anjous, CEO of Rydal Mews, one of the reasons for the high investment in the real estate sector by the Nigerian migrant workers has to do with the growing discordance between the facilities provided by Nigerian banks and mortgage loans which makes it difficult for an average Nigerian employee to invest in the sector.
Another reason adduced by some other experts as to why the Nigerians in the diaspora have an upper hand in the real estate sector over and above their home-based counterparts is the perpetual decline in the value of Nigeria’s currency in the foreign exchange market.
The situation they said benefits people bringing in foreign currencies as the weakening naira makes it cheaper for them to invest locally. It should also be recalled that most building materials, especially for several-floor buildings, are sought from abroad, which leads to a rise in the cost of construction.
Dabiri-Erewa admitted thus: “It is pertinent for Nigeria and Nigerians to know the importance of Nigerians in the diaspora because they have continued to contribute their skills and resources to the development of Nigeria in various sectors such as health, education, technology, finance, transportation, housing, and entertainment, etc.”
As good as the story of their contributions to the national economy sounds, there are also a lot of discouraging factors that have made many of them hesitant to invest in their home country.
One such is the issue of trust on the part of realtors, evaluators, developers, and other key players in the sector. Coupled with this are also government backward policies in areas associated with documentation/titling, exorbitant fees, and several others.
A story is told of one Mrs. Titilayo Abiodun, a US-based diasporan who made a full payment for plots of land in Ibadan, Oyo State, but who one year after, was yet to get her allocation.
Abiodun’s husband said: “Upon full payment, the developer asked me to meet her in Ibadan for the allocation paper, only for her to insist on an additional N1.2 million, which was not part of the agreement/bargain. As I am talking to you, we have ordered the arrest and the case is with the police.”
Another London-based Nigerian, Abayomi Olaleye also aired his views by stating that the average Nigerian could not be trusted.
“As much as there are genuine business-minded people out there, you also have to be wary of the dodgy ones who also pose around as real. The news of experiences suffered by people in the diaspora who have fallen victims has spread like wildfire and this has not helped matters,” he said.
It is worthy of note to state that the Nigerian Diasporans need to be commended for their contributions in every sector of the Nigerian economy but especially, to the real estate sector.
They, however, should be encouraged for having a positive mindset towards their home country. They could have invested their resources in their countries of residence as there are also investment opportunities over there.
They rather chose to track their resources back to the country that gave them the foundation upon which they are successfully building their careers overseas.
Nigerians can do well to encourage them to do more by removing the various bottlenecks that have impeded deeper investment, not just in the real estate sector, but in other sectors of the economy.