Alloy Emeka China more commonly also known as My-Ace China, is popular with the sobriquet ‘Mayor of Housing.’ In this interview with Business A.M.’s BEN EGUZOZIE, he speaks on social funding, why
housing schemes fail in Nigeria, among others. Excerpts:
What is social funding?
Social funding is something I am excited about because that is the first time in the history of the world that people can play in the playground of the rich. You can own a duplex in a highbrow debt free and mortgage free in a city centre. You can own a N150 million worth of building in a city centre. This system is designed for workplace professionals because we notice that people work for over 15 years without owning a land or house. Mortgage penetration in Nigeria is just 0.5% against 82% in South Africa and some other places.
We are doing this just to make sure that people can access real estate. With social funding, 70 per cent of Nigerians can access home ownership. I usually say that any solution that is not affordable is no solution.
What makes this your social funding different?
We are very different and unique in multiple ways. First, we are not selling houses but offering housing solution. The plan is to give you a house worth N150 million at N85 million at first instance, and make savings of N55 million. Then, we have strategies to sell same house at different amounts of entry points such as N2 million, N4 million, or N16 million. But we are not selling house or land but education, selling collaboration and cooperation, which was Nigeria’s early practice.
We are bringing dreams to Nigerians so they can play in the real estate sector. I had a dream and I started with a mere N1.5 million three years back. With hard work, I am worth N1 billion from eight houses. We are turning your rent into a home, or the money you would use to buy land outside the city to now own a duplex in the city centre with same amount. Our houses are very unique, because we came up with two innovations plus value.
We are the first company in Nigeria to render commercial buildings with rooftop swimming pool. We are the first to build inter-terrace linkage. Others are not linked and you would need to go around to access your backyard. It comes with fully automatic goggle smart system, full fire and burglary insurance. It comes tastefully finished as never before. If you go to our website on real estate and social funding, you would get all the information you need. We do you the education, and when you are satisfied, you can subscribe.
You seem to prefer highbrow areas, why so?
This is because there are top class facilities already in those estates. There are facilities for kids, and amenities such as hospital, etc. We leverage on gigantic estates; we are not creating our own estates. We do due diligence and decide what works for us. This place is not only the biggest privately reclaimed land in south-south, there are other things going for it such as hospitals, school, recreational centre, etc. There is a green park island with buildings surrounding it. It is a place where kids and adults can play. It has a bridge to it. This estate offers a unique residents-only crèche. When you are rushing to work, you drop your kids where only you and your neighbours have access to, and they are handled with world-class standards. It is the facilities that attracted us
first. It is eco-friendly, that is to say, all the international requirements for green, smart and light are taken care of to make sure that we are building homes, not houses.
What can government do to help residents own houses, based on your experience and expertise? And why have previous efforts at building housing schemes failed?
Beautiful! This place is a public private partnership (PPP) arrangement between the Rivers State Government and ReefCourt Estate. Government can be dynamic in how they execute public housing schemes.
Why housing projects fail is because Government handles them by themselves because it is not profit and value-driven. Our people have how they handle Government projects, but when it is privately and value-driven, the people will drive it more. So, instead of Government to do it, they should look out for companies that have proved themselves, and give them the execution to handle. Instead of the people paying the N2 million on
their own, Government can give all the civil servants in Rivers State a loan of N2 million, and they pay gradually in their salaries. Government should be more proactive and more diligent; and choose companies that deliver value like ours.
You seem to focus only on highbrow areas in the cities?
This is because this is our premium package of 4-bedroom smart apartment targeted at the professional working class. Later in the year, we launch our low-cost package of two-bedroom, one bedroom, and even self-contained apartments in lower residential areas. We will be the first company in Nigeria to sell such. They would be located in some other areas to represent such perspectives.
What would be your parting word in this instance?
Everybody deserves a home; and Nigerians are smarter than we are made to believe. The prosperity of Nigeria came on the back of cooperative system. The biggest house in Nigeria then (Cocoa House in Ibadan) was built by Cooperative. The groundnut pyramids were the sweat of cooperatives. If we look within, we can do it again.
Collaboration is the new competition, and we have that spirit. Sprits don’t die. They only get dormant. We can activate it again, and with social funding, many problems in Nigeria would be solved.