Recently Nigerians have been migrating in droves. The unfriendly economic environment in the country has made many seek greener pastures in developed economies, creating a massive brain drain in different sectors of the Nigerian economy.
JOSEPHINE OGUNDEJI explores opportunities in the real estate industry that those migrating out of the country could take advantage of

The massive exodus of youths from the country has given birth to the word, japa. Japa literally means escape. Nigerians are escaping from economic hardship and insecurity to where they think they can get a better life.

According to a recent survey by the Nigeria Social Cohesion Survey, seven out of 10 Nigerians are willing to relocate to other countries. Although migration is a global phenomenon, the japa syndrome in the country is giving many reasons for concern as Nigeria is increasingly losing its skilled professionals such as doctors, nurses, tech experts, teachers, etc.

Mass migration

The Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors last year revealed that about 50 per cent of Nigerian doctors had migrated to other developed countries. The University College Hospital Ibadan also corroborated the trend, saying more than 600 of its clinical workers said to have resigned from their appointments and relocated from the country. And recently, the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital also disclosed that more than 150 nurses resigned to pursue their careers abroad.

The rate of joblessness in the country has been a major contributor to the japa syndrome. Nigeria’s unemployment rate stood at 33.3 per cent in 2020. And since then, the National Bureau of Statistics has not had the unemployment data. However, KPMG had projected that the country’s unemployment rate might hit 41 per cent this year.

The Chief Executive Officer of Interstate Architects, Olusegun Ladega, argued that the mass migration of the country’s labour force has stunted the growth of skilled youths.

He said, “In my office alone, I can count the number of our members of staff who we have developed through our internal human capital development processes and they have migrated without us reaping the investment we have made in them. Canada is now the number one destination. More than 30 per cent of our workforce in the last one year had left for Canada.

“Most of those who are migrating overseas are leaving experienced professionals. This means we invested resources in developing them. Most times we train young architects who we identify have the potential to grow with the practice and perhaps ultimately become partners. We always have an eye on employing those who will take over from us. Sadly, after we have invested in developing these young individuals, they just say, ‘Thank you very much, sir. But my visa to Canada has come out’. So, you have simply developed them for Canada.”

Reversed slavery

The Senior Pastor of Kingsway International Christian Centre, Matthew Ashimolowo, recently noted that the Japa syndrome was a reversed slavery.

He said, “Japa is a bad thing because of the reversed slavery. The first slavery carried people against their will, but the second slavery sees people buying their own tickets. Because they are given a temporary lifestyle does not mean they can prosper in that system, as some systems create a barrier for them.”

In the same vein, the Chief Executive Officer of Pelican Valley, Dr Babatunde Adeyemo, has advised Nigerian youths to stay in their country and grow. He added that developed countries luring Nigeria’s youths and intellectuals away with carrots do not have long-term good intentions for the country.

The realtor expressed confidence that Nigeria would be great and better again with good ideology, leadership skills, and faith in its potential for greatness while urging Nigerians to explore opportunities in the real estate industry.

He added, “Japa is a reversed slavery because Western policies encourage it in the sense that they want to brain drain the intellectual base of Nigeria, among others, by making use of our skilled and well-trained workers to their advantage.

“Also, the economies of the countries they are running to are not designed in a way favourable to Nigerians because it does not encourage them to be rich, only to meet basic needs of life that can be obtained in Nigeria. Hence, it is more or less like slavery.”

The Chief Executive Officer of Riel Homes, Dr Kolade Adepoju, claimed that many people see japa as an escape route and as a way to cover up their irresponsibility.

He said, “Many people travel out without any plan, thinking that once they get there, things will get better for them. This is like gambling because I have had people overseas call me that they wish to come back to Nigeria. To be honest, this is the time to maximise the opportunities in the real estate industry because, after you leave, once you come back, there is nothing left anymore. Those of us here would leverage these opportunities.

“Japa is not an escape route. It is simply an advanced form of slavery. A cat in Nigeria cannot be transformed into a tiger abroad. It is what you take that will manifest for you. People like us are supposed to be the ones considering travelling there because of the resilient spirit we have, unlike some young people who think travelling abroad is just about pleasure. The truth is if you are not successful in Nigeria, there is no guarantee that you will be successful abroad.”

Consider real estate

Adepoju asserts that the money spent on travel abroad can be invested in the Nigerian real estate sector, yielding better returns.

He says, “There are many opportunities in the real estate industry because real estate is one of the industries where you do not need cash to start. Some weeks ago, my company sent the sum of N750,000 to one of our marketers because she sold and earned her commission on a transaction. Mind you, she is not working for us. All she has to do is market our lands and make sure they get sold.

“The important thing is to get a credible real estate company to partner with and help in marketing their products. You can also start a blog on the industry and target those in the diaspora who want to invest in Nigeria. As long as integrity and consistency are seen, people will trust you because integrity draws people to want to buy what you are selling.

“You can do this by land banking, which is just buying land and keeping it for a few years. It could be like 10 acres, and this land will continue to appreciate in value because land never depreciates, and shelter never goes out of date. You can also collaborate with your friends to buy plots of land together, get the valid documents and leave it for like 2 to 3 years and go to sleep. By the time you come back, you will be shocked by the revenue it will generate. Essentially, co-invest with people you trust.”

Similarly, Adeyemo asserted that there were lots of opportunities in the real estate industry, but most of the youth in the country were not patient enough to explore.

He says, “The business of real estate is all about consistency. This is where most of our youths are getting it wrong because you cannot make it in the real estate industry if you are not consistent or patient. For you to sell a plot of land to somebody, you have to keep telling that person repeatedly for like two to three years before they can patronise you. However, most of our youth lack that patience. Real estate can be started with zero capital. All you need to do is do your research on viable real estate investors, post their lands frequently, and you will get people to patronise you. Once the land is purchased, you get your commission.

“What you need to push the market is integrity and consistency because people need to be able to trust you. Some people might watch you for some years to authenticate your brand.”

According to a real estate practitioner, Charles Chiemezie, real estate is a gold mine, which many people are too lazy to explore because of the number of years it takes to generate revenue.

He said, “Hard work is very essential. People looking for opportunities in the industry can come in as an independent realtor by registering with companies who are developers and selling their properties, then collecting commissions. In addition, opening a real estate firm and going beyond property sales to include leasing, managing properties for individuals, rentals, and other services is also a viable option.

“Plugging in as an investor is also an opportunity, such as buying personal properties like houses and using them for rentals or purchasing acres of virgin land in bulk, developing it into an estate, and then reselling it, which brings a great return on investment.”

In addition, Chiemezie noted that one can either partner or become a real estate consultant with many reputable real estate companies.

A Mixta Africa’s report titled “Real Estate in Nigeria” stated that to harness sustainability, you must be familiar with the essential documents needed.

It advised, “Work with a reputable real estate company that has a proven track record. Investment returns are higher in areas with potential for development in the near future. Check that the property you are considering for purchase is not located in an environmentally toxic area.

“In addition, ensure that your location has great infrastructure to prevent flood damage to your assets, and consider mortgage products to finance your purchase, off-plan properties tend to be cheaper than when they are already built. You can easily invest in real estate in Nigeria from the diaspora, consider alternative ways to finance your property such as a rent-to-own scheme, and seek trusted legal counsel during your real estate transaction.”

So, the huge amount you are planning to invest in your japa could as well be invested in the real estate sector for a good return.