Diaspora Nigerians acquire offloaded assets of migrating youths - PUNCH
NOVEMBER 21, 2023
By Josephine Ogundeji
The Nigerian real estate market is shifting as the Nigerian diaspora acquires properties from their migrating compatriots, JOSEPHINE OGUNDEJI writes
A chartered accountant, Felicia Adaobi, is one of the fortunate Nigerians who come from a family that owns a large estate in a fast-developing area of Anambra State. The property symbolised her family’s deep roots and wealth in Lagos.
The economic crisis in the country caused Adaobi, a woman in her mid-30s, to reconsider the property inherited from her parents. She thought that she could sell the property, start her own business, and send her brother overseas.
“Reflecting on my family’s journey, I always remember how my parents worked tirelessly to acquire and preserve our family property, their envisioned nest egg for a peaceful retirement. Their dedication and sacrifice became the bedrock of my dreams. As I went into real estate and finance, I saw the untapped potential within our family’s property.
“It was not just about the physical space; it held the power to fuel my aspirations, provide my younger brother with an education abroad, and fulfill the wanderlust that lingered in my parents’ unfulfilled dream of seeing the world.
“After thoughtful consideration and consultations with financial advisors, I decided to sell the family property. The proceeds, I realised, could be the cornerstone for building my own business and, most importantly, funding my brother’s education in the United States, a pathway to a brighter and more promising future for him and for the dreams that my parents held dear,” she told The PUNCH.
She stated that news swiftly circulated in the neighbourhood that her family was putting the property up for sale. A Nigerian entrepreneur, who is based in London, Chinedu Nkem, got wind of the information, and he saw it as an opportunity to actualising his dream of investing in Anambra as a way of reconnecting with his roots. He knew that the country’s real estate market had a lot of potential, and he had been looking for the right opportunity to invest.
“Ever since I can remember, the dream of investing in Anambra has been etched into the very fabric of my aspirations. It’s more than just a financial venture. It is a profound desire to reconnect with the roots that run deep in the soil of my ancestors. I’ve always believed in the untapped potential of Nigeria’s real estate market, and I’ve been on the lookout for that perfect opportunity to make a meaningful investment.
“For me, it is not just about returns on investment; it is about giving back to the land that has shaped my identity. Anambra isn’t just a place on the map; it is a part of who I am. The cultural richness and the vibrant spirit of the people have always been the guiding force behind my vision,” he said.
Nkem contacted Adaobi and they agreed on the terms of the sale. The sale was eventually completed, and Nkem became the new owner of the cherished property. Adaobi used the proceeds to start her business, and her brother embarked on his academic journey abroad.
Nkem was excited about the possibilities the property offered. He planned to develop a modern apartment complex, symbolising his connection to the homeland and his commitment to its future. He believed it would create jobs for the local community and offer a safe, comfortable space for residents.
As Adaobi watched the construction begin, she felt a mixture of nostalgia and excitement. She had honoured her family’s legacy while propelling her dreams and those of her younger brother.
Adaobi’s story showed how Nigerians in the diaspora profit by selling their property. Nigerians living abroad are buying into these divestments in the real estate market.
The current change in the real estate market has been linked to different factors. Traditionally, property ownership has been seen as a symbol of wealth and financial security. However, shifting economic dynamics have prompted many Nigerians to reconsider their real estate holdings. This wave of property sell-offs is driven by a desire for more liquid and diversified assets, the potential to reinvest in potentially more lucrative real estate ventures, and a means of safeguarding wealth against inflation.
The impact of this trend is evident in the soaring number of real estate transactions and property listings across Nigeria. The surge in demand for residential and commercial properties reflects the growing appeal of real estate investments. Government initiatives, such as reforms in property registration and easier access to real estate financing, have significantly contributed to this burgeoning interest.
However, what makes this trend even more dynamic is the variety of reasons behind Nigerians liquidating their properties. Some are selling their real estate to finance their aspirations abroad. Whether it is funding their own or their children’s education, relocating to seek new opportunities, or investing in businesses abroad, a growing segment of Nigerians views their property as a valuable financial resource that can support their endeavours beyond Nigeria’s borders.
This has given Nigerians living abroad are taking advantage of this sell-off to the country’s real estate market. Diasporans, with a deep emotional connection to their homeland, recognise the country’s burgeoning real estate market as a stable and long-term investment avenue. For them, investing in real estate in Nigeria is not only a prudent financial choice but a way to contribute to the nation’s growth and development.
The rise of digital platforms and real estate technology has further accelerated this transformation. More Nigerians are embracing digital tools to buy, sell, and invest in real estate, making the process more convenient, transparent, and accessible. The proliferation of online real estate marketplaces, property listing websites, and real estate-focused fintech services has democratised property investments, making it easier for a broader segment of the population to participate in the real estate market.
The co-founder, Dukiya Investments, Bayo Lawal, said the country’s economy was submerged under a lot of pressure, with inflation at a constant peak.
He said, “Almost every Nigerian now has the dream of travelling out of the country in a bid to secure greener pastures in saner and more stable climes. A 2021 report published by the African Polling Institute reveals that more than 7 out of 10 Nigerians are willing to relocate abroad with their family if they get the opportunity to do so.
“Beyond the elusive thrills and pleasures that foreign countries present, there are several factors shaping the decision of most Nigerians to relocate abroad. These factors range from political, economic, and sociocultural, with specifics like high levels of poverty, poor economic conditions, the high rate of unemployment, the quest for international academic qualification and a host of other pressing needs.”
He noted that in the wake of the escalating rise in the number of Nigerians making their exit from the country’s borders for greener pastures, many had been making distress sales of luxury assets, property, lands, cars, etc., to fund their ‘japa’ dreams.
“While these migrants have their respective reasons for selling off their belongings; financial reasons, security reasons, etc., the truth still remains that Nigerians are leaving the country in droves on the lookout for a safer and more secure future for themselves and their children, liquidating their assets then serves as a means to fulfill an end.
“Studies reveal that Nigerians in the diaspora are key contributors to the economic development of their homeland. The study shows that members of the Nigerian diaspora community do not invest in their homeland solely for financial reward. They invest for perceived emotional returns and this is positively moderated by the degree of their social embeddedness in their country of origin as well as in their country of residence. They also invest for perceived social reward.”
In the same vein, he said human beings were not satisfied until they were self-actualised, adding that it was a reality of life.
He said, “Most Nigerians who travelled out did not do so because they are fighting Nigeria and want to go into exile. They do so in search of the Golden Fleece. It is after they have discovered the Golden Fleece that they think of buying houses in Nigeria, their home. Some would never have discovered the Golden Fleece if they didn’t travel abroad.
Those selling their houses to travel abroad are doing what they are supposed to do. It is in trying to satisfy their quest for comfort. Human beings must look for opportunities until they die. It is in order to sell one’s properties to invest. This investment can be education, relocation or business establishment.”
Meanwhile, the Chief Executive Officer of Space Button Architecture, Seyi Amusan, said people usually embarked on distress sales of landed property because the real estate business was a means of raising quick funds for an emergency need.
He said, “However, the free fall of the value of naira in recent times has made those who sell houses or are into real estate business to most times sell quickly to clients within the country at a value below what it actually worth in its foreign exchange equivalent or wait a little longer in order to sell for about the double the price in naira, which is it being actual worth in foreign currency to people abroad.
“Usually, many people who sell off their properties in order to relocate abroad do so with the notion of not returning anytime soon or not returning at all. This is due to the perception that the grass is surely greener outside the borders of our nation. On the other hand, Nigerians who have lived their lives for so long abroad would think of at least getting a landed property to serve as proof of their many years of hard work to their friends and family back home, so they would then take advantage of the situation and exploit the opportunities as much as they can.”
According to the United Nations International Migration report, as of 2020, a total of 1.67 million Nigerians were international migrants around the world.
It stated, “Overall, the estimated number of international migrants has increased over the past five decades. The total estimated 281 million people living in a country other than their countries of birth in 2020 was 128 million more than in 1990 and over three times the estimated number in 1970.”
According to industry experts, the inflow from the diaspora into the country’s real estate market is a good development that would help grow the sector.