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No Place Like Home

The Nigerian diaspora totals 15 million around the world, according to Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and The Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, in March 2017. According to The World Bank’s Migration and Remittances, Factbook 2016, nearly USD21 billion was sent home by Nigerians abroad in 2014, making the Nigerian diaspora the sixth-largest in terms of remittances. Given these numbers, it comes as no surprise that the government is trying to lure the diaspora to invest in Nigeria’s property market, and has even concluded plans to create ‘diaspora cities’ across the country, as part of a program called the Nigerians in Diaspora Housing Programme (NIDHOP).

The project, designed to provide safe and sustainable home ownership to Nigerians abroad, is a partnership between the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), who will act as the project’s developers, the Federal Ministry of Power, Works & Housing as project facilitators, and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) as the project promoters, and is divided into two phases. The first phase kicked off in 2017 and involves the creation of diaspora cities in the main centers of the country: Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, and Benin City. The second phase, expected to start in 2018, covers other cities such as Enugu, Kaduna, Asaba, and Ibadan.
According to FHA’S Managing Director, Prof. Mohammed Al-Amin, besides meeting the housing needs of Nigerians overseas, diaspora cities also aim to provide another non-oil channel for an inflow of forex of at least USD10 billion per year into the Nigerian economy, aligning with the government’s economic development plan. The project’s investment is estimated at USD630 million for construction of the first phase and is funded through three different channels. One channel is through a beneficiary funding model by which the diaspora can make staggered payments for the houses, the second stream is funding from the FHA, and the third is a government intervention loan. The diaspora cities, totalling 15,680 housing units, will have independent power supply and sewage treatment plants. The project is part of broader efforts to address housing deficits in Nigeria, with this plan catering specifically to the diaspora and other plans to increase affordable housing options.
Streamlined processes through the diaspora cities will make investment in real estate easier for both Nigerians abroad and in Nigeria. Fine and Country West Africa, a London-based real estate firm, found that diaspora investment in Nigeria’s real estate increased by approximately 25% in the 18 months prior to August 2017. Their business development and sales consultant for West Africa, Nonye Mike-Nnaji, has advised the implementation of an improved, transparent, and automated title system; amore efficient legal framework; and week-structured mortgages to encourage more real estate activities by Nigerians in the diaspora.
There is no place like home, they say. Wherever in the world, Nigerians are proud citizens attached to their traditions and culture, and a great number of the 15 million living abroad will be interested in investing in a home either to enhance the standard of living of their families still in the country or simply because they plan, one day, to return home. The diaspora city project serves two purposes by providing home ownership opportunities for the diaspora as well as re-invigorating the economy through large inflows of forex and a vibrant real estate market. Therefore, it may be one of the most astute measures and another step forward of the current administration toward economic diversification and sustainable growth.

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