Femi Akioye is an entrepreneur. As the Managing Director, Channeldrill Resources, he is quite passionate about addressing the housing gap in Lagos State. A recent partnership with the Elegushi Royal Family and other investors has seen the company addressing this problem by building the Imperial International Business City (IIBC), Africa’s first Smart city built by technology, renewable energy and cyberspace driven. In this interview with Chinecherem Ojiako he talks about the future of real estate. Excerpts:
How did you and the investors conceive the idea of the Imperial International Business City and are you working with any template around the world?
The idea was conceived by two groups that want to make a difference in the real estate landscape of the continent. The Head of Elegushi Royal Family wanted a legacy project that will redefine the real estate sector. Channedrill Resources on its part wants to be the face of the next century when it comes to real estate in Africa and beyond. So we came together to brainstorm and research on what future cities will look like.
We were also quite passionate about bringing luxury living to Lagosians by creating a serene environment that connects work, living and recreational environments of Lagos in a wholesome mix. We also want to build an impregnable city what will not be affected by the impending sea water level rise that is been and will continually be created by global warming. The fusion of the above reasons and others whose depth cannot be covered here is what gave birth to IIBC.
On the issue of template, we are quite ingenious in that we are breaking new frontiers instead of conforming to the status quo. Though we studied a few projects around the world like Masdar Smart city -Abu Dhabi, Tianjin Eco City- China, Dubai Sport City, Colombo port city- Sri-lanka, etc, we learnt from these projects and added our own flavor into it with a dash of the ever zestful Eko tang. In addition, we got the best consultants and contractors in the world to deliver this amazing dream we have conceived.
The new city is advertised as “Africa’s First Smart City” how did you come about this evaluation and what are the facilities that makes it smart?
The Africa’s first smart city phrase is more than an evaluation. It is a reality that we are about to unleash and believe me, we are going to walk the talk on this phrase. The security, transportation and energy within will be smart, (bottom-line is that everything will be technology, renewable energy and cyberspace driven). To achieve this, we are almost concluding arrangements to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with CISCO. They will be making the smart city vision of IIBC a reality. I won’t talk much about this now because we are planning an event to showcase what IIBC is cooking in that regard in the next few months. Like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Rest assured that you will get an invitation for the investors/subscriber’s interaction event where all the smart city facilities that will be in IIBC will be unveiled.
There is a global housing deficit and Lagos has a large share of this, however, how affordable will your proposed city be for the average Lagosian or even Nigerian?
The word affordable is relative, but I can tell you that hard working Nigerians and international firms will be able to make IIBC their abode. In fact, some are already buying into the dream and are extremely impressed with the quality of work done.
Dredging the sea or ocean reclamation has been criticised in some quarters, how will this project not contribute to ocean erosion?
Our project is on the lagoon and the Lagos lagoon is not open sea or ocean. In general one could say that at a coast, directly facing a sea or ocean, problems only occur when dredging large quantities of sand from the coast/beach/under a water slope as the coastal stability/protection can be endangered! But taking sand away further from the coast in ‘deep’ water, say at 30metres or further there will be in general no effect on the environmental load conditions and also not on the coast. Moreover our closet borrow area is over 2.5 kilometers to the coast. In addition to that, the Lagos State Government now has a well-regulated process and approval procedure to be followed before such projects can be carried out.
For Imperial City being positioned inside a relatively shallow lagoon, you should know that the daily waves generated by normal winds are very small. Up to maximum 0.3 metres with a wave period of two seconds. This kind of waves do not “feel” the bottom anymore when the water depths are equal or larger than about 1.5 metres. In other words, deepening the lagoon by dredging in water depths larger than about 1.5 metres will not have any effect on the “daily” waves passing these areas and also not on the stability/erosion of the lagoon shores impacted by these waves.
As a matter of fact, for Lagos State to fully take advantage of what nature has freely giving us by way of massive potential for water transportation, the lagoon needs to be dredged further so as to deepen the depths for creation of waterways in preparation for massive water transportation.
Finally, do not dredge the shallow foreshore in front of the natural lagoon shores, certainly not within 25metres of the natural shore and I can assure you that Lagos State will never allow that to happen.
What is the current level of work on site and how soon will it be ready for commissioning?
The first phase will take five years; and it entails reclamation and infrastructure and will be ready by the end of 2021. Presently we have started reclamation.
You listed a couple of foreign partners, what about local content, why are you not partnering more with local developers?
Channeldrill is the local developer and all the foreign firms have Nigerians working with them. The reason why we employed the expertise of the top 10 foreign globally rated firms and not just any foreign firm is because they have built smart and green cities from the scratch in different parts of the world and we need them to bring that experience to bear in this project also and to transfer knowledge to our local staff. This makes it a win-win situation for all.
Your catch phrase is “Buy the future” can you take us into this future; give us a peep into what it will look like?
What can I say? This is beyond words! How do you describe magic? A technological world run by renewable energy, a gem of the Atlantic, a green paradise, a tropical nirvana, a serene and bohemian enclave, and the list goes on. It is magical! We are creating a Xanadu. You need to come see for yourselves. Visit our website: Imperiallagos.city, or better still, why don’t I take you to the site?
On this project, what has been the greatest challenge that you have faced and how have you been able to surmount it?
A major challenge is staying true to the standard of the vision irrespective of the extra cost it will cost us. Another was getting the right consultants to deliver the vision.