Nigeria 2019 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Seeking to be recognized around the world as a world-class developer, Eko Atlantic has brought a great deal of positive attention to Nigeria with Eko Atlantic City.

Ronald Chagoury Jr.

Ronald Chagoury Jr. is Vice Chairman of Eko Atlantic. He has been actively involved in Eko Atlantic since the start of land reclamation in 2008. As a board member, he was responsible for developing the early stages of the project as well as promoting the concept and development of Eko Atlantic at both the regional and international level. He is a driving force behind some of the city's key developments. He is also responsible for directing marketing and communications strategy. In addition, he supports group efforts to build strategic partnerships with developers and financiers aimed at creating SPVs for landmark developments within the project development area.

How would you compare the crisis in 2008 with the most recent crisis?

For Nigeria, 2008 was a bump compared to this one, even though it was a global crisis. This crisis lasted much longer and was perhaps the first major one in 30 years. We took on a relatively small amount of debt as we navigated our way out of the crisis. Other countries in Europe and the US leveraged themselves to unprecedented levels. This position will allow us to come out of the crisis with a much stronger foundation.

When will the Eko Atlantic Mall be complete?

The mall will be the largest in sub-Saharan Africa, though the devaluation has resulted in a slight hold on plans. Retailers asked if we could wait for the mall to be completed, because they did not want to launch this project in the middle of a crisis. We agreed on this at the time, and we are now in discussions with major operators and retailers on how to come back. Considering global development trends, the most natural area of expansion for retailers is Africa. Retail is extremely underdeveloped in Africa and Nigeria, though it presents major potential. Hopefully, we can have the mall completed in less than three years.

How is Eko Atlantic changing the perception of Nigeria abroad?

In 2017, a major development in Indonesia discussed its ambitions by stating it wanted to become the Eko Atlantic of that region; this is exactly what we have been waiting for. We want to be recognized around the world as world-class dewvelopers. We are now even in school books in France, and a few universities are teaching us as case studies. This is a big deal for us. We are one of the most well-known international projects in the region and the world, and this brings a great deal of positive attention to Nigeria.

What other sectors interest you in terms of development and investment in Nigeria?

Personally, I have a huge interest in two fields: sustainable agriculture and renewable energy. While we do not currently have the time to devote ourselves to sustainable agriculture, renewable energy is exciting. I am exploring a few developments in this area, and eventually we will want to do something in this field. Right now, the Eko Atlantic project is the core focus of the group. We are also focused on hotels, restaurants, and entertainment. Infrastructure through Hitech Construction is also a vital part of our operations. We are currently exploring projects outside of Nigeria, which is a first for us. We are looking at neighboring countries in West Africa, and perhaps further down the line we will expand all across Africa. We have the know-how and the teams in place to succeed in these areas and export ourselves.

What message would you like to send to the international investor community about Nigeria?

The longer they wait, the more opportunities investors will miss out on. The country is growing quickly, and if they are scared about little bumps, this may not be the place for them. If, however, they seek long-term growth and success, this is the last frontier. There are always ways of correcting these issues. Solutions exist for any issue. Nigeria is business friendly, and once one learns how to navigate the hurdles, the benefits offset the challenges.

What is your outlook for 2019?

The country is now used to operating with a more diversified business mindset. Oil can no longer be the sole foundation of the economy, and this recognition will translate into even more development across all areas of the economy. I expect to see strong continued interest from Nigerians overseas looking at investing back home. Remittances will only increase, and they will have a positive influence on the country.