Dream Abode… Changing narrative of young Africans

Femi Ogundoro

Femi Ogundoro

In a bid to encourage young Africans to invest wisely, particularly in real estate, the CEO of Maxima Productions Femi Ogundoro is set to launch a new campaign, Dream Abode. Creatively packaged and engaging shows that suit the lifestyle of the 21st century audience, the initiative, though targeted at young Africans in general, will focus on Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya. In this interview with CHUKS NWANNE, Ogundoro spoke on the project and the plans to use the platform to change the narrative of young Africans

What’s the idea behind Dream Abode?
Dream Abode is not just a TV show, a radio show or an online platform; it’s actually a campaign. The idea of the campaign is to change the narrative of African youths, but we are starting in three countries: Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya. We discovered that in those countries, we practically live the same kind of lifestyle, except that Kenyans are more conservative; Ghanaians are also a bit conservative compared to Nigerians. But with all that affluence and opportunities at the disposal of Nigerians, we cannot boast of being ahead of those other countries, in terms of investment. A number of people that are open to it, they quickly do it. But those that are not doing it, it’s not like they are not aware, but it’s not part of their value system. They don’t see the need for it.

What’s responsible for that?
Well, we have this entitlement mentality in Nigeria; it must be handed down to me. And that dependency mentality of, ‘ok, it’s when I want to get married that I have to think of being independent,’ which is wrong. If you check youths in the United States, from age 16, these guys are already yearning for independence. So, once they get to 18, they are more or less independent; they want move out. They want to go rent their own apartment at 20, 21 years old because, it’s been said over and over by their government that you need to own your property; you need to be in control. But in Nigeria, at 21, the guy is just planning to go for youth service or he’s still on campus. But 21 abroad, the guy is working; at 25, guys here are just searching for jobs because we are wired to always look for white-collar jobs. Over there, guys are already thinking; that’s why you have different sectors of their economy thriving. They don’t do your regular, ‘I want to be a doctor; some just go for vocational trainings. That’s why we need to open up our own economy as well to such.

So, what will be the main focus of this campaign?
The focus for us is to re-orientate our people; let us open their minds to possibilities. If you check it, the wealthy have 24 hours and you have 24 hours. They have one head and you have one head; it’s for you to develop it. So, let’s disabuse our minds from that entitlement mentality and start investing the right way.

For a young person, what’s the right way to invest?
The first question is, ‘what should I invest in?’ Clothes? Fashion? Food? Is it luxury in terms of cars? Food? Is that what I should focus on or what can give me returns for life? The most viable of all investments is when you have a property; either landed property or a building itself. Things like that last longer; you can pass it down to generations. A car in the 80, even in the 90s, cannot be passed on easily to a generation; it’s out of fashion. The same thing with clothes, you recycle; you cannot pass down the same thing. The only thing that is trans generational is actually landed property or building or real estate.

It seem a lot of young people are not interested in such?
You look at the system and our way of life. So, I call it the value system; the value system of an average Nigerian is responsible for this. The people we see as our mentors, the people we see as our leaders, what they do… it goes a long way in influencing people coming after them. That’s why you see a young man at 22, he finished school on time, and he’s working at 21. By 22, this guy should be thinking of things that he can do with his life, but he feels its time for him to groove. So, on a Friday night, maybe he earns N150,000 or N200,000, instead of saving that money, he can afford to spend N50,000 hanging out, just Friday night.

The next Friday, his friend might spend N70,000, they decide to go to club and drink; they spend that much just on frivolities. You should enjoy your life, but not to that extent. Nigerians don’t drink compared to Kenyans; Kenyan’s drink a lot, but they understand investment. Sometimes, our youths buy these things and they don’t drink it; it’s just for status, just to show off. Whereas, if you had saved up 50 per cent of that amount over a period of time, that’s one thing you can lay claim to in another 10 years that you did with your life. Cars are not such; cars are liabilities. Don’t get me wrong, they are necessity, we all need to move around, but there are times we need to also start to look at functionality and not aesthetics at a certain stage. You have a young man, he has saving of N2 million, he would use N2.1 million to buy a car; so, he’s borrowing N100,000 to add to the N2 million he has. To register the vehicle, he would wait for another one month to get another salary before he can register, after which he starts to borrow money to buy fuel… you are feeding what you shouldn’t be feeding; you should live within your means. And that’s something I see that is quite different between Nigerians and Kenyans; Kenyans are a bit conservative. They drink, they love to party, but they know when to draw the line.

You mean we are not cost sensitive in Nigeria?
Yes, we are not; we live beyond our means. It starts from our value system and there’s nothing in the media presently that tackles this. It’s quite unfortunate that when you mention real estate or interior decoration, young people se it to be boring; they see it to be for the shirt and tie guys. Some see it to be something for the rich only, and I disagree. It’s investment; investment is investment. Everyone wants to live in Lekki; no one wants to live in the outskirt of town. This lifestyle is what is taking us away from what we should be doing.

So, what are you aiming to achieve with Dream Abode?
We are trying to refocus the energy of our young people because these are your active years. If you have money, try to invest it rightly over a period of time. You hear them say, ‘oh, I want to live in Lekki; that’s where I must to live.’ So, you go pay rent of N2 million or N2.5 million that you cannot afford; that N2.5 million can buy you a plot of land. It may not be in Lekki, but if you can buy a property in places like Ikorodu or Badagry, in the next 10 years, when development gets there, you would be smiling to the bank. But nobody is ready to live for tomorrow or invest, we want short term; even businesses in Nigeria are wired that way. This is our country, we need to start to think and reposition the minds of young people.

What’s the format of the campaign?
Like I said, this is a campaign. It’s not going to be an uptight or a boring show where people just sit down and you have an interview with one man all through the period; it will be quite engaging. It will be addressing quite a number of things, proffering practical solutions. How do you rent a house at 21? If you are earning x amount monthly, what kind of apartment should you get with that? What fraction of that should go to savings? That way, we will start to check ourselves.

It seems recession if forcing many to retrace their steps?
Fortunately, Nigeria is in recession and it’s making people to draw back. But trust me, as soon as the country bounces out of this recession, people are likely going back to that way of life. That’s why we are trying to educate people through this initiative. So, we have quite a number of shows on it; there are some that are focused on real estate and we will be using professionals within that space to educate people. For real estate, we will have estate developers to educate the people. When you say an estate, what should it be? People buy thing just for cost, not checking the value. So, we need to point them in that direction in terms of what they should buy at that cost. We feed the greed of a few even within the real estate sector; people are making 50 per cent to 60 per cent profit off real estate in Nigeria. So, those are the things we are trying to tackle.

Investment sometimes involves taking mortgage, are you also involving banks?
We will be bringing mortgage banks because, as a young man, if I say I’m interested in starting something in my life, the mortgage banks will tell me how to go about it. If I want to build, I don’t want to be swindled; I don’t want engineers that will build structure that will not last. So, we will also get you regulation from the government and they would educate you on how you can do that yourself. Sometime, people send others because they are not aware that they can actually do it themselves. For builders, we need to separate the boys from the men because, there are some that are about value and some are opportunists. They see the gap in the industry, they just want to latch on it, milk people dry and take off. So, we will educate the people so that they don’t fall into that pit. So, we are going to have a lot of professionals from Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya speaking to us of these issues.

Which platforms are you using?
It’s going to be on TV; we are using TV stations in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya. However, we are starting the premiere in Nigeria; we are using AIT and we are almost finalising that of Channels and African Magic. For radio, it’s going to be running on Wazobia FM, with Lolo (Omotunde) as the host. We also have on Nigeria Info with Onimisi Adaba, who will be hosting the show weekly. The interesting thing about this is that they are stories. We are just saying, ‘those things you discuss in your closet, bring them on the table and they will be trashed out.’ Online, it will be on www.dreamabode.tv. The idea is to ensure that we reach as much people as possible. To downplay the seriousness of the initiative, we’ve also done a sitcom, The Condo. People like drama and Condo is on the lighter note; it focuses more on the young people and how they live their lives. You have the likes of Frank Donga, Chris Okagbue and Mumbi Maina from Kenya. They will discuss a number of issues ranging from relationship to dependency etc. It’s just to entertain people, but in a very subtle way, educate them on the basis for having a place called theirs.

For how long will this campaign last?
Till we see result; that’s why we’ve been talking to government. Government build one or two house and we are talking to them to see how we can encourage them to empower young people to own their homes. We are working on that right now so as to add value to our youths.

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Dream AbodeFemi Ogundoro


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