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Business

Multi-purpose Modular Buildings and Reversing The African Housing Challenge – Obi Olloh

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It is no news and it is not new that Africa has challenges (by the way, none of the other six continents is challenge free). It also is no news that the challenges of Africa are often quick to make world news headlines.  What is slow to make headlines though, is the hard work some people are doing to re-write the narrative of the African continent.  As the rural – urban drift increases, it’s fast swell interwoven with the fall out of numerous wars, conflicts, pandemics, environmental degradation and natural disasters, so also, does the housing challenge on the African continent increase.

In fact, a 2015 World Bank Report stated that 60 – 70% of urban African households live in slums. The report, Stocktaking of the Housing Sector in Sub-Saharan Africa, projects that Africa could have as many as 1.2 billion urban dwellers by 2050 and 4.5 million new residents in informal settlements each year. Many of whom cannot afford basic formal housing or access mortgage loans. The UN-Habitat reports also mirrors similar figures and predictions.

So what is new? This week on LR, we are excited and just cannot sit still.  The story of anyone re-writing the African narrative is news. There are Africans who understand that the work to change the housing challenge on the continent is one all Africans need to be aware of. Although not everyone can get involved in this niche. Dedicated groups are re-writing the housing challenge narrative with positive interventions – multi- purpose modular buildings using porta-cabin system fabricators.

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This challenge is real – courtesy of  getty images

One man and his team, have for over ten years, been working hard to counter the housing challenge on the continent. They have been creating modular structures. These are structures created one unit at a time (prefabricated) and then site assembled to get the final product. Apart from being made from recycled materials and sometimes called “green buildings”, they themselves once created, are recyclable buildings that can be moved from one place to another often bypassing the demolition process.  This makes them cost effective as they require less energy to construct.

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The Orange Island Project

There you go, we will let you read from the expert himself…………..

With the downturn in the economy, it became imperative for companies to look inward for solutions to their myriad of shelter issues. Thus the idea of using containers to create “liveable” shelters was born. We pioneered the specialised construction and conversion of containers in “liveable” structures when we started deploying QSR (quick service restaurants) for the fast food chain TANTALIZERS PLC in Nigeria which is the brainchild of Mr and Mrs Ayeni. To date, we have done over 15 outlets for them.

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Creating the tantalising effect

I will say my team and I have been lucky and that God has been with us on our journey. Very wonderful people, who also caught the vision of this solution to Africa’s housing challenge, believed in us and helped us. People like Ms Yinka Ogunsilire, the MD of Orange Island Development Company Limited. Mr Tunde Okoya, Mr Abe Ibraheem, the owners of Temple Group of Schools. Mr and Mrs Okharedia, Skye bank Plc. Also, Sumitomo, the owners of Dunlop, Computer Warehouse Group, Union Bank Plc, David’s Christian Centre and a host of many other people who patronised us and kept faith with us despite the unpopularity of container buildings at the time.

Our hope and dream is that in the not too distant future, the housing deficit in Nigeria and Africa will be addressed with container buildings.

The entire Integrated Motion Systems team prediction is that in twenty to thirty years from now, the world will go one hundred percent (100%) modular.

Now you must have caught our vision, I shall let you know a little about myself and what inspires my team and I. My name is Obichukwu Olloh. I was born in Lagos sometime in the 60s to a middle-class family. My parents were civil servants who were disciplinarians. They inculcated the spirit of independence and self-belief in us. They taught us that there is no mountain that we cannot climb and that there is nothing we cannot achieve so long as we work hard at it.

I attended St. Thomas Aquinas Primary School in Surulere Lagos. A very though and engaging school where everything was competitive. It was only the strong that survived. Survive, I did and next proceeded to the prestigious Edo College Benin City for my secondary school education at the age of 10.
Edo College taught me that life could be lived to the fullest if only one believed in one’s self. I was in Speer House and our house motto was “the best or nothing “.  Growing up and passing through Edo College meant that the school motto stuck in my mind. By now it will be obvious to you my dear readers, that my parents and my early formative schools especially Edo College, gave me direction – orienting me to know where I was coming from, where I was going and where I yet aspire to be. Something I have promptly passed on to every one of the Integrated Motion Systems team members.

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Obi Olloh

It was at Edo College, that the brand Obi Olloh was formed. I was the editor of the house magazine as a form 3 student.  Following in the footstep of Ajie Ukpabi Asika who was the first editor of the Speerian.

After Edo College, I had a stint at the Federal School of Arts and Science Suleja Niger State, from where I went to University of Lagos (UNILAG) to read Strategic and International Studies. After graduation and in the bid to survive the turbulent economic climate at the time, I became adventurous and dabbled into various types of businesses to survive. Deep down inside me, I knew that “survival mode” was not what I wanted for myself. I had dreams to affect my world as well as make a name for myself. However, I had not found my niche and did not know what I really wanted. None the less, the one thing I knew was that I had a rare gift of selling and being able to convince people to buy whatever it was I had to sell at the time.

At this time a very good friend of mine from university had started working for his dad and had therefore gotten practical business experience. So he was light years ahead of us. We naturally looked up to him for leads and opportunities. During this period he had brought in containers of synthetic polymer floors, which was not popular in Nigeria at the time. He invited me to help market and make them popular, which I did successfully.

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The team at work

This was my baptism. To my credit, I sold and installed the flooring system in schools, homes and hospitals around Nigeria. In no time, we were sold out. This was the beginning. At this time my friend had also started experimenting in the fabrication of modular shelters. Using isotherm panels to fabricate the shelters. We introduced modular Automated Teller Machines (ATM) shelters to the banking industry in Nigeria. It was at this time that I decided to setup integrated motion systems limited in 2004 as a wholly indigenous company involved in the fabrication and erection of isotherm shelters.

 

 

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ATM and Banking Structures

 

Our first client was Intercontinental Bank Plc. We deployed over 100 ATM shelters nationwide wide for them. All from panels that were locally fabricated and pressed. It therefore was no surprise, that we got the large order we did from Skye bank Plc.

 

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This is a studio apartment done in Lekki ……to be mass produced soon

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Dunlop auto centre Lekki phase 1

Our modular shelters are still standing till date.

There is no going back. To the young ones coming on board, I say you are the leaders of today, not tomorrow. Once our youths have good mentoring, hardworking orientation and dedication we can turn the whole continent around. I am more than happy to mentor any interested young man or woman who is keen to join us in tackling the challenges of housing on our continent.

The LR Team this week is inspired by the use of environmentally friendly construction process to build high-quality low-cost homes, restaurants, schools, ATMs and many other multi-purpose structures.

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples” Mother Theresa

 

Obi Olloh and his team understand the need for low-cost sustainable housing in Africa and continue to provide the service in this sector – they have thrown a stone across the waters of the housing challenges on the continent creating ripples. Ripples, which can only become the strong currents that will wash away the housing challenges of Africa. This is one of the new narratives from Africa……and yes, this is news!

 

*This week’s was article put together by Loretta Ogboro-Okor and Pamela Obuh*

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