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At Urban Shelter, Every Project Offers Chance to Change Lives, Bring Peace of Mind – Saadiya Aminu

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USL, a property development company, with headquarter in Abuja, Nigeria, has 3 decades of experience in property development and management

Urban Shelter Limited (USL) is redefining the real estate sector with a culture dedicated to service, finding opportunities and creating value. USL, a property development company, with headquarter in Abuja, Nigeria, has 3 decades of experience in property development and management. The company is driven to make itself a household name in the country and Africa as a whole.

Urban Shelter has to its advantage an immense reserve of resources, both financial and human capacity, which gives the company the ability to deliver projects effectively. USL has developed and managed properties for individuals, corporate organizations, state and federal government establishments, while strategically consolidating its activities across Nigeria, Ghana, UAE and the entire West African sub-region.

The company has delivered cutting edge and competitive real estate solutions to its valued clients at competitive prices.

Urban Shelter Limited was founded by a visionary leader – Mallam Ibrahim Aliyu, a man of impeccable values and of the highest professional ethics. Over a career spanning five decades (both in public and private sectors) he effortlessly combines his strong family values with intuitive business acumen to lead the company that is renowned for its integrity and credibility.

Currently, the company is being led by Saadiya Aminu, as the Managing Director/CEO. She started her career in Development Finance. Urban Shelter continues to witness remarkable growth under her management.

Saadiya has garnered vast experience in real estate and investment over a 20yr period. Her background in Economics, coupled with a unique ability to anticipate business trends, has put her in the position she is as not only the head of one of the largest real estate companies in Nigeria and Africa, but also one of the most successful business women around.

In an exclusive interview with the PLEASURES Magazine team, Saadiya Aminu gave an extensive breakdown of the company operations, from its strategies and plans to its offers.

She said: “Our passion is people and projects. As such our clientele includes Nigerians across every income category from corporate bodies to private individuals; cooperative societies to institutions. Our primary objective is providing real estate solutions and change the Nigerian skyline one project at a time”.

She stated that the major distinguishing factor of the Urban Shelter model from others was a broad spectrum of services that cover various segments of the real estate market which include residential (affordable, intermediate & high-end), commercial (offices), retail (shopping malls, markets) and specialty projects (hotels, leisure etc).

“Urban Shelter has continued to grow both in sophistication of its projects and geographically through growth of new markets.”

The company’s growth geographically has extended to Kaduna State, Lagos State and Niger State while we have planned projects for Kano State, Enugu State and Abia State. “In 2020, despite a difficult business environment, we launched The Waterfront by Urban Shelter along Jabi Lake. This is a speciality project, which once completed will provide a recreational destination for Abuja families; and The Hills high-end residential project in Guzape”.

Urban Shelter is currently on several potentially high-yield projects to add to its impressive portfolio. “We are currently operating on 7 sites in Abuja with a combination of retail and residential projects including BellaVue Residences Lifecamp, Urban Shelter Residences Dawaki, Promeande Estate Lokogoma, Urban Shelter Estate Kyami, Sarauniya Estate Lugbe, Apo Urban Market and Brick City Valley Kubwa.

In Lagos we are active on two sites: Urban Shelter Estate, Ajah and Urban Shelter Living, Victoria Island, Lagos. While in Kaduna we are developing the second phase of Urban Shelter Millennium City, a 16-hectare project and have also launched in partnership with Kaduna State Government in the development of Kassuwar Barci. A Further two projects in Niger State are also under development.”

The company has a portfolio of over $1.1billion in terminal values of works in progress, and combined assets under management.

She averred that the company is people and project-oriented, committed to delivering consistently superior quality projects to clients at the end of the day.

“For more than 30 years, we have helped Nigerians rediscover the dream of homeownership, the aspiration of turning a house into a home. We have built houses, so our clients can transform them into welcoming homes and safe havens in secured locations. We are proud to say for many Nigerians, Urban Shelter has turned their dreams into a reality.”

“Our strategic focus continues to be centred on building exceptional properties in some of Nigeria’s most desirable locations (residential, retail and commercial) Each Urban Shelter development exemplifies our company’s commitment to the highest standards supported by market awareness, driven by passion and governed by integrity.

We are delighted to announce our several commercial developments that will come on board in 2021. These include the development of UTC, Garki Abuja; Shelter Tower (15 floor office development) in the heart of Central Business District Abuja; and Guzape Mall, a retail development”.

Because Urban Shelter is passionate about getting people into homes, we have made it our singular goal to evolve affordable homes without compromising on aesthetics, design or quality, thus, achieving homes that put the client at its very centre. It’s a segment of the market that we have built expertise in which our signature use of the burnt red bricks we are able to produces homes at competitive rates.

Saadiya emphasized the social advantages of home ownership that lead to better productivity of individuals and in turn lead to a more productive economy.

According to her, “Owning a home leads to better health, better output and productivity. Providing access to water, sanitation and other physical and social infrastructure are our main priorities in all our estates. On financial benefits, home ownership provides the opportunity for individuals to unluck several financial resources such as access to loans that could be used to fund your dreams. During our interaction with clients we identified there was great reluctance for the average Nigerian to access mortgages, most would prefer to save over a long period of time and wait to own a home.

We took cognizance of this and developed different financial options for our clients to help them get onto to the property ladder. These include extended five – year payment plans, pay and stay options; referrals to preferred Primary Mortgages Institutions partners. In 2019, we signed an agreement with Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company to refinance clients with existing mortgages.”

On COVID-19, she lauded the efforts of frontline medical officials fighting the pandemic.

During the lockdown, the management of Urban Shelter prioritized the health and lives of its employees and their families. It has continued to do so by adhering to all the safety guidelines put in place by the NCDC and putting Health & Safety at the core of daily activities.

“While very challenging, the lockdown period has helped the team to focus on pre-development function of project management. This involves – design optimization work, finalising Bill of Quantities, developing artwork, 3Ds and marketing materials as well as evolving research and development. So, with the three months of lockdown, we were able to do more of the planning phase and we are ready to hit the ground running by the time the lockdown was lifted”.

The economy, the business climate and how we interact both socially and professionally – things are changing sequel to the global pandemic. For instance, though most of our building materials are sourced internally, foreign import of building materials for the high-end building has been challenging, but we envisioned these pitfalls and we are currently working our way through them.”

She explained that Urban Shelter currently has a 5-year payment plan for middle-income earners and extended payment plans for different demographics.

“The Building Services, R&D team of our company, have developed N5,000,000 ($10,000) homes that have all the requisite infrastructure, which we are market in Abuja. Last year the Urban Shelter team took its exhibitions to London UK, Italy, and Houston US, to directly reach out to Nigerians in the diaspora looking to invest in real estate at home. There are several stories of individuals who have been conned by relatives and strangers while trying to invest in properties, so Urban Shelter offers a more credible way to invest in real estate and ensure quality for your resources.

“We are also evaluating collaboration with Nigerian banks that function in the diaspora to make remittances easier. Investments in real estate in Nigeria give a higher return than most countries currently”.

“It is important to also address better gender balance and as such we have reviewed trends so women can invest, and we help facilitate that process for everyone. She added that women are very entrepreneurial and should be giving the level playing ground to invest into real estate. Patterns of investment tell more that women invest in commercial and retail projects than residential properties. These nuanced issues are what Urban Shelter looks at, to ensure they are doing the best they can for each unique client,” she said.

On sustainability and conservation, we believe minimum carbon footprint is vital in how we operate. By putting nature and conservation at the heart of how we operate, we approach the design of each project with a view to conserving the greenery. We have come across trees that are hundreds of years old and redesigned entire projects, so we protect them.

Our Corporate Social Responsibility projects include remodelling sub-standard schools to help in upgrading their facilities; Sickle Cell Awareness; Give Girls A Chance; WRAPA and numerous others.

As a woman in this position, Saadiya Aminu acknowledges that there are challenges she faced which include not having a background in architecture or engineering.

She stressed that being humble to learn and growing through the ranks, gave her an opportunity to learn under renowned mentors and earned her the position which she now sits on, incompetence backed by knowledge and experience.

“A woman in a leadership position today is not so novel and less of something people are surprised by,” she said, adding that she also thanked the Urban Shelter team who has been supportive and has maintained a sense of camaraderie through all situations.

“Thankfully, I was raised by parents who never adhered to preconceived gender roles, so they gave me exceptional access to education and an opportunity to work and excel in my career”, she said while also lauding her husband who she described as a champion and support to her through all her career endeavours.

As a woman in a leadership position, Saadiya acknowledged the inputs of her male mentors, Dr. Mansur Muhtar and Dr. Abraham Nwankwo who pushed her to be more in her career path.

To aspiring women leaders, she said, “I think women should start and not wait for a perfect condition, and while at it they shouldn’t be afraid of being mentored by men.”

“Envision where you want to be, plan it, prepare for it, pray on it, follow through with it and even when the plan fails, start again. You may fail 1,000 times; you only need to succeed once. God will put people in your life, resources and opportunities that will take you to where you are supposed to be – but you need to be brave enough, so have courage,” she added.

Urban Shelter is part of larger group of companies with interest in Power, Hospitality and Manufacturing including – Shelter Suites & Hotels Ltd, North South Power, Shelter Clay Ltd and Urban Abode.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Afrexim and Asoko Partner to Help List African Companies

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Asoko Insight, Africa’s leading provider of corporate data and engagement services, is pleased to announce a partnership with Africa Export-Import Bank that will help African companies list on its due diligence platform, the MANSA.

Launched by Afrexim in 2018 to counter the cuts in trade finance and investment financial flows to Africa, MANSA aims to be a single source of the primary data required for Customer Due Diligence (CDD) and Know Your Customer (KYC) checks on African entities. The transparency MANSA provides will address key trade-related challenges facing the continent, including the lack of market information, the high cost of doing business in Africa and the challenges around discovering African counterparties.

The corporate information gathered through this KYC platform provides an additional layer of confidence for international financiers and African companies seeking business partners,  unlocking the flow of capital and creating a more transparent operational landscape for trade and investment.

Onboarded as an official data partner for the project, Asoko will host access to the MANSA platform on its Digital Engagement platform through which African companies can register and submit their CDD/KYC information to be listed on the MANSA platform.

Rob Withagen, co-founder and CEO of Asoko Insight, said, “Easing access to African companies for trade and investment opportunities is at the core of Asoko’s work. MANSA is a key tool for facilitating data sharing about members of Africa’s vibrant private sector and we’re pleased to offer a route to it via our Digital Engagement platform.

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HOPE Consortium and Astral Aviation Sign MOU to Enhance Vaccine Distribution Solutions in Africa

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HOPE Consortium - Investors King

As part of its continued commitment to vaccine distribution in Africa, the HOPE Consortium has partnered with Kenya-based cargo airline, Astral Aviation, to offer vaccine distribution solutions to Africa. This highlights the HOPE Consortium’s efforts in reinforcing partnerships that focus on fighting the COVID-19 global pandemic, as well as fulfilling the organisation’s mission as a global logistics facilitator, by aiding in vaccine delivery.

As part of the partnership agreement, both entities will focus on intra-African cooperation to enhance vaccine distribution within the African continent. The HOPE Consortium will utilise Astral Aviation’s comprehensive network, technologies, and market expertise, to support its global objective of facilitating vaccine availability with a specific emphasis on the African continent. The alliance will ensure timely delivery of vaccines and critical supplies to all 54 African nations.

Astral Aviation operates a diverse fleet of 14 freighter aircraft and provides innovative, flexible, and cost-effective UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) and UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) integrated drone-based solutions, as well as warehousing solutions to both in-store and remote locations.

This synergetic collaboration with the HOPE Consortium will see Astral Aviation provide capacity for vaccine deliveries on its scheduled and charter freighter network, in addition to world-class drone solutions and systems to Africa, with the purpose of facilitating immunisation programmes.

Commenting on the partnership, Mr. Sanjeev Gadhia, CEO of Astral Aviation said: “We are truly honoured to partner with the HOPE Consortium and participate in the critical distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, based on our track record in performing humanitarian initiatives and vaccine flights within Africa. Astral will add further technological and warehousing solutions for distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines from the hub in Abu Dhabi, to all the 54 countries in Africa directly or via its Nairobi Hub, which occupies 9000 m2 of cold-storage facilities.”

It is worth mentioning that Astral has also been selected by UNICEF to perform vaccine flights for COVAX and for the African Union via the African Medical Supplies Platform.

Through this partnership, the HOPE Consortium furthers its end-to-end supply chains required to distribute vaccines from their base in Abu Dhabi to all African countries. The HOPE Consortium has geared its operations to transport millions of critical COVID-19 vaccines to any country in need and thus far has handled over 100 million vaccine doses across 40 countries.

Robert Sutton, Head of Logistics Cluster, Abu Dhabi Ports, said: “Africa has always been a high priority market for the HOPE Consortium, and to that end, we are pleased to join hands with Astral Aviation. With a track record of operating over 20 years within Africa, their expertise provides a new dimension towards achieving our overarching objectives. This partnership reinforces the HOPE Consortium’s aim of creating a sustainable ecosystem, based on our collective global networks, logistics and supply chain capabilities, in order to facilitate vaccine distribution across the world. Our partnership with Astral Aviation is another benchmark towards our commitment to serve every country, region, and locale. We are confident that this partnership will help enhance HOPE Consortium’s efforts in Africa and ensure that no one is left behind in the quest against the pandemic.”

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Konga Partners NIDCOM, Places World-Class Assets at Reach of Nigerians in Diaspora

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Konga, Nigeria’s leading composite e-commerce giant, has signed a partnership with the Federal Government through the Diaspora Commission to further strengthen the relationship between Nigerians abroad, their relatives and the nation.

To this effect, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Konga and the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) on Tuesday, September 14, 2021, in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Present at the signing ceremony was the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, NIDCOM, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa; Chairman, Zinox Group, Leo Stan Ekeh, Co-CEO, Konga Group, Nick Imudia; Vice President, KongaPay, Isa Aliyushata as well as other senior officials of NIDCOM.

The terms of the MoU will see NIDCOM partner with Konga is offering Nigerians based in overseas locations a credible platform devoid of the potential concerns of fraud and other unscrupulous practices. Consequently, through this synergy, Konga will place its huge resources, extensive reach, world-class assets and credible database at the disposal of millions of Nigerians in the Diaspora in search of a reliable and robust platform to work within the country.

In addition, the partnership will see Konga set up an exclusive Diaspora Marketplace to aid Nigerians abroad gain access to quality Nigerian products and services, while also helping them sell their own items locally. Furthermore, NIDCOM will also leverage Konga TV, a cutting-edge Cloud TV soon to be launched by the e-commerce giant, to reach millions of Nigerians across the globe.

The development is one which the FG believes will ease capital flight, while also boosting the scope of useful foreign exchange earnings through Diaspora returns.

‘‘We are delighted to have signed this partnership with Konga which remains unarguably a world recognized and credible e-commerce leader in Nigeria,’’ disclosed Hon Mrs. Abike Erewa, NIDCOM Executive Chairman. ‘‘Through this initiative, millions of Nigerians will have access to a reliable platform here in Nigeria to guide their investment decisions, while also offering them a chance to empower their loved ones through the numerous opportunities that abound on KongaGroup. We are also confident that this partnership will encourage many Nigerians resident abroad to gain useful knowledge and consider major social investments in Nigeria, a development that will further rub off positively on the economy.”

Also speaking at the event, Ekeh, Chairman of Konga commended the NIDCOM Chairman and her team for their efforts and professionalism in making the partnership a reality. Ekeh, who pioneered e-commerce in Africa through the now-defunct BuyRight Africa Dotcom over 13 years ago, lauded the power of e-commerce in bridging gaps and growing the wealth of nations in the 21stCentury, a role he stated that Konga is eminently positioned to play in view of its huge resources and growth trajectory in Nigeria and beyond. He added that the partnership is expected to cause a change that would be a blessing to Nigerians in the 21st century.

On his part, Imudia, Co-CEO, Konga Group also stressed the many opportunities that abound for Nigerians in the Diaspora through the partnership with NIDCOM.

‘‘The opportunities are huge.

‘‘Many Nigerians abroad can now find credible merchants for their purchases in Nigeria or even set up their own stores on Konga. Also, they can access reliable information before committing funds or while making investment decisions. With Konga, Nigerians abroad can afford to extend support to relatives and their respective communities without stories.

‘‘Put simply, Nigerians abroad can order foodstuffs, medicines, and other products on Konga platforms and get them delivered to their families and friends without stories, no matter the location in Nigeria. All they need do is open a wallet on KongaPay, a Central Bank of Nigeria fully licensed mobile money platform. They can also use the Konga platform to pay school fees, monthly feeding allowances and pay contractors working for them in Nigeria, etc. and receive alerts that their instructions have been carried out with 100% accuracy.’’

The partnership with NIDCOM comes just as Konga recently signed off on another partnership with the Ministry of Youths and Sports Development to empower millions of Nigerians youths through a job and wealth creation scheme known as Konga Jobs (KJ). The initiative targets the employed, under-employed and unemployed Nigerians. Konga also recently entered a strategic partnership with the Edo State Government to launch the Edo Marketplace(EMP) on Konga as a major platform to take SMEs in the state to the global marketplace and to better serve the unreached and under-reached.

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