By Miguel Heilbron on April 25, 2013
Today’s featured member of the VC4Africa platform is entrepreneur Olubayo John of Ecobuild Nigeria, with a vision to become the leading provider of green affordable homes in sub Saharan Africa. Ecobuild Nigeria is looking for early stage investors to provide seed capital for a smooth take off.
What is your background and what’s the story of how you’ve set up this company?
“Ecobuild Nigeria was founded by three friends and business associates: Tunde Sobayo, a businessman and trained building engineer; Dotun John, an IT professional and businessman; and myself, an ex-banker turned property developer. My partners have sold over $12m worth of land in a previous venture. I have over 10 years banking experience having worked in two of the top 50 banks on the continent, and have a Master’s degree in Property Development.
During the course of my Master’s programme I came across the Ecobeam Building system, invented about 13 years ago by a South African engineer, Mike Treemer. After some investigation I thought the system was ideal for solving some of the current affordable housing problems in Nigeria. My business partners agreed, and we were able to secure an exclusive licence to use the technology in Nigeria, Ghana as well as Senegal.”
Please describe your business opportunity and business plan?
“Nigeria currently has a serious housing deficit of about 16 million units, and there is an even greater shortage of affordable housing for low-income earners. Ecobuild Nigeria was set up to address this problem by delivering quality affordable eco-friendly housing units to this segment of the market. Our products are targeted initially at households that earn a minimum total household income of about $500 to $550/month. Over the next 3 years, we plan to build at least 600 affordable houses in Nigeria and generate $10.5 million in revenues in the process. We also project an average net profit margin of 20% per year.
Our exclusive license to use the Ecobeam system enables us to deliver quality green houses at up to 40% less than it would cost using sandcrete blocks and cement mortar, the most predominant building system in Nigeria at the moment. We plan to provide construction services to large clients such as private developers and governments to deliver quality low cost housing solutions. We also plan to develop affordable homes under joint venture arrangements with interested parties to service first-time, low to lower middle income prospective home owners.”
What have you achieved with the business to date?
“We are currently still in our take off phase. At the moment, we are in discussions with two separate parties to deliver about 400 housing units in two locations in Nigeria. We are set to sign a memorandum of understanding with a leading financial institution in Nigeria to undertake a joint venture to deliver 160 units. Another project for an international property development firm to deliver over 200 affordable housing units is currently at the design and urban planning stage.”
How does the Ecobeam system work?
“The Ecobeam building method consists of using Ecobeam units as studs between Ecobags: sand filled non-woven geotextile bags dry stacked to form a wall system. The wall is completed with sand – cement plaster or cladding boards externally and internally.”
Is the system appropriate for the climates in African countries?
“The Ecobeam system was created in Africa, by an African, for Africans, using locally available materials. It was designed to be affordable and to suit the African climate and environment. The thermal mass of the system helps keep Ecobeam homes cool throughout the day and prevent temperature fluctuations. In addition, our homes are well designed to ensure optimal air flow/ventilation thereby reducing dependence on energy guzzling air cooling systems.”
Is the system only used for houses, or also for other buildings?
“The Ecobeam System is very versatile and flexible. It can handle different types of residential as well as commercial buildings including multi-storey construction.”
How can you proof your business will deliver?
“Our business is geared to address a very serious and urgent need in Nigeria today: the need for quality affordable housing for low and lower middle-income earners. We have built up a database of over 2000 interested prospective customers who are looking to take advantage of our products/services and get an average of two enquiries every week. We have also received interest from prospective international customers and are actually working with one at the moment towards delivering a sustainable community in Imo state, Nigeria. The Ecobeam system has been used for over 10 years now, in many countries in Africa, South America, Asia and Europe and has won various prizes. And at Ecobuild Nigeria we have a core team that is capable of delivering and exceeding all reasonable expectations.”
Why do you consider your business “sustainable”?
“Ecobuild Nigeria is a sustainable business as it seeks to have minimal negative social and environmental impact within its areas of operation. We also operate a triple bottom line and look to measure our success along social, environmental as well as economic dimensions. Ecobuild Nigeria is also an inclusive business that seeks to include people from low income backgrounds in its supply chain. We also aim to address some gender issues by providing more job opportunities for women as they seem to be underrepresented in the construction industry in Nigeria.”
What drives you as a person to do what you do?
“The team is driven by a desire to make a social and environmental impact in our community, to bring quality goods as well as services within the reach of low income earners. We also have a strong sense of justice and like to do things right. We are fully committed to this venture and believe in its future. We also believe that the team has the requisite mix of skill, experience, drive and maturity to make a success of the venture.”
How do you use VC4Africa, as a platform and as a community?
“Basically to stay informed about up and coming entrepreneurs in Africa as well as to promote our venture. Also, to find support where needed as well as to learn about emerging opportunities. We are now looking for early stage investors, whether corporate or individual, hands on or silent, to provide seed capital for the smooth take off of our venture in Nigeria. We also look to offer more support to other members of the community.”
What is your message to the VC4Africa community?
“The road ahead is likely to be rough and be ready to make sacrifices. Also, raising finance is likely to be tougher than you think and the business may likely take twice as long as projected to find its feet. But keep the faith and you stand a chance to be part of the new history of Africa that is being written daily all over the continent by entrepreneurs just like yourself.”
For more information, see the venture profile of Ecobuild on VC4Africa. Only registered investors can review documents, see details and express their interest to invest. Entrepreneurs who join VC4Africa can register their venture and follow five steps to fundraising on VC4Africa. Register as an investor on VC4Africa to see which screened ventures are presently fundraising, track their progress and review private documents.