Concrete Ideas

Lafarge Africa launched Concrete Ideas in November 2020, a platform for policy discussions on the construction sector and built environment.

Concrete Ideas has today become not only a high-profile platform for the discussion of construction and real estate sector policies but also deliberations on broader public policy problems.

Concrete Ideas has become Lafarge Africa’s flagship knowledge-sharing platform for engaging public and private sector stakeholders in Nigeria using insights and policy best practices from the company’s global experience. Its key focus is improved construction management and policy innovations that boost the standard, safety and affordability of housing and infrastructure. Given the critical importance of the housing, infrastructure and allied sectors to economic growth and citizens’ welfare, Concrete Ideas is focusing attention on some of the most important policies for Nigeria’s economic transformation.

The inaugural edition of Concrete Ideas, 'Public and Private Sector Partnership Approaches to Rapidly Upscale the Nigerian Economic Infrastructures' was held on November 13 2020 with the Honourable Minister for Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN as the special guest of honour. 

The discussion centred on the impact of COVID- 19 on the Nigerian economy, and how to boost recovery with construction. The thought leaders all agreed that it had become more urgent to leverage the potential of the construction sector in driving economic growth and generating investment and high-quality jobs to counter the economic consequences of the new coronavirus pandemic. They explored ideas to get more private investments in infrastructure with the Honorable Minister Raji Fashola sharing insights on project development from his experience attracting private investment to build the Lekki-Epe expressway as the Lagos State Governor. 
  
The second edition of Concrete Ideas was themed ' Addressing the Root Cause of Building Collapse in Nigeria’ had the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite as the special guest of honour.

At the event, the Chairman of Lafarge Africa Prince Adefioye revealed that Lafarge has trained 5,000 artisans (bricklayers, block moulders, and onsite workers) on impact-building skills to ensure adherence to safety standards in construction. The event emphasized the importance of innovative collaborations between government regulatory bodies, professional associations and the private sector in combating the menace of collapsing buildings. 
 
The third edition was themed “New Solutions to Nigeria’s Urban Housing” with the Honourable Minister for Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN as the special guest of honour

One of the main insights from this edition was that the unreliability of the data on Nigeria’s 22 million housing deficit figure. According to the Honourable Minister, working on correct statistics and precise definition of the problem will enable a much more productive discussion of Nigeria’s housing needs and hence a more coherent set of public policies to address the problem. 

 

The third edition of Concrete Ideas identified six key problems that policy must address.
 

  1.  Housing affordability and accessibility.
  2.  Abandoned government and private properties.
  3.  Lack of local alternatives to imported building materials.
  4.  The effect of high interest and exchange rate on housing finance.
  5.  Lump-sum rent payment.
  6.  Difficulty in accessing lands for buildings.

 

To resolve the identified problems, the thought-leaders made the following recommendations: 
 

  • The National Planning Commission should include homeownership and home rental as data points in the next census.
  • The Ministry of Finance, Budget, and National Planning should work to lower lending rates, thus facilitating longer tenure mortgage financing.
  • Design and sizes of buildings should fit the demands of the relevant population strata Government should open up rural areas with transport infrastructure to make opportunities more accessible and make rural-urban commuting possible.
  • Old buildings must be rebuilt into affordable structures.
  • The government should allow developers to buy and redevelop abandoned government properties into affordable residential housing.
     

IMPACT OF THE CONCRETE IDEAS SERIES
 
The roots of tomorrow’s investment and wealth-generating policies are in the depth and quality of policy analysis that we conduct today. The private sector as major investors in the economy and employers of labour have a responsibility to participate in and promote policy discussions that would promote economic growth. Lafarge’s Concrete Ideas is living up to this responsibility and it is bearing real-time policy fruits. Some of the recommendations have resulted in the policy. 
 

  • The idea of investing a portion of government revenue in partnership with the private sector was mooted by the Minister of Works and Housing at the inaugural session and was animatedly discussed by the panel. Subsequently, the federal government in partnership with the private sector announced the establishment of an Infrastructure company called INFRACO, with an initial seed capital of N1 trillion. Bloomberg reported that the fund is expected to grow to N15 trillion over time and that it is for roads, rail, and power projects. 
  • The Federal Ministry of Works & Housing has also implemented the Highways Development Management Initiative (HDMI) to attract the participation of the private sector in the development of the Infrastructure Segment. These policy trends reflect the consensus at the sessions that the Honourable Ministers participated in.
  • Following the second edition of Concrete Ideas, the Council for the Regulation of Engineering (COREN) mandated professional bodies in the Built environment to develop a manual that will complement the Nigeria Industrial Standard on Cement, NIS444:1 (2003). The goal of this manual is to deepen the understanding of how to use cement and concrete by Nigerian Professionals.
  • After the third edition of Concrete Ideas, a ministerial briefing was organized by the Presidential Communication Team at the State House in Abuja in response to the panel discussion.
  • The third edition of concrete ideas sparked an industry trend. There were several news mentions and comments on the theme of the webinar. 

 

The fourth edition of Concrete Ideas is well underway, with the theme “PPPs in Urban Regeneration: Global Best Practices, Nigerian Opportunities”. During the last edition, the Honourable Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, SAN expressed the opinion that the third edition’s theme “New Solutions to Nigeria’s Urban Housing” should be thoroughly examined by addressing some of its inherent sub-themes.

About 60% of Nigerians are estimated to be living in poor housing and neighbourhoods without the required amenities or infrastructure. Nigerians are hoping that the government will quickly implement policy ideas that will stimulate investment in urban regeneration and realize the potential of job creation and improvement in welfare.