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The Miss That Led To A bullseye

Property entrepreneur Kennedy Okonkwo saw a buck in building for the middle class of Nigeria. He believes the market – like his country – can only grow.

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Standing in a long queue of pedestrians in Surulere on the mainland of Lagos, Nigeria, Austin Somefun is waiting for an okada (motorcycle taxi). He is on his way to view a new flat for his family, which currently stands at five children and two wives.

“My second wife just had her third child and so we need a bigger space. I have been looking at properties all week but so far, I have not found the right size for my family,” says Somefun.

He is part of the growing population in a country, which according to Reuters, will increase from 188 million to 300 million people by 2030.

“Population explosion definitely creates a demand for residential property. The Lagos State commissioner for budget and planning estimates that Lagos alone needs to spend $50 billion in the next couple of years to keep up with the 23 million residents in the state and a significant amount of that budget will go towards housing,” says Steven Brown, an economist working with Britain-based Integra Consulting.

According to the Real Estate Developer’s Agency of Nigeria, the country is lacking about 17 million houses with about 60-70% living in slums and informal settlements. The Centre for Affordable Housing and Finance in Africa, estimates that 700,000 more homes are needed each year to keep pace with the population explosion.

Kennedy Okonkwo is founder of Nedcomoaks, an indigenous real estate company vying for this growing market. The company focuses on Nigeria’s middle class who, according to Okonkwo, is underserved. Okonkwo had a brief stint in the IT and human resources sector before a missed opportunity changed his life.

“I was working as a strategic adviser for a company and my part time job in real estate had a deal that was worth N18 million ($90,000). The deal meant I was going to provide accommodation for expatriates and the company issuing the contract was waiting for me to come and see them but I was busy doing a strategy session so I lost the deal to a competitor. I said to myself it’s time to focus on the property business and I resigned from the job,” says Okonkwo.

His love affair with bricks and mortar began when he brokered his first deal as an estate agent worth N260,000 ($1,300). Okonkwo started from scratch; scraping together money for construction while selling Hawes & Curtis shirts to tide him over.

“The landowners had signed over the land for 30 years and most of the families did not have money to build on the land and time was running out. So I approached them and got the land on leases. I got about 22 of them and started building four units of room and parlour self contains and doing resettlement schemes,” says Okonkwo.

Things were looking up for Okonkwo until the global recession hit him in 2008. Most of his clients who invested in the properties could no longer afford the monthly repayments and the banks clamped down on all credit to business. Luckily for Okonkwo, he secured a loan of N100,000,000 ($500,000), which added to the company’s working capital and proved a lifeline.

“Initially, we would look for money to develop one property and once we sold that, we would build three more properties because we would market and get other people to buy more. Once we got the loan from the bank, we were able to expand very rapidly.”

Part of the Nedcomoaks property portfolio is a 92-unit construction of three-bedroom terraces and a new build of 28 units of four-bedroom houses with average prices for his developments at N25 million ($125,000).

Similar to Brown, Okonkwo believes there are massive opportunities within the property market in Nigeria. The Nigerian property sector is valued at $39 billion according to a recent report by CBO Capital, an investment advisory firm based in Lagos.

“I went into the property business because I felt there is a real need for it. For everybody, when you look at your needs, it’s probably food first and then you think of shelter. So there is no way anybody that is providing shelter will get it wrong. I think there are enormous opportunities to tap into in the Nigerian property market today and the reputation of the developer matters a whole lot,” says Okonkwo.

The industry still has a long way to go to satisfy the growing demand. Like everywhere in Nigeria, the foreign exchange (FX) restrictions in the country have hit the property market.

“In the operational aspect of construction, it has a tendency to drive up the cost of the construction because most of the finishing materials are imported and so the restrictions of FX make it difficult to import these goods which drives up the price. On the other hand, a property that was selling at $150,000 can now go for $100,000 if the person has FX, so for these people, there is a higher advantage,” says Okonkwo.

As Africa’s largest economy continues to grow, Okonkwo is gearing up to be the go-to property developer for the growing middle class, one home at a time.

Entrepreneurs

All For Grooming Future Leaders

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Katlego Thwane has had to dip into his own savings, with the Covid-19 crisis, to fund his noble cause, teaching the underprivileged in a South African township.

He is in his twenties, yet turning around the destiny of underprivileged young people around him.

Katlego Thwane, a 28-year-old born and bred in South Africa’s lively township of Soweto, is an educator and founder of the Atlegang Bana Foundation here that caters to primary school learners who struggle to keep up at school and need additional help.

“Our foundation also provides for needy learners from underprivileged backgrounds. One of my biggest campaigns at the foundation every year is to give confidence and motivation to learners for the year ahead,” says Thwane.

He has bagged numerous awards and accolades for his work, as a 2017 Young Community Shaper, 2018 Lead SA hero and featuring on live television show Big Up on SABC Mzansi in 2018.

Growing up, he was a “naughty boy”, as he describes himself, but says many are now astonished at the serious, ambitious young man he has become.

“Teaching has always been a passion of mine. I love seeing change, transformation and grooming leaders, and value their education while being innovative in taking our country forward.”

Thwane has recently established a clothing brand, BANA, under the Atlegang Bana Foundation. He is also currently handing out food parcels to the needy in his community, in partnership with Hollywoodbets.

“The virus has affected us immensely with many parents losing their jobs or taking salary cuts, we are not receiving the financial support as before. This has led to me [dipping] into my own personal pocket and [using it] to buy tutors data for teaching virtually,” says Thwane.

Most schools continue operating online because learners haven’t as yet returned to school, however, this has come with its share of setbacks.

Makosha Masedi, a parent of a Grade 4 learner, says her challenges come with network issues and understanding the tasks given to the child.

“Some of the programs that the work is loaded on to is not friendly for all devices, so submitting and retrieving becomes a problem, as also understanding some of the work,” rues Masedi.

But Thwane powers on, hoping for a better tomorrow, for himself and his country.

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The Mother-Daughter Duo Behind A New Inclusive Community Teaching Budding Professionals How To Better Engage At Work

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Mother-daughter cofounders Edith Cooper and Jordan Taylor launched Medley to help young professionals gain the skills they need to bring their most authentic selves to work. COURTESY OF MEDLEY

Edith Cooper, who spent more than 20 years as an executive at Goldman Sachs, knows what it’s like to stand out in a workplace. Being one of few people of color in a sea of white faces over the course of her career hasn’t been easy. But rather than dwell on this reality, Cooper, who now sits on the boards of Etsy and Slack, has championed her differences. That’s what helped her rise through the ranks at the bank to eventually head its human resources department, an accomplishment she says was a result of her ability to connect with people of all backgrounds.

That quality would continue to work to her advantage: As Goldman Sachs evolved, so did its staff. Diversity was reflected not only in employees’ skin colors and genders, but also in their ages and geographical origins. Cooper was awakened to the fact that if the company was going to thrive, it would need to create an environment wherein its multifaceted staff could feel comfortable embracing their differences and, in turn, learn from them. 

“If you can figure out an environment where people can thrive together, it’s powerful,” Cooper says. But it’s a process that takes time, especially if newer, more inexperienced employees aren’t equipped with the proper skills to navigate this balance between professionalism and open expression. 

That is in part what inspired Cooper’s new startup, Medley, which she launched with her daughter Jordan Taylor, a former chief of staff at Mic and Harvard Business School Baker Scholar, to provide a community in which young professionals can gain the skills they need to bring their most authentic selves to work without fear. In light of the heightened tension surrounding ongoing racial injustice that’s inevitably seeping into workplace communication, it’s an ideal time to learn this skill.

Taylor has also had her fair share of experiences being the “only one in the room,” but as an emerging leader, rather than an established executive like her mother. Graduating in the top 5% of her class and being one the first 20 Black students to be named a Baker Scholar meant she was constantly figuring out how to relate to peers in predominantly white spaces. She figured it out, but Medley is a platform she wishes had been around when she was finding her voice among people whose backgrounds were much different than hers.

Medley groups young professionals in their 20s and 30s with other like-minded members whose workplace values, concerns and priorities align. The professionals that make up these eight-person groups differ, however, in terms of gender and ethnic background, which Cooper and Taylor hope will translate to increased empathy that members can apply within their respective workplaces.

“This idea of people being able to bring their true selves to work and to be able to talk through what that looks like is at the core of what Medley is offering,” says Cooper.

In addition to full access to workshops, panels and conversations led by experts across industries, members commit to a 90-minute virtual meeting each month, facilitated by a Medley-certified coach and focused on addressing and reflecting on ongoing experiences in their personal and professional lives. Cooper credits Medley’s robust network of coaches to the guidance she gained from Merche Del Valle, former global head of coaching at Goldman Sachs and a certified lifestyle, nutrition and wellness coach.

Merging personal wellness and professional development in group discussions is a priority. “You can’t just look at your career in a vacuum,” says Taylor. “In order to meet your potential, the ability to have a more holistic approach is incredibly important.”

To ensure that people of all socioeconomic backgrounds have the ability to join the community, Medley offers a sliding scale fee ranging from $50 to $250, depending on the financial situation of prospective members. Cooper and Taylor are also in conversations with companies interested in partnering with Medley to give their staff reimbursement for membership. 

With the help of investors including Away cofounder Jen Rubio, dtx company founder and CEO Tim Armstrong and MIC cofounder and former CEO Chris Altchek, who contributed more than $1 million to the project, Medley was ready to launch in May 2020 as an in-person membership hub in New York City. Shelter-in-place mandates halted the launch, but also presented an opportunity for Medley to instead be virtual and incorporate international members. The more springing corporate workers that can benefit from the community’s aim to build the next generation of confident, communicative professionals the better, the mother-daughter team notes.

“Medley gives people an opportunity to be a better human in relation to the people they work with and quite frankly in society,” Taylor says.

Brianne Garrett, Forbes Staff, Leadership

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Elon Musk Is Now The Fifth Richest Person In The World

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Elon Musk’s meteoric rise up the Forbes Billionaire List has continued this month, as he’s ascended past luminaries such as Warren Buffett and Steve Ballmer. As of Monday afternoon, Musk’s net worth surpassed $74 billion, meaning he is now the fifth-richest person on the planet.

KEY FACTS

  • Musk, 49, is the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, the electric vehicle company whose stock price has soared since March.
  • Tesla shares gained another 9.5% in Monday’s trading to $1,643.00, giving it a 60% rise in just three weeks since June 29, and a nearly 300% increase in 2020 alone.
  • Musk was ranked  No. 31 on Forbes’ Billionaires List as recently as mid-March, with a net worth just under $25 billion.
  • His fortune has nearly tripled since then, skyrocketing to $74.2 billion at the close of trading Monday, Forbes calculates.
  • Musk owns 21% of Tesla but has pledged more than half his stake as collateral for loans; Forbes has discounted his stake to take the loans into account.

KEY BACKGROUND: 

Musk first debuted on Forbes’ 400 Wealthiest Americans List in 2012 in 190th place with a net worth of $2.4 billion. On January 1 this year, he was the 37th richest person on earth. However, Tesla’s sudden and spectacular rise has propelled him near the very top of the world’s wealthiest humans. Tesla’s surge has confounded some investors, considering it’s far smaller than its competitors and only recently began to log quarterly profits. Tesla produced 103,000 vehicles in the first quarter; Toyota produced 2.4 million vehicles during that same period. In 2019, American automakers General Motors and Ford generated ten times more sales than Tesla. Late last month, analysts from Morgan Stanley warned that Tesla stock, which was trading at roughly $1,000 per share at that time, was “grossly overvalued and set to plunge.” Earlier this month, Musk said that Tesla would produce virtually fully autonomous self-driving vehicles by the end of 2020, a claim that was met with skepticism by an auto industry accustomed to a heaping of hype from Musk on the capabilities of self-driving technology. Musk has not sold shares of Tesla since 2010.

CRITICAL QUOTES:

“I really couldn’t care less,” Musk emailed Forbes about his net worth earlier this month. “These numbers rise and fall, but what really matters is making great products that people love.”

“Moves like we are seeing in Microsoft and Tesla and Amazon are truly insane and unlike any i have ever seen in my life,” tweeted analyst Jim Cramer on Monday afternoon. When asked if Tesla was a ‘Covid Stock,’ Cramer replied, “i don’t even know if it is a stock. it is something else entirely, like a new species discovered in the wild.” 

TANGENT:

When Kanye West initially announced that he was running for president, he said he had the “full support” of Musk, a longtime close friend. In a since-deleted tweet, Musk responded, “We may have more differences of opinion than I anticipated.” However, Musk later told Page Six, “Kanye explained afterward some of the reasoning behind why he said what he said. It makes more sense than many people, including me, realized.” On July Fourth, Musk tweeted, “You have my full support!”

Tommy Beer, Forbes Staff, Business

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