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IS EGYPT FAST BECOMING THE GIANT OF AFRICA? SUJIMOTO’S EXPERIENCE IN AFRICA’S GROWING CITY

It is often said that a man with a great vision without any allowance for expansion is gradually heading towards corporate slavery. Within the last few years, I have learnt that the responsibility of success is more difficult to manage than the irresponsibility of failure, but I will choose the labour of success over the burden of mediocrity any day! This is one of the reasons why I have decided to diversify the Sujimoto brand and expand my vision beyond the shores of Nigeria this year.

 

 It was in view of this that I was specially invited to the Egyptian Petroleum & Investment Summit which for me was more than a meeting but also an investment opportunity. We flew with Egypt Air - a customer-friendly airline, with beautiful people, and great service. I met with my friend Mohammad El Taher, one of the most energetic entrepreneurs and for almost 4 hours, we spoke about business and investment opportunities in Cairo. When we finally arrived in Cairo, I was so surprised to see a busy airport, but more than that was the fact that we didn’t need a visa. We only had to pay the sum of $25 and we were allowed entry. The immigration officers were very courteous and friendly. I noticed numerous transformations and developments from the last time I was in Cairo - which was 15 years ago. The first-class airport is an indication of a government that is very intentional about development.  As I was chauffeured through the city, I saw different projects, infrastructural development and the dividends of good governance courtesy of the government of Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.


 

Within the last 7 years, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has developed over 20 cities. What Mubarak couldn’t develop in 30 years, President Sisi did in 5 years. This just shows that the current Egyptian Government is a disruptive government, one that adopt creative ways of getting results. He has developed a new Cairo, the new capital city; he developed 6 October, and so many other projects, spending over 400 billion dollars on infrastructural developments in the last 5 years. Despite the political and economic challenges, the government of Egypt didn’t allow that deter them from rising and making a difference with the resources and talents at their disposal. The strong and supportive will of the government has resulted in strong economic growth for Egypt. The World Bank raised its estimates for the growth of the Egyptian economy by 1% to reach 5.5% during 2022, and the International Monetary Fund also raised its estimates to 5.6% instead of 5.2% in 2022. Meanwhile, the global economy’s growth fell by 5%. Egypt has become the only oil-importing country to achieve positive growth despite the sharp rise in oil prices and shipping costs, a testament to the effective policies of the President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi led government.

 

When Elvis and I finally arrived at the Four Seasons Hotel - a vibrant hotel! I saw a mix of beautiful people - Middle East, some Saudi Arabians, Qatari and many other people. We were joined with our friend, the former French ambassador who received us. We had a meeting and later dinner with him and a powerful official from the Egyptian Petroleum company. The next day we checked out because we wanted to experience something different, so we lodged at the St. Regis which is a beautiful new hotel with over 300 rooms and 200 beautiful apartments. As a Real Estate Entrepreneur, I couldn’t help but tour the whole hotel to see what they are doing and what we can improve upon. They have Sauna, Indoor and Outdoor Pool, Spa, 4 Restaurants, Gym, about 31 story building with nice apartments, which gave me inspiration for Sujimoto

 

I saw some things we were doing in our projects that they also have. For instance, we have a spa, they have a spa; we have 2 pools, they have 2 pools; but at the Lucrezia, we have a little bit more, we have a virtual golf bar, a private cinema and many other things in our Banana Island iconic project. Above all, they have incredible management and world-class service. We got a 2 bedroom suite which comes with a personal butler who was very helpful. If we needed drinks, food, or anything, it was provided right at the tap of the finger, a luxurious experience that can only be imagined!

 

 

 

The kind of hospitality and economic infrastructure I experienced in Egypt rekindled my hope in Africa. I believe strongly that when African leaders provide the necessary infrastructure to enable businesses, Entrepreneurs will be able to harness the innumerable opportunities and resources that surround them, and convert all our calamities into opportunities.

 


 People go to Cairo for different reasons, some go there to look at the pyramids, but I went there in search of opportunities in doing business. I saw an opportunity in the new Cairo, an iconic 80-floor tower, the tallest building in Africa! What an audacious project! While we may not go 80 floors but we are looking at putting up a mixed-use building of about 55 storey building in Cairo very soon. We shall call it the Sujimoto Tower, Cairo.

 


 When meeting with the officials in charge of projects and developments in Cairo, they made me understand that the land we have chosen will cost about 25 million US dollars. I was taken aback and asked how would I find such money? They developed a payment plan instantly where we pay a fraction of the money and they spread the balance over the next 20 years. They also promised that immediately we develop a great project, there are numerous banks in Cairo that are ready to give us whatever funding we want at a single digit interest rate. Anytime I try to tell them why I can’t do it, the officials gave me a reason to see my intrinsic value and the value of who we are at Sujimoto. The openness, proactive thinking and positivity of the officials, make doing business in Egypt a pleasure and an effortless task for Entrepreneurs.



My friends Mansur, Muhammad, and Rabih Mockbel, - an Egyptian-Lebanese, spoke so excitedly about the recent and audacious developments happening in Egypt. Rabih spoke about how excited he is to be in doing business in Egypt and why he can’t leave there. This according to him is because of the numerous business opportunities and the privilege to be whoever you want to be. What amazed me is the intentional way the government of Egypt created businesses. They want people to do businesses right there because they push investors to invest on the spot, and if you don’t have money they will give you a loan, with a payment plan of over 20 years. They will give you lands and introduce you to bankers. They want investors and local entrepreneurs to thrive and the government has created a platform that gives local entrepreneurs seed capital to start a business and encourage them to push those businesses. They encourage US exports - local consumption and exports. It amazes me how the local Egyptian manufacturer is thinking like the Chinese. The Egyptian manufacturer is not seeing Egypt as his only playground, or as his only target audience, he is seeing the whole world as his target market, so they are always producing for international consumption, not only for local consumption, giving them the global perspective in the entrepreneurial and industrial level.

 


Cairo has an array of interesting restaurants - a beautiful vibrant city with lots of incredible restaurants both night and day. I enjoyed their food, the popular Egyptian cuisine lamb rice known as Lamb Fattah and some other delicious delicacies. I was deliberate about my meal as I have decided not to go there and start eating Italian or continental meals, so I only ate local Egyptian delicacies. We also went to the incredible New Cairo, it's a city littered with prominent restaurants. You can see all the nice restaurants from different parts of the world here. I was able to see some restaurants I saw in Paris and London. It is incredible how the middle-income class keeps growing and you can see it in their spending power. An average janitor in Nigeria will earn about $100 monthly while the average cleaner in New Cairo will earn about $300, which is about 300% more, a pointer to the fact that the government has invested and created a dynamic system that allows wealth to trickle down to the least of the people, thereby gradually levelling the gap between the rich and the poor.

 


Everyone was mobile, both the young generation of entrepreneurs and great workers. Having a car wasn’t seen as a luxury but a necessity. I also had the opportunity to tour some abattoirs and numerous water treatment factories. I looked at their batching plants and even saw a 300m3/hr batching plant with 17 trucks, producing about 2500m3 of concrete per day. This organization had over 17 projects with about 3,000 homes for families that they were working on. It is incredible how such a gigantic business can be headed by a young and industrious man, who happens to be the Managing Director. For us at Sujimoto, we have over 250 units in our projects but then it was amazing how just 1 person was building 17 projects and over 3,000 homes, at the same time. We surely have a long way to go as a generation. This experience inspired me to develop VictoriaBySujimoto – a project inspired by my mother, Victoria Idayat Ogundele where 2000 families will live, work and play.

 

We also visited a cement plant, where the huge price difference between a bag of cement in Cairo and Lagos was so obvious. For instance, a bag of cement in Cairo costs N1, 600 and the same bag of cement in Nigeria costs N4, 000. To be honest, for a country like Nigeria with sufficient deposits of natural resources, I am amazed at the humongous discrepancy in price, maybe it is because of logistics, infrastructure deficiencies and other added overheads but whatever the case is, it is an opportunity for improvement for us back home.

 

My trip to Cairo would never be complete without my friend Mohamed Elzanfaly, who I met over 15 years ago when I was living in Paris and Madrid, who made the journey very easy for me, acting as a guide in some instances or interpreter in other instances. Every morning, no matter what time we slept, I was always up my 7am. When I knock on friend Elvis’ room, he would open the door and say to me.

 

“O boy, where you find this kind of machine gun energy?”

 

I would laugh and respond to him.

 

“We didn’t come to Cairo to sleep”.

 

Cairo for me was not just a pleasant visit, it was an opportunity to learn from other great entrepreneurs; be inspired by what they are doing and pick valuable business lessons on how we can do things better in Nigeria and exploit our true potential as a nation, because for us at Sujimoto, continuous improvement is a life-long strategy.

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