Obi Ejimofo, MD Lamudi Nigeria before joining Africa Internet Holding has worked in global strategic product and technology roles for Philips Electronics and Thomson Reuters before focusing on business development and market entry strategies in Sub-Saharan Africa as an independent consultant.
He started his career in start-up ventures with Open Interactive – the Interactive TV venture that is now Sky Interactive, BSkyB.
Obi spoke to Peter Ugwu about the Lamudi App and how IT is adding value to Nigeria’s real estate sector.
Lamudi’s Real Estate Market Philosophy
What Lamudi provides is an online market place for sellers to put up their (real estate) property and woo buyers or clients. The value proposition comes in two phases.
‘From the sellers’ perspective, they will be able to make their property available to as many buyers as possible. For instance we have 15,000 people who visit our site every week.
Lamudi has a large base of subscribers; so if your property meets their needs, they will contact you. From the buyers’ point of view, it is a similar scenario.
They come online and view property available and based on their interests on location, features and designs, they will be exposed to various sellers and agents.
This will automatically give them options. The whole process provides the prospective buyer with convenience and choice.
Lamudi’s Intentions with its Mobile App
We want to help the real estate market become, somewhat more efficient. There will always be landlords, agents and buyers.
What we are doing is to make it possible for both agents and buyers to have more access to information. At the end of the day, when they are ready to carry out a property transaction, they will have to meet in person.
I wouldn’t advise anyone to purchase property based just on what they see on the internet. It is not practiced that way in the UK, the US, here in Nigeria or anywhere.
Buyers should always gain physical access to the property before buying. The platform, basically, offers the best opportunity for people to be informed on what they are looking for in real estate.
We do not engage in any transactions, we are just providing the channel for both parties to meet.
Checkmating Property Fraud
We understand that trust is very essential in the real estate market. So people are looking up to us based on what they see on the site to make informed decisions.
As of today, we have categorized our agents based on the level of personal relationship we have with them. For our “Trusted Sellers”, we can personally attest to their integrity and sincerity in the market.
We are also working with quite a number of professional real estate associations today to establish new categories for their members.
So, the contact we have with the professional body is leveraged when their members join our portal. If an issue around professional misconduct arises, we can work hand-in-hand with the association to resolve the matter. Of course, we cannot regulate the market, but we can help it become more effective.
Lamudi is there as an integrator in the system; bringing many stakeholders together.
Market Response to the Lamudi Portal
First of all, Lamudi only went live 10 months ago. Since then, the platform has grown to over 18,000 listed properties.
Secondly, in terms of visitors, Lamudi has gone from just under 4,000 people coming online to the platform looking for property to over 15,000 people in just the last 4 months.
Thirdly, within the same four months, our visitor mix has gone from about 30%visiting the platform from outside the country, to about 25%.
The reason the number is going down is because local patronage is increasing significantly. We are also seeing 15% of visitors go on to pick up the phone or email our agents. For a property platform that is a huge conversion rate.
Seamless Property Search
I will be biased in assessing the site. One thing is that we have done a good job. It is very well designed and easy to navigate.
Asides from the property listings, we have created a blog or journal section packed with insights, news, and knowledge on the essentials of the home purchasing, interior design, old Nigerian architecture, mortgages and other features.
View on Government Intervention
I am a believer in private enterprise. The government did not necessarily give us the internet; it came as a result of the privatization of the telecom industry.
While there are challenges, there are also an estimated 56 million Nigerians going online in a year, with about 48 million of them going online to either seek information or to transact business; and those are the 48 million we are interested in. An estimated 20 million Nigerians are accessing the internet via smartphones which led to us unveiling the Lamudi App for the Android today and we will soon launch for the iOS as well.
So there are inhibiting factors, but the demand is high already. Nigeria, in terms of growth and adoption, it is the sixth fastest growing market in the world.
So, Nigerians have not allowed the challenges to deter them from progressing in their internet usage.
So, we do not need to wait for things to be perfect; I know Nigerians are not waiting; they are using the rare opportunity at their disposal to make things happen.
With the statistics out there, we are already using the internet. Any improvements will be fantastic. If the government can completely increase broadband bandwidth, that will take the market to the next level.
Need For Cyber Security
The internet is nothing less than a reflection of happenings in the real world. If there are fraudsters in the real world, definitely, they will replicate their activities on the internet.
The challenge in the real world is finding out who is a fraudster. Its easier to do so on the internet, for instance, FaceBook where we have over nine million Nigerians using the platform, when people use comments and posts to raise the alarm about a particular user, it spreads like wildfire.
That on its own helps to identify fraudulent practitioners. Unless that user changes his profile name, he will find it difficult to continue to fool or defraud people.
Internet users are also beginning to appreciate the need to be cautious while online. Through due diligence and other authentication and verification methods, sanity is being restored online.
Before people go ahead to conduct businesses with you, they go through your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, your twitter handle, and other channels.
They contact people who are your friends or followers; that alone is a way of conducting due diligence. The great thing about the internet is the ability to conduct research and due diligence. In law, there is something called caveat emptor (let the buyer beware); it is up to every person conducting a transaction to make sure who you are dealing with is the proper contact. The online shops can tighten their end, but that does not rule out the roles users have to play.
Lamudi App and e-Payment
A lot of things are yet to happen in the Nigerian e-payment ecosystem. From Lamudi’s point of view, we are simply enabling the two concerned parties to strike a deal.
If you look at the Nigeria’s e-payment space there are close to 40 different players.
The market is yet to shape up to give the industry, a supposedly, dominant player, so that everybody can use the platform. But with competition, the market will sort itself out.
NCC Arrests Man for Hacking into DSTV System
Nigeria Copyright Commission (NCC), has arrested one Mr Aliu Olalekan, for allegedly hacking into DSTV system and watching the channels free without subscription.
Mr Matthew Ojo, NCC Director in the Lagos Directorate Office said this while speaking with newsmen in Lagos, on Tuesday.
He said that the suspect used to watch DSTV channels free without subscription on his Android phone via an app which he downloaded on google play store.
“This suspect distributed the know-how to his telegram followers and on his blog with the aim of gaining more followers and viewership on his blog and makes more money through google ad-sense.
“The operation was based on surveillance which had earlier been carried out by the Multi-choice team and verified by a copyright inspector, ” he said.
He added that the arrest was made in collaboration with a team of copyright inspectors led by the Head of Enforcement Department, Mr Charles Amudipe.
Others included; a team from Multichoice Nigeria led by Mr Umar Ibrahim and policemen from Lagos Command Headquarters, Ikeja.
Ojo said that the joint team conducted an anti-piracy operation at the premises of the culprit in Amukoko, Lagos.
According to him, the suspect was contacted on phone by a member of the operation team on the disguise of patronising him. “The suspect came out to meet the caller and in the process of discussion, he was apprehended.
“The suspect took the team to his resident. The squad paraded his one-room apartment and recovered his laptop and phones used in perpetrating the ungodly act. “He was arrested and brought to the copyright commission office for further investigation, ” he said.
Ojo said that, on getting to the commission’s office, the statement of the suspect was taken and the inventory of items seized from him taken. He said that investigation on the matter was still ongoing and if found guilty the suspect will be charged to court.
NCC, Digital Encode Support NITRA Innovative Tech Forum On Post-COVID-19 Strategies
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Nigeria’s telecommunications regulator and Digital Encode, Cybersecurity and Compliance advisory company, have indicated interest to partner with the Nigeria Information Technology Reporters Association (NITRA), the national umbrella body of ICT reporters, as it organizes a forum that will x-ray the industry’s future plans for ICT growth post pandemic era.
The event, slated to hold on October 15, 2020, will seek to discuss the needs for a fortified ICT sector after the COVID-19 era, and the level of preparedness of ICT stakeholders to embrace the challenge of being pivotal to the stability and growth of all other sectors.
A statement from NITRA National Secretariat in Lagos indicates that due to the pandemic and need to observe the COVID-19 protocol on social distancing, the event will be held via a Webinar.
This year’s theme, “Multi-stakeholder Approach To National Recovery Post-Pandemic”, is in line with the annual event’s generic theme, ‘NITRA Innovative Tech Forum’, a contribution by NITRA to the development of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) innovations and policies in Nigeria.
Prof. Umar Danbatta, executive vice chairman, NCC is expected to deliver the keynote speech at the event and will throw more light on Federal Government’s plans, programmes and policies on post-pandemic strategies using ICT.
Dr. Adewale Obadare and Dr. Seyi Akindeinde, founders of Digital Encode, while accepting to support the event expressed their readiness to offer their expertise in Cybersecurity for organisations to prepare against cyber- attacks with the new normal.
They will also highlight areas that are high risks that need fortification in terms of cybersecurity.
Speaking on the event, Mr. Chike Onwuegbuchi, national chairman, NITRA, noted that as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to leave its negative trails across the globe, economic reboot for countries will not only depend on how well they readapt to the new normal, but also more on their recovery plans.
According to him: “While the federal government has consistently expressed its willingness to set all policies in place to engender growth, and accelerated implementation of these policies, private sector firms have also shown great hunger for the task ahead in post-COVID-19 era.
However, the question that needs to be answered is whether all stakeholders are ready for the required task ahead.”
The event will also offer participating companies opportunities to publicize some of their individual efforts at contributing to reacting a soft landing or lifeline for SMEs and other ancillary companies as the pandemic threatens their survival.
Digital Encode is a multi-award winning and leading consulting and integration firm that specializes in the design, management, and security of business-critical networks, telecommunications environments and other Information Technology (IT) infrastructures.
NCC Threatens Illegal Users of GSM Boosters with Arrest, Prosecution
Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) has warned telecom consumers to desist from using illegal GSM boosters.
The commission also said that anyone caught using a GSM booster without obtaining approval of a duly licensed network operator will face arrest and prosecution.
GSM boosters are devices that transmit and receive telecommunications signals and can therefore interfere with other radio frequency equipment.
Ikechukwu Adinde, director, public affairs, NCC, said in a notice published on NCC website, that only licensed network operators are allowed to use GSM boosters.
The booster, also known as amplifier or repeater is made up of three main elements – exterior antenna, amplifier, and interior antenna.
They form a wireless system to boost cellular reception
“Members of the public should note that, willful interference with any wireless telegraphy is an offence under Section 16 of the Telegraphy Act, 2004,”it said
The agency said it will not condone any flagrant breach of this law.
It has also enforced measures to prosecute offenders.
Accordingly, monitoring mechanisms have been put in place and anyone caught using a GSM booster without obtaining approval of a duly licensed network operator will face arrest and prosecution.
“Any member of the public with useful information regarding the illegal use of GSM Boosters should contact the Commission on 09-4617000/7351 or send an email to [email protected],” the notice said.
“Individuals desirous of using GSM Boosters should note that they can only do so in conjunction with licensed network operators,” it added.
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