Paul Obanua, a 43 year-old Nigerian businessman, is on a quest to change the landscape of mall developments in Nigeria and, arguably, in Africa. Obanua’s current project, through his firm Greenfield Assets Nigeria Limited, is turning a 28–acre in Aba, the capital city of Abia State in Nigeria, known as a strategic trading hub in the southern part of the country, into what will be a purpose-built smart mall community with 100,000 square meters of retail space for shopping, a multiplex movie theater, bank, its own transportation system, a dry dock for wholesale distribution and more.
With a projected development cost of $300 million, Aba Mega Mall is expected to be the biggest shopping in Africa.
I recently caught up with Paul Obanua, CEO of Greenfield Asset Management, to get his take on Aba mega mall development, and how it can impact and encourage privately funded infrastructural development in Nigeria and Africa in the years to come.
How did the idea of building the biggest mall in Africa come about?
The mission of Greenfield Assets Limited is to renew sub-Saharan African cities, regenerate our communities and empower lives. In our quest to achieve this, one of the opportunities we identified is in the area of infrastructure development, especially retail infrastructure. This has encouraged us to pioneer the leapfrogging of Africa’s Historical Open Market Retail System to Smart Mall Infrastructure. Our goal is to transform the way in which Africans trade.
Rapid urbanization and Nigeria’s youth demography of about 70% of her population, have amplified the demand for a new shopping experience. Lagos with a population of over 20 million has just four standard Malls compared to 23 malls in Nairobi with a population of 3 million.
Aba has a long history as a major center of commerce and industry in Nigeria and its influence extends to such neighboring countries as Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Central Africa Republic, Ghana, etc. The major shopping center in Aba is the Ariaria market built in the 1970s with the capacity for 20,000 shops; today it has become a sprawl of 120,000 shops. This and many other commercial centers are all busting at the seams as they have all exceeded their carrying capacity.
Read more at forbes.com