“Project Atlantis will contribute in making Lagos look like Dubai”-Dr Gerhard Staats of The Nigerian Business Club

By Ajong Mbapndah L German and married to a Nigerian, investing in Nigeria is almost like an obsession when you talk to Dr Gerhard Staats. He is so passionate about Nigeria, fascinated by the dynamic people he sees each time he visits Nigeria but equally disappointed at the corruption, administrative bottle necks and the negative label imputed on the country by scammers that have give Nigeria a bad name. It has been challenging to set up shop in Nigeria but Dr Staats and his Team are willing to keeping pushing on with plans underway to set up a permanent office in Nigeria. Already involved in sending cars to Nigeria, Staats is scouting for serious partners to launch a housing project in Lagos. The plan designed by his Atlantis firm, has plans for building a city that will host about one million inhabitants and a vibrant economic hub. While consultations are own going with credible partners in Nigeria, Dr Staats believes that the projects he has in mind will be of profound benefits to the people and authorities should take a second  look at the revolutionary housing projects that he and his partners are offering. Dr Gerhard Staats you are German but we see you very involved in formulating projects across Nigeria and Africa before we get into specific projects, why are you so interested in Africa? The question you should ask me is why should I not be interested in Africa and Nigeria? Africa is a fascinating continent, it is a huge market with big investment potentials and the everyday people you see in the continent are very dynamic. Although I love Africa and will be working towards investing in different parts of the continent like Ghana where my friend Mike Baffour hails from, Nigeria is my first interest. Besides the potential there, I have been married for six years to a Nigerian and have been there a couple times and came back with very interesting experiences. I intend to use my expertise in Real Estate, Transport, Logistics, Mining, industry and Religion to see how far my plans for big investments in Nigeria can go. Lets discuss some of your projects and the motives or intended outcomes, the Nigerian Business Club you created has a membership of almost thirty thousand now on social media, how does this membership translate into concrete results that impact on business in Nigeria? Yes NBC is a project what we started on XING (German Business Network) and later on Facebook.  Our goal was to create a business platform where all kinds of international business can meet, share perspectives, opportunities, network, and build mutually beneficial partnerships for more investments in Africa. The Nigerian Business Club now has a membership of about thirty thousand on social media and we will soon open an office in Lagos, Nigeria to better play a consulting role. The Nigerian Business Club has highlighted opportunities from big machines, to trucks, used cars, fashion, food, solar industry, and more, hopefully the office in Lagos will be able to offer better coordination so that all these opportunities and services can have better prospects been translated into concrete results in a way that a more positive impact is felt on the overall economy of Nigeria. May we know about your project company Atlantis and the Lagos Lagoon Project? The Project Atlantis is something similar to the Eko Atlantic City in Lagos. When one sees the efforts made by the Governor of Lagos Babatunde Fashola to draw investors and when one sees the potential available, it was hard to remain indifferent. The Lagoon has the space to build a new metropolis that is safe, clean, fun and booming with business. With the German know how that I and my partners can bring in, this is very feasible. A town for one million people can be created with independent water, electricity, garbage system, fast and affordable internet and telephone, a palm tree garden, hotels, shops and more. When do you actually start the implementation phase of the project? We have been trying to make our plans public and holding discussions with potential partners. One of our partners was asked about the prospects of 12.000 low cost houses and it is an idea we are looking at. This entails a lot especially with the absence of viable partners on the ground but we are working towards the creation of a permanent presence in Nigeria and hopefully once this is done, things will speed up. You have to know first that all Africa Experts in Germany work alone and there is no network what I can use for myself to talk with business partners in Africa for projects. There is no chance to meet real partners from Africa (Investors) in internet why they are afraid for scammers and 419 industries. All of this make a start in many projects very difficult and expensive. Like I mentioned earlier, we are very close to establishing a permanent presence in Nigeria for final talks with partners and investors. In 2013 alone, we sent over 1000 used cars and trucks to Nigeria and that is just a small indication of how huge the market is. For the used car sector we have trustful partners in Nigeria and they became rich in only 2 years. So that’s why I am optimistically for the project Atlantis, our homes which are standard, and low cost will have a big market. What are some of the challenges that you have faced so far as you conceive these projects, and based on the realities in Nigeria, do you think the projects can actually be implemented? [caption id="attachment_8164" align="alignright" width="219"]Dr Gerhard Staats Dr Gerhard Staats[/caption] With its size, its might, its resources and very hard working people, Nigeria should be the envy of everyone; Nigeria should virtually be the Eldorado of Africa. Unfortunately this is not the case right now. Doing business in Nigeria or attempting to get a foothold is very challenging and very complex. You get people especially some who should be custodians of the public trust thinking about themselves first before the people there are suppose to serve. This has earned Nigeria a bit of a bad reputation with international partners who are skeptical about who there deal with in the country. Should the corruption and challenging business climate be enough to make me back off? Not yet, it is my intention to push ahead. As mentioned earlier, my wonderful wife is not only Nigerian but I have been there myself and continue to believe in its incredible potential. Many look at Dubai today and wonder in amazement how wonderful it is, but we tend to forget that about 40 years ago, Dubai was barely more than a little fishing village. Imagine what Lagos can be like in the next 25 years with the right planning, with the right vision, with people thinking about the common good of the people and not just themselves. With all its human and natural resources, many are disappointed with the way things are evolving in Nigeria , you have been there, you have an idea about how things, from the perspective of an outsider interested in investment that will help the economy, what recommendations do you have for the government, what can be done to facilitate investment initiatives like yours? I agree with you about the human and natural resources that Nigeria has and I believed I have mentioned that in the course of this interview. When you compare the potential that Nigeria has to the realities of today, there are like day and night. There are a number of problems from security, to corruption and the negative image that these and the activity of scammers have labeled on the country. The country needs to  be more friendly and welcoming to foreign investors, do more to crack down on corruption and also do more to clean its image. I understand the policies of Europe in Africa have sometimes not been very helpful and full of the double standards that makes people doubtful of the kind of opinions I  am sharing now, but I share them with all the love and interest I have in that country. If Nigeria gets its act right, it will be a power to reckon with not just in Africa but on the global stage. The resources are there, the human potential is there with the best of Doctors, Engineers, Musicians, global business players like Dangote and others. There is no excuse for Nigeria to remain the way it is and I hope the leaders will come together, put Nigeria first before partisan politics, shun and eradicate corruption by showing the right example and punishing culprits and putting to shame all those who indulge in any forms of practices that tarnish the image of Nigeria. Do you have plans to invest in other parts of Africa or you are limited to Nigeria? I would say investing in other parts of Africa is a real possibility. The potentials are not limited to Nigeria and while that country has a special place in my heart and forms the corner stone of our investment plans, the challenges there are big and we will see how things go. There have be overtures from other West African countries like Ghana and a number of countries in East Africa. While we pursue our investment objectives in Nigeria, we will eventually be open to investing in other African countries as well. [caption id="attachment_8165" align="alignleft" width="300"]Dr Gerhard Staats with a truck destined for Nigeria Dr Gerhard Staats with a truck destined for Nigeria[/caption] And I should also add that we are professionals in designing projects and there is one we have in mind that can be set up in any country called the   International Music Hotel. The plan we have comprise up to 11 floors with different kinds of music and  about 340 rooms that are for 340 different stars of music. We have a digital music studio and a stage for events. We have a music university and a Kindergarten. We have private flats for VIP buyers. We need 23.000 m² of land for this and about $ 300-500 million for such a project. Who knows, this is something we may eventually set up in Nigeria or another African country. So back to your question, while Nigeria is our focus now, we will eventually get to other African countries.    ]]>

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