When most Africans living in the diaspora feel like they have had enough abroad and want to return home to start out with something for retirement, their country of origin comes first. Not so for Abraham Makinde, an ICT expert. A Nigerian-Jamaican with UK citizenship, Makinde had many options but a visit to Rwanda in 2020 to check out the different opportunities for investment helped him to make a quick decision that it was Rwanda or nowhere. In an interview with The New Times, Makinde consistently keeps talking about ‘we Rwandans’ and admittedly, he says that is how he feels- more Rwandan than anything else because Rwanda is home. Although he is not Rwandan, the 35-year-old feels more at home in Rwanda and identifies as one, having made a decision to permanently move to the country. Seeing an opportunity When he arrived in Rwanda, he saw an opportunity to explore, particularly addressing the challenge of affordable housing. The founder and proprietor of Dellman Group, which is currently constructing affordable eco-friendly housing units in Rusororo, Gasabo District and also has a brick factory, says he is now acquainting himself with the culture. “I've started learning the culture and the language, the food is amazing, the people are amazing, so many lovely places to visit,” he says, adding that it is also easy to work with people here. Come visit, Rwanda is open Makindi says that for people who wish to work or invest in Rwanda, they should take time to come and visit, instead of simply reading things online, as he did -taking the first step to come to Rwanda. “The good thing about Rwanda is that people are very welcoming and helpful. If you go to the guys at Rwanda Development Board and you have no clue of what to do, those guys will actually help you,” he says, recalling his own experience. The other advice he gives is that before you invest the money, take time to identify where the gaps are and intentionally invest. Initially when the idea of returning to his motherland popped up, he wanted to go to Nigeria but he first gave himself a chance to look at what other African countries have to offer, which is how he ended up in Rwanda. Starting his business Upon assessing the business environment, Makindi identified a gap in affordable housing and he went ahead to register his company, which is currently finishing up its first batch of affordable housing units in Rusororo. For him, building housing units alone was not the goal but rather building something that is eco-friendly and affordable, compared to most real estate products on the market. The first model of six units of three bedrooms and three bathrooms, known as the Dellman Terrace Phase 1, located in a prime gated environment in Rusororo, exudes elegance and class. Makindi says that the units, which boast of an extensive kitchen/dining area, separate lounge and three double bedrooms, built with clay red bricks and mostly made in Rwanda materials, are a model of what Rwanda needs to solve the challenge of affordable housing. The model which maximises space and gives a beautiful homely feeling is similar to affordable housing models in England and he hopes to replicate it in Rwanda, despite the challenges which include the cost of building materials. Why affordable is not affordable yet For many Rwandans, the challenge of lack of affordable housing is one that they are still grappling with but Makindi says that it is through attempting different models that more units can get on the market. However, affordability is dependent on many factors, including the cost of land, building materials, labour as well as the demand and supply factors. It is also dependent on the incomes and purchasing power of consumers. Currently, his model can go for about $65, 000, which based on the quality and standard of the house would be affordable but factoring in the other costs and those who can afford them, they turn out not to be affordable for many as it would be. He however says that if the government can incentivise, the cost of such a unit, which has everything a family needs, can go down to say $35, 000, but again that would depend on many other factors. “Since we've finished this project, we've had a lot of positive feedback not just for the people who want to buy, but from industry players as well,” “The people from the Rwanda Housing Authority, the industry players, a couple of other developers have been on site to actually see what we've done and they really appreciate the use of space,” he says. Utilising land, change of mindset Makindi says that, today, more than ever, Rwandans must learn how to utilise space, using a small piece of land to achieve higher results because land is already a scarce resource. “As Rwandans we need to understand the fact that we've got a small country in terms of size. The land space in our country is quite small and also the cost of land is becoming very expensive,” he says. While this is not happening very soon, he believes the trend must change now. A report from the World Bank, as well as RHA shows that there is a deficit of about 10,000 units that need to be developed in Rwanda every year. “If we look at the population growth of Rwanda in the next 5 or 10 years, the World Bank and a couple of other analyses show that we will probably be getting close to 16 or18 million,” he says. With these trends, Makindi believes affordable housing models should be looking at vertical ways of maximizing land, going upwards. This needs to be done sooner than later. In the next phase to be built on land acquired in Kinyinya, Gasabo district, Makindi hopes to explore a model that touches all those areas. Having started small, he believes that there are bigger players in the market who can contribute to this effort. In the meantime, he hopes to live in Rwanda and contribute to this cause, which is aimed at ensuring that all Rwandans have access to decent and affordable housing. To check out what he is doing, visit https://www.dellmangroup.com/new-homes.