Nigeria’s World Trade Centre opens next year

Stories by YINKA  KOLAWOLE,  with agency reports

A World Trade Centre complex is expected to open to the public in Abuja early next year after the completion of the first phase of construction.

The development will join a network of 323 locations in 89 countries, started in 1970 with the inauguration of the first World Trade Centre in New York City. Funded by local and foreign financial institutions, as well as private investors, to the tune of N200 billion, or just over $1 billion, the WTC Abuja will be the largest mixed-use development in West Africa.


Global network

A report by CNN recalled that WTC Abuja has been under development since 2010, on a lot spanning over six million square feet in the Central Business Area of the capital. The location offers easy access to the city centre and the airport, with a dual-carriage highway surrounding the site and a new light rail system currently under construction. For business tenants, though, the most important connections will be those with the global network of 750,000 entrepreneurs that make up the World Trade Centres Association (WTCA).

“One of the missions of WTC Abuja is to improve trade relations between Nigeria and the rest of the world. For example, it will enable international businesses to make investments in our community. Ties will be forged between government agencies, non-governmental organizations and international corporations, and the additional business that is captured within the walls of the World Trade Center will provide tax revenues to government which can be used to improve the welfare of the people,” Vinay Mahtani, CEO of the site’s developer, Lagos-based Churchgate Group said.

Construction challenges

Initially projected to open in 2013, the WTC Abuja has gone through various design phases, and construction itself hasn’t been free of challenges. “For example certain areas of the project have had to be redesigned as we repositioned ourselves in order meet the ever-changing consumer and market needs. We have also faced logistical issues such as congestion in the ports, which has meant our building materials arrived at site behind schedule,” said Mahtani.

Construction is now nearing the end of the first phase, which comprises the residential and commercial towers. The former will offer luxury apartments with modern amenities, while the latter will accommodate businesses of various sizes, with offices ranging from 100 to 1,440 square meters. The buildings, at 24-storeys each, are set to define Abuja’s skyline: the Commercial Tower is the tallest office building in the nation’s capital, while the Residential Tower is the tallest residential building in Nigeria. Future phases include the construction of a shopping mall and a 37-storey hotel, which will be among the tallest skyscrapers in the continent.

Upsides and downsides

Nigeria, which has attracted the largest amount of foreign investment capital in sub-Saharan Africa since 2007, is set to gain international prestige from the development: “There is no doubt that Abuja and Lagos will benefit tremendously from high end  commercial and residential real estates,” Adekunle Salau, Ernst & Young Advisory Leader  for West Africa, told CNN. “My expectation is that if this is executed to plan, Abuja will be able to host world class conferences and compete favourably with Johannesburg and Cape town for international events.

It may also moderate the cost of hotels and rents in Abuja, but more importantly it should add significantly to the economic development of the capital, creating employment in the service and retail sectors. The downside is that it can also be artificially priced, thereby continuing to heat up the already high cost of Abuja properties and secondly, the amenities  may not be developed to the quality expected from the WTA brand,” Salau said.