How Landmark Africa Founder Paul Onwuanibe Built His Wealth
Distinguished Nigerian entrepreneur Paul Onwuanibe has effectively used his exposure to two different cultures to build mixed-use developments in Africa.
He was born and brought up in London. But at age 10, his diplomat father, who wanted his children to know about Nigeria, sent Paul and his brother to Federal Government College in Lagos as boarders.
After five years of schooling, Paul returned to the UK for his A-levels but soon returned to Nigeria for his tertiary education. He studied Architecture at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN).
Later, Paul Onwuanibe returned to the UK, where he earned the prestigious ‘Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) certification. It was then he concluded that he didn’t have a long-term interest in Architecture but in business.
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Building Landmark Africa
Landmark Africa is a real estate development company with a portfolio that spans 130,000sqm of mixed-use corporate, leisure and residential structures in Nigeria.
Prior to building Landmark, Paul Onwuanibe spent three years working in a UK architecture firm. His employment with the construction and property management firm took him to more than 60 countries, where he established over 200 branches for the company.
He also collaborated with the founder of Regus, Mark Dixon, whose entrepreneurial quest to grow a $205,000 business into a multibillion-dollar investment in eight years served as an inspiration to him.
“I learnt a lot about the property, human behaviour, city infrastructure, finances, supply chain, and about the commercial needs of businesses in the global marketplace. I also appreciated the importance of having a good office services platform within a certain sector,” Onwuanibe said in an interview in Africa Outlook.
“I eventually decided it was time to embark upon my own entrepreneurial journey. And that’s when I thought of Landmark.”
In 1997, he founded Landmark in London. The goal was to make it easier for smaller firms to affordably acquire high-end, conveniently situated office space to improve the perception of their brand. He explained that the name Landmark symbolises “image, goal, and position.”
Soon, Landmark was functioning in New York City and seven different European nations.
Then, considering how undersupplied Africa is, the idea struck him to use the same technique back home.
Landmark Africa was established in 2003. It began operations in Lagos and expanded into Accra, Johannesburg, and Nairobi in 2006.
In an interview with Tayo Aina Films, Paul Onwuanibe said that in 2007, he spent hours searching in a helicopter for the ideal area to build the popular Landmark event centre in Lagos before spotting one at Victoria Island.
The commercial events centre started in 2009. By 2010, Landmark acquired 140,000 square meters of the oceanfront and land bank.
At the time, major global enterprises like Dell, Siemens, Google, and Microsoft had just recently entered Africa.
Today, Landmark Africa has evolved from being just a real estate development company to launching several distinctively African business, leisure, and lifestyle destinations.
The BBC, Euromoney, and African Property Investment Summit all named Landmark Lagos the most popular business and lifestyle location on the West African coast.
Challenges Paul Onwuanibe faced
There are always challenges in every great success story, and Paul Onwuanibe’s was not different. He had his own fair share of difficulties before attaining success.
He had to deal with documentation problems for his company in Nigeria, which prevented him from building until after two years.
He says it took him up to seven months for his business to be registered. Making a comparison with the UK, he says registration there only took seven minutes tops.
He advises young and upcoming entrepreneurs trying to make a difference in Africa: “if you want something you never had, you need to be prepared to do something you never know.”
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