Olawale Aganga-Williams is a successful real estate player. He is the founder of the Olawale Aganga-Williams Foundation. He is also the Managing Director of AGFRO LIMITED, a UK-based Real estate company.
He was born into the rich, indigenous and illustrious Aganga-Williams family in Lagos State. He is highly experienced in meeting the needs of demanding international properties buyers, through his well-grounded mobile company, Agfro Limited. He has grown over the years to become one of London’s leading property acquisition consultants with a team that boast an in-depth experience of the London property market and has successfully sourced and acquired the residential property for private clients.
His professional and relentless approach to property findings, his unwavering dedication to his clients’ needs and his expert negotiation skills have won him huge loyalty and trust amongst his clients. He is an expert in the London property market north of the river including property investment, property sourcing, sourcing off-market opportunities, negotiation, property management, mortgage advice and General Insurance.
His love and passion for humanity, made him set up the Olawale Aganga-Williams Foundation (OAWF) years ago and the foundation’s aim is to continue to affect the lives of Nigerians positively and committed to the growth and progress of everyone irrespective of their religion, ethnicity, tribe, gender, or age. He founded OAWF on the urgent need to provide an atmosphere where Nigerians are secure and prosperous whose interventions in individuals and communities have shown that a Nigeria that is secure and free of poverty is possible.
In this exclusive interview with City People’s Brands Editor DAMILARE SALAMI (08155134152), Olawale Aganga-Williams revealed why he is passionate about taking the poor off the street among several other topics. Enjoy the excerpts below.
In the UK, you were known to be working with some private and public agencies to help homeless people, tell us about it and have you left it to cater to Nigerians?
Day to day in and out, I’m still with them now because every year during winter people get so sick so, people actually die sleeping outside, so I’m working towards eradicating homelessness. Though we are still far away from the target, what I do is get a blanket so they can have a feel of a good night’s sleep. We bought winter coats and all sorts just to help them. From my experience with shelters, some become homeless due to family issues and what they have gone through in their homes. Their home might be drug addicts. Everyone has got their own story. So as an individual, I’ve always felt that with the resources every country has, we can do more for our citizens. We can look after our people. We make them look better. Despite the money coming into the UK we still have all sorts of social issues. With all these resources we should invest in shelters that these kids can actually go to and spend their time learning something to better themselves than just being outside involving themselves in gang issues.
You started making a stir in Ojo area of Lagos state with your philanthropic gestures, what’s the reason for this?
In terms of our country, our problems are vast, if we decide to tackle it all at once with our little resources; we would end up not doing anything at all. So I and my team under the Olawale Aganga-Williams Foundation started with a food bank cum palliative system. So, we have a pack of different foodstuffs packed as a palliative food pack and give it out to people who truly need it – especially in the Ojo federal constituency. We are also looking out to giving grants to people who will need these grants to help them in their daily lives and businesses. We are actually partnering with some charities in the UK and some companies in the UK have shown interest in joining us by providing shoes, clothes, and financial grants. Housing is equally important to me. I mean I was born in Ojo and had my primary school in that area before going to secondary school in Ogun stage and relocating to the United Kingdom for my tertiary education. Some of the people we grew up together will always wonder if anything good can come out of Ojo and I will always reply by saying if anything good will come out of Ojo, I will be part of that one thing. I am giving back because I am aware of the problems in Ojo before leaving and many of those problems are still persisting. We have a mission to go state-wise and do more for the people of Lagos as a proud Lagosian.
You are clamouring for better conditions for people, is this as a result of your experience in the UK?
Actually yes, my personal experience in the UK where I was homeless for some time led to this. I was once homeless in London and slept in the car for some time, and my personal experience of going through that brought out my humanitarian part. Until you have actually been faced with difficulty or gone through difficulty, you won’t understand what other people go through because if you just see a guy begging or homeless, you tend to just drive past without understanding the psychological issues aside from other issues. I understand we can’t help everyone and we can’t solve everyone’s problem but I believe in small steps. If we build one shelter today, it would probably house 500 people. We would also give them set skills to further integrate them back into society and our partners are willing to even grant scholarships should these children look at going back to school. With the resources every country has, I believe we can do more for our citizens. The UK gives over 2 billion in foreign aid yet they still have homeless people, we still have various issues but it is way far better than what Nigeria is at the moment. There are more black homeless people than white people, of course, there are white homeless people too but they are very few. I think if you see a white man that is homeless, it is probably drug-related, the way the property and accommodation chain is in the UK, there are so many people on the waiting list. You register with the council for a council flat and there are many people waiting. Mothers are on the priority list, the sick people are high on the priority list, so they tend to give these sets of people accommodation a lot quicker. If you look at it again, racism could be another factor as a white man might get accommodation quicker than a Blackman. For me and my team, we invest in programmes that can cater to the needs of the people. These programmes are actually aimed at helping street kids become better and spend their time learning something, acquiring skills set than being outside and constituting a menace to society at large.
You spoke about building homes for people, how do you check to know those who are truly homeless?
Again, I am passionate about housing the homeless because this is what we have been able to achieve through some partnerships in the United Kingdom over the years. As I have always said, we’ve been able to do one arm of what we have in plan to do and these are feeding, training before housing. We have a short-term goal. That’s why I say the same programmes will start first. We have our short-term goals. And our long-term mission, which includes housing. And the reason why is because our resource is limited. So we have to stage it and move on to the next level and we have partners. We’ve done something, especially with local governments, local councils, and the things we need in the Ojo area. They’re pretty much, I’ve just recently secured 500 hospital equipment for the general hospital. We cannot just only secure hospital equipment, clothing books, all sorts of things that might not be used in the UK, now we can relate with people, you know, like shoes. I have driven past kids and I saw them with no shoes and I was like okay, come let me give you something. So in terms of if we’re going to be nested by the grace of God will be for them because I’m not just looking at a five-year plan. If you think your 20-year plan, and by the grace of God, what will be targeted for each of your goals, as the target for this year is to feed at least 10,000 people we’ve fed over 3000 and trained 20 people. We have also done our part in securing crutches and wheelchairs for people, who truly need them. We would be distributing it soon. So, the people we take in to feed will benefit from some basic needs that we give and then go for training to help integrate them into the society as a working class, then automatically, they will qualify for the home allocation when we complete because they would be able to pay rent and the cycle goes like that for other people till we are able to make a meaningful impact.
You sit behind a registered real estate firm in the UK, is the success of the firm why you are taking up the humanitarian steps in Lagos with Ojo as the first step?
So, our company in the UK is AGFRO Limited deals in properties. We buy to let, sell accommodation, we also help in acquiring commercial properties and our main target is to help students get affordable homes in the UK because one of the issues most students have is when they move to certain areas for university mainly, they find it difficult to secure rooms because some people don’t want to live in the hostels, so they want a place of their own. Hence, I buy properties, break them down and turn them into self contain apartments where they can live in their own private space. We have a couple in Birmingham, Manchester, Leicester, and London. I have been doing that for almost six years but my foundation is registered in Nigeria and currently going to be registered in the UK.