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The Coronavirus Is Beginning to Affect Real Estate

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Corona Virus

The coronavirus has by now touched every aspect of daily life, inspiring fears of both economic instability and the outside world more generally. It’s been a particularly challenging and uncertain time for real estate, with the current pandemic reshaping both high-level market forces as well as the ground-level process of buying and selling property.

During a moment of increased caution and restricted movement, a New York Times article demonstrates how real estate agents have drastically augmented their process for showing and selling homes. That process involves everything from enhanced cleanings before and after showings to restrictions on touching certain fixtures, countertops, and appliances. Instead of truly “open” open houses, prospective buyers are sometimes forced to preregister so sellers and brokers can gauge how interested they are in buying—and make sure they’re feeling healthy enough to come by. The fact that sellers are increasingly shut in at home also makes setting up viewings more difficult.

That’s added up to a significant decrease in showings. According to data from New York metro area company Halstead Property cited by the Times, there were only 3,900 showings scheduled (not counting many cancellations) for the weekend of March 14–15, down from a typical 5,500 to 6,000. In some cases, pre-filmed video walkthroughs or FaceTime tours have filled the gap. But some, like William Raveis NYC managing director Kathy Braddock, concede that this has its drawbacks: “Obviously, being able to go see the property is the best way to see the property,” she told the Times.

Beyond the complicated logistics of realty in the time of coronavirus, the situation has sent conflicting signals to buyers and sellers as the threat of a recession looms. Despite the New York area emerging as one of the U.S.’s epicenters of the coronavirus, an Olshan Realty report found that 21 Manhattan apartments priced at or above $4 million were sold during the week ending March 15, up from an average of 19 for the first 11 weeks of 2020. However, the dollar value of these transactions ($128.5 million) fell significantly from the prior week’s roughly $216.7 million.Become an AD PRO Member

Those statistics seem to track with the subtle shifts in buying-and-selling behavior observed by a flash surveyof more than 70,000 National Association of Realtors residential members from March 9 and 10. While the majority of members reported no change to buyer and seller behavior as of yet, 9% say they’ve seen an increase in sellers as a result of favorable borrowing rates rates they hope to take advantage of by selling quickly and then moving.

However, buyers seem less optimistic. Thirteen percent of all NAR members noted decreased buyer interest in their given market, with a further 3% observing a significant decrease. Those decreases were even more pronounced in Washington (16% decrease, 3% significant decrease) and California (16% decrease, 5% significant decrease), two of the emerging West Coast epicenters of COVID-19 cases at the time of the survey. That disparity in interest could create a climate that’s ultimately favorable to buyers, but it’s too early to tell what course the situation will take.

The lack of certainty around the situation has encouraged some larger commercial real estate players to pause their acquisitions for the time being. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, Origin Investments has “indefinitely postponed” $241 million worth of apartment building deals out of fears they may be overpaying in a declining market.

“The market has changed, and our pricing needs to reflect the new normal, because closing at these prices today would undoubtedly lead to lower performance than our initial projections,” Origin principals Michael Episcope and David Scherer said in an email. “We believe this is a time to take risk off the table.”

Given how both the scope of the pandemic and the nature of governmental responses to it seem to change practically by the hour, it will be hard to predict exactly where things stand in the real estate market. With Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and HUD announcing a moratorium on all foreclosures and evictions through the end of April, it’s possible that the situation could stabilize before anything too drastic happens. Still, the one thing you can count on at a moment like this is to expect the unexpected.

Must See: The Church Building carved out of rock

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Hewn out of solid rock, the extraordinary church of St. George (Bet Giorgis), Ethiopia, represents one of the wonders of the medieval world. Dating from the late 12th or early 13th century AD, the construction of the church is ascribed to King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela, one of the last kings of the Zagwe dynasty. 

The roof, in the form of the crucifix, is the most visible part of Bet Giorgis from the surrounding terrain. The interior attests to how cosmopolitan this part of Africa was at this time. There are images, carvings and influences from all over Christendom and beyond: a two-headed eagle you’d have been more likely to see in Constantinople; the star of David with the cross carved inside it; and carvings that resemble Greek icons. In the words of the 16th-century Portuguese explorer Francisco Alvares, Bet Giorgis has “edifices, the like of which cannot be found anywhere in the world”.

extraordinary church of St. George (Bet Giorgis), Ethiopia

It is located near town of Lalibela, which is situated roughly 640 km north of the country’s capital, Addis Ababa. This town contains a remarkable collection of monolithic, rock-cut churches. Eleven in total, these buildings were erected in and around the year 1200 and are a testament to the skills of Ethiopia’s medieval stone masons.

The church of St. George stands proud in a 25m by 25m wide pit that is carved out of solid volcanic rock. The construction of the church involved excavating a free-standing block of stone out of the bed-rock and then removing all the waste material from around it. The stone masons then carefully chiseled away the church outline, shaping both the exterior and interior of the building as they went. They fashioned a simple yet exceptionally beautiful cruciform structure approximately 12 m high.

The church contains three west-facing doorways, nine ‘blind’ lower level windows and twelve upper-row windows. A number of the windows are embellished with carved semi-­palette cross motifs, while the roof of the structure contains a sequence of Greek crosses in relief, one inside the other. The church grounds are accessed via a descending trench and tunnel, which allow access to a sunken courtyard surrounding the building. This contains a small baptismal pool, while its vertical walls have a number of caves that are used as basic housing for priests and as burial tombs.

Still a place of pilgrimage for members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church,  Bet Giorgis (St. George’s) now forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela“.

Africa Proptech Forum to disrupt Africa’s Real Estate Sector

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Taking place at WeWork’s first African office location, The Link, Johannesburg on the 1st of October 2019, the Africa Proptech Forum is hosted in collaboration with Proptech Africa and the continent’s leading real estate gathering, the 10th annual Africa Property Investment (API) Summit (https://APIevents.com). 

Attracting significant attention from private and institutional investors; funding for Proptech has grown significantly from $20 million in 2008 to an average of $12BN annually since 2016 with the number startups and seed funding rising each year, comments the co-founders of Proptech Africa, Sean Godoy and noted African real estate advisor, Kevin Teevoorengadum.

This year’s Africa Proptech Forum will provide select Startups with an opportunity to pitch their disruptive business models to Africa’s most high-profile real estate investors and developers. The opportunity to ‘pitch’ to a high profile and diverse gathering of capital players is fundamental to the growth of this emerging sector, says Godoy, especially as more and more venture capital funds look to Africa’s growing markets for the next big Unicorn. 

“There is more capital available, and this year we will have a number of investors attending and two of our keynote speakers include Clive Butkow of Kalon Partners and Ashwin Ravichandran, the Managing Director of African tech incubator MEST.”

With both having recently closing significant seed funds transactions with Kalon investing $660,000 in Flow, a South African Proptech Firm, and MEST confirming the African 11 startups that will receive $100,000.000 in funding by what is one of Africa’s influential tech incubators. 

What is Proptech? 

Defined as the use of information technology (IT) to help individuals and companies research, buy, sell and manage real estate, Proptech is still emerging in Africa says Godoy. But with 6,000 Proptech firms registered globally according to event partner, Unnisu, this new frontier will play a key role across every aspect of real estate on the continent. 

Data & its role in attracting investment 

“A number of startups especially in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, SA, and Botswana are pioneering the use of digital technology to leapfrog ahead and overcome traditional market challenges, such as land titles, mortgages, leasing, tenants, while also providing greater improved data and transparency for investors seeking to invest in new markets and assets,” says Godoy.  

The improvement in data collection for the API Summit’s Kfir Rusin is important as “it mitigates one of the continent’s historical pain points, while also showcasing the scale of opportunity and value for investors considering investing in Proptech.”

Taking place on 1 October, at WeWork’s first of predicted future African office locations, the Proptech Forum is the perfect addition to Africa’s real estate most significant annual gathering of property stakeholders from 32 countries and 285 companies. 

Pitching and Networking 

“Proptech is growing exponentially. We’ve created a unique platform where African focused startups can pitch and meet with our investors, all of whom have access to deeper pools of capital,” comments Rusin.  

Adding that, “Proptech in Africa represents a significant billion-dollar opportunity and to host at WeWork, one of the World’s most transformative and high-profile startups is an example of the opportunity that Proptech Startups have on the continent.”  

Featuring presentations by acknowledged industry thought leaders from across Africa’s most technologically savvy markets, including MEST’s Ashwin Ravichandran; Estate Intel’s Dolapo Omidire of Nigeria; Sethebe Manake of Botswana, Prof Francois Viruly of the University of Cape Town; Kevin Teevoorengadum, Clive Butkow of Kalon Partners and more. According to Godoy, these speakers will detail how Proptech will disrupt the entire property ecosystem, the “world’s most valuable, but conservative asset class.”

The rampant proliferation of Proptech, and subsequent investment, is due to the inherent ‘vertical’ integration opportunity between real estate and technology across the entire value chain says Godoy.  As Butkow, one of Africa’s most seasoned VC’s, perspective is that Proptech Startups have to “disrupt the current legacy property sector, being leases or buying and positively impact the customer experience”, and simply automating current or liquidated industry Practice.

Africa’s Real Estate Sector Continues To Evolve Despite Market Volatility

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Over the last year changes in Africa’s regulatory environments, coupled with constant swings in commodity prices as well as heightened political and economic tensions, have resulted in ongoing volatility in the continent’s real estate markets. Despite this, fundamental demand-supply imbalances continue to present a largely attractive long-term investment outlook and thereby drive demand for real estate investment opportunities. As a consequence, there has been significant interest from both domestic and international investors as well as some – albeit marginal – growth noted in the market during this period.

“This growth points to an evolution in the continent’s real estate sector as well as to the urgent need for investors in this space to adapt their approach in line with this evolution and to seek out more economically sustainable ways to participate effectively in these markets,” according to Niyi Adeleye, Head of Real Estate Finance for Africa Regions at Standard Bank.

Given the volatility which Africa’s economies are generally subject to, more patient, long-term strategies for delivering value also need to be adopted and thorough market research, conducted as well as ‘Fit for Purpose’ solutions, applied.

A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach does not work in Africa and it is crucial that sufficient time and resources are put into understanding the vast and varied markets that call the continent home.

The more traditional private equity funding model has begun to fall out of favour and in order to effectively navigate the current environment, investors are now increasingly taking portfolio views and evolving from short-term to more permanent real estate investment structures.

“When the size of an economy does not allow for the scale that investors are looking for, this limits the depth and size of the investments that they are able to make in that economy,” says Mr Adeleye. “We are however, now seeing a shift towards more diversified markets and the evolution of previously untapped asset classes, as well as the emergence of a new breed of investor class,” he adds.

Historically, the markets have been dominated by developers or development entities creating assets but ‘property aggregators’ are now buying properties out at reasonable levels of discount and creating investment theses for them to achieve their return objectives. This demonstrates a level of depth within the markets and, once again, speaks to the evolution thereof, which is creating a demand for new asset classes and triggering the start of a new cycle of development and acquisition, with increased sustainability built into the structure.

Real estate investment offers long term, stable return profiles and continues to represent an exciting opportunity for the deployment of local savings for broader investment and economic growth. And while African real estate investment has traditionally focused on top end, global quality opportunities aimed at attracting hard currency funding; these markets are today rapidly developing the infrastructure that connects their economies to the world and making middle and lower end real estate opportunities more attractive to investors.

“Standard Bank offers in-country presence and insight, a multi-jurisdictional view and capability across 20 African markets. As our clients evolve with the markets in which they operate, so too do we, both in supporting their aspirations and in helping them meet the demands of this constantly changing environment,” says Mr Adeleye.

Africa: Real estate opportunities

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Commercial real estate development in sub-Saharan Africa is booming. Rapid urbanisation, a wealthier population and a rapidly growing middle class, re-location of businesses, and travel to Africa for business and tourism are driving demand for new and modern offices, hotels and retail malls.

Development is not uniform across the continent, but the appetite for developers and lenders is becoming broader. Development in Africa is not without its difficulties, however, and there are hurdles to be overcome when investing in, or financing, a commercial real estate development.

Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya are currently the most active jurisdictions. Development in these countries is focused primarily around the urban centres of Accra, Lagos and Nairobi – both in inner city and out-of town-developments.

Nigeria is attractive because it is West Africa’s largest consumer market, with a burgeoning middle class and investor appetite. Many have predicted that it will overtake South Africa as the continent’s largest economy by 2016. The Eko Atlantic development in Lagos gives an indication of the scale of development taking place, with land reclamation work under way to create a development of over 10sq km.

Nairobi has become a focal point for eastern Africa, as Kenya continues to establish itself as an economic hub for the region. The city itself is also emerging as a centre of excellence in technology – ‘Silicon Savannah’ – and the recent development of oilfields is spurring investment and growth across Kenya. Further down the east coast, Tanzania and Mozambique are also focus markets for developers and financiers, with the recent world-class discoveries of offshore gas in these jurisdictions, complemented by the favourable risk profiles of Maputo and Dar es Salaam compared with their regional counterparts, making them the subject of intense interest and investment over the past two years.

Other countries are also attracting interest. Angola is currently the third largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa and presents a wealth of opportunities with its growing middle class. Moreover, Luanda houses some of the world’s most expensive commercial real estate due to severe supply-demand imbalances, and which present a clear market for new development.

In terms of sectors, in offices Africa is experiencing growth in manufacturing, technology and telecoms, finance and business services, as well as continued investment in its natural resources sector – both in terms of exploration and exploitation of reserves but also in processing to capture greater downstream value. International companies investing in these sectors expect international-grade office space from which to run their businesses. The continent is drastically undersupplied with high-quality commercial property, particularly with the continuing rise in demand.

Across Africa there is an expanding population – and, in particular, a young population that is increasingly brand conscious. South African retailers, such as Shoprite, Game and Pick ‘n’ Pay, are extending their operations across the continent and are at the forefront of the international players seeking to take advantage of this captive consumer market. They are typically seen among the anchor tenants in the wave of retail mall developments coming to market. Other international retailing brands such as Topshop, Zara and Walmart are also looking to expand into Africa. This combination of consumer demand and ability to pre-let units are two fundamental pillars supporting mall development in Africa.

Finally, the growing middle class in Africa and increased overseas travel to Africa has exacerbated the supply-and-demand imbalance for luxury hotels. Africa is currently experiencing the fastest pace of hotel development in the world, with Marriott International, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and Hilton Worldwide all targeting rapidly growing urban centres. Some of the highest room rates in the world are in cities such as Luanda.

The challenges investors face include a lack of transparency, poor infrastructure, the difficulty in obtaining permits and approvals, currency risk, political risk and cost control.

In Jones Lang LaSalle’s real estate transparency index, key growth countries such as Angola, Nigeria and Ghana are all classified as opaque. Few countries in sub-Saharan Africa have a computerised land registry system through which title to land can be deduced. The process of obtaining and evidencing good title can be lengthy and time consuming. Thorough due diligence is required.

A lack of investment in major infrastructure and power projects could potentially impede continued economic growth and lead to unsustainable future revenue projections for real estate developments. Government support and an ability to attract private-sector financing for these major projects are key to the continued development of these regions.

Various approvals are required for development of real estate projects, such as planning approvals, building permits, environmental permits and health and safety permits, each typically obtained from a separate ministry or department. Lenders will also be keen to ensure that permits are capable of being secured, to ensure that the property is marketable and capable of being sold, with relevant permits in the event of an enforcement. In particular, land rights are typically held by way of lease arrangements with the state or government, and consents are required to ensure the validity of lenders security. Obtaining these consents can cause substantial delays to timetable.

Real estate financing across sub-Saharan Africa (except for smaller in-country facilities) are typically dollar denominated. An ability to denominate facilities in dollars, and to repatriate loaned amounts, is critical for international lenders. Recent legislation in Zambia triggered concern among investors as to whether dollar funding into Zambian projects would be permitted. However, this was subsequently clarified with supplemental legislation to allow dollar funding for international transactions.

Even more recent regulations issued by the Bank of Ghana have raised similar concerns for funding developments in Ghana. The regulations are applicable only to local Ghanaian banks but this has still raised issues for international lenders in terms of initial lender clubs and syndication concerns, as local banks present key sell-down opportunities. Some countries, such Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa, impose a requirement to obtain an exchange control approval, which can result in delays to a financing as lenders will require this prior to funding.

Political stability is critical from both a sponsor and lender perspective and crucial to the success of the project. Real estate projects are particularly vulnerable to expropriation and changes to land rights regimes. Some governments with the foresight to see the benefits of long-term foreign direct investment have measures in place to reassure investors and show a commitment to protecting investors’ assets.  

Real estate development and financing can be costly because of the bureaucracy involved. Lease documentation must typically be registered, with the relevant land registries applying a fee in each case. Security documentation may also be subject to stamping and registration requirements, with amounts often calculated as a percentage of the amount secured. In addition, security over land typically requires consent of the freeholder or head lessor – this is invariably the state or government itself, and often specific fees are prescribed.  

In conclusion, high yields and projected growth make sub-Saharan African real estate appealing to both developers and their lenders. While there are risks and hurdles to overcome, with patience, careful planning, proper due diligence and sensitivity to the time and cost pressures involved, there is an opportunity to reap substantial rewards.

There are a number of well-established developers in the sector, such as Actis, Atterbury and RMB Westport, and the lending market is becoming more liquid, with increasing interest in the sector from international banks and financial institutions. Similarly, new investment funds are being brought to market. With a combination of demand and market participants keen to address the shortage in supply, the next few years look set for substantial growth in the sector.

Daniel Metcalfe is a partner in Norton Rose Fulbright’s infrastructure practice, specialising in emerging markets financing

Interested in Investing in Africa? Here’s How

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Africa’s journey from when it was tagged as the “The Hopeless Continent” on the cover of The Economist in May 2000 to December 2011, when the same publication put “Africa Rising” on its cover (and then “Aspiring Africa” in March 2013) has been anything but boring. Africa has become the newest destination for emerging markets investors. From 2000, according to the World Economic Forum, “half of the world’s fastest-growing economies have been in Africa.” Ghana and Ethiopia showed real GDP growth of over 8% in 2018. 

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Over the last 20 years, Africa has gone from being seen as a “hopeless continent” in terms of its financial potential, to an interesting prospect for emerging market investors.
  • The continent has extensive natural resources, a young and increasingly educated workforce, more stability in terms of governance, and more prospects for economic growth than in years past.
  • For new investors looking to make a small investment, mutual funds or exchange-traded funds make the most sense.
  • More experienced investors may also consider American depositary receipts (ADRs) as a way to participate.

Vast Natural Resources

The African continent is incredibly rich in natural resources. It has huge, untapped reserves of natural gas and oil (10% of the world’s reserves) and largely unexploited hydroelectric power. It is home to vast gold, platinum, uranium, iron ore, copper and diamond reserves. Currently, only 10% of Africa’s arable land is being cultivated, yet it holds around 60% of the world’s cultivable land. As such, Africa has become a magnet for foreign direct investment (FDI).

Africa also has the advantage of a large and relatively cheap educated labor force. The continent is undergoing a demographic transformation, with youth as its theme; there is a very high proportion of Africans in their 20s and 30s with fewer dependents – both old and young – that will play out over the next decade.

There is stability in terms of governance; the countries that witnessed terrible periods of unrest have emerged as success stories. There are better policies in place, trade has improved and so has the business environment.

According to the World Economic Forum, by 2030, over 40% of Africans will belong to the middle or upper classes, and there will be a higher demand for goods and services. In 2030, household consumption is expected to reach $2.5 trillion, more than double that of 2015 at $1.1 trillion. 

Much of that $2.5 trillion will be spent in three countries: Nigeria (20%), Egypt (17%) and South Africa (11%). But Algeria, Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Sudan, and Tunisia will attract companies seeking to enter new markets. The sectors expected to grow the most in the next 30 years are food and beverages, education and transportation, housing, consumer goods, hospitality and recreation, healthcare, financial services, and telecommunications.

Stocks Mirror the Economy

Sub-Saharan Africa has around 29 stock exchanges representing 38 countries including two regional exchanges. These exchanges have a lot of disparity in terms of their size and trading volume. The continent has a handful of prominent exchanges and many new and small exchanges that are characterized by small trading volumes and few listed stocks. Efforts are being put in place by all countries to boost their exchanges by improving investor education and confidence, improving access to funds, and making the procedures more transparent and standardized. The table below depicts the dollar-adjusted returns (as of 2018) of select stock exchanges in Sub-Saharan Africa (listed alphabetically).

STOCK MARKET1M1Y3Y5Y10YYTD
Botswana Stock Exchange-1.2%-13.6%-24.9%-28.7%-31.0%-18.5%
BRVM-10.4%-25.2%-39.7%-28.7%-18.2%-31.0%
Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange-2.2%-4.0%-18.5%-21.5%9.0%-15.8%
Egyptian Exchange-9.7%-9.0%-20.9%N/AN/A-12.3%
Ghana Stock Exchange-6.0%8.9%10.3%-38.8%N/A3.5%
Johannesburg Stock Exchange-10.0%-19.4%-15.3%-26.4%58.3%-31.0%
Lusaka Stock Exchange-0.5%-13.7%-3.8%-51.3%-37.3%-16.1%
Malawi Stock Exchange-3.0%33.1%31.8%18.3%N/A28.0%
Nairobi Securities Exchange-4.5%-9.2%5.2%-9.1%73.1%-14.5%
Namibian Stock Exchange-2.4%1.1%20.5%30.2%171.8%-12.6%
Nigerian Stock Exchange-1.1%-12.2%-39.0%-62.2%-71.7%-15.8%
Rwanda Stock Exchange-2.5%-4.6%-36.4%N/AN/A-6.5%
Stock Exchange of Mauritius0.3%1.9%23.7%-1.9%61.3%0.1%
Uganda Securities Exchange-3.4%1.7%-8.9%-26.7%32.9%-13.4%
Zimbabwe Stock Exchange28.9%-0.6%291.4%144.2%N/A58.1%
S&P500-6.9%5.3%30.4%54.4%184.2%1.4

Source: investinginafrica.com

How To Invest

African stock markets come in different flavors, and they require deep understanding to select the appropriate stock exchange. Investing through a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF) is a better bet for small investors looking to taste a bit of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Direct Access

The way to directly access African stocks is to open a local brokerage account. This can be a bit complicated, as investors need to shortlist stocks, as well as stock exchanges. Some of the brokerage firms that cater to foreign investors interested in a single country include:

Tanzania: Orbit SecuritiesVertex Securities;

Kenya: Faida Investment Bank;

Ghana: CAL Brokers, FirstBanc Brokerage Services and Stanbic Bank Ghana Brokerage 

Nigeria: Zenith SecuritiesMeristem and Cowry Securities;

Zimbabwe: EFE Securities and Lynton Edwards;

South Africa: Nedbank Online Trading and Sanlam iTrade.

Some of the noteworthy companies across different exchanges are KenolKobil Ltd.Dangote Cement PLCCRDB BankNational Microfinance Bank (NMB), African AllianceBank of Kigali, Bralirwa Ltd., Equity BankKCB BankARM CementEcobankUBA PlcCIC InsuranceBritamCourteville Business Solutions PLC and Naspers Ltd.

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) is the largest stock exchange in Africa by market capitalization.

ETFs and Mutual Funds

Investing via ETFs and mutual funds comes with the built-in advantage of ease (traded on U.S. exchanges), diversification and professional management. Some of the prominent ones are:

  • The Market Vectors Africa Index ETF (AFK), which tracks some of the largest and most liquid stocks in Africa. It holds about 114 stocks and has a country allocation of Egypt (21.4%), South Africa (20.7%), Nigeria (15%), United Kingdom (12.6%) and Morocco (6.6%).
  • The SPDR S&P Middle East & Africa ETF (GAF) is allocated 78.39% to South Africa, followed by the United Arab Emirates (8.23%), Qatar (7.72%), Egypt (3.97%) and Morocco (1.61%).
  • The iShares MSCI South Africa Index (EZA) is allocated 99.5% to mid-sized and large companies in South Africa in the financial, consumer discretionary and telecommunication services sectors.
  • The Market Vectors Egypt Index ETF (EGPT) gives access to Egypt, the third-largest economy in Africa, with an allocation of around 85%. The remainder is spread to geographically diversify across Luxembourg, Canada, and Ireland.
  • The Global X Nigeria Index ETF (NGE) concentrates on Nigeria with financials, consumer staples, energy, materials, and industrials as the top sectors.
  • The Cloud Atlas Big50 ex-SA ETF (AMIB50:SJ) is an ETF domiciled in South Africa. The exchange-traded fund invests in 50 representative companies across the African continent, excluding South Africa, through 15 African stock exchanges.

Mutual funds that invest in Africa include the Alquity Africa Fund (ALQAFBG:LX), Investec Pan Africa (INVPNAS:GU), Neptune Investment funds II – Neptune Africa Fund (NEPAFRB:LN), JPM Africa Equity (JPMAACU:LX), Commonwealth Africa Fund (CAFRX) and Nile Pan-Africa Fund A (NAFAX).

For market participants new to investing in African companies, mutual funds and ETFs are the safest bet, followed by the American Depositary Receipts of select companies.

ADRs

American depositary receipts (ADRs) are a good way for investors in the United States to pick select African stocks trading on U.S. exchanges. Many of these are natural resources plays, such as AngloGold Ashanti (AU), DRD Gold (DRD), Gold Fields (GFI), Harmony Gold (HMY), Randgold (GOLD), Sibanye Gold and Sasol (SSL). All of the previously mentioned companies are in mining, with the exception of Sasol, which is in the oil and gas business. In addition, MiX Telematics (MIXT) is in the logistics technology business. There is a wider universe of African stocks that trade on the Pink Sheets or over-the-counter (OTC) market. Pink sheets are less regulated and are traded in thin volumes.

The Bottom Line

Africa still has a lot to combat. Political and social unrest, lack of infrastructure and poverty are common problems. But the bigger picture portrays the continent’s progress; increasingly, there is political stability, economic growth, and advances in its banking systems, with better accounting and transparency. There is increasing demand from its growing middle class, and local companies are filling that need expanding. Nobody can predict the growth trajectory with accuracy, but Sub-Saharan Africa is poised for growth.

Disclosure: The author did not hold any of the mentioned stocks/funds at the time this was written.

Ghana’s Real Estate Market: Growth Enhancing, Immense Opportunities For Investors

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PREFACE

There is an increasing demand for residential, as well as commercial property in Ghana amidst low supply in the Real Estate market which has brought about a huge deficit in the sector. The government, together with other developers are trying its best to address this situation. In spite of this, there is an increasing need for investors (both domestic and foreign) in the sector to help close the housing gap or reduce the deficit. In relation to this, we decided to provide a brief analysis of the real estate market in Ghana and to also point out the various areas in the sector that needs the attention of potential investors.

ABSTRACT

This article provides an analysis of the Ghana real estate market which is increasingly becoming one of the most patronized markets in Sub-Saharan Africa. It provides a brief overview of Ghana’s economy and recent developments in the economy, especially in the real estate sector. The article also discusses current trends and segments in the real estate sector and provides some future projections and prospects in the real estate industry in the country.

CURRENT ECONOMY

Ghana’s economy in recent times has been growing at a higher rate compared to other countries in the West African region. For instance, the economy accelerated to 8.1% in 2017 (World Bank 2019). The country’s economy has a market base component with less investment and trade policy barriers. Its natural resource endowment is also massive. Some aspects of the economic growth of the country can be attributed to the oil discovery a few years back, increasing foreign direct investment, agriculture, and industrial development, amongst others. The country, like other African countries, is heavily dependent on its agriculture sector to provide for most of its economic needs and also employs a large number of the labor force in the country. The sector contributes to about 20% of the country’s GDP (CIA, 2019). The major commodities that generate foreign exchange for the country are cocoa, oil, and gold. According to the World Bank (2019), the economy accelerated to 8.1% in 2017 attributed to growth in the oil and mining sector. The economy’s growth in 2018 was much slower compared to that of 2017 with a figure of 5.6%. However, growth in 2019 is expected to be higher with a target of 7.4%, which is much higher than the 5.6% in 2018 (World Bank 2019). This is also expected to be driven by the oil, gas and mining sectors.

The economy is being faced with various challenges, some of which are the issue of electricity and its distribution amidst falling oil prices. This notwithstanding, there is the recent crisis in the banking industry where bank owners are losing their firms due to the financial sector clean up by the current administration. This is happening as a result of the failure of these banks to meet the minimum requirement set by the Central Bank of Ghana. In spite of this, the business environment in Ghana is still sound and booming.

One sector that is growing at a faster pace at the moment in Ghana is the real estate industry. The sector is being patronized by both domestic and foreign investors or multinational organizations who want either office space or accommodation for their workers and expatriates.

REAL ESTATE MARKET

The real estate sector in Ghana has become one of the most interesting sectors, moving at a significantly faster pace. There was an upsurge in the demand for a real estate property, spurring growth in the sector from 2007 to 2013. Growth in the sector, however, slowed alongside the fall in commodity prices in 2014 and the depreciation of the cedi in 2016 and 2017. These affected the demand in the real estate sector. In 2017, the government of Ghana started making efforts to boost the sector by abolition the value-added tax of 5% on sales in the real estate market.

The real estate development sector has three major areas whose activities are facilitated by the banks and the mortgage markets. These areas are the public sector real estate development, private sector real estate development and private individuals. The private sector participation in the real estate market is massive and impressive compared to that of the government which is minimal.

The three major segments come with three different segments, thus, the residential, commercial and industrial segments. According to the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (hereafter, GIPC) (2019), the property market in Ghana is dominated by residential and commercial developments with the residential market being the most active. Transactions in the residential market alone can be estimated at 85,000 yearly since the past decade, valuing around US$1.7billion (GIPC, 2019). The commercial segment is the second-largest while the industrial market is significantly smaller in size. The residential ones are mostly patronized by first-time homeowners, retirees, seniors, newlyweds, new parents and other individuals of related interests. The commercial market mostly consists of sale and demand for property for retail and office space whereas the industrial segment comprises warehousing facilities and light industrial parks.

There has been an upsurge in demand for housing in the urban areas of the country, especially in Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi owing to the increasing number of migrants from then rural areas to these areas. Aside from this, these three are the most populous cities in the country hence the demand for either accommodation or office space for the businesses by individuals as well as companies and other agencies is on the rise. However, the real estate developers in the country have not been able to meet the yearly demand for housing in the country. According to the Ministry of Water Resource Works and housing, the high demand for real estate in the country has brought about housing deficit with a rate being purge at 2.5 million units in 2019. To address this situation, the government is entering into a partnership with private real estate developers in others to provide access to affordable homes to individuals. A typical example is the official launch of the National Housing Policy in 2017, the establishment of the National housing fund and the construction bank to help individuals and real estate developers to access loans to finance real estate development projects. A recent intervention is the launch of the US$5 billion affordable housing project in Accra by the Ministry of Works and Housing, done in collaboration with the United Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and Sustainable Housing Solutions (SHS) in August 2019.

These notwithstanding, there are lots of investment opportunities in the real estate sector. For instance, there is a high demand for hostels in various public and private universities. Real estate developers (both foreign and domestic) who wish to invest in this sector could look at constructing hostel in and around these universities. Hotels are also on high demand in the country and as such investing in this area would be very beneficial to the property developers.

FUTURE PROJECTIONS

The real estate sector in Ghana has come to stay. It is going to be the backbone of the economy in the next few years. The sector is going to keep expanding alongside the growing population of the country as well as the booming oil sector. This, in turn, would bring about an increase in the economic growth of the country. On one hand, the increase in Ghana’s population would increase the individual’s demand in the real estate market, which would eventually boost the economic growth of the country. On the other hand, the economy will grow as the oil sector grows which increases the income level of some individuals who in turn affects the real estate market. This shows the strong correlation between the real estate sector and the economic growth of the country Also, there is an increasing level of foreign investors coming into the country. This would increase the demand in the sector, hence the growth in the economy of the country.

The real estate sector has a lot to offer individual Ghanaian citizens, foreigners, multinational organizations and travelers alike. In relation to this, we expect that investors, both domestic and foreign would continue to show greater interest in the real estate market alongside the increasing demand in the market.

MARKET ASSESSMENT FROM R.E.S.C. GHANA LIMITED

R.E.S.C. Ghana Limited is a real estate firm that specializes in property & facilities management, brokerage, and construction. Their expertise in the market is proven by their high-quality work in their projects as well as the positive feedback from their clients. The two founders (Kwasi Nti-Kyei and Kwabena Owusu Asare) shared their assessment of the current position of the real estate market in Ghana:

Currently, the real estate market is saturated and contributed to by the “over-exploitation” particularly of the luxury residential and commercial sectors by many investors/developers since the market boost dating from 2007 (primarily due to the oil found) with rates hitting a summit. As a result, there is a high supply as opposed to demand and this comes with the inevitable decline in rates and huge competition amongst real estate developments.

Our observation over the years at R.E.S.C. Ghana Limited has seen the unfortunate situation where investors continue to follow this trend and continue to add to this sector of real estate despite the aforementioned circumstances. The results needless to mention is the further decline of the rates and ROI. These actions have caused a huge void in sectors of the real estate industry which has higher potential yield projections, ROI, innovative and yet still remain un-tapped or unexploited and are a huge opportunity for investors and developers looking to diversify their real estate portfolio. Some of these are:

  • Affordable innovative housing targeting the low and middle class of Ghana. These classes of incomes have grown immensely in the past 10years and continues to grow. Affordable housing with middle and low-income class earners as the target group is the future of real estate investments in Ghana.
  • Self-Sufficient towns and neighborhood developments are rarely seen in Ghana. Land with residential land use are sold without plan, buildings constructed on waterways or even areas without already prepared layouts for tarred access roads, water supply, electricity, telephone, internet etc., new neighborhoods created without proximity to healthcare facilities, basic retail services, transportation, schools, sport and recreational facilities, playground for children just to mention a few.
  • Recreational real estate developments (theme parks, water parks, food courts, family entertainment centers leisure parks etc.).

Any real estate investment made to delve into the above sectors of the real estate market in Ghana will not only have a solid and secure ROI but will be a solution to a problem and a major step taken to point our country’s development towards the right direction.

At R.E.S.C. Ghana Limited our real estate experts and consultants, has, over the years actively researched and done feasibility studies to support these opportunities. We encourage investors and developers to contact us so that we can help them make an informed decision by guiding them efficiently and effectively.

MARKET ASSESSMENT FROM CROWN LUSŚO

Crown Lusśo is a modern real estate firm attracting younger adults through innovative marketing and sales strategies. Crown Lusśo has mid to high-end residential and commercial properties for rent and for sale. The founder and CEO, Nehemiah Ofori-Kumah, has years in the market and has proved himself as a savvy real estate agent to owning his own firm.

Real estate is one of the most fast-paced industries in Ghana. With the endless demand for luxury and affordable housing solutions, developers find themselves constantly having to create a supply for the ever-growing potential homeowners’ needs. However, some more flexibility is needed in home-acquisition. Some examples may be monthly rent payments or reduced lease duration. Policies tailored around the above-suggested solutions ought to be created to enable young and budding potential home seekers to acquire homes-rent or sale. This is where Crown Lusśo steps in. 

Whenever new opportunities arise, Crown Lusśo works incessantly to furnish our clients with the most gripping home acquisition experience possible. The one constant,  Lusśo’s founding philosophy, “Offer the client the best/matchless service pick: luxury and affordability.”

Another important thing to note is the volatility of the market mainly due to the presence of foreign investment (human and financial) into the country. The fewer expats we have in the country, the less provision for luxury high rise structures and vice versa.

Moving forward, I foresee a lot of high-end design structures located in the prime areas targeted mainly at providing practical and affordable housing solutions to the middle income and working class of the country ultimately establishing a hold in that neglected market.

REFERENCES

 “The idea of owning a land by Robert Gilman”. Retrieved August 15, 2019

 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (2019). Ghana Economy. World Factbook. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/resources/the-world-factbook/geos/gh.html

Ghana Investment Promotion Authority (2019). The Immense Opportunities of Property Development in Ghana. https://www.gipcghana.com/press-and-media/617-the-immense-opportunities-of-property-development-in-ghana.html

Oxford Business Group (2019). New Market Opportunities in Ghana.  https://oxfordbusinessgroup.com/overview/property-potential-market-creating-new-opportunities

Oxford Research Group (2019). Increased activity expected in Ghana’s property market as oil prices rebound. https://oxfordbusinessgroup.com/overview/steady-she-goes-increased-activity-expected-oil-prices-begin-rebound

World Bank (2019). Ghana Overview. https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/ghana/overview

ChinaGoAbroad (2012). Investing in Ghana’s Property Development Sector. http://mobile.chinagoabroad.com

Lagos Architects Forum 2020

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Description

LAF 2020 is the eleventh in series of the annual Lagos Architects Forum, that gathers together top industry professionals and experts in the architecture space and built environment. It is one of the biggest annual professional gatherings in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Why attend LAF 10.0 – Benefits?

  • Learn from industry experts and case studies, local and international
  • Understand the current economic climate
  • Update your skills and learn about current trends in design, development and construction industry
  • Learn about best practices in sustainable development
  • Network with Developers, Architects and key players in the industry
  • …and much more.

Who should attend LAF 10.0 Target Participants?

  • Architects in Private Practice, Academia, Civil Service, Financial Institutions & other Private Organizations
  • Allied Professionals in the Construction Industry (Private Practice, Academia & Civil Service)
  • Policy Makers and Government Agencies and Parastatals
  • Venture Capitalists and Equity Investors
  • Financial and Mortgage Institutions
  • Real Estate Developers and Property Development Institutions

FAQs

How can I contact the organizer with any questions?

Visit our social media pages: @nialagos or call: +234 8098880064.

What are my transportation/parking options for getting to and from the event?

Eko Hotels & Suites has appropriate parking spaces for everyone.

Date And Time

Wed, May 6, 2020, 8:00 AM –

Sat, May 9, 2020, 5:00 PM WAT

Add to Calendar

Location

Eko Hotels & Suites

Plot 1415, Adetokunbo Ademola Street

Victoria Island, Lagos 100001

Nigeria

2020 REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT SUMMIT

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Real Estate Development (RED) summit is curated by GBB Venture to create a B2B event in the real estate industry which allows the collaborators an opportunity to network meaningfully. The core thought-process behind the summit is to eliminate the common pain points that plague the suppliers and project holders across regions.

Thus, through a combination of a rigorous selection process and intelligent design, the RED summit is an amalgamation of personalised face-to-face meetings, purposeful networking sessions, varied investment opportunities along with impactful knowledge sessions & panel discussions.

The 9th Edition of The Real Estate Development Summit Europe is all set to take place in Sheraton Roma Hotel & Conference Center, Rome, Italy on 26th, 27th, and 28th March.

The 9th Edition of Real Estate Development Summit- Europe is going to be bigger, better & buzzier.

We have meticulously curated a platform blending business of definite context, leisure and vacation. Over the course of three days, 50+ top architects, interior designers, developers, hotel operators & owners, consultants and investors working on a plethora of luxury housing, hospitality & mixed use projects in India, Africa & Middle East will engage with renowned manufacturers & solution providers from  around the globe in a formal as well as relaxed and fun filled environment.

The three days will be buzzing with personalized face to face meetings, presentation by top brands, impact knowledge sessions & panel discussions and a lot of vibrant yet nonchalant networking sessions.

The key attendees for the RED summit include executives and key decision makers from the Residential, Hospitality, Commercial, and Mixed-use sectors. Hospitality sector tops the list with 45% attendees. The Residential sector follows with 30% and commercial ranks third with 15%.

The RED summit will be a potential ground for endless opportunities to connect with people pertaining to their respective fields on many different levels through B2B meetings. The predefined agendas in B2B meetings will facilitate in in-depth analysis of preferences of buyers and suppliers and lays a strong foundation for business transactions.To participate in the Summit, or to know more, visit www.redevelopmentsummit.com/europe

or contact GBB at marketing@gbbventure.com.

2020 Africa Property Investment Summit

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Africa Property Investment Summit has helped formalize Africa’s emerging real estate markets. During this period the investment case on the continent has evolved, and today Africa’s divergent markets require dynamic and inspired business strategies that prioritize affordability, future demand, sustainability, and inclusive economic growth. As we move into the next cycle of development, this year’s conference theme – Africa RE-Inspired – will reveal How Africa’s real estate markets have formalized over the last decade, How global real estate trends will impact its future, and How the African real estate investment case compares to other emerging markets.

Conference Date: 30 SEPTEMBER – 01 OCTOBER 2020

Venue: Sandton Convention Centre – Johannesburg, South Africa
Telephone+27 (11) 250 2260

Emailinfo@apisummit.co.za

Websitewww.apisummit.co.za

The Africa Property Investment Summit & Expo (API) is Africa’s largest and most premier real estate event. It connects the most influential local and international Africa property stakeholders, driving investment and development into a wide range of real estate and infrastructure projects and developments across the continent.

Over the last 11years The API Summit has proven to be Africa’s flagship real estate event gathering the region’s most senior investors, developers, operators and professionals and providing the perfect platform to do deals across the region.

The two days is an accumulation of bespoke networking opportunities, learnings and transactions through the extensive range of discussions, networking receptions and a dedicated exhibition area to gain the most traction for your company and brand. This is a stand-alone opportunity to discuss current trends, share industry experiences and enjoy insightful debates with Africa’s top real estate minds.

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