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Industrial real estate backed as the new area of industry growth

Industrial real estate backed as the new area of industry growth

An under supply of A-grade quality warehouses, and high demand by tenants for quality spaces, has presented a number of new opportunities for development in East Africa.

In Kenya, the industrial scene is slowly starting to grow and it is soon expected to change the landscape of the country, largely due to key logistics developments like the Africa Logistics Properties (ALP) developments in Tatu City and Tilisi, Actis’s new foray into the sector, as well as Infinity Industrial Park.

According to the Broll Kenya Market Report H1 2017, to be launched on 5 April at the EAPI Summit in Nairobi, key challenges within the industrial market still comprise an undersupply of A-grade quality warehouses, lack of multiple access points from warehouses to major highways, increased levels of traffic in and around Nairobi, and incomplete government projects which are meant to boost the manufacturing sector.

“Kenya’s strategic location makes it a critical transportation hub for logistical warehousing,” said Gordon Bell, Director and Head of East Africa Operations, Broll Property Group.

Unpacking this growing trend, this year’s EAPI summit will once again feature leading real estate development and investment companies from over 23 countries, including representation from all country members of the East African community.

“This year’s EAPI Summit agenda focuses on unlocking new areas of growth for East Africa’s real estate markets. In keeping with the growing interest and opportunities in the regions’ logistics industry, we have been able to bring together the sector’s largest investors, developers and operators. CDC, Emerge Developments, The IFC, Actis, ALP, Improvon, Chandaria Group and Bollore Logistics will all share their views on how to tap into East Africa’s lucrative industrial sector,” said Kfir Rusin, Managing Director of API Events.

The cost of moving goods in Africa is estimated to be on average two or three times higher than in developed countries and transport costs can count for as much as 50-75 per cent of the retail price of goods. The recent announcement by the CDC Group, in partnership with the IFC, to invest in ALP’s Nairobi developments, shows growing investor support for development on the continent and in particular Kenya.

“The existing logistics and supply chain industry across Africa is extremely fragmented and inefficient due to a lack of quality fit-for-purpose infrastructure. This has hampered the development of much needed supply chain and distribution operating efficiency improvements, said Toby Selman, CEO Africa Logistics Properties.

“Africa Logistics Properties is addressing this by developing the first pan-African portfolio of built-for-purpose modern grade-A logistics and distribution centres across key target Africa capital cities for the occupier rental market. Our first two projects will be in Nairobi and our pipeline stretches across Sub-Saharan and North African cities,” he said.

The lack of quality international standard warehousing space has long been a constraint on business growth and economic development. Such new developments now aim to improve operational efficiencies by reducing waste from poor storage, increasing the speed of product delivery and improving product security.

Commercial property development within Sub-Saharan Africa has, over the last decade, been concentrated on both the retail and office sectors, while logistics development has been side-lined, often due to uncertainty over market demand.

With volumes increasing, so has the demand for high quality space from retailers and consumer goods manufacturers seeking to expand their African operations and improve distribution networks and supply chains. A number of logistics and industrial parks are in the pipeline as part of wider urban developments such as Rendeavour’s Tatu City near Nairobi and Roma Park in Lusaka. Well situated near main ports, these locations have been identified as hotspots for logistics developers.

It is yet to be proven, however, that occupiers can be attracted in large numbers into the new developments:

“Although clearly dissatisfied with their existing accommodation, occupiers need to accept that gaining the efficiencies of modern space could mean moving further out of town and may lead to rent increases of up to 50 per cent. This will be the big test for Actis and ALP,” said James Hoddell, MD of Emerge Developments.

“Looking at the rapid growth of demand for warehousing in East Africa, the future of the African logistics sector is a topic we can no longer ignore. There are important questions that need to be answered, as affordability is still a problem. Can the industry adopt technology to bring the building costs associated with warehousing down? In terms of return on investment, how does warehousing compare with commercial and retail sectors? These discussions will be important for the future growth of this sector on the continent,” said Rusin.

With more than 400 delegates registered to attend, this year’s summit will also discuss the move into Kenya’s counties, new infrastructure projects, student housing, retail oversupply vs opportunity, as well as the growing role of pension funds in East African real estate.

The two-day conference will be held from the 5-6 April at the Radisson Blu, in Nairobi, Kenya.

Some of the notable companies in the industry attending include Fusion Capital, Africa Logistics Properties, The IFC, Old Mutual, Sanlam, Mara Delta, Stanlib, Jones Lang Lasalle, Stanbic Bank, The NSE and Safaricom Pension Fund.