CMM Property Group (CMM) has remained a core part of Zambia’s real estate sector since 1985, proudly existing through the market liberalisation of 1991 and reshaping itself alongside changing industry trends and cultural changes.
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Founder and Group CEO, Chris Mwenya Mulenga, remains at the helm of the real estate firm today and has lofty aspirations for his Company beyond the borders of Zambia.
“When we first started out, property valuation companies were not able to practice real estate; only the government could do this until the market was liberalised in 1991,” he says.
“Although we were the third property Company to set up in Zambia, within a short period of time we excelled as a property valuation firm, becoming the leaders in the sector and opening up branches in Livingstone and Ndola to complement our central head office location in Lusaka.”
The change of government allowed CMM to practice estate agency and add a further string to its bow, with the full repertoire of value-add services across property development and consultancy opened up to the private sector.
As the market has grown, so has the scale of infrastructure projects being undertaken in Zambia, and CMM is now looking at undertaking these larger projects in accordance with changing market demand.
“An emerging middle-class is coming through, which means all the relevant districts require infrastructure such as shopping malls, hotels, lodges, offices and housing. Business is really booming and by leveraging our years of expertise within the country, we are able to offer a total service solution in property consultancy from start to finish; right up to the leasing and sales stage,” explains Mulenga.
Equipped with comprehensive market understanding as one of the oldest property Companies in Zambia, CMM has secured an impressive order book which it has spent the past five years building across a multitude of public-private partnerships (PPPs), often with international investors. Now, the Company is keen to foster good relationships across Africa even as far as the Middle East in order to tap into new growth markets, while encouraging foreign investment into the continent.
“We want customers to choose us for the full service offering so that we can showcase our full potential and capabilities, thus building our reputation in Zambia and beyond. All a client needs to have is a site, and we will take it from there to come up with the best concept and use of the land through to completion,” he details.
As the continent continues to develop and grow, investment in infrastructure will play a vital part in encouraging economic development and this often comes from foreign investors.
In Zambia alone, the government has placed great emphasis on improving infrastructure such as housing, road networks, and amenities in order to create better living conditions for all. “And PPPs play a key part in encouraging this exciting development and the industry is picking up at a fast pace to tackle this challenge,” adds Mulenga.
CMM recently won a tender to build the US government a warehouse for the US embassy to lease in Lusaka while nearby, the Company also won a housing project on an eight acre site which will be a diplomatic complex, complete with a retail element and other amenities. “We are thrilled to be working on this project and the US embassy has already booked 10 units within the complex,” he notes.
“In addition, we are negotiating a substantial PPP between the national housing authority and an American development company, and we will be in consortium with them for the development of approximately 500,000 houses over the next 10 years.”
In order to engender economic development and encourage foreign investors, the Zambia Development agency has created a policy to attract significant foreign direct investment (FDI) and CMM has utilised its reputation among international partners to secure the development of a satellite town in the northern province of Kasama.
Mulenga details: “The project will be on a 722 hectare site and will be accorded with the multi-facility economic zone status (MFEZ) by the Zambia Development Agency. Foreign investors will be rewarded with duty-free tax incentives for working with us on this huge project, making the country more competitive through increased activity in the trade and manufacturing sectors.
“We believe it is vital to encourage local companies to partner with international players so as to upskill their workforce and leverage the experience of others who have undertaken complex projects.”
Completing CMM’s current portfolio in Zambia’s commercial property sector are three shopping mall projects in Kabwe, Kasama and Kalulushi, two office parks in Rhodes Park and Fairview, a hotel and convention centre in Kabwe and a 16-storey mixed-use development in Lusaka which has already secured financing.
Capacity building is one of the core values of CMM Property Group, and by working with likeminded companies in the property business, the Company is helping to foster healthy relationships across the continent and beyond. “Investors are looking for opportunities across the whole of Africa, which means we need to have a presence beyond Zambia and build the right partnerships and joint ventures. For example, we work closely with Knight Frank in Zambia, Fifth Avenue Properties in South Africa, and anywhere else that the opportunity arises for a fruitful relationship.
“Moreover, we are currently assisting a company in Angola with a housing project that will provide 1,000 residences for retired soldiers in Luena,” says Mulenga.
Given its strong – and growing – continent-wide portfolio, CMM has immediate plans to open up offices in Nigeria and Ghana working in conjunction with the right partners. “We also have plans to join the healthy competition in Kenya’s property scene and open an office here in the next five-10 years,” he adds, stating thereafter a move into Rwanda might be on the cards.
African projects and cross-border successes have already inspired CMM Property Group to foster relationships beyond the continent, with a particular focus on the Middle East, and encouraging two-way investment between regions.
“Through a partnership with Universal 21, a property management Company with a presence in Turkey, Istanbul, Dubai and the UK, we now have a platform to sell properties in Turkey; a country where the property market is booming, growing at 20 percent per annum,” Mulenga further highlights.
Once CMM has established an even stronger foothold in Middle Eastern markets, the Company intends to open an office here in a strategic location. “According to figures, there is $180 billion worth of foreign investment available for Africa and other emerging markets from those who are looking towards Africa for their next large scale property development.
“Backed by a solid order book and strong project portfolio, we hope to quickly become a household name in the countries we have earmarked as key growth markets going forward; closely partnering with local companies to improve infrastructures and showcase our end-to-end solution offering with integrity and excellence,” he concludes.