While the country continues to manage its external debt obligations; regional investors and developers remain attracted to the multiple opportunities in the market, says Novare Equity Partner’s John Causey. As the country head of one of the continent’s most active commercial real estate investors, the firm currently has more than $100 million invested in commercial property projects in Zambia.
Speaking ahead of the one-day ZamReal Property Forum, Causey is one of several high-profile private sector investors, developers and public-sector stakeholders who will be on stage at this year’s event to be held at the Taj Pamodzi Hotel in Lusaka.
Having made significant investments in some of Africa’s most attractive, but volatile emerging markets including Nigeria and Mozambique, Causey’s view of African investment is pragmatic and is based on the firm’s wealth of African experience.
“Sub-Saharan Africa’s prospects have arguably moderated since the release of McKinsey’s Lions on the Move report in 2010. However, significant opportunities on the continent remain for hands-on investors and developers, with teams on the ground, and investment decisions driven by sound financial and business principals,” he says.
For Causey, high levels of debt are not isolated to Africa or a just an emerging markets phenomenon. “Many countries throughout the globe have opted to take on relatively large debt burdens, Zambia is no exception,” he says.
The challenge, he explains is that if investment is not done wisely, it can negatively impact the country’s ability to grow its economy and repay the debt, which can impact future development projects.
“High sovereign debt levels not invested wisely limit efficacy of fiscal and monetary policies, reduce spending power of citizens, slow GDP growth and reduce the capacity to borrow in the future for important infrastructure and similar projects,” says Causey.
With the majority of the African continent’s economies experiencing a return to improved GDP growth rates, Zambia continues to remain one of the firm’s most important destinations for investment says Causey.
“Novare has made significant investments into Zambia since 2016 with more to follow in 2018 and 2019. Those investments include: three modern retail centres, and an office building which will serve as the Zambia head office for Standard Chartered Bank.”
The decision to invest in Zambia is driven, he says, by “high GDP growth rates, emergent middle class, high penetration of existing retailers in the market and positive business climate in general”.
Causey’s sentiments are shared by the host of ZamReal, API Events Managing Director, Kfir Rusin who says the industry and investors continue to remain positive and bullish, which is evident in the annual evolution of the forum and the market.
“This is our third annual event and this year we’ve changed venues to accommodate a larger number of delegates and speakers, which is reflective of the positive outlook and the evolving maturity and public-sector participations in one Africa’s most attractive markets,” says Rusin.
He adds: “The Government’s support in creating an investment friendly and attractive environment has been critical, and we’re honoured to have the Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Development, the Hon. Ronald Chitotela, headline the event and provide a fitting opening to this year’s conference.”
For Causey, the one-day forum is pivotal to the growth of the property sector and their business as it provides ample learning and networking opportunities with both private and public-sector stakeholders.
“ZamReal has quickly established itself as the primary property conference in Zambia. It adds value to the local market and regional investors by offering a platform to network, learn and present. As Benjamin Franklin once wrote, ‘an investment in knowledge always pays the best interest’,” says Causey.
Rusin concludes: “We’re looking forward to hearing the Novare story, who are definitely one of Africa’s most exciting and forward-thinking property investors. Anyone interested in the economic prospects of the country, and property in general, will be fascinated to hear how one of Zambia’s largest foreign investors with more than 40,000 square metres of lettable space is forging ahead.”