Uganda’s property sector holds considerable potential. Jaco Maritz spoke to the general manager of Kensington Real Estate about her company’s current projects and where the opportunities lie in Uganda’s property market.
Give us a brief overview of Kensington’s major projects in Uganda to date
Kensington Real Estate is a key player in Uganda’s real estate scene. It is an international corporation with offices in Kampala, Dubai and London, [and] with sister concerns in Ghana and India. Our first development in Uganda was the Sunset View Homes. We then developed Kensington Signature Homes comprising only eight spacious four-bedroom homes of about 250 m2. Kensington Luxury Heights is our current and biggest development to date with 149 houses ranging from two- to five-bedroom homes. We offer homes for the different stages in life, from the single occupant to a family household. The complex will provide residents with a private lifestyle offering a fully serviced commercial centre, recreational area, nursery school, sports facilities and a lot more.
All of these projects are situated in the capital, Kampala.
It looks as if Kensington is mainly involved in providing housing for the upper-end of the market. Are there any plans to develop low-cost housing estates?
Our developments differ. Sunset View Homes and Kensington Signature Homes were built for the upper-end. Our current development, Kensington Luxury Heights, situated in Kisaasi, is not specifically designed for an exclusive class of people. Our home owners are quite diverse and anybody who has a high standard lifestyle and a dream of owning a home can do so. Yes, we do have plans for low-cost houses in the future.
How well developed is Uganda’s mortgage industry? Is it easy for Ugandans to get mortgage facilities?
The mortgage market is still at the primary level. Given the high mortgage interest rates, it would take a while before the market reaches a fully fledged secondary level. Property prices for both rentals and sales are quite high, and not proportionate to salary levels. While a number of banks are providing mortgage financing, houses on the market today are still out of reach for the majority of Ugandans who would want to own a home.
Where are the major opportunities in Uganda’s property sector?
Low-cost homes. Currently most developers have targeted the middle- to upper-income bracket. The current housing estates are located about eight kilometres out of [Kampala’s] city centre. The government needs to assist developers by constructing good roads, like the recently opened northern bypass. Traffic jams are a discouragement for people who want to reside out of the city centre.
With a population of about 26 million people and one city, there is definitely room for expansion. Developing satellite towns with adequate facilities on the outskirts of Kampala will be most ideal and also see some development in other small towns.
We have [also] seen a rise in the development of commercial buildings of international standard.
What is your message to foreign property developers looking to invest in Uganda’s market?
I would advise developers to study the market, once you choose your segment then build accordingly. Property development still has great open potential in Uganda. There is a serious shortage of housing especially for the lower-end [of the market] although the land prices can be prohibitive. Slowly the concept of cluster houses is being accepted. Kensington Africa Limited is one of the pioneers in housing estate [developments] and has been instrumental in changing the attitude of people towards cluster living.