In the last decade Zimbabwe has weathered political and economic instability that has left investors with little appetite to do business there. But global property portal Lamudi sees the country as an important market for its growth in Africa.
Despite the history of economic hardship, violent elections, hyperinflation and economic sanctions, Lamudi see Zimbabwe as a “promising market”, according to Mustafa Suleimanji, managing director for Lamudi in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique.
He tells How we made it in Africa there is growing internet penetration in the country, increased construction in the capital Harare and secondary cities, as well as a rising number of young, well-educated Zimbabweans who are interested in renting property.
“Although the middle class is not growing there as fast as in other markets, there are definitely many intelligent Zimbabweans who aspire to improve their careers and earn more. There are young people coming out of university, getting married, starting families, moving into nice houses and spending more,” he says.
Lamudi is an online real estate marketplace where property owners and agents list their property for rent or for sale. In the four markets he oversees, Suleimanji says Zimbabwe is top in having the highest number of property agents that use the internet.
“Zimbabweans are very entrepreneurial people. The number of property agents that use the internet for business specifically is highest in Zimbabwe. Higher than in Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique,” he says.
Suleimanji explains these agents run websites, upload listings and “actively use the internet as a tool for business”.
“The competition we see between agents in Zimbabwe is similar to Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique. They have some beautiful houses in Harare and I would definitely urge investors to visit. I think it is at the cusp of growth.”
Potential for technology businesses
Zimbabwe has a mobile penetration rate of more than 100% with about 13.5m mobile phone subscribers according to statistics issued January 2014. The number has grown dramatically from just 3m in 2009 when the country started using the US dollar.
Beyond online property portals, Suleimanji says Zimbabweans are also increasingly buying goods online, adding there is potential for growth in e-commerce. Last year global payment giant Paypal launched in the country making it possible for local businesses and consumers to purchase goods and services from 203 countries.
At Muzinda, Zimbabwe’s first technology hub, over 1,000 hopeful entrepreneurs are signed up as members and receive training and support to build their technology businesses.
Nonetheless, Suleimanji says the Zimbabwean economy still faces many challenges, and in the property sector there is a lot of price fluctuation.