Four Africa-based property and construction companies to look out for

Kampala, Uganda

In a recent report, the London Stock Exchange Group identified Africa’s most inspirational and dynamic private, high-growth companies – ones which have come to the attention of major global investors. Here is a selection of these businesses operating in the property and construction industries.

Kora: Helping to build affordable homes

Kora is spearheading efforts to create affordable housing across Angola. The company is building 40,000 housing units in 15 urban communities across six of the country’s provinces. “There is much talk and debate around affordable housing, yet very little is actually being done,” says CEO Nimrod Gerber. “We are lucky that we had the chance to actually implement this national-scale housing project in Angola.”

The company specialises in fully integrated urban developments, with high-quality affordable housing built alongside the physical and social infrastructure needed to underpin a community, such as roads, energy, water, sewage treatment plants, healthcare and educational facilities. It has achieved all this while working closely with local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

“We are very proud to have succeeded in proving that working with local SMEs can be done on large-scale projects with tight delivery schedules and high standards,” says Nimrod. “Our determination to work this way has forced us to create innovative work methodologies and management procedures that today form the core of our competitive advantage.” Kora is now preparing for further growth, as well as expansion into other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, with the aim of helping the continent meet its growing need for decent, affordable housing.

Nimrod says: “The challenge is to find the ‘golden path’ of collaboration between public and private sectors, and to use the strength of each correctly.

“The private sector by itself will not solve the huge deficit of affordable housing without strong government commitment and risk sharing; and likewise, government cannot solve it without employing the right partners from the private sector.”

Mixta Africa: Sound of the suburbs

New townships are springing up across North and West Africa and Mixta Africa is at the heart of these developments. The real estate developer is involved in projects in Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia and Côte d’Ivoire, having previously worked in Egypt, Algeria and Mauritania.

“While some of these are standalone residential projects, our primary focus is the development of new suburbs,” says Daniel Font, chief operating officer of Mixta Africa. “Our focus is to create a balanced mix of residential and commercial spaces along with well-developed infrastructure and other social amenities that are in short supply across African cities.”

Demand for such developments is only likely to increase in the future, propelled by the continent’s fast-growing population and increasing urbanisation. With supply of affordable housing often lagging behind, however, governments are keen to provide finance and other incentives to developers to help address the problem.

Daniel says: “As a company with significant scale and expertise, Mixta Africa has been able to leverage government schemes of this nature. We have delivered more than 5,000 homes for low-income earners in Morocco and 800 in Senegal in the recent past.

“In Nigeria we are partnering with the federal government for a similar scheme. Our goal over the next two years is to improve our annual production of homes to 5,000 units and by 2022 we expect our annual delivery will have grown to 25,000.”

Mixta Africa is also eyeing expansion into new markets. “Our current focus is on scaling up operations within existing markets by launching new products and diversifying into new cities, particularly in Morocco, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria,” says Daniel. “However, we do also plan to expand into other key African markets that present a compelling opportunity in the next few years, starting with Rwanda, Kenya and Ghana.”

Kyogo Mazinga: Set in stone

Quartz, kaolin, marble, granite – name a stone and there’s a strong chance that Kyogo Mazinga can supply a cut version of it.

The company, based in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, supplies stone veneering in a variety of shapes, colours and textures for both indoor and outdoor use in the construction industry. The firm sources material from local quarries in Uganda and sells the cut stone both in its home market and in a number of nearby countries.

“The biggest opportunity in recent years has been exporting out of the country,” says CEO Sharon Sabiiti. “We have capitalised on this by building capacity and have exported our stones to Rwanda and Kenya.”

Over the next few years, Kyogo Mazinga plans to invest in better machinery and to significantly expand its workforce to take advantage of the growth opportunities. “Our workforce has grown by 30% over the past six years and we expect a similar increase over the next five years,” says Sharon. “Tough economic times haven’t had a big effect on the business directly and we have seen orders come in regardless.”

Although Uganda’s construction industry has managed to weather the difficult economic climate of recent times, it is expected to see some important changes over the coming years, with greater pressure likely to be put on smaller, independent companies as the market becomes more competitive.

“The players in the building and construction industry – in particular, those dealing in stone – have been working independently; we expect this to change,” predicts Sharon. “Ten to 15 years from now, there will also be increased interest from importers in supplying more of their products into the country, forcing the local industry to be more organised.”

For small businesses that are just starting out, Sharon has some simple advice. “Start small and be patient even when things aren’t going your way. Patience and persistence are very important.”

MonuRent: Monumental achievement

It might not always grab the headlines, but MonuRent’s work is of the kind that’s underpinning the development of Africa’s economy. The company provides heavy equipment and services across the continent, specialising in earth-moving supply and engineering support.

“We play a pivotal role in building vital infrastructure and promoting Africa’s resources sector, while providing essential services and development for communities,” says CEO Dan Hoppe. “By delivering a full range of services, from equipment rental to consultancy and other tailored services, we provide our clients with value-added solutions for all their project needs.”

The business was set up in Nigeria in 2010 to serve the country’s construction sector, but has since extended its presence into other countries, including Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Botswana. The firm also now provides equipment and services for industries including mining and agriculture, as well as offering solutions for power generation.

“Diversification will be on our radar as we continue to grow, both vertically to expand our service provision and also to spread our wings into other market sectors,” says Dan, who sees potential for growth in the gold and cement markets in particular.

As it expands, MonuRent is determined to maintain its reputation for providing a high-quality service and, according to Dan, having the right staff is central to that goal. “As our business has grown, investment in our people has been the biggest differentiator to allowing the quality of our service to remain uncompromised,” says Dan. “We have faced numerous challenges, from recessions, to government changes to Ebola. Throughout, our key to survival has been maintaining a good relationship with our workforce.”