Interview: Servicing Malawi’s property industry

The lack of a formalised approach to property management in many African countries has opened the door for Broll to replicate its South African offering elsewhere on the continent, including Malawi. Nermin Musovic interviews Anton Bieber, chief executive officer of Broll Malawi about the company’s operations

Chichiri Shopping Centre, Blantyre

Chichiri Shopping Centre, Blantyre

Give us an overview of Broll’s major projects in Malawi to date.

Broll Malawi is a property management company and as such we manage the investments for other landlords. In essence we use our knowledge and expertise to make our properties run more effectively and thereby saving our landlords costs.

We moved into Malawi to run the all new Chichiri Shopping Centre and from there started building up a portfolio which includes NICO Centre in Lilongwe, the head offices for USAID, Peoples Trading Centre, NBS Bank and Office World.

We are currently leasing and about to manage Lilongwe City Mall and Maula Shopping Mall in Lilongwe. We are also assisting with leasing for The Gateway (an Mpico and Old Mutual development), City Mall, and a new development in Mzuzu.

Where are the major opportunities in Malawi’s property sector?

Malawi has a need for coordinated developments that take care of what the population needs. Too many developers simply have a piece of land and build on it forcing the building to do too many things and not target a specific need. This will be a function of the property market becoming more sophisticated.

Coupled to this, city assemblies should not be approving buildings that do not have generous parking as part of the project. Parking will become, and already is, a huge headache and yet developments continue to be built in cities with no provision at all.

There are opportunities for retail, office and industrial developments as the trading market becomes more refined. However, because of the building costs, it is natural that these new developments will aim at the high-end of the tenant base.

How developed is Malawi’s property industry compared to the rest of Africa?

The market is not well defined. However, there are many large countries where they have the same informal trends. I think one of the largest would be Nigeria.

What do you expect from the new Lilongwe City Mall? And what will it mean for the region?

Lilongwe City Mall will be a good shopping experience. We have attempted to bring a cross section of shops and restaurants that will provide a full shopping experience to the customer. Even after hours, we expect that there will be window shopping happening. We have tried to keep the shops exciting and not one blank window after another like it has happened in Victoria Avenue. We aim to keep the customers interested, safe and satisfied.

The mall will attract people from as far as Zambia and Mozambique as well as our own shoppers from the Central and Northern Regions. I estimate close to 500 jobs will have been created as a result of the project. This is no mean feat in today’s economy.

What is your message to property developers looking to invest in Malawi’s market?

There are good opportunities if the key factors are observed. Location, need and target market are what makes a project work.