Prior to Covid-19, there was already a large gap in the sub-Saharan African market for quality affordable co-living options. Gregoire Schwebig, founder of AfricaWorks – a company that provides co-working spaces across the continent – believes the opportunity is now even bigger.
With the pandemic came the encouragement to work from home rather than in a crowded office. It is the perfect time to launch a co-living solution that caters for young professionals, believes Schwebig.
Co-living is a residential community living model that usually offers a private bedroom, with shared common areas. Typically, co-living referred to an arrangement where three or more non-related individuals would share a private home, but it has evolved to where large property developers are now creating apartment blocks featuring residential sharing with short-term or flexible leases. Some of the included perks could be stylishly furnished communal areas, top-of-the-range amenities, as well as services such as cleaning and security. Co-living spaces also make it easier to meet new people and make friends.
American co-living company Common, for instance, offers its customers a private bedroom in a fully furnished house or apartment suite that is shared with pre-vetted roommates. The units are stocked with household basics like coffee and dish soap. Regular cleaning and wifi are included in the deal together with amenities such as rooftop decks and fitness centres at some properties.
“We think there is a massive untapped opportunity for co-living in general on the continent, but even more specifically in Lagos,” Schwebig says.
In Lagos, young people are spending a large portion of their disposable income on rentals. He explains that if this market is presented with quality and relatively affordable accommodation options with a workspace component – either in the apartment itself or in a separate area of the building – it would be a successful business venture.
AfricaWorks launched in August 2019, in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire; followed shortly by Cape Town, South Africa. Today, the company has co-working spaces in these two cities as well as Cairo, Lagos, Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and Accra. Casablanca and Johannesburg are next in the pipeline.
Schwebig adds that the availability of co-living spaces is definitely linked to the service his company provides and, while it is not a priority at present, it is something that AfricaWorks might consider come 2022.
“We are monitoring a few [co-living] initiatives in Lagos and Cape Town. I have quite strong beliefs of what should be offered and I have not seen anything that ticks all the boxes,” he says.