He argued that the increasing purchasing power among Kenya’s middle class is also creating demand for brands that need retail space.
“That demand is also changing from the very preliminary and primitive supply… now it has become more and more complex to the point that we are at the verge of seeing the mid and high-end brands coming to Kenya,” he said.
According to Ehsani, brands coming into the Kenyan market face a big challenge in accessing retail space.
“There is a shortage of retail space. Most malls here are 100% full. There is a wait list. For the newcomers, you really need to make room for them to be able to have multiple locations. When the brands come, they don’t look for one location, they need several locations.”
He added that the economic downturn in the US, the Eurozone crisis and saturation in far-eastern countries have diverted the attention of investors towards Africa. However, not all African countries are appealing to investors, yet.
“Northern Africa, because of the Arab Spring, is still a ‘no go’ area. There are uncertainties for investors; Egypt is sill volatile, people are trying to see what will happen there. Then you go all the way south and South Africa, with the union issues and labour issues, at the moment have created a bit of unrest in the mind of investors. They are looking for another safe haven. Kenya has emerged as the next possible place to invest. It has many good things going for it.”
Although many shopping centres and malls have opened-up in Nairobi over the last decade, Ehsani is optimistic that there is still a market for more facilities.
He noted that the increasing number of foreign investors coming to Kenya will ultimately push demand for housing, shopping and recreation facilities.
“It is going to be very interesting trying to provide for the growth that is coming in,” he said.
The changing face of Nairobi also makes the city an attractive destination for investment and tourism.
“Nairobi was never a destination for tourists, they would even try and skip Nairobi, to go to the Maasai Mara or the coast. But now it is becoming a destination; it can very soon claim its place as a shopping hub for the area. People from surrounding countries could come here for shopping. It is not a boring place,” he said.
One of the biggest challenges The Village Market faces is poor infrastructure.
“There is no sewage line in this area, so we have to maintain a sewage treatment plant. We have to employ technicians and specialised people to make sure that it is healthy and is always in a good condition,” said Ehsani.
Due to inefficient supply of water and electricity, The Village Market has boreholes and generators on standby.
“One of our biggest expenditures here is to make sure that because of the diplomatic community, we have high security. We have about seven different levels of security,” said Ehsani.
Nevertheless, Ehsani is optimistic about the shopping centre, which he said “has grown quite nicely”.
So, if I came with a briefcase of dollars, how much would Ehsani take in exchange for The Village Market?
“It has to be probably a suitcase, not a briefcase,” he quipped.