Six African real estate trends most do not see coming

By Dr Harnet Bokrezion 

** Join Dr Harnet Bokrezion’s Africa Real Estate Network, which connects African investors and the diaspora with trusted real estate deals and industry experts throughout the continent. How we made it in Africa readers qualify for a special discount. Click for more information. **

As an international Africa business and investment trainer who has been in the space for over a decade, I make my clients across the globe aware of one important aspect: If you want to build a successful business or investment project, be aware of powerful market trends well ahead of time. This is how you maintain relevance for years to come.

Most entrepreneurs and business owners usually jump on board of a trend wagon when it is already pretty crowded or they completely miss out of incorporating powerful market trends into their business model all together.

Today, I will make it easy for you. I will share ‘Six African real estate trends most do not see coming’. You may be a property developer, an agent, or a private investor looking to diversify your income through real estate in Africa. Maybe you are in the process of buying a home. I want to show you how to prepare for the wave that is coming, so you can soon reap the fruits.

As the world is shifting radically in socio-economic and macro-political terms, expect those hidden trends and changes to come fast.

1. The rich are investing heavily in Africa’s islands

While the masses are taking slowly but surely notice that inflation will continue and the world will not return to pre-Covid conditions ever again, the rich are preparing in droves for a world of socio-economic turmoil. They are heavily investing in Africa’s islands, both to carve out a safe and peaceful haven for themselves, to reduce market risk, and to invest their cash before its value is further depleted in mainstream bank accounts. From Zanzibar to Mauritius, from the Seychelles to Cape Verde … foreign investors and wealthy individuals are rushing in.

Zanzibar for example has become the latest hot spot for rich Kenyans, Germans and Arabs after introducing a new tax and residency law in 2021. Developing or buying land, hospitality units, and holiday homes on Africa’s remote and magnificent islands is a powerful strategy to consider.

2. Design homes that are not just a liability for the buyer but an asset

If you have read Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, you are probably well aware that anyone who buys a family home, buys by and large a liability not an asset. How? It will mostly create expenditure including mortgage payments, home improvements, property taxes and similar. In short, it is not earning you an additional income while you live in it, hence the home owner is missing out on more financial freedom and flexibility that a true asset is meant to create.

Equipped with that piece of knowledge, here is what I chose to do when I built my own dream house in Rwanda: I created two guest bedrooms on the ground floor that are completely self-contained. They even have a kitchenette and separate entrance. This way, I can host my guests, but I can also rent each room to tourists at $60+ per night if I chose to do so. This would mean a passive income of $3,600 per month at full occupancy. My house was fully paid for in cash, yet I still designed it for unprecedented times.

If you design your own home in Africa like a true asset that generates income even while you live in it, you create a risk reduction strategy for your family for decades to come. And if you are a professional developer in Africa, offering such a unique value proposition in the current economic climate will clearly set you apart among buyers in your local real estate market.

3. Sustainable eco-friendly mud houses in Africa’s cities

Yes, you heard it right, modern so-called ‘rammed earth’ houses for Africa’s cities are already a quiet trend, which I believe will grow exponentially over the coming years. Here are some of the benefits: they are very eco-friendly, up to 30% cheaper to conventional construction, the material is mostly locally sourced (most of the mud will come from your own construction hole), and the concept revives African culture with beautiful walls that naturally regulate heat. You can even build multi-storey buildings. It certainly ticks a lot of boxes for future buyers.

Eco-friendly local building materials, simplicity, integrated off-grid water management and solar solutions, city gardening, community-centred and child-friendly layouts with ample greenery will provide buyers with a sense of grounding, serenity and preparedness in the face of a somewhat unpredictable future.

4. Safety will become a new buyers’ paradigm

As the world is starting a new socio-economic era and the cost of living is increasing drastically across the globe, analysts predict a lot of social and political unrest. We have seen quite a bit of it happening lately in Africa and across the globe. While in some African city developments, security for private homes and offices has always been a priority, other less crime-stricken cities are following suit. The need for safety among real estate buyers is expected to grow rapidly.

Hence, integrating a range of security measures into your developments and rentals – ‘unbreakable’ Hammerglass or burglary censors in your windows, solar powered alarm systems, or a 24-hour security team that you have hired – will make your real estate offerings more relevant and attractive to tomorrow’s buyers.

5. Flexible multi-purpose units that can be turned into a home, a business, a hybrid … and back

As a developer of higher end African real estate you want to stay away from producing more of the typical commercial and residential properties that are already widely available in your local market. It is time to add more value and think outside the box.

Create modern, simple buildings with clean cut designs where the buyer can turn the unit into a contemporary home, a beautiful café, a fashionable office … or better even, an opportunity to create a hybrid of those. Such flexible multi-purpose units will accommodate new livelihood dynamics that are clearly on the rise. Think about how the unit can be converted into a space with different functions using an intentional design. You also want a good location, some outside space, and a plot that allows both the residential and commercial utilisation by the buyer in accordance with the city masterplan – all wrapped into a single offering.

6. Affordable housing? Yes, but for the middle class!

The concept of affordable housing will in my view take on a whole different meaning in Africa. In the past, this involved by and large government supported projects seeking to house the poor or lower middle classes. But as we will all experience an unprecedented rise in the cost of living across the globe, Africa’s middle-class and a large number of Africa’s diaspora will find themselves facing new economic challenges.

If this trend snowballs (and we can expect this), we may see many of the typical bulky city homes stand empty for years to come, while smaller, affordable units will be in big demand.

This is where you come in: You see, most affordable housing units simply look ‘poor’ and are located in less privileged neighbourhoods. Hence low price alone will not attract the middle class who is searching for valid alternatives. A combination of cheap land plots in upcoming neighbourhoods, small housing units with modern floor plans, pre-fabricated walls, or even converted shipping containers where the finishing exudes a higher end feel will be winners. Foresight, creativity, and the courage to test and replicate unusual cost-cutting concepts are key.


In closing, Africa’s real estate sector will face interesting dynamics over the next few years, including both new challenges and unprecedented opportunity. Be flexible, strategic, and creative and you will surely stand out in the marketplace.

** Join Dr Harnet’s Africa Real Estate Network, which connects African investors and the diaspora with trusted real estate deals and industry experts throughout the continent. How we made it in Africa readers qualify for a special discount. Click for more information. **