How about we start at WAKANDA as an ideal city focused on the relationship between property, technology & people! This is a highly developed country and it’s the most technologically advanced nation on the planet according to Marvel Comics & its 2018 blockbuster. This is where we saw pedestrians walking on the streets that are generally car-free. On occasions you saw appearances of bus shuttles. It was even briefly listed by a leading government department as a free-trader partner that traded in ducks, donkeys & dairy cows!
It has become one of the most-talked-about sci-fi films ever among urbanists and city planners globally. This should be an ideal scenario for the impact proptech needs to have on African cities into the future.
Residential, retail, and industrial remain the hot sectors in the African real estate/ property landscape. These demographic changes are offering real opportunities in affordable housing, education, healthcare, and agriculture. Online search platforms have also developed over time to become disruptive with its technologies on the industry. Proptech companies in Africa currently only account for 1% of the global market share.
Tenant centricity has now become more than a buzzword. The global pandemic has had a massive influence on the relationship between the real estate sector and technology. The focus now is on being able to meet your users’ expectations. The shopping experience as an example needs to meet the needs of visitors to the malls & stores. This leads to better decisions being made with this data gained to create online solutions that will be complementary.
Click and connect in a country like South Africa has grown over the last 5 years. This no contact, cashless way to do your purchases fits well in an era of social distancing. On average, there’s been a 31% increase in shoppers preferring to collect their orders from a store instead of using the traditional courier delivery.
Across the continent it has been positive to see projects like the one Google implemented in 2011 called C Squared. The long-term vision was to increase internet penetration in Sub-Saharan Africa, ultimately reducing Internet costs through investments in infrastructure. This creates opportunities for the distribution of Fibre to the Home (FTTH) that allow users (homes or businesses) to have access to unlimited speeds and allowance. To fast-track the scope of the project, the company partnered with Mitsui & Co (Japan), Convergence Partners (South Africa) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC, World Bank Group) in 2017. It will be interesting to see the effects of the $100 Million USD investment being made for leading expansion projects in new markets. With laboratories such as the one in Ghana dedicated to African intelligence from Alphabet, the concept of a Wakanda may just not be too far away.
The Jack Ma Foundation’s Africa Netpreneur Prize aims to support tech startups on the continent. The efforts of entrepreneurs & the startup culture needs to be celebrated for the courage & initiative it takes to solve society’s problems. LifeBank, a Lagos-based startup, uses drones for its delivery as part of its business model that includes hospitals, blood bank & donors. Which is a perfect combination of real estate, technology, and people. You really end up appreciating what this Nigerian startup has implemented when you look at the fact the country has high internet costs and spends less than 5% of its federal budget on the healthcare sector.
What’s most encouraging is to see tech startups becoming unicorns, which bodes well for the growth of proptech on the African continent. Last year Interswitch from Nigeria became part of this club with its recent valuation of $1 billion. This was after VISA invested $200 million into the digital payments company. You also starting to see startups involved in supplying off-grid solar energy solutions, which is integral to the growth of proptech, raise $81 million within a financial year. Seeing investors like SoftBank Ventures Asia & Sequoia Capital China investing in African startups that will be important to payment systems in proptech on the continent. The $41 million investment that a company like Retail Capital from South Africa has raised will support the innovation that restaurants & retailers must implement in their business models to adapt to the demands of this pandemic.
Most of Africa has generally been fortunate to not have to bear the cost of investing in old technology. This works well for the continent to focus on investing in cutting edge technology. This ultimately adds massive value to both real estate & technology as assets.
The Wakanda story could really be closer than we think when you have Akon, the “Lonely” hitmaker, in the mix. The Senegalese-born muso/ entrepreneur has started building Akon City in his home country. It has been described as a 'real life Wakanda' and will focus on cryptocurrency and renewable energy. The futuristic city, named after himself, will be built over a decade on 2 000 acres of land. He’s even shared via Twitter that he looks forward to hosting you in the future in his city!
Founder, SIH PropTech
My name is Madite and I represent a PropTech company called SIH PropTech. As a company we are very excited to be in a strategic partnership with Asia PropTech. Our company is from South Africa and the focus is on the PropTech scene across the African continent. We are connecting an ecosystem of entrepreneurs & investors, as well as government agencies, to opportunities in commercial, residential, industrial, and retail sectors. We tend to see ourselves as being Africa-focused & globally-relevant. After all, some of our team is based in both the US & Europe.