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Database Management

Can Property Data Transform the African Real Estate Market?

Africa’s population is well on its way to hit 1.4 billion people by 2025 according to International Planned Parenthood Federation and with this growth comes the challenge of town and city management.

Most African cities are strained due to lack of proper management of buildings and homes. Governments across many sub Saharan Africa countries are now trying to find ways to properly expand their cities giving consideration to the limited resources. But previous poor land management by most governments is now a stumbling block to development.

One manifestation of this problem has been witnessed in Nairobi where there were no proper plans available for the laying of optical fibre across the city by multiple telecom companies. Some even relied on outdated map systems that led them to rupturing water and sewer pipes.

Data collection and study could be a solution for governments and municipalities in planning their cities. In the past this information was hard to come by, but with the advent of technology advancement in Africa, data offers an efficient way to map out cities and their developments.

In June this year, property developers in Kenya urged the National Lands Commission to come out and give detailed information on the property state in Kenya. The developers contended that the information they are currently relying on, was last released in 2003 and shows that the housing deficit stands at 300,000 units.

This cannot be the true picture on the ground in 2013 after ten years’ growth. And correct data on the property market could clearly shape the market, tell developers the value price of certain regions and dictate the development plan for certain towns and cities.

Not only would data help in the real estate market, but it could also affect other industries. Data can easily map out areas for agriculture, mining and other activities that spur the African economy.

But the private sector is not just sitting on its hands waiting for the government to take action. Private developers have started to rely on specialized solutions that are coming out of the demand for data.

Hass Consult, a property consulting firm, recently launched an application that would be able to map out the property areas in Kenya, giving developers this much needed information.

“We have in recent months moved to a new level of data collection on property pricing and development, mapping every building in Nairobi, and including data collection on commercial, retail and non-retail properties,” said Ms Sakina Hassanali, Head of Marketing and Research at Hass Consult.

The data app will be available for developers at different rates. The data is available online and on most mobile phone handsets.

“Investments, businesses - even research into cost of living allowances – all of these decisions need up-to-date, relevant information, of a higher quality and greater depth than we have seen to date,” Hassanali added during the launch of the application in early November.

“Data is important to the property market to find opportunities, collaborate more effectively, understand risk and unlock hidden markets. More important than the data is the understanding that can be gleaned from that data, it should provide understanding that will expand housing opportunities (strengths and advantages) not just reinforce existing perceptions (poverty and risk),” Adelaide Steedley, the coordinator of the Affordable Land and Housing Data Centre told IDG Connect.

The company is located in Johannesburg and started collecting property market data that could revolutionize the property industry in South Africa.

Its solutions have assisted a large Greenfield developer in finding new market opportunities within the denser urban areas across South Africa. Steedley also says its data has helped research consultants deliver more effective market understanding to its clients.

“More recently,  we are working with a national trade association of local municipalities to help local officials understand housing markets for more effective public policy that entices housing development within cities,” Steedley added.

Government involvement cannot be understated, clichéd though it sounds. In most African countries, governments hold on tight to land allocation.

In Kenya, the land registry is currently being digitized. According to the Lands Cabinet secretary, Charity Ngilu, soon users will be able to find out about land registration through text messaging.

This would be a huge step in digitizing land information, giving the information to data analysts and speeding up decisions for developers on their projects.

Even though data collection can be a labor intensive engagement, the results would quickly transform the property market in Africa.

“The dashboard can support better market intelligence in three main ways - by generating reports driven by the information it hosts, through interface with a public dashboard to be hosted on our website, and through a licensed subscription,” Steedley said of the power of the software.

In this day and age of information technology, users can gain great knowledge at the touch of a button through the dissemination of data. Since it is an emerging market, Africa still has a great chance to take advantage of the great connectivity to spur its development.

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Vincent Matinde

Vincent Matinde is an international IT Journalist highlighting African innovations in the technology scene.

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