Category Archives: Ghana

Real Estate Moment: Ghana Cities, Old Taxes, & Pricey Mortgages

Ghana Cities: Last weekend, in Accra, the Renaissance Group launched two new cities that they plan to be the represent the future of urbanization in Ghana. The cities will be mixed-use areas where residents will live work and play and are in the same vein as Tatu City that was launched in Kenya, but which has been embroiled in a shareholder court case that has affected the pace of the project.

The concept of new cities that Renaissance is planning in Ghana, Kenya (Tatu on 2500 acres for  70,000 people),  Zambia (Roma park) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (Kiswishi on 6900 acres in Lubumbashi to break ground in 2012)  are based on some harsh realities; 

That African cities are fast growing (there are now 52 cities with over 1 million people), attracting rural migrants in search of employment and opportunity. There is a shortage of housing that is quality or decent, and many city  developments are unplanned. Also the infrastructure in many of these  cities is lagging  and authorities  will not be able to supply the services or utilities that residents need to have, while residents are facing ever longer commutes.
The two Ghanaian cities are King City (located 10km from Takoradi harbour in North Akase area) which will be built over 10 years in phases to house 90,000 people and Appolonia (located 30km from Accra and 20km from Tema Harbour) which will have retail and commercial developments on 2000 acres to house 88,000 people. Appolonia which is now having water & road development will break ground in 2013.
With both cities, local communities are investing their land in the deal. They are not selling, and remain as  equity partners with a stake to get a return on their undeveloped land and create employment for the youth and Renaissance team estimates that Accra itself will need another 5 – 6 cities to absorb its fast growth.

Both the cities will have high, medium, and low cost housing units and as the local mortgage continues to develop, the Renaissance team expect that most people should be able to afford homes. Ghana now has mid-market mortgages accessible over 10 years for about 80,000 Cedi’s (~$40,000 or Kshs 3.3 million).

Other mega real estate developments, blogs & articles 
Tips: Nahinga blogs about three real estate investing lessons from the Accra Mall project, that began in the early 1970’s namely

– (Speculate)/purchase real estate in the direction that a City can grow towards.
– Use professionals and maintain a high standard of quality.
– Have an exit strategy.

Garden City: The real estate sector in Nairobi is attracting more PE interest, and Actis’ portfolio includes ten institutional quality assets in seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Following in that model equity firm Actis and partners including Game are to develop Garden City  which will include homes, an events arena, and the largest retail mall in East Africa. It has already attracted MassMart from South Africa and it will break ground in December 2012.

 Other Mega project opportunities

Railway prime real estate: The Kenya Railways Corporation plans to develop 385 acres of prime real estate land in Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu, and is seeking investors to build hotels, residential housing, light industries and shopping malls.

Kisumu Floatel: A project is seeking investors  to establish a luxury passenger vessel as a 5-star floating hotel  on Lake Victoria that will accommodate 80 passengers.

Cautionary Tale: But sometimes mega projects can go wrong like this ghost city built by Chinese investors in Kilamba, Angola.

Taxation Time: The Kenya Revenue Authority has published some recent notices about taxation of rental income and other income  from real estate. While collection of value added tax (VAT of 16% ) has observed in the commercial building sector, some residential owners have ignored that, while others have not been aware that they are also supposed to pay income tax that graduates from 10% on net rent income of up to ~122,000  to 30% on all rental income over ~Kshs. 466,000 ($5,600)

There are also other treatment for non residents, partnerships, estates of deceased landlords and Kenyans living in the diaspora, as well as tax incentives available for  rental income on real estate investment trusts (REITs)  and on low income housing projects (less than $20,000).

Nairobi Real Estate Price Index: Hass Consult have just released their second quarter report on housing price trends.  They applauded the recent lowering of the Central Bank CBR rate (to 16.5%) as they noted that the impact of high interest rates will continue to be seen in a slow down in new building amid the high finance costs. They also noted that, while the pace of building in Nairobi is at a peak, it’s still a fraction of the housing demand, and while projects are coming to fruition, new ones are not being started as people who would be buying homes are instead staying in rental properties longer

The release of the report was sponsored by The Mortgage Company, a mortgage brokerage firm who also released a mortgage rate sheet for consumer comparison and which showed I&M bank had the lowest mortgage rates of 18%, while Equity, CBA and Family Banks had the most expensive at 24%.

Mortgage Chat: The Kenya Bankers Association which is turning 50 this year, just re-branded and launched a new outlook and new website. One of their new outreach programs will be a weekly mychat session with a bank CEO, and in a few weeks time,  they will feature Frank Ireri, the Managing Director of Housing Finance bank, who will chat about mortgages.

<b>TV Time</b>: Finally, there will be a new TV show coming to NTV in Kenya that will be devoted to real estate and will air on Sunday afternoons in a few weeks time.

Kenyan Guide to Accra

Adapted as a guest post with input from Coldtusker
(Pic via
Getting There: Accra’s Kotoka airport is small & dated [but efficient] airport but the corridors can be a challenge o navigate if you have lots of luggage. An interesting feature of the NBO-ACC flights are the traders [mostly women] with HUGE bags/packages [from shopping trips in Dubai or China] who you can’t even see while they push their carts. It’s like a moving wall of goods! These ‘packages’ are held together by well-sewn polypropylene [plastic gunias] material. Emirates flies A340, with larger cargo bays while Kenya Airways (KQ) lies much smaller 737-300s. Other planes on the tarmac include Delta & British Airways both which have daily flights.

No visa is needed for Kenyans, but the flights are costly such as Kenya Airways (KQ) which is $1,000 – Ouch!

Getting Around: A taxi trip from Kotoka to town costs about $5-7 but some hotels will provide transport if you let them know in time. The traffic from Kotoka to town even at the worst of times is much better than Peak hours in Nairobi. Taxis are the most common (for visitors) way to get around; they are easy to catch in most places, and unlike Nairobi, these guys drive around ‘looking’ for customers. The are ‘painted’ with AMA (Accra Metropolitan Area) zones & numbers and are easy to spot. Plus they honk at you if they think you need a ride. Fares are not fixed but negotiable. So negotiate! The ‘quality’ of these taxis varies from ramshackle taxis to new ones. Some have windows that don’t open while others have AC. Always ask since Accra can get hot & humid. Think Mombasa. Boda bodas are available, as are matatus or buses. It is quite safe to walk around in many areas during the day, but at night, always use taxis.

Money: Cedis [GHc] & Pesewas. US$ = GHc1.5 but some still quote the ‘old’ Cedi which is 10,000x the ‘new’ Cedi. You can change money in many places with few restrictions. Always confirm what you will get NET after all fees. There are several forex bureaus all over the place especially Osu.

Hotels: Tend to be pricier than Nairobi. A nice 3-star hotel costs $120-170 for a single room! The pricier ones have WiFi, swimming pool, etc. and include a good breakfast. There are others at cheaper rates of ~$60 in ‘busier & noisier’ neighbourhoods which look/feel better than our River Road ones.

Communications: Local calls are reasonable now that Airtel [lower per minute calls about US$ 0.06 per minute] is in Ghana, slightly more compared to Kenya. MTN is king, and while there are other options including Tigo, Airtel adverts are everywhere. You can use Airtel Kenya to receive calls at no charge, while SMS to Kenya were cost ~Kshs 5-10, which is very convenient. Local SIM cards used to be easy to get (from street vendors) but are now a hassle, as you have to be registered. Some hotels have WiFi, and there are many cybercafés.

Food & Bars: – The local food varies with region but expect Yams, Cassava, Peanut sauce to be part of any ‘local’ meal & much more enjoyable compared to eating Italian, Indian, Continental [available anywhere in the world]. There are also lots of Lebanese restaurants as there are a significant number of Lebanese live in Accra.
– Instead of bottled water, water is commonly sold by many vendors & firms in plastic pouches (costing Kshs 5/=). You ask for it as ‘pure water,’ which is useful for washing hands, or face in the heat.
– Beers: depends on where you go but costs between $1-5, and is widely available – though there is a significant Muslim population there so watch out for Ramadan month. Guinness Breweries (Diageo) is #1 followed by Accra Breweries (SABMiller). Multiple brands of beer.
– In bars, politics & business are common topics. Smoking is allowed indoors so you may prefer to sit outside. There are lots of small or regional political parties similar to Kenya, but since Ghana came out of a civil war less than 2 decades ago, they want ‘peaceful’ elections [but never say never]. Two-term limits apply but old presidents never fade away! Jerry Rawlings remains popular.
– Football: is HUGE, and as in Kenya, Arsenal & Manchester United fans are everywhere, but Arsenal seem to be the overwhelming favorite. Of course, everyone looks up to the Ghanaian footballers in Europe.

Business & Infrastructure: – There are problems with reliable electricity supply but projects are underway [by the Chinese] including thermal production. Just like Kenya, the hydropower plants face challenges with low water [Akasombo Dam]. Major hotels have diesel generators to alleviate this [good – as the weather is like Mombasa].
– Tema Oil Refinery has same (or worse) problems as Kenya’s KPRL. Ghana Oil is listed on GSE, but majority owned by the Government. Total has a strong position in Ghana.
– Nigerian banks seem to dominate the skyline but the largest bank is Ghana Commercial Bank [GCB] (similar to Kenya Commercial Bank). The bank is listed, with the Government as a major shareholder, and GCB is now going through a massive transformation.
– They have had flyover roads for many years, and there is a wonderful cement/concrete road from Accra to Tema that was built during Nkrumah’s days. It’s a cheap toll road (about Kshs. 20/=) for a distance equivalent to Nairobi-Thika. The drainage systems are much better than Nairobi or Mombasa. Tema is their Thika – an industrial town, but it has a port too.
– Newspapers: There are very many [English] papers but they are poorly written & seem rather sensationalist. Not as good as the Kenyan papers in terms of analysis, etc.
– Business Opportunities? For everyone & everything… if they can compete with China, India, France, UK, etc!

Sight-seeing & Shopping: Oxford St, in Osu, is very popular and has a vibrant nightlife. Seems relatively safe vs Nairobi’s CBD. There are other shopping areas but not much to buy that you can’t get in Kenya. Shopping in Accra tends to be very pricey since almost everything is imported but buy real [unsweetened] Cocoa as it is grown in Ghana. Daily spend is about $50 per day without hotel.

For sightseeing, there is the Nkrumah Circle/Gardens & such. The Presidential Palace is shaped like an Ashanti Stool of the Asantahene [built/donated by the Chinese?] It is visible from the Road & is an imposing structure which includes many government offices.

Shocker: Ghana imports milk! There is no ‘fresh’ milk but plenty of Italian & French UHT milk. Milo is also very popular, and is sold in small kiosks as well. Other imports include eggs.

Summary: In some ways Ghana is the Kenya of West Africa but the ‘socialism’ attitude is still strong so businesses need to beware.