Fulvia d’Ippolito (GRI): “we have always been interested in Africa”

Even though the African property investment market is confronted with such challenges as lack of reliable data and instability of local currencies, new large-scale projects are in the pipeline. Insight from Fulvia d’Ippolito, head of Italy and Africa, Global Real Estate Institute (GRI).

Even though the African property investment market is confronted with such challenges as lack of reliable data and instability of local currencies, new large-scale projects are in the pipeline. Insight from Fulvia d’Ippolito, head of Italy and Africa, Global Real Estate Institute (GRI).


Leaders League. What's GRI Africa?
Fulvia d’Ippolito. GRI Africa is the continent’s most senior real estate investment meeting. It is a day and a half of relaxed and intimate networking between real estate investors, developers and lenders from across Sub-Saharan Africa. It’s also an opportunity for global investors to identify new opportunities and meet potential local partners. These core constituents are also joined by a selection of large retail and hotel groups, and major corporate tenants.

Leaders League. What motivated the creation of a GRI meeting in Africa?
F. D. I.
The interest in Africa from our international members has always been strong. Now more than ever. But they have also identified many difficulties in approaching the market. That's where Africa GRI can help. GRI's two previous annual meetings in Nairobi in 2013 and 2014 were a big success – drawing investors from the US, Europe, Middle East and Asia. Our international members asked us to hold the 2015 edition in Jo'burg, as the start of an ongoing geographical rotation of the event. But let's be clear; Africa GRI is not a South African event. Far from it. It is truly pan-African, making it not only the most senior real estate event in Africa, but also the most diverse.

Leaders League. How is GRI Africa different from other African real estate investment events?
F. D. I. GRI is not a conference. Our unique format does not have speakers or panels. Instead, those taking part in the event can participate in many small discussion groups, animated by a “Moderating Chair” and a selection of “Co-chairs”. The informality and enjoyment of the debates is like an after dinner conversation with friends in your own home. This format allows you to quickly make friends, find out what other people think and immediately identify those 4-5 new potential business partners or investment opportunities. GRI meetings have been running for nearly twenty years across the world. All of our attendees – past and present – are considered as 'members' of our club.

Leaders League. What are the highlights of this third edition, did you add new features?
F. D. I. This 3rd annual Africa meeting has been split into four different rooms, each focusing on a geographic region: East, West, Lusophone, and Central/Southern Africa. Sub-Sectors discussed include hotels, offices, retail, logistics, residence and mixed-use. This will allow all attendees to join ideally a minimum of 4 discussions focusing in each main geographic stream, in all aspects important for the players (asset per asset debate, equity and debt markets, lending, etc.). We have also introduced the new exciting opportunity for developers to showcase their projects (which will include the impressive Bay of Luanda project in Angola).

Leaders League. What are the major trends in the development and property investment market in Africa?
F. D. I. Although both Ebola and terrorist threats dominated the headlines in 2014, they seem to be less of a concern to international investors who have a longer term outlook. A greater concern to many is a perceived lack of reliable data, instability of local currencies, and lack of institutional-scale portfolio buying opportunities. The data issue is certainly on the mend, with more and more reputable groups providing access to transparent, reliable information, and risk mitigation – including JLL, who are expanding their presence in the region. In terms of currency fluctuations; well, that might not go away any time soon. But, through a combination of right hedging and off-shoring – investors are finding work-arounds. What is exciting investors is the number of new, large scale projects in the pipeline; many of which will be of institutional grade. If the real estate community can work effectively with their government and infrastructure partners, then there will be some huge projects coming to market in 2015/2016.

Read more business insight in our next International Report on Africa. Publication in April 2015.

S. D. C

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