West Africa will lead the recovery in demand for African offices in 2021, Haussmann Africa’s chief operating officer Maxime Chauvelot told The Africa Report.
Haussmann Africa, which builds and designs commercial interiors, is bidding for “three or four” projects in Côte d’Ivoire for which it expects results in late February, Chauvelot says in Abidjan. These include a tender for Coca Cola 700 square meter office in Abidjan, while the American beverage giant moves to a smaller office.
The recovery of West Africa, which includes Nigeria, is broadly based on several sectors and includes bank i insurance, Says Chauvelot. Companies have been recovering since September after stalling and will “definitely” be better off this year than in 2020.
Haussmann Africa works on projects for clients such as Woodside in Dakar as well Broll i AB InBEV to Lagos. It also tenders a 3,000-square-foot office in Lagos for an American client.
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“All of our indicators show that demand for office adequacy exists and is growing,” Chauvelot says. Kenya i South Africa, by contrast, are still struggling to cope with Covid-19, which is holding back the recovery of its office markets, he adds.
Haussmann, which was established in 2013 and operates in nine African countries, remains bullish on the long-term outlook for the African office. He says the current period will be seen as a “little hiccup” on a growth trajectory. “New office buildings will go down a bit, but not as much as in Europe.”
However, many key projects are still for multinational companies and not for African companies.
- Approximately 70% of the company’s existing portfolio is made up of world names and only 30% of African companies.
- “The recovery of African economies will be intricately linked to foreign investment,” Chauvelot says.
- In the medium term, he expects the African continental free trade area (AfCFTA) will help foster the development of more companies operating in African countries other than their own.
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The Covid-19 pandemic has redefined the way companies think about the workplace, Chauvelot says. “In many countries, employees return to the office and realize that office space has to change for a long time. Companies want to do more with the space they have or reduce their real estate presence. “
- Now, approximately 67% of companies see work from home as part of their operating model. Chauvelot hopes that this trend will continue.
- “Work from home won’t go away in six months.”
- This is reflected in the demand for smaller offices with more open plan counters and fewer closed offices, he says.
- Chauvelot sees a trend toward a new open-plan office style with more space per employee than in older open plans to ensure distance and measures such as higher divisions between desks.
- However, he adds, customers still do not demand many additional safety and health features, as they still see the pandemic as a temporary problem.
An African office market driven by African companies will be a sign that the continent’s free trade zone is working.