The Kenyan market is touted as a key investment destination in the continent and the most preferred hub for investors in the property and real estate sector owing to its positioning advantage.
Unlike other assets that may be unpredictable in terms of value, land and home ownership have always been on an upward graph with regards to their value. Affordable housing is one of the Big Four Agenda launched by the government and targets to build over 500,000 housing units to meet the growing demand.
With this, lies a lucrative opportunity for real estate companies to visualize this idea through the public, private partnership model by the government.
Safaricom Investment CEO, Sarah Wahogo recently sat down with our sub-editor Monica Muema and here are the excerpts on her views on why land investment and the entire real estate sector presents an avenue for investors.
- What’s your opinion about land investment in Kenya?
Land ownership has proven to be a worthy investment for many Kenyans. With the value of land appreciating every day, most people have found this to be a better avenue of planning for their future. The perception of only owning land within our ancestral areas has also quite shifted with a majority of Kenyans now open to owning land in cities and towns where they either work or reside.
- Does the current legislations and policies support land investment in the country?
The Kenyan legislation on land ownership is quite favorable for all investors. Anyone intending to buy land in Kenya can either own land on free hold basis if they are a citizen or a permanent resident or on leasehold basis if the investor is a foreigner.
- SIC has embarked on various projects, what’s the progress?
Over the years, SIC has embarked on different land and housing projects. So far, we have successfully completed three housing projects; Rongai Villas in Ongata Rongai, Ruaka Ridge in Ruaka and Blue Bells in Syokimau. We are also in the process of launching a major affordable housing project that will also be based in Ruaka, Kiambu County. Our lands projects on the other hand have also really advanced. We currently have over a hundred complete and ongoing projects in major cities and town across the country including Kiambu, Kajiado, Machakos, Kisumu, Nanyuki, Eldoret, Kwale, Kilifi, Nakuru, Naivasha ( in Nakuru county), and Narok counties.
- This sector has a lot of challenges, fraud is among them. How is SIC protecting its members from this vice?
To be honest, this is a challenge that we have been through and are still learning from our past experiences. From this, we have worked tirelessly to ensure that we perform thorough background searches and due diligence before taking up any project. We also work with a team of dully and legally registered advocates who help up with the processing of the transfers. We have also implemented policies and processes that ensure that the organization is not exposed.
- Tinga project has raised a lot controversy, highlight the issue and what is been done to address it?
This has been one of our toughest project in the history of our organisation, as an ownership dispute arose at the point of transferring the parcel to our investors. This has resulted in us halting on the project and get the relevant authorities to investigate on the matter. As it was not our intention to keep our investors on hold for this long, we have organised physical meetings for them to come and hear us out then agree on a way forward.
- Did your members lose money at Tinga project and how are they being compensated?
We can guarantee that no investor has lost their money. We are currently deliberating on the matter and offering alternative options to the investors. We are also offering them very generous discounts and extended repayments of up to one year on some of the projects that have ready title deeds and are in stock. This ensures that they not only get value for their money but also factors time value of money.
- How do you handle customer complaints?
We have our official communication channels. Clients can either share their requests, ideas or grievances through our official e-mail or telephone lines. We are really working on ensuring that we respond to all questions or issues on a case by case basis but also in a timely manner. We also have a live chat section on our website where clients can ask questions and get instant assistance. Our diaspora clients are also catered for as we have set up a specific e-mail and telephone number that they can reach us through anytime.
- What is the future like for SIC in terms of expansion and new projects?
We have experienced tremendous growth over the years and we aim to make each experience an educational one. As I had mentioned earlier, we have ongoing and completed projects in most major towns and cities within the country and we are working to penetrate other counties as well. We recently also got into property management which has picked up very well.
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