African Real Estate Portals: Growth Helps COVID-19 Market Recovery

Property portals have assisted greatly in the emerging market environment in many African countries.

The real estate markets in Africa vary widely from structured, fairly sophisticated markets in Egypt, South Africa, Kenya and Ghana to less-developed markets in some of the smaller West African countries. Property portals provide a positive contribution to the real estate industry bringing accurate property listings, consumer information and insightful market analysis and have assisted greatly in the emerging market environment found in many African countries.

Dominant Property Portals

Unlike countries like the United States, Britain and Australia where there is a big gap in dominance between the No. 1 and No. 2 portals, many African countries have multiple portals competing closely for dominance. In Egypt, two prominent property portals are Property Finder and Aqarmap, the former also has portals in countries such as the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Turkey and the latter also operating in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Property Finder raised over $120 million in private equity funds in 2018 and claims to attract over 16 million page views per month.

South Africa has Property24 as the dominant portal and Private Property as the No. 2. Property24 has over 250,000 listings and also has portals in Botswana, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It was reported by Property Portal Watch that Property24 had over 8 million sessions in June 2020—more than twice that of Private Property.

More Platforms

Although only three years old, the African Property Group, part of the EVC group, is currently servicing more than 10 platforms across Africa from their headquarters in Sydney, Australia. These include Namibia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Botswana, Seychelles, Malawi, Rwanda, Lesotho and Swaziland. Many of these have small real estate markets but would like to develop a strong real estate infrastructure. Mubawab is the biggest portal in Morocco and Tunisia and is owned by property portal giants EMPG, based in the UAE, and claim to have more than 125,000 listings and over 2 million visits monthly. Frontier Digital Ventures, headquartered in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, is focused on creating online marketplaces in emerging markets, has large portals in Nigeria (Property Pro) and Ghana (Meqasa) and is also represented in Central America with BuyRentKenya together with Property24 are the leaders in Kenya. The former was founded in 2012 and is owned by the ROAM Group, Africa’s largest online classifieds company. They also own MaMaison—the largest property portal in Senegal and Qefira, Ethiopia, and the horizontal site ZOOM in Tanzania.

Many smaller African countries have generalist classified sites such as Jumia, which is the place consumers go to look for real estate.

In Africa, as in the rest of the world, the decline in property listings over the last six months has been related to the severity of the COVID-19 lockdowns. As lockdowns ease, most countries are seeing listing volumes return due to pent-up supply during lockdown.

Peter Gilmour is REAL Trends chief foreign correspondent and Chairman Emeritus and co-founder of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.