Discussing the Real Estate Sector in Ghana with Fuseina Abu of Goldkey Properties

Fuseina Abu discusses the impacts of COVID-19 on the real estate sector in Ghana, and explains how Goldkey Properties has been mitigating the challenges linked to the pandemic. She also talks about current projects and shares her plans for the post-pandemic period.

Interview with Fuseina Abu, Managing Director at Goldkey Properties Ghana

Fuseina Abu, Managing Director at Goldkey Properties Ghana

COVID-19 has become almost the new normal. How has that impacted the real estate sector?

On the residential side, we’ve actually not noticed a lot of negative impact. It seems that it’s important to people to enjoy their home environments more than it’s ever been. So, we still get demand for buying; for people who want to lease. So, I’d say the residential market has held up strongly. On the commercial side, it’s been a little bit slower. Say, a lot of companies are more cautious about making decisions. You have those who think of maybe incorporating a bit more working from home in future. But then, you also have those who decide they actually need more space, because they need to be able to enforce social distancing more accurately within the work environment. Different companies have responded in different ways.

So, have you taken any steps to mitigate some of the challenges?

We’re confident in our offering. One of the things that we think is a big selling point is the impact that working in a healthy building has on employees. It improves the productivity; particularly, in this current environment.

Some real estate companies use technology. They talk about virtual tours. Is your company using that?

It’s something which we’re looking at for our new developments. We find that yes, it’s effective in drawing people in in the first place, but with real estate, you know, it’s such a physical thing that people always want to go to the building to feel the atmosphere, get a sense of the environment. So yes, technology is helpful, but nothing beats going to the office building or going to the apartment building and getting a genuine sense of what’s on offer.

Goldkey Properties handed over a Divisional Headquarters to the Police. What was the whole strategy behind it?

Our largest project today is Cantonment City and completing Cantonment City in the next couple of years has to be a big priority for us. We’re well on track for doing that.

This year, we were delighted to complete the new Cantonments Police Divisional Headquarters. It is a four storey ultra-modern police station, which replaces the old single storey colonial police station that was there previously. Now, this is going to be a big addition to the neighborhood serving the cantonments area, and its immediate neighborhood. So yes, it was something that we were really proud of. The collaboration with the Ghana police went incredibly well. And they were very pleased with the quality of the building that they got. And I think it’s a real testament to what can be achieved when the public sector and the private sector work closely together. We hope to do more such collaborations in the future with government entities.

The government has decided to give incentives to the real estate sector. What is your take on it?

We always welcome incentives to real estate developers. I mean, today, I believe most of the incentives are in the space of affordable housing, which is an area that we’re not in, but we are working on the business case and expect to enter within the next year or so. So, you know, incentives for real estate developers are always welcome. But it’s not something which we’re capitalizing on today.

What are your plans for the post-pandemic period? Any project you want to push?

Despite the pandemic, we’ve pushed on with our business plans, as far as we can. Construction had to stop during the weeks of lockdown and since it’s resumed, we’ve had to introduce new protocols. But at the same time, we’ve tried as much as possible to continue and achieve the targets for our business plan that we always intended. So, the development of Cantonment City is very much on track. And we completed the Price Waterhouse Headquarters at the beginning of the year. We are on track to complete the new EY Headquarters by the end of this year. We hope to start a new headquarters for Vodafone early next year. The projects are there, and we were very much on track with regards to the completion of Cantonment City as a whole.

So COVID-19 is not having an impact on Goldkey Properties?

I wouldn’t say that it’s not having an impact, but we’re withstanding it as best we can.

So, what is your personal agenda for the real estate in Ghana?

I think that with real estate, you’re always responding to needs in society, whatever those needs may be, whether it’s the need for healthy modern workplaces, or comfortable well priced homes to live in. Provided that we’re always identifying and fully responding to needs, I think we’re on the right track.

You do have a green building. How effective is it because there are a few of such buildings in the country?

We are very proud to have certified our first building PwC tower; a green building. PwC tower received Edge Certification. This is an IFC certification for being a green building. Now, a lot went into that. During the construction process, we had to look closely at the materials that we used. We had to look at the design; so many different elements to make sure that the building was as environmentally friendly and sustainable as possible. And now that we’ve achieved this certification on PwC tower, we’re rolling it out on top of all the other new commercial buildings that we do. Say for example, the new EY Headquarters is going through that process as we speak, so we plan that once it is completed, it should fulfill all the criteria to be awarded Edge Certification, because it’s important to us as a company to be socially responsible. And a big part of that when you’re a real estate developer is making sure that your buildings are green buildings.

Are there CSR activities you undertake?

Yes, Goldkey is part of the wider CH Group. And as a group, there are a number of different things that we do. We did the construction of a school. We generally like our CSR to be related to what we do. And we supported that school over the years. Our CH Group was part of the private sector group that funded the COVID-19 Hospital, which was constructed within six months. So that’s the most recent CSR that we’ve delivered. We’re constantly looking for ways in which we can contribute to society as a whole.

What do you envisage in the short term for Goldkey Properties?

Goldkey is looking at entering into a number of new areas of real estate. As I mentioned, we looking at the middle-income housing. We also looking at student accommodation, and others. So, for us, we see the medium-term future as one of growth and expanding into new areas. Hopefully bringing the expertise, the success that we’ve brought to the commercial in the residential markets into those new areas that we enter. So, it’s a very exciting time. We’re always looking for joint venture partners, for tenants, for off takers. And that’s what we’re going to be working on over the coming months and years.

So, do you have any new projects?

Our prime or our largest project today is Cantonment City and completing Cantonment City in the next couple of years has to be a big priority for us. We’re well on track for doing that.

Any international partners?

Yes, absolutely! We welcome international partners and local partners in everything that we do. And we always find that there’s a benefit to collaborating; different organizations bring different expertise. And very often you end up with something that is bigger and better than what it would be otherwise. Joint ventures are something that we’re very familiar with and we’ve done a lot of them in the past.


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