Radwan Fattal Dakmak Discusses Upcoming Plans for EDGE Certified Office Space Atlantic Tower

Radwan Fattal Dakmak discusses latest news regarding Atlantic Tower, the EDGE certified office building located in Airport City in Accra, and talks about upcoming plans. He also gives an overview of Meridian Apartments’ performance in the residential market, and shares his vision regarding the development of Ghana in the next few years.

Interview with Radwan Fattal Dakmak, Managing Director of Wahhab Estate Co Ltd and Meridian Group

Radwan Fattal Dakmak, Managing Director of Wahhab Estate Co Ltd and Meridian Group

You recently received an award in the mixed-use building category. Tell us more about it.

A few weeks ago, we were awarded a certification from the IFC and EDGE, confirming the performance of Atlantic Tower as a green building. We were actually certified as a green building upon completion in December 2018, but it is normal for such bodies to reassess the viability and the performance of the property over the years. So, from time to time, they come back for an audit. An award is never a lifetime certification. You always need to keep up with the qualities that allowed you to get that award in the first place, and that is exactly what happened. A team from EDGE came to audit the building again a few months ago to verify whether we had lived to the expectation of such an award. This is a really important award and it has a lot of value for us as developers, because the EDGE certification is certified by very important bodies like the IFC and the World Bank. It is a prestigious award that we work hard to maintain, insuring that Atlantic Tower is still a green building and deservces getting that recognition.

What is the meaning of the EDGE certification?

The EDGE certification is a certificate of excellence in the sense that, to be able to qualify to become a green building, you have to demonstrate that you have a lot of savings in terms of energy and water. In our certification, we have 46% energy savings and 56% water savings, compared to conventional buildings. We have exceeded the threshold required to be certified simply because we use energy efficient air conditioning, and the glazing that we have is of very good quality, which helps reduce the amount of heat that enters the building. This makes Atlantic Tower an energy efficient building, and actually this is being demonstrated and verified by our tenants. They are extremely happy because compared to the previous properties they were occupying, they have been doing a lot of savings in terms of power, especially now that the prices of energy have gone up all over the world. Here in Ghana, for instance, we just got a 35% increment in power.

What is the economic situation for the offices and the tenants at Atlantic Tower?

The economic situation all over the world is really tight. Ghana is also being affected by the fluctuation of the foreign exchange. The Cedi has depreciated dramatically in the past few months. Obviously this affects all the businesses in Ghana. But at Atlantic Tower, we are at full occupancy and none of our clients tell us they are leaving, because, we are all hoping that things will bounce back in the near future. The only office that does not generate money is the office I am in. So we are doing relatively well.

We are currently completing phase two of Atlantic Tower in Airport City, which is the block attached to Tower One. It is made up of approximately 5,000 square meters of office space and it should hopefully be ready by first quarter of 2023. In spite of the difficult economic conditions, we have quite a number of serious inquiries. We have not yet committed with anyone, but everything is looking good.

Atlantic Two will be of the same quality as Atlantic One, if not better. It is rather going to be an improved version because between 2018 and 2022 new products have come to the market. The AC will be more advanced, the IT system too, security wise it will be improved, and there are new models in tiling. It is basically an upgrade or an advanced version of Atlantic One, but it will follow the same criteria and the same quality. Atlantic One was completed more than four years ago but every time people walk in, they are impressed with the color scheme, the quality and the maintenance. We are doing a good job, all the tenants are happy, and for me this is a big testimony. I always tell my staff: “Rule number one: the customer is always right. Rule number two: if the customer is wrong, see rule number one”. We are always customer-oriented, and I believe this is one of the secrets of our success.

What about Meridian Apartments?

Meridian Apartments is made up of 120 residential units, a combination of 1, 2, 3, and 4 bedrooms. Ever since we started, we have had a very good occupancy rate. The commercial side is more consistent in terms of occupancy than the residential, which is usually the norm everywhere, simply because residential is usually short-term, whereas commercial is long-term. For residential, we were impacted heavily during the Covid-19 period. Before Covid-19, we were at almost 95% occupancy. During Covid, it dropped to almost 55%. Since then we are recovering gradually. We have not gotten to the 95% yet, but we have been improving yearly. Generally, it has been slow, but we are doing well. Again, our clients are happy. All the tenants recommend their colleagues or their friends, and all the companies are happy and keep on renewing. We are doing relatively well compared to the market. We would have expected to get back to the 95% occupancy, but we have to admit and understand the difficulties that all the companies are going through, as the economy is in a bit of trouble now.

Do you have to keep on doing renovations to be able to still attract customers?

The key to the success of any business is service. Meridian One is 13 years old, but the compound is very well maintained. Customer service and maintenance are the key factors that keep us going. There are new projects in town that look better than Meridian, but everyone living in Meridian says they will not leave for any other project. We have rarely had a situation where people leave us to move to another project, and everyone who leaves Meridian comes back saying they regret moving out. We have an excellent reputation in town. Everyone is happy with the quality of service that we provide, and frankly, this is what keeps us going.

In terms of facilities, we have two swimming pools, a gym, a tennis court, a squash court, childrens’ playground, a mini market and a coffee shop. All this adds to the comfort of the tenants and we keep maintaining the quality. The pool is always clean. The gym is always updated with equipment. The coffee shop is performing very well. People are happy. The environment, the serenity, the safety, the security, all these things add up and they complement each other. Meridian is more of a family compound. We try to focus on the safety and the friendliness of the environment so people become best friends from the compound. A lot of people come to Ghana and get to know each other through Meridian. I know people who travel, left Meridian over 10 years ago, made friends through Meridian and still contact us.

Every time I travel to Portugal I meet a group of friends, and they always call it the Meridian Connection. They are Portuguese, they met in Ghana, but every time I go to Portugal, I call them and we meet. This happens with most of the communities that are here. That friendly environment is really something I cherish. It is not only the business, but it gives me a lot of pride and joy when I see how happy people are. Obviously it is our business. We are running a business, we want to make money, but we also feel happy when people recommend Meridian. I go to functions and when people hear that I am the CEO or MD of Meridian, they run to me telling me that they have heard a lot about me. This gives me a lot of self-satisfaction and pride.

How do you assess the offer that is present for the expat community that is coming to Accra?

What is also important about Meridian is the location. We are less than five minutes from the airport. Location is very important in terms of security, proximity to the airport for the expat community and the environment. There are a lot of projects around Meridian in Airport Residential, but it is not as lively as Meridian. A lot of properties are coming up, standalone buildings with good quality, but they do not have the facilities that we have. Meridian is located on 2.3 acres of land, and it is not very common now in Accra to have such an area where you can have as many facilities as we do. This is what makes Meridian different from others.

What is your plan for the next two years?

Currently, I want to complete the commercial building Atlantic Two, and thereafter, we will consider some new investments. But I always like to finish one project at a time. Especially in our business, it is very capital intensive, and sometimes if you over expand without really looking at the economic situation, that can cause a big financial burden. Interest rates are very high now, and for me as a businessman, it would not be advisable to borrow heavily from the banks. We are still servicing our loans in Atlantic Tower, so I am a bit cautious about starting a new project at this stage. That would be my strategy for the coming years.

What is your vision regarding the development of Ghana in the next few years?

At the moment, the government is in negotiations with the IMF for a bailout. I believe this is a good move because every time the IMF moves in, it stabilizes the economy. I think it will boost the confidence in the economy and people will come back and invest. At the moment, I do not see much investment simply because of the serious fluctuation in the currency, and the way it is depreciating is really alarming. It has depreciated so that the dollar has more than doubled in 10 months time. For business this is really tough. It is being said that the first quarter of 2023 is a more reasonable time for the IMF to step in. Once they step in and the foreign exchange stabilizes, there will be more confidence in the economy. Ghana has gone through a lot of turbulences. As far as I remember, I went through something similar to this. I have been working in Ghana for more than 35 years now, and I have seen some bad times. But the good thing about Ghana is it will always bounce back. I have a lot of confidence in Ghana. It is a rich country with good people who are very professional.


WEBSITE: https://meridianapartmentgh.com

EMAIL: info@meridianapartmentgh.com| meridianapartments@hotmail.com

PHONE NUMBER: +233 249 445 566 | +233 302 785 773

ADDRESS: Quartey Papafio Avenue, Accra, Ghana


WEBSITE: https://atlantictowergh.com

EMAIL: management@atlantictowergh.com

PHONE NUMBER: +233 549 990 000 | +233 272 006 000

ADDRESS: Liberation Road, Airport City, Accra, Ghana


EMAIL: radwandakmak@gmail.com


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