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Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Nigeria lead Africa office demand rebound, says Haussmann Africa

By David Whitehouse
Posted on Wednesday, 20 January 2021 18:18

The central business district of Plateau in Abidjan, Ivory Coast October 27, 2020. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

West Africa is set to lead a recovery in demand for African office space in 2021, Haussmann Africa chief operating officer Maxime Chauvelot tells The Africa Report.

Haussmann Africa, which builds and designs commercial interiors, is tendering for “three or four” projects in Côte d’Ivoire for which it expects results by the end of February, says Chauvelot in Abidjan. These include a tender for a Coca-Cola office of 700 square metres in Abidjan, as the US drinks giant moves to a smaller office.

The West African recovery, which includes Nigeria, is broadly based across sectors and includes banking and insurance, Chauvelot says. Business has picking up since September after having ground to a standstill and will “definitely” be better this year than in 2020.

The Haussmann Africa is working on projects for clients like Woodside in Dakar, as well as Broll and AB InBEV in Lagos.  It is also tendering for a 3,000 square-meter office in Lagos for a US client.

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“All our indicators show that the demand for office fit-out is there and is on the rise,” Chauvelot says. Kenya and South Africa, by contrast, are still struggling to deal with Covid-19, which is holding back recovery of their office markets, he adds.

Haussmann, which was set up in 2013 and operates in nine African countries, remains bullish on the long-term outlook for African office space. The current period will come to be seen as a “small hiccough” in a trajectory of growth, he says. “New office builds will go down a bit, but not as much as in Europe.”

Yet many key projects are still for multinational rather than African companies.

  • About 70% of the company’s existing portfolio is made up of global names and only about 30% African companies.
  • “The recovery of African economies will be intricately linked to foreign investment,” Chauvelot says.
  • In the medium term, he expects that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will help by encouraging the development of more companies that will operate in African countries other than their own.

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Open Plan

The Covid-19 pandemic has redefined the way companies think about the workplace, says Chauvelot. “In many countries, employees are back at the office and realising the office space is long due for a change. Companies want to either do more with the space they have or reduce their real estate presence.”

  • About 67% of companies now see work from home as part of their operating model. Chauvelot expects that trend to continue.
  • “Work from home is not going to disappear in six months.”
  • That’s reflected in demand for smaller offices with more open-plan desks and fewer closed offices, he says.
  • Chauvelot sees a trend towards a new style of open-plan office with more space per employee than in older open plans to ensure distance and measures such as higher divides between desks.
  • Still, he adds, clients are not yet demanding many extra health and safety features, as they still view the pandemic as a temporary problem.

Bottom line

An African office market driven by African companies will be a sign that the continent’s free-trade area is working.

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