How mixed-use precincts are shaping African cities

Mixed-use real estate isn’t just taking South Africa by a storm. Developments that combine residential, retail, commercial and office spaces are becoming increasingly popular in the rest of the continent, and for all the right reasons.

When it comes to economic growth, all eyes are on Africa. Data by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for instance shows that this continent accounts for four of the world’s top five fastest-growing economies, namely Ghana (8.8% growth in 2019), South Sudan (8.8%), Dominco (8%), Rwanda (7.8%) and Ethiopia (7.7%).

This as well as increasing spending power, a rapid urbanization rate and Africa’s expanding working-age population – which according to the World Economic Forum will be larger than either China or India in 2034 – are transforming the continent’s cities profoundly.

Take Rwanda’s capital of Kigali, which according to the Eden Strategy Institute has one of the world’s top 50 smart city governments. Not coincidentally, the city has become a mixed-use real estate hotspot too.

“Technologically enhanced mixed-use developments form part of Kigali’s master plan to drive investments, improve the business climate and build infrastructure to grow the city’s economy. The authorities know that modern mixed-use developments support a vibrant, productive and liveable city,” says Nicholas Stopforth, managing director of Amdec Property Developments.”

In South Africa, Amdec Group’s projects such as Melrose Arch have proven this. This development has changed the way people from Melrose live, work, and spend their free time. With a landscaped urban design that allows pedestrians access green public spaces amongst hundreds of trees, Melrose Arch incorporates residential complexes, luxury hotels, an events venue, dozens of restaurants and coffee shops, a shopping galleria, AAA-grade office buildings and a flagship Virgin Active gym.

“Residents and working professionals have everything they need on their doorstep, without having to get into their cars and worry about safety. This was one of the first developments to achieve that for this area,” he says.

Lagos in Nigeria is another one of Africa’s mixed-use rising stars. According to Stopforth, these types of properties are becoming more popular as locals and expats alike looking for safe pedestrian-oriented precincts where one can live, work, play and shop. This is amplified by high levels of traffic congestion, something which besides Nigeria’s economic heart is also affecting Accra, Nairobi, Addis Ababa and other metros including Johannesburg and Cape Town.

“This is why our latest project, The Yacht Club which incorporates Africa’s first AC by Marriott Hotel, is located in Cape Town’s city centre, close to N1 and N2 access points, and near the Central Business District, the V&A Waterfront and other business and entertainment hubs.

Whilst the Amdec Group is drawing inspiration from what is going on in established markets, the company is watching developments closer to home closely, too. “In terms of future projects, we aren’t just looking at what is happening in cities like Hong Kong, Sydney, and New York. As a leading developer on the African continent, we are certainly looking at what African megacities like Nairobi and Lagos are doing!”