Africa’s Property Technology (Proptech) sector is ramping up and is a key component of future strategies for local REITs, operators and others looking to future proof their real estate businesses as well as VCs looking to invest in early stage startups and opportunities according to the founder of the Africa Proptech Forum, Kfir Rusin. “Covid-19 accelerated the growth of technology in real estate management on the continent with smart building and sustainable technology being the most broadly adopted innovations to date,” says Rusin.
Evidence of this ramp up and uptake in African real estate for Rusin includes: Spleet, a leading Nigerian Proptech start-up’s inclusion into the NYC-based Metaprop accelerator; increasing fund allocation to property technology by VC’s such as Kalon Ventures, Kepple Africa and others; expansion of Proptech into property curriculum studies by universities such as UCT; expansion of global tech leaders such as MRI Software across the African market; and the investment and development in tech specific strategies and services from leading African real estate players such as Broll, Turner & Townsend, and ATTACQ.
Actively leveraging five decades of experience to drive development across the African continent and empower the sector with strong technology, MRI Software is one of the leading drivers of Proptech globally. With over two million users worldwide and with over 70% of the South Africa’s REIT sector using its tech, MRI Software’s scale provides it with a platform to bring new technologies to market and drive adoption of new technologies such as AI powered data acquisition tools and predictive analytics says Africa MD, Mark Fairweather.
“Predictive analytics is the next big leap that we want to take. Each company using solutions for planning and forecasting is doing things slightly differently, but there are also always things that remain consistent and repeatable regardless of circumstances – in areas of consistency like this, a lot of planning and analysis could be replaced by a predictive analytical engine powered by artificial intelligence,” says Fairweather. As he looks forward to the future, he is energized about how Proptech is likely to fast track growth and help the sector to leapfrog over historical challenges in Africa and echoes Rusin’s views on where Proptech is driving change.
“It’s an exciting time to be in the world of PropTech, because it’s a time where we can all shape the future. The opportunity is here now to apply data and analytics, in ways that really matter. When looking to the future, we are able to define three mega-trends that we believe shape the future of real estate and PropTech.”
“The first is smart buildings and technologies, which is about buildings having sensors and data – but also about the technology becoming smarter with insights and artificial intelligence to help drive automation. Secondly, physical spaces will become more flexible and respond to the changing needs of people, which means business models and PropTech will also need to become nimbler. Thirdly, engaging resident, tenant and guest experiences matter more now than ever before, because people have much more choice now.”
From developing and driving technology adoptions to making sense of the data and spurring innovation that affects the bottom line is what drives Broll Cushman Wakefield’s Technology Lead, Jarrod Lewin. According to Lewin, while the real estate sector increasingly values data as the new gold; the analysis and usability of the data is what will set apart industry leaders from their peers.
As Lewin says, “Market dynamics, even in a sector as slow to move as real estate is, are changing at an increasing rate, so there is tremendous value in being able to forecast, mark and adjust, to predicted market shifts.” As he elaborates on Cushman Wakefield Broll’s current ability and future plans to unlock Africa’s new era with Proptech, Lewin reveals their secret sauce to driving the real estate sector forward.
“To encourage and harness the power of PropTech requires that we maintain two key lines of innovation, which may converge in the future. We have repositioned our team and are investing in: Seeking large efficiencies in our current business operations; as well as creating new ways of offering real estate services,” adds Lewin. This important nuance has been critical to working in partnership with a sector, which has been slow to change, and required an approach based less on leaps, but refinement and augmentation of current service processes says Lewin.
This has resulted in Cushman Wakefield Broll investing and developing proprietary technology platforms, which are focused on two key service requirements: transaction administration and documentation, and payment processes. As Lewin says, “Whilst not yet launched publicly, our team currently shares the ability to harness: Automated Workflow and Transaction Administration – which significantly reduces the time spent administering transactions. Automated and Roboticized Invoice Processing – which both reduces the time spent in loading, validating and making payments on behalf of our clients, but also provides for data gathering and analysis to inform our clients of market shifts or consumption habits.”