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The real state of real estate

Interview - February 29, 2012
Her company builds properties and sells to Ghana's emerging middle-classes - so Dr. Theresa Oppong Beeko, CEO of Manet Housing, is well-positioned to discuss both the construction sector and the country's economic progress

Ghana is the most rapidly developing economy in the world with growth figures over the next 10 years forecasted at a minimum of 7%. You have investments coming in from Europe, Asia and the US. What do you make of the rapid growth here and the potential challenges to growth and development in the future, also from the perspective of the real estate market?

We see growth here but not as much as you have said, because we do not know what numbers are used. When I see people being affected by this growth, I would say there is growth. When growth occurs, the people would feel the impact – and I do not think the average man on the street does. Poverty is still high so it is quite difficult or premature to suggest growth.
The “low income” housing options are still way above the average person’s income, so sometimes I am not very sure as to who my market is because the people I am building for do not seem to be able to afford it. Those who can afford it are mid-income.

How well-placed is Manet in terms of attracting investors?

We did not build properties with mid-income clients in mind, but we seem to be attracting them. We are dealing with mid-income clients without them being our objective. We aimed to build properties for low-income people. The mid-income clients are divided into three groups – the lower-middle, the mid-middle and the upper-middle. We have dealt with the lower-middle and the mid-middle, and we are now aiming to target the upper-middle clients. We will design properties with them in mind.

There is a property boom for those in the mid-income bracket and above, but at the same time there is a massive deficit of properties for lower-income clients. This gap is not profitable to fill.

Exactly. But the huge mass market is actually for the lower-income group. 

Do you think that Manet is well-positioned to build large-scale developments and take the burden off the Government?

I would say that we can only do so much. I have been in this industry since 1994 and the last time the State built houses was in the 1970s. But I am sorry to say we have not had the assistance that the State should provide.

How do you think that the Government can reduce the barriers to entry in the real estate market here and how can they make more affordable housing for the low-income population?

I do not think we have barriers to entry. If you decided today that you wanted to do it, I think you could. We have to deal with land issues and because of the culture, you cannot just take it away, so the State needs to provide land that we can build on and know that when we are buying the land we will not have issues. We also have interest rate issues. We work with unbelievable interest rates so we do not get a lot from what we build. The terms and conditions we work with are difficult, so this is why the Government should come in.

Manet is one of the local real estate providers. What advantages do you have over foreign-owned businesses here?

I understand the market and I know what it is about. If you have been here long enough you will find that we are so open and welcoming to outsiders. People will try to help you resolve your issues. You will find that you will not have as many issues as everybody would want to make it as easy for you as possible. This culture is deeply rooted, although it has its ups and downs. It only becomes a bad thing when it is abused.

German companies are rapidly entering the construction business in Ghana. What sets Manet apart from other real estate ventures? Can you meet the standards of these foreign executives?

I think we can. Our core business is the low-income group, but we still do houses for the upper-income segment. We do have orders from foreign investors for our houses.

How can Manet Housing Corporation work with foreign companies looking to enter the real estate market?

We are open to working with developers, contractors and investors. If there is an interested party in entering either the commercial or residential market, or building roads and highways, Manet can be their first point of contact and we have a proven track record of success.

There is also a sizeable diaspora in Germany, which will also come back and buy properties.

We do have those who are highly educated in Germany. On average, most people who go out of the country do so in order to purchase a house. In Ghana the day you are born, the day you are married and when you die are the most important things, so everybody tries to build a house. 

Manet is in the running for six awards at an event and you have been nominated as Personality of the Year in the real estate sector. What does winning this award mean to you as a female Ghanaian entrepreneur?

I am delighted and it inspires me to work harder and accomplish significantly more.

What secrets to success would you like to share?

I would say that if you want something bad enough, just go for it, no matter the terms and conditions. If you knock on a door hard enough, it will open.  That certainly worked for me all these years.