Five years ago, private equity investors, developers and JSE-listed property funds couldn’t get into the rest of Africa fast enough. Africa was punted as the next big growth story. At the time, a key attraction for SA real estate players was the potential to tap into a rapidly growing middle class in a vastly undersupplied market. Tenants in most countries north of SA’s borders were typically paying rentals in US dollars (or equivalent rates) — an added bonus, as it provided the potential to earn hard-currency income and capital growth. By June 2014, no fewer than seven JSE-listed property companies had entered other countries on the continent: Tradehold, Mara Delta (now Grit Real Estate), Rockcastle (now merged with Nepi), Trustco, Hyprop Investments, Attacq and Resilient Reit. But a year later the African euphoria was dimmed by the sudden shift in the continent’s economic growth outlook on the back of the oil and commodity price slump. That was followed by wild swings in local exc...

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