Five years ago, Africa was still widely punted as the world’s next big growth story. Back then, a number of SA developers and listed property funds ventured north of SA’s borders to cash in on the continent’s rapidly growing middle class and shortage of formal retail space.

A key attraction was that most tenants paid rentals in US dollars, which provided a hard-currency income stream for SA investors. By mid-2014, at least six JSE-listed property companies operated in other African countries: Tradehold, Mara Delta (now Grit Real Estate), Rockcastle (now merged with Nepi), Hyprop Investments, Attacq and Resilient Reit. Asset managers such as Stanlib had also entered the fray via the creation of an African property-focused unit trust fund targeted at institutional investors. But by late 2015 the real estate party elsewhere in Africa came to an abrupt end on the back of the oil and commodity price crash, which dimmed the continent’s economic growth outlook...

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