[Interview] Victoria Nannozi, CEO, The Association of Real Estate Agents, Uganda
The Association of Real Estate Agents, AREA-Uganda, is an umbrella institution of real estate agency/brokerage companies, consultancy real estate firms, and real estate agency /brokerage professionals in Uganda that have key interests in real estate agency/brokerage.
It was formed to stimulate cooperation in the business, strengthening professional qualifications and establishing codes of conduct and business standards. Victoria Nannozi the CEO elaborates.
Briefly introduce your company
The Association of Real Estate Agents Uganda(AREA-Uganda) is a Non-governmental Organisation. It brings together practitioners in the Real Estate Industry among them agents, brokers, developers, property managers, interior designers and students of Real Estate.
When and why was it set up?
AREA- Uganda was established in April 2008 as an umbrella body to champion matters of concern among real estate agents. It has been in existence for the last twelve years with growing membership, and has become a recognized and influential force in the public and private sector. The association has morphed from merely representing matters concerning agents to an association that champions real estate sector matters as a whole. The association was set up to protect the consumers from the unscrupulous practices of some brokers and agents. The aim is to professionalise the industry.
We also wanted to support members’ businesses to succeed through opportunities for networking and sharing business.
What gives AREA the competitive edge?
We are the only association that brings together practictioners in the real estate sector. The association is recognised in all public institutions.
It hosts the Real Estate Institute of East Africa which is the training arm of the association. This has given an opportunity to those without education in Real Estate to get professional training.
The association also has an investment club for members to invest in future developments and a women’s council to empower women in the sector.
How has the market responded to your services? Why do you think that is so?
Since its inception in 2018, the assocation has continued to grow from three members that conceived the idea in a restaurant in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda to an association that now has approximately over 400 active members with about a hundred being companies. The association also openedchapters in other regions in the North, West and East of the country. This same association exported this idea to Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania, and now these countries too have their own associations.
What are the dynamics that have shaped real estate in Uganda?
There has been rapid urbanisation of about 5.1%, housing deficit of about 2.1 million and the unplanned settlements throughout the country. There is also limited regulation in the sector
What are the changes and developments that AREA has undergone since its inception?
The association has gone through a number of changes since inception, in the begining it focussed mainly on agents but it now includes all practioners in the Real Estate Industry. It also instituted the educational arm of the association and the different councils to help members grow to their full capacity.
Who are your clients?
Our clients are all practioners in the Real Estate Industry in Uganda. They includes agents, brokers, developers, property managers, engineers, financers, insurers, students and interior designers among others.
How has COVID-19 shaped your business and how have you managed to remain resilient?
The Real Estate sector has been hit hard by COVID 19. From the onset, the pandemic affected office space occupation, with many offices closed during the lockdown. There were attempts by some individuals to work from home. This even after the easing of the lock down affected the use of office space.
The number of sales for the residential sector went down with limited viewing of properties during the lockdown. The construction sector had also been put on hold.
Imports and exports were affected due to high costs of transport and the closing of the borders. Many businesses could not afford to pay rent.
Each of our members have employed different strategies to remain afloat but as an association, we have continously engaged our member through zoom meetings and discussed various strategies of how to survive the effects of the lockdown. We have held experts talks with them in webinars on different topics including taxation, how to handle distressed properties, how to handle employees during tough times. We have continued to engage the government on different aspects in the sector.
What is the greatest threat to your business and industry?
Limited regulation of the real estate sector
What are your company’s plans in 2021?
To train more brokers in order to professionalize the industry and stop unscrupulous practices. We also intend to increase membership and push for regulation in the sector.
What does your company need to grow and prosper?
More funds to support research and development and the Real Estate Institute of East Africa.
What is the latest news from your company?
The association is pushing for the Real Estate Agents bill 2020, which was read in parliament for the first time on March 4,2021 which is a big step towards regulation of the sector.