Kenya's Centum Investment Co is poised to tap the booming property market in east Africa to meet the growing demand of the bulging middle class, its chief executive officer said on Tuesday.
"We are responding to a need (for housing) ... African cities are characterised by poor urban planning and our focus is to create new neighbourhoods where we define planning," James Mworia told Reuters in an interview.
Centum, the largest quoted investment company in East Africa, is sponsoring two projects in Kenya, the region's largest economy, and Uganda, with an estimated investment of $100 million each and which are set to begin in the fourth quarter.
With 300 acres in Uganda and 100 acres in Kenya, Centum plans to construct integrated developments with residential, commercial and recreational amenities.
Kenyan housing prices rose 5.8 percent in 2010 compared with 0.8 percent in 2009, with the country's position as a regional business hub and its improving governance among the main causes.
Analysts say the surge in Kenya's real estate market has further to run, buoyed by good economic growth. Construction and agriculture drove an estimated 5.1 percent expansion of the country's economic growth in 2010.
Mworia said Centum had attracted foreign and local investors and had built a capital base of 12 billion shillings. The firm plans to use Uganda as a launch pad in its expansion to the rest of Africa by listing on the country's securities exchange (USE) on Thursday.
It aims to have 50 percent of its operations beyond Kenya by 2014.
"The listing in Uganda is a first step into a more ambitious objective of broadening our shareholder base across a number of African countries," said Mworia.
Centum will not introduce new shares in Uganda, but will mobilise 4 million Kenyan shares or 0.7 percent of the total, worth an estimated $1.5 million, to