Global firms struggle to get quality retail space in Kigali

Saturday September 24 2022

One of the upcoming modern malls in Kigali city. The rental prices for prime office space in Kigali have fallen by 20 per cent as supply increases and demand remains at flat line. PHTO FILE | NATION


Low supply of quality commercial buildings in Kigali has kept many international brands from entering the market, making the economy miss out on the much needed jobs and tax revenues.

The brands include FLO (a global footwear maker), Optica (luxury eyewear brand), Kiqli, Bata and Java. Other internationally recognised brands like KFC have have failed to get suitable space for expansion while local supermarkets like Simba have also not expanded due to lack of appropriate space.

High demand

In the past, brands like Adidas, Woodin, Regus and regional supermarkets like Uchumi have struggled to get quality commercial space in Rwanda.

“There is a high demand for quality space in accessible buildings. There are many globally renowned retail brands that assigned us to get them space but we can’t find any,” says Charles Haba, the managing director of Century Real Estates.

As the economy grows and the country robustly markets itself as a business and tourism destination, it has attracted regional and global firms, but these are finding it hard to get quality space, with some ending up in other markets that have the space they need. Mr Haba notes that most new buildings are low in quality.


“Access is a big problem in many buildings. Developers are not doing enough to construct good quality buildings in terms of design and functionality,” he said.

Turkish fashion retailer LC Waikiki announced it will open its first store in Rwanda after it signed an agreement to lease space in the recently auctioned Kigali Business Centre (KBC).

But Mr Haba, whose company leased the space, says it took them long to find suitable space.

“LC Waikiki taking that space was a compromise on their side; the space was not satisfactory for them,” he added.

Hertz Emmanuel, a real estate consultant, says one of the factors to blame for the subdued investment in high end commercial real estate in Kigali is the ever-changing physical plan of the city.

“We have a planning problem. If every two years we change a physical plan, it shows that there is a long term planning issue. This scares investors.”

Attracting investors

He noted that the city also has to expropriate many informal settlements and compensate or relocate people to other places to ease work for investors, and secure business and shopping zones.

“Our investors also lack exposure. This has limited the extent they can go in the buildings they invest in hence using available space for low quality buildings,” he noted.

Constructions on Inzovu Mall is in high gear at the space that formerly housed the Supreme Court. Once completeby end of 2023, supply of quality space will slightly improve.

The multi-million dollar project that will integrate green technologies and is being built on 26,000 square metres is owned by Duval Great Lakes Ltd, a subsidiary of French company, Groupe Duval.