Property Flash


The 10th annual East Africa Property Investment (EAPI) Summit will take place from May 17 to 18 at The Radisson Blu, Upper Hill, Nairobi. As a media partner, Property Flash is publishing a series of articles about commercial real estate in this growing region, and its exciting future. In this piece, we chat to Donald Borthwick, Managing director of industrial structure and Kenya for Grit Real Estate Investment Group. Borthwick will present at the EAPI Summit, a must-attend for real estate -professionals and experts.

May 16 2023

Grit Real Estate Income Group (Grit), which is listed on the London Stock Exchange and the Stock Exchange of Mauritius, holds a portfolio of real estate assets valued at more than US$830m in numerous African countries, including Mauritius, Mozambique, Morocco, Zambia, Senegal, Botswana, and Ghana. It also has relatively small exposure to the Kenyan market, but this is about to change as it has set up a premium investment vehicle there.

Grit’s development arm is Gateway Real Estate Africa (GREA), an impressive company with a track record of building an assortment of different kinds of properties such as best-in-class offices and high-end corporate and consular accommodation, including for The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations, a US Government agency that directs the worldwide overseas building program for the United States Department of State and the US Government community serving abroad.

Grit is gradually acquiring GREA, having bought a 35% interest in August 2022 with an option over a further 13.61% by May this year. Grit also holds a controlling stake in Africa Property Development Managers, (APDM), GREA’s asset manager. GREA owns some US$400m worth of assets and an exciting pre-funded development pipeline which will be consolidated into Grit’s portfolio.

Grit owns a shopping centre and two industrial warehouses in Kenya, in addition to the Rosslyn Grove Consular housing co-development by GREA and has recognised the sheer potential and will in this fast-developing country.

“Kenya is an incredibly exciting market, and we believe that offers long term investment potential and consistent returns. We are building a presence in key cities across this east African powerhouse,” says Donald Borthwick, the head of Grit Real Estate’s industrial division.

Borthwick is leading Grit’s new project, Bora Africa, a wholly owned subsidiary of Grit, which has been created to roll out the Kenyan expansion.

“Bora Africa is a Reit-like (real estate investment trust) structure that will invest in warehousing, prime logistics, light industrial, manufacturing, storage facilities, data centres and digital infrastructure real estate assets in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA),” Borthwick explains

“The Orbit Products Africa Limited manufacturing facility and new warehouse, alongside the Imperial Warehouse, three land bank assets in Kenya ready for greenfield development, as well as our Bollore Warehouse in Mozambique will form the cornerstone assets of Bora Africa,” he says.

Bora Africa will then raise additional financing to execute an approximate US$192m pipeline of acquisitions and new asset development opportunities in sub-Sahara Africa.

Financing to support the acquisition and development of the industrial pipeline assets in Kenya, Mauritius and Nigeria is being negotiated with the International Finance Corporation with the balance of the financing required for the pipeline assets to be provided by Grit and co-investors in the form of equity and by private financial institutions in the form of senior debt. 

The group will gradually invest hundreds of millions in Kenya as the country develops and its 55-million strong population grows.

The assets will be developed by GREA as well as Africa Property Development Managers.

GREA’s flagship development in Kenya is Eneo at Tatu City, a 21,662m2 GLA, five-story office tower on behalf of CCI Global, the largest international contact centre operator in Africa. The development incorporates sustainable building practices such as the use of local materials and the optimisation of natural light and airflow.

In addition to large floor plates for flexible call centre operations, the Grade A office tower will incorporate training facilities and a career centre to welcome new employees as well as rapid lifts for seamless shift changes. The building has been designed to optimise natural light and with employee wellness at its core.

Eneo at Tatu Central is the latest in a strategic partnership between GREA and Rendeavour, which spans commercial, warehousing and logistics developments at Rendeavour’s new cities in East and West Africa.

To achieve success in the country, Grit wants to use an assortment of local and international skilled labour which can support Kenyans as it establishes a presence there which will bring value to the country and its citizens.    

Borthwick highlights that Kenya’s investment case is ever improving.

“Kenya’s economy is multi-faceted. It has various strands which enable it to be tenacious. There is real depth in the economy. We see a large services sector driven by growth in business process outsourcing, financial services, and tourism. Tourism has gained momentum after the pandemic with people from abroad excited to see ast Africa. Beyond this, logistics and agricultural sectors are growing,” says Borthwick.

He explains that Kenya does not face those challenges associated with being a resource economy. Kenya doesn’t suffer from Dutch Disease for example.

Dutch disease is a way of describing the paradox which occurs when good news, such as the discovery of large oil reserves, harms a country’s broader economy. It may begin with a large influx of foreign cash to exploit a newfound resource.

“Mining-based economies can excel during commodity booms but often the country with the minerals doesn’t enjoy enough of the benefits. This has been common in Africa. Kenya is relying on its services, agricultural products, and other goods, some of which it exports. Bora Africa wants to make moving goods around far more efficient,” says Borthwick.

Ugandan and Rwandan goods pass though Kenya which creates massive business opportunities for Kenyan logistics companies. Kenyan contractors also often service the likes of South Sudan and Burundi.

Kenyan roadways are improving gradually with a new expressway having been constructed to help deal with traffic congestion.

Higher education is also a strong priority in the country. Computer programming is viewed as an attractive field which not only leads to job opportunities but also grants those who study it the tools to create businesses. Young Kenyans have realised that in a country where unemployment is stubbornly high, creating job opportunities or at least taking steps to make yourself more employable, is vital.

Kenya’s government has also taken steps to make investing in the country easier. Kenya has 15 gazetted special economic zones (SEZ)s, which form part of the ambitious plans to create thousands of jobs and boost exports to spur economic growth by 2030.

Its railway lines have improved tremendously in recent years. At least eight trains leave Mombasa every day now.

Geopolitically Kenya is also stable. Borthwick says the country is protected against ad hoc nationalisation and insurers enjoy strong relationships with property owners.  

“We are attracted to Kenya for a plethora of reasons. Its economy is healthy, having experienced strong growth almost every year for the past two decades. We believe that all kinds of groups are working together to make Kenya excel,” says Borthwick.

He encourages professionals from across Africa to attend the EAPI and to keep up to the news released from it.

“This is one of the most dynamic conferences on our continent. It is critically important for the industry and greater east Africa. It is ideal for exchange, and I believe that people who take investing in this region seriously and who believe in its success, should embrace the EAPI Summit,” he says.

Paid for editorial for the East Africa Property Investment (EAPI) Summit. The summit will take place on May 17 and May 18 2023 and is expected to attract more than 1000 visitors in-person and online. For more information and to download the agenda, please visit:

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