The rise and rise of Kenya’s real estate sector has been phenomenal. But while its growth is evident, the same cannot be said of the technology use in the sector.
The proﬁtability of the country’s housing market — driven by such factors as huge deficits, a growing middle class, and a poorly regulated industry — has left technology playing catch up, with modern construction technologies remaining alien to local developers.
A large portion of investors and real estate professionals, still stuck in the past, have had to contend with traditional building methods, outdated masonry techniques, and con artists disguised as real estate agents.
In the past two years, however, concerted eﬀorts from diﬀerent players have seen a notable increase in the use of ICT in the real estate sector. Diﬀerent innovations have been developed for use in the sector and better, modern construction materials and tools have also been introduced.
While metallic rods, low-gravity masts, electric weight lifters, and building machinery have all been important inventions in Kenyan real estate, it is the launch of three technological novelties that has had the biggest impact.
One of them is an online real estate portal that seeks to harmonise all land data for buyers, sellers, tenants, leasers, the government, and the general public.
A gold mine to real estate developers, land data is especially crucial as most development projects require it from the planning stage and land acquisition to execution and finalising of the project.
Yet, despite its importance, there is hardly any harmonised land data that is of unquestionable compatibility.
Perhaps owing to reliance on manual data storage systems -in regard to topographical and most geographical information -land information scattered in various governmental offices is always conflicting.
Thus you find ambitious developers toiling and moiling to invest in a piece of land, having secured approval from the relevant local authorities, only for the Lands or Transport ministries to later earmark the land as public property.
movingout.co.ke African Ventures Limited, a local company, found this niche and developed MovingOut (http://www.movingout.co.ke), an online real estate portal that seeks to harmonise such data. Apart from GIS technology that is integrated in it, the invention has customised Google maps that provide ample and crystal-clear view of actual location of real estate properties.
“It will act as a comprehensive onestop shop and aims to be the place to go for all matters concerned with real estate, including buying, renting, and a key source of providing information on real estate in general,“ reads the company’s website.
Nonetheless, the website is still a novice as it is yet to ensure harmonisation of all land data in Kenya and complete compatibility of complementing data.
To Dr Franco Odhiambo, a surveyor and mapping consultant, is investing in a “national spatial data infrastructure“ that would ensure total harmonisation.
“Despite computerisation, acquisition and processing of geo-spatial data being expensive, it is necessary for development purposes,“ he recently wrote. “The country boasts experienced personnel in geo-spatial science and engineering although they need to be equipped with modern instruments and tools.“
According to him, the painful memories of state demolitions will be a thing of the past as harmonised data will prevent naïve developers from being duped into buying public utility land.
Polyhedric ballast Mined and processed locally, polyhedric blast is a mixture of crashed stones and cement that seeks to replace the popular river sand which has traditionally been used in construction.
The producing company, a Kilifi based-mining firm known as Duma Group, has invested in a new technology that has the capacity to produce more than one million cubic metres of quality polyhedric ballast every year, according to its CEO, Naja Dahmani.
The polyhedric ballast is environmentally-friendly as no yellow sand will be used, is cost-effective, and requires less cement as it utilises less cement per cubic metre.
It is excavated from high quality ballast ore, thus making durable and more solid structures. The cement is also more workable and sturdy due to its smooth texture.
Various real estate experts expect the product to revolutionise the local building and construction industry, which currently lacks such modern building technologies and tailor-made products.
Lipa Kodi Lipa Kodi, by Safaricom, is designed to offer tenants a convenient way of honouring rental obligations from the comfort of their homes. Using the MPesa-based mobile application, tenants are able to pay their rent safely and reliably, while landlords and housing agents are also provided with a rent collection interface. The invention is also cost-efficient, according to the Safaricom general manager of financial services, Betty Mwangi-Thuo.
“Lipa Kodi is yet another solution from Safaricom that seeks to broaden the financial inclusion agenda through the use of the mobile phone,“ she says.
“It is expected to redefine the payment ecosystem for Kenyans and how they meet their rental obligations.“
This comes at a time when the Kenyan rental market is valued at an estimated Sh17.2 billion -21 per cent of the total real estate market value -while statistics from the World Bank put Kenya’s average monthly rental pay as Sh5,898.