Developers look to North Africa for real estate opportunities

Major property developers are looking to North Africa as a key emerging real estate market as it is largely unhindered by the global crisis and offers potential that can't be found elsewhere, it is claimed.

Countries like Libya, once shunned by western nations and subject to sanctions, are now seen as full of investment potential. Dubai property developer Deyaar is looking at a number of options in North Africa and Maltese and Kuwaiti owned luxury developer Mediterranean Investments Holdings is about to complete its first development in Libya.

'The mature countries are not good for us. We need underdeveloped and developing countries to invest in,' said Markus Giebel, Deyaar chief executive.

Libya has been experiencing unprecedented growth for the last year or so, according to Reuben Xuereb, executive director of MIH, which is owned by Cornthia Group and the National Real Estate Company of Kuwait.

'The Libyan government's initiatives to open up to the world and welcome foreign companies to do business in Libya has propelled a widespread boom in construction, infrastructure, health care, education and a myriad of other areas in which it is investing and working with international companies to deliver,' he said.

MIH is working on a number of projects in the North African country and its first completed development, Palm City, launches in the next few weeks. 'Libya has enormous potential given its location, history, coastline and geographic topography. The vast stretches of virgin beaches, the Roman and Greek ruins, mountains and desert are some of the unique attractions. Tripoli is now included as part of the Mediterranean cruises circuit,' he added.

The future for companies like MIH includes hotels, residential developments and commercial projects in North Africa. 'Our strategy is to invest and to launch projects that address the needs of the particular country,' Xuereb said. Palm City, a self contained residential village aimed at the expat community, was conceived years ago when Libya was still under sanctions.

Announcements for Deyaar are expected soon. 'We have been negotiating in five different countries,' confirmed Giebel.

Middle East developer Arabtec is also looking at potential in Libya and Algeria. And Abu Dhabi based Al Maabar International Investments has broken ground on a $750 million development in the Moroccan capital, Rabat.

Kuwait based North Africa Holding Company is also expanding into North Africa. It has announced a new partnership deal with the promoters and developers of the €170 million Assoufid luxury residential, hotel and golf project in Marrakech.