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Investors woo Nigerian retailers to Douala Mall

Developers of the Douala Mall are targeting Nigerian retailers to invest in the shopping mall expected to boost retail development in Cameroon.

The mall, which is expected to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2019, is the first phase of a retail-led, mixed-use development around the airport in Douala, with the phase II development, known as Business Parc, expected to have office buildings, with Actis as a lead investor and Broll as leasing consultant.

The Chief Executive Officer of the local project partner, Craft Group, Mathurin Kamdem, at a tenants’ forum in Lagos, said there had been growing efforts by the government of Cameroon to modernise and formalise the retail sector, which had attracted new entrants such as SPAR, FNAC and DIA Carrefour, among others.

According to him, retailing in Douala is expected to grow in the next five to 10 years, driven by increased urbanisation, intense competitive activities and a growing middle class, while established and new players in modern retailing will be offering more modern shopping environment to the growing middle class.

Kamdem said, “Cameroon has the highest population growth rate of 2.5 to 3.0 per cent in the Central African Economic and Monetary Community and account for 50 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product of the region. The CFA franc is pegged to the euro, which mitigates forex exposure and results in inflation rates being generally similar to those of the Eurozone, which are low for sub-Saharan Africa.

“Cameroon has a history of political stability with the existing President, Paul Biya, in power for 33 years; however, a lack of change in government for several years has dampened potential growth. But, there are growing efforts by the government to modernise and formalise.”

Kamdem stated that investors were assured of favourable returns on investment as Douala currently lacked formal retail centres of scale to serve the population of more than three million people, which presents an opportunity to introduce a destination offering to the market.

He said the project would attract shoppers from Central Africa, with its first-mover advantage in a fragmented market, where commercial real estate sector was still in its infancy.

“There are only two smaller retail centres of 5,000 square metres and 7,000 square metres, which were opened in 2015 in Douala. The project is aimed at becoming the first retail and entertainment destination in Central Africa,” he added.

Other advantages, he said, included high visibility and close proximity to the airport, with a passenger volume of 1.5 million per year, strategic location as well as excellent infrastructure and commuter connections around the site, among others.

According to him, informal retailing still represents about 90 per cent of all retailing activities in Cameroon, while most people buy from independent grocers or open-air markets.

“The retail environment is said to be much like that of Ghana 10 years ago. However, this is set to moderately change partly driven by efforts of the government to ban street trading, makeshift stores, table-top sellers and other unauthorised retailing structures in pursuit of a more organised and coherent open environment, revitalisation of city centres and modernisation of trading standards,” he said.

He added that the mall, which will be anchored by Carrefour, would also have Nigeria’s Genesis as the cinema anchor, among other retailers.

“The ground floor, measuring 13,506m², has five restaurants and 66 shops, including two medium-sized boutiques and facilities that include three loading docks. The first floor measuring 10,284m² includes a 1,500m² area dedicated to a cinema managed by Genesis, nine restaurants, two kiosks, and 43 boutiques,” Kamdem said.

The Director, Real Estate, Actis, Funke Okubadejo, said Douala’s young population of educated people looking to do things differently would drive the retail market.

She added that as a diversified economy, the fall in oil price had no effect on Cameroon.