Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Antoine Viallet: "We must base our relations with the African continent on reciprocity"

Written by Interview by Frédéric Dubessy on Tuesday, October 5th 2021 à 15:30 | Read 534 times

Past president of the Marseille-Provence Real Estate Club, vice-president of the Marseillais de l'Immobilier en Afrique (MIA'S) and member of the Africalink network, Antoine Viallet led the 14th Real Estate Day on Thursday 30 September 2021 in Marseille, with Fabrice Alimi, president of the French Federation of Real Estate Clubs (FFCI), under the theme 'Marseille Hub of Africa'. He reminds of the importance of forging strong links with this continent.

Antoine Viallet: "We must base our relations with the African continent on reciprocity" Why did the Marseille-Provence Real Estate Club choose "Marseille Hub of Africa" as the theme for its annual meeting?

Antoine Viallet: At the Real Estate Club, Africa has always been a subject and it is a potential for our territory. Everyone knows that the continent of today and tomorrow is Africa. Marseille, historically and geographically, has links and we would be irresponsible if we didn't ask ourselves the question of how to find our place in this market and develop it. And above all, to develop it on a different basis than the one we had with Africa during the last century. We must base these relations on reciprocity, partnership and exchange.

An operation such as the one today also contributes to making the actors of our territory aware of all the assets it has. Finally, this territory has a propensity to flog itself, instead of looking at its strong points. As an African proverb says: "Alone we go faster, together we go further".

Imagining a sustainable city with respect for African traditions

The Marseille-Provence Real Estate Club addressed eleven themes related to Africa with thirty-three speakers from both continents (photo: F.Dubessy)
The Marseille-Provence Real Estate Club addressed eleven themes related to Africa with thirty-three speakers from both continents (photo: F.Dubessy)
What were the strong points detected among the eleven themes* selected during this day? What can Marseille bring to Africa, and what can Africa bring to Marseille?

A.V. : Marseille has everything to offer! Nearly 14% of the Bouches-du-Rhône department's exports go to Africa. Let's ask ourselves what skills we have to support a continent that will have 2.4 billion inhabitants in 2050? We also gave the example of Africa's capacity to develop here in Provence. A company like Alteo (editor's note: alumina plant in Gardanne, near Aix-en-Provence) was bought by a Guinean group (editor's note: in January 2021 by United Mining Supply - UMS) and it's about 500 jobs, not a small SME. Africans are entrepreneurs and are jumping through technological hoops, from tom-toms to 4G. There is an exponential demand and we are in a partnership, a reciprocity and not in a spirit of arriving in Africa with the infused science. It is up to us to determine how we can adapt to this market.
We are really at the beginning of this process, but at a tipping point.

How is the real estate market on this continent?

A.V.: In Dakar, 40,000 homes are built every year at prices of up to €14,000 per square metre. 100,000 foreigners from all over the world live in the Senegalese capital. It is easy to focus on the metropolises. There is also a secondary market with cities of hundreds or millions of inhabitants with real needs. This is a growth relay market.
If it's to make real estate like we do here, it doesn't really make sense. On the other hand, if we want to imagine new concepts for sustainable cities or villages, with respect for African traditions of living together, then we have French engineering to mix with African experience.

Attacking the sub-Saharan markets from the Maghreb

The Marseille-Provence Real Estate Club focused on Africa for its annual meeting (photo: F.Dubessy)
The Marseille-Provence Real Estate Club focused on Africa for its annual meeting (photo: F.Dubessy)
What are the links in this field of real estate between Marseille and its region and Africa?

A.V.: With MIA'S, which I created with my associates, (editor's note: the company brings together real estate players and French construction professionals) we want to establish lasting relationships between the African and European real estate ecosystems. We currently have three projects. One is to design a 20,000 m² real estate complex in Abidjan, comprising serviced residences, offices and shops. Another is to assist French structures in Senegal that have decided to sell a large real estate asset, how it is valued. And how to give it meaning tomorrow? Finally, we are supporting the setting up of the largest co-ownership in Cameroon, because this country is discovering this system. We are also in the process of transmission.

What about North Africa?

A.V.: This is the natural link. Apart from the political problems that we may encounter, and economic problems such as in Algeria where it is difficult to create a joint venture, the concern is to know how we, Marseille entrepreneurs, can have collaborators on the spot - in the Maghreb, they are among the best trained - to attack the sub-Saharan markets together. We have the example of Morocco, which represents the most strategic and organised development.

What is the latest news from the Marseille-Provence Real Estate Club and the MIAs?

A.V.: We are going to accompany the birth of the Dakar Real Estate Club which was created after our trip last year (editor's note: February 2020). It will be called CIDAO: the Dakar Real Estate Club for West Africa. As for MIA's, we are currently recruiting a general delegate for Africa. He will be based locally in Abidjan. We are also developing a "Baobab Village" concept, to study how to live differently in cities in Africa.

*Food, culture, diaspora, water, education, energy, financing, innovation, sport, transport, sustainable city

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