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The Africa Proptech Forum Virtual, a full day of live presentations and panel discussions, networking and engagement for the African continent’s growing property technology community (proptech), will take place tomorrow on the 29th of September 2020. The event is free-to-attend, and more than 700 delegates from 25 countries are expected to attend the event.

Hosted by the API Summit Virtual and lead sponsor, Nedbank CIB, the free to attend virtual forum will connect Africa’s most impactful real estate investor community with its emerging technology and innovation sectors. This year’s Proptech Forum will provide a platform for investors, start-ups and practitioners to meet, present and share insights on how proptech applications are accelerating across the real estate sector.

According to the forum’s host, API Events’ Kfir Rusin, property technology is one of the sectors predicted to emerge stronger post Covid-19. “This period of enforced digital uptake and dependency as well as remote-working will accelerate adoption and innovation in the proptech space both globally and in Africa. Already gaining momentum over the past couple of years, property technology will take centre stage both in the immediate interventions needed as a result of Covid-19 as well as the mid-to-long term plans for all property related stakeholders and businesses,” he says.

Opportunities abound

Nedbank CIB’s Genevie Naidoo, divisional executive of Property Finance Project Management & Valuation, says proptech is transforming the African real estate sector and the opportunities in the space.

The world we live in now is significantly different to the world we existed in just a few months ago. Nedbank CIB sees the opportunity and benefit that proptech can provide in the real estate value chain not just for ourselves but for our clients who are at the heart of our business, Naidoo says.

“We are not in Kansas anymore and we see tech as really being the spine of our business and tech drives a client experience. The crisis has catapulted the tech journey. We believe that adopting the right technologies and with our great people really provides a winning formula,” said Naidoo.

Naidoo cites a recent report which notes that one of the key outcomes arising from Covid-19 from a property technology perspective is that we will see an acceleration in the adoption and uptake of proptech across the continent, which Naidoo believes is inevitable with facilities management and property management being the early drivers.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has definitely catapulted us into a very unknown, unfamiliar territory where property has seen a fairly decent past two decades, however, we are now faced with a very different landscape - there are so many uncertainties in the market and consumer behaviours are vastly different and not as predictable as in the past. The battle of the traditionalist versus the modernists, the business-as-usual past vs reimagining the future, but more importantly, a new and exciting way to watch property evolve. Without a doubt, it's uncomfortable for all of us, the property market has never been at the forefront of ground-breaking tech. We have the opportunity to reinvent ourselves, and reimagine a new world and shift focus,” says Naidoo.

Naidoo adds that facilities and property management are low-hanging fruit for porptech opportunities. “We can see the new landscape unfolding and we need to be agile enough to figure out how to respond well. We know that contactless environments will be more prevalent, we know that health, hygiene and safety is going to be a key determinant of what space occupiers are looking for, we know that we are moving into a more sustainable era where we have to be kinder to the planet. How do we ‘solutionise’ for this, and how do we think differently,” says Naidoo.

Many proponents of proptech predict that it will result in vast changes in the way that the built environment operates in regards to construction, building maintenance and the digitalization of data, which Naidoo agrees.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of agreeing or not, it’s a matter of time and pace of adoption of proptech. We had to start thinking very differently about how we service our clients during lockdown and with the introduction of virtual site inspections, we were able to walk through a building site, engage with on site management, without leaving the comfort of your new work-from-home (WFH) environment,” Naidoo says.

Think of the opportunities this unleashes for sites in jurisdictions that you cannot fly to. “This new way of conducting site inspections allows us to service our clients who are at the heart of our business. The digitization of data is something organisations need to start looking at it with a very different lens. What is your data telling you, is there an opportunity to become more efficient, more customer focused, cut out the middleman?” Naidoo says.

Rusin concludes: “We have seen how Africa has adopted technology to leapfrog over its historical challenges, and we believe the use of proptech is only going to accelerate post Covid-19.”

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