JLL published its 2014 Global Real Estate Transparency Index, which surveyed 102 countries around the world and ranks them based on transparency in their commercial real estate markets. The five broad indices by which the markets are measured include, “Performance Measurement, Market Fundamentals, Governance of Listed Vehicles, Regulatory and Legal and Transaction Process”.
Nigeria has been ranked along with four other Sub-Saharan African markets as having shown the most improvements in their transparency. Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia and Mauritius are among the “top 10 improvers” on the index – the first three made the top five of the most improved markets, owing to solid efforts made by the respective governments to improve the governance and regulatory framework, thus creating more business-friendly environments.
These improvements have very much also been supported by economic growth in the markets, which translates to increased interest from foreign investors and companies seeking to establish a presence in the markets. In turn, commercial real estate sees an increase in demand as more investors seek to open offices, retail outlets, factories, warehouses and other commercial concerns, thus increasing property values and enhancing the physical and business environments in these markets.
Obviously, Nigeria and the other “top improvers” have much lower bases compared to the most transparent markets on the index. There is much catching up to be done to increase transparency and subsequently attract more real estate investment. It was reported in JLL’s report that Nigeria improved transparency with the creation of GIS maps, an electronic approval system for development permits and other initiatives targeted at both individuals and businesses. More support should be lent to such policies to increase enforcement and to extend them beyond the primary cities of Lagos and Abuja.
The index lists the encouragement of a culture of “open data” as one of the key drivers of transparency and this is a critical factor requiring improvement in the Nigerian context. Access to accurate information continues to be a major challenge to real estate investors. Issues regarding getting the right information and the appropriate sharing of this information is one that many have highlighted regarding their experience in the Nigerian real estate market. However, it is a challenge that can be overcome in this information age, where with government support and private sector participation, more can be done to centralize information.
The top nine markets, in order of transparency, are – United Kingdom, United States, Australia, New Zealand, France and Canada, Netherlands, Ireland and Finland.