The new frontier for Made in Italy furniture.
The Sub-Saharan area is one example. The numbers (more than 880 million people, 41 percent of whom are under the age of 15, and a rapidly rising middle class) are such that it is attractive for Italian companies to initiate investments that can pay off in the medium to long term.
To date, the Sub-Saharan furniture market is worth about $9.6 billion (source: FederlegnoArredo), 60% of which is accounted for by local manufacturers. Looking at the 11 countries deemed most attractive to companies in the industry by economic and demographic growth rate (South Africa, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Congo, Kenya, Ghana, Senegal, Ethiopia, Angola, Cameroon, and Tanzania), the value of Italian furniture exports increased by 132.2 percent from 2009 to 2015, from less than 67 million to nearly 158 million euros.
The right strategy is to investing continuously, through reliable local partners, in contract and retail and starting with countries with stable economic, political and service environments.
As far as furniture is concerned, Africa is a potentially attractive market for manufacturers of all ranges, including the cheaper ones, whose products can be targeted for Social Housing projects, while mid- and upper-medium range furniture will appeal to interesting niches in residential construction and contracting.
Contracting is an already quite developed channel even in these emerging markets. In particular, Made-in-Italy products find their place in new residential complexes or the highest category hotels, or in the headquarters of multinational companies.
As for countries, South Africa is a bit of a case in point: it has economic, social and cultural dynamics more akin to Europe. It is no coincidence that major design companies already have a presence in this country, including with showrooms, which they often use as a hub for the entire continent, given the presence of specifiers, professionals, and architecture and design firms to lean on and then serve other areas of the continent as well.
North Africa accounts for about one-third of the African real estate market. Within North Africa, Algeria is the largest market.
The market revolving around furniture is concentrated in the coastal area, where most of the Algerian population lives. The Algerian furniture market has taken advantage of the government’s ambitious state housing construction plans.
In Southern Africa, the large and developed South African furniture market plays a significant role. The country’s furniture consumption is estimated to be well above $1 billion. Imports amount to about $800 million, meeting about 50 percent of domestic demand. The high-end segment, which is a niche market, is catered for through high-end interior stores and/or through the architect channel. Examples of European companies working directly with showrooms include Bulthaup, Franke, Schmidt Kitchens, Roche Bobois, Ligne Roset, and Minotti of Limeline.
In the Southern African region, Mozambique is a country with rich and vast natural resources. The furniture market is still limited in size (the main markets are Maputo, Nampula, and Beira, while Maxixe, Xaixai, Quelimane, and Tete are in the second tier) but, it could increase demand for housing and furniture. The potential fast-growing tourism sector is also expected to provide additional demand for higher value-added carpentry and furniture.
Although East Africa accounts for only slightly more than 10 percent of the total African furniture market, several economies in the area have shown rapid growth recently. The largest furniture market is Kenya: national furniture consumption is estimated at $600 million (at producer prices. With similar characteristics, Tanzania has a furniture market that is still underdeveloped but is expected to have growth potential in the medium term.
Also noteworthy in East Africa is Rwanda: a country recently showing economic growth accompanied by substantial improvements in living standards and a business-friendly environment. Per capita spending on furniture in Rwanda is still low, lower than per capita furniture consumption in other East African countries such as Kenya. On the other hand, public investment, a booming housing sector and an emerging and growing middle class are potential drivers of future demand.
CONSTRUCTION IN AFRICA
Housing, offices, shopping malls and infrastructure–you only have to go to a couple of African countries to realize that the continent is a giant open-air construction site. The pace of investment in the construction sector is rapid and sustained, with many factors helping to explain it: from rapid urbanization to strong economic growth in many countries, via the rise of a local middle class and regional integration projects. The push is such that several governments have planned to build entire new cities (Tatu in Kenya, City of Light and King City in Ghana, Greater Port Harcourt and Eko Atlantic City in Nigeria).
Infrastructure investment is essential to stimulate economic growth, and, infrastructure development has been shown to play an important role in improving output, economic growth and employment in the short term, as well as laying the foundation for long-term productivity and growth.
Infrastructure investment is a cornerstone of African countries’ economic recovery plans.
In South Africa, for example, infrastructure investment as a percentage of GDP has been 18 percent in recent years. The country has introduced an economic reconstruction and recovery plan aimed at promoting job creation and improving economic growth, mainly through infrastructure investment and supply in network industries. Several initiatives are already in place, with the country introducing a state infrastructure fund, which is expected to provide funding worth R100 billion ($6 billion) over a decade. Although small in size, the fund is expected to “crowd in private sector funding and expertise to support infrastructure provision.” The country also plans to speed up infrastructure projects that are already under construction, as well as those already approved. To this end, an Office of Investment and Infrastructure of the Presidency will be established, with an emphasis on planning, coordination and rapid development of fundable pipeline opportunities.