As Africa’s business cities embrace the future of flexspace, one Djibouti-based property company has plans to open seven IWG centres in the region.
Tanyaradzwa Chagonda first came across IWG while on business in the Middle East. The co-founder of Salaam Properties – a Djibouti-based real estate investment company – was using a Regus centre in Bahrain, and was so impressed by the standard of service and facilities that, when the opportunity to partner with the brand as a franchisee arrived, he seized it with both hands.
Salaam Properties signed a franchise agreement with IWG in 2017, giving them rights to the brand across four countries in the Horn of Africa, with an initial commitment to open three centres in Djibouti and four in Ethiopia within five years.
The first Regus centre opened in the capital, Djibouti City, in June and, despite the Covid pandemic, it is already working to a strong occupancy. Based on the fifth floor of the second tallest building in the city, the centre spans 1,100sq m, with 62 offices and 144 workstations. Most clients are technology companies, including Chinese communications giant Huawei, as well as local companies involved in solar technologies.
Chagonda explains that this decision to become a franchisee in the flexspace industry was motivated by a desire to bring diversity to Salaam’s current portfolio, which up until 2017 mainly encompassed commercial real estate such as hotels. He chose IWG, he says, because it is the world leader in the sector.
Because Djibouti is considered the gateway to the Horn of Africa, explains Chagonda, many businesses are looking for flexible workspaces. The demand was there, but the supply wasn’t. So opening an IWG centre in the country was a huge business opportunity.
One advantage of working with IWG, Chagonda explains, is the established network that it can offer access to. “Then you have the training of staff, continuous education programmes, sourcing of customers, and also development of the space and sites.”
Chagonda’s advice for other potential IWG franchisees is simple – you’re choosing to partner with a company that has more than 30 years’ experience in the flexspace industry. That kind of brand recognition is not to be underestimated when opening a centre in a new territory for this kind of workspace, such as Djibouti. It’s all about trust.
“If you are visiting Djibouti for the first time and looking for a hotel to stay in, you are going to choose a known brand,” Chagonda elaborates. “The same is true when looking for a coworking space. For example, we have had enquiries from embassies and international organisations. If I didn’t have the association of the Regus brand, I don’t think I would have had such interest.”
He suggests that it could also open doors to other business opportunities. “We started off with IWG and, through our collaboration with them, we have also managed to unlock other franchising opportunities that are not related to the brand,” adds Chagonda.
“You are inheriting a refined business model that you can naturally cascade into managing your other properties as well.”