SAFETY NET

Women outbuy men in land ownership race at the Coast

Defying culture and conflicts in marriage, they are investing in property their children can inherit

In Summary

• The urge to secure kids' future is pushing women, especially single mums, to buy land

• This has driven real estate firm Oligro to target women's groups and organisations

Oligro Group Company development manager Mwiti N Mwiti during a site visit at Boma estate in Mariakani, Kilifi county
Oligro Group Company development manager Mwiti N Mwiti during a site visit at Boma estate in Mariakani, Kilifi county
Image: AURA RUTH

Historically in the African set-up, women owning land or even constructing houses on their own was frowned on.

That notion is changing. Many women are now empowered to save and have a title deed in their name.

Society no longer has control over women on what role they are supposed to play.

Mercy Saru, a single mother of three and a businesswoman based in Germany, said African women are moving in the direction of investing.

“Traditionally, it is believed that the role of a woman is to build or bond the family,” she said.

“But things are changing. It is high time we as women wake up and show motivation to our children and husbands on building the nation.”

Saru said single mothers play the roles of both a mother and a father in the family and, therefore, they end up trying hard to make sure they build a good foundation for their children and the generation to come.

“The urge to have something your children will inherit has led to a big percentage of single mothers owning land and property, and I really congratulate all single mothers and mothers at large,” Saru said.

She said women play a big role in the family and when they get the opportunity to invest in land, it will be easier for them to support each other for a better future.

Jemimah Wanyama, a mother of two who used to own a clothes-selling business, said Covid-19 changed everything, and now the only business that is moving is real estate.

“As a woman, I have always had a dream of owning land, to have something that has my name. I also wanted to motivate my husband and prove to him that it is possible, and women can also do it,” she said.

She said men have an ego and before they support you, especially in land ownership, there is always disagreement between couples.

“We used to have an argument over this. I remember we could fight and not talk for a day but at the end of the day, he came to appreciate because the land will help us build our home and a place for our children,” she said.

Wanyama said women are supposed to invest and should not hide it from their loved ones because “openness is the key. Even if they go against it, go ahead and do it. Let no one or anything hinder you”.

“My mother empowers me a lot. She encourages me all the time to invest in land, something which is pushing me to own more land because land [investments] can never go wrong,” she added.

The urge to have something your children will inherit has led to a big percentage of single mothers owning land and property
Mercy Saru

LIBERATING FOR WOMEN

Mwiti N Mwiti, a business development manager at Oligro Group Company, said more women are now buying land compared to men.

He said as a company, they now have to tilt their focus from the general market and concentrate on individual women, women groups and women organisations.

Oligro Group is a Mombasa-based real estate company that helps Kenyans aspiring to own land at a pocket-friendly cost.

The company started in 2019 and has so far acquired 100 plots, measuring 13.5 acres in total, in Mariakani, Kilifi county.

“As a company, we carried out a survey to find out where the real estate in Coast region is moving to,” he said.

“When we were doing our survey, we were also looking for an affordable place and a location that has the potential to grow and has amenities coming up. Mariakani was the ideal place to put up our first project.”

Boma estate Phase 1, which had 35 plots, was launched in August last year and was largely sold out by December.

Sample of ready units of a three bedroom modern bungalow being constructed by Oligro Group Company in Phase 3 of the project
Sample of ready units of a three bedroom modern bungalow being constructed by Oligro Group Company in Phase 3 of the project
Image: HANDOUT

Wanyama, who owns land in Phase 1 of the project, said she is proud of the decision she made.

“Before, I used to look for land but I did not get one. After giving up, I happened to meet my friend, shared it with her and she referred me to Oligro. Now I own two plots, which are 50 by 100 in size,” she said.

She said women need to know their position in society and step up because it is good to have their property so that in case of anything, they will have something to call their own.

“As a woman, you feel so good when you own land. Personally, I am so happy and satisfied when I look at my title deed. We are in the 21st century, anybody can own land. And these days women are very aggressive, more than men,” Wanyama said.

Saru, who is based in Germany, also learnt about Oligro Company through a friend and decided to buy land in Phase 1 despite the distance.

“I believed it is better to invest and own a home in my motherland where my family is, and one day I will come back to settle in my own home as I help my country grow,” she said.

Mwiti said in November last year, the company launched its second project with 17 plots, which was Phase 2 of the project in Mariakani, and it was also sold out before December.

“In February this year, we launched another project, Boma estate Phase 3, and later launched Phase 4 of our project in June. These are our current projects. We are expecting them to be sold out before August, when we will be celebrating the first anniversary of our projects,” he said.

The current projects include ready units for sale. Twenty per cent of the project was set aside for constructing units that will be sold later at an affordable price.

In our all four projects, which have 100 plots with only 23 pending, 90 per cent are owned by women
Mwiti N Mwiti

He said the construction of units, which entails three-bedroom modern bungalows, was to target the diaspora market, which had been enquiring for finished products.

“In our all four projects, which have 100 plots with only 23 pending, 90 per cent are owned by women,” he said.

“This is a challenge to the company because if men would have been at the front driving investments, we would have been having more sales.”

Mwiti said women aged 25 to 50 years are the ones investing in land, maybe for their sake of their children.

GREENING MARIAKANI

Mercy Saru, a single mother of three and a businesswoman based in Germany who owns two plots in Mariakani under Oligro Group Company
Mercy Saru, a single mother of three and a businesswoman based in Germany who owns two plots in Mariakani under Oligro Group Company
Image: AURA RUTH

Mariakani for a long time has had cases of deforestation, where many trees have been cut.

Mwiti said his team has worked with customers to ensure they plant trees to have a nice green environment.

They want to involve the communities in planting trees under the theme of making Mariakani green again.

“Everyone will be involved, including boda boda people and investors, for the benefit of the community,” he said.

Currently there is a lot of demand for land in Mariakani because of affordability and accessibility, and due to the construction of the highways.

“Mariakani to Mombasa is only a 45 minutes’ drive, which is more convenient even to people who live in Mombasa,” he said.

The plots at Oligro range from Sh299,000 to Sh385,000 for 50 by 100 plots, depending on the location and the value of the project.

Kenya has had many cases of real estate projects collapsing due to land issues. For Boma estates, Mwiti said they buy land from the locals and the buying process factors in all the legal processes.

“After conducting thorough due diligence on the lands, we also work hard to ensure the deal of transmission and the ownership of the land is clean and has no ownership cases before we purchase it,” he said.

“What is lacking in Mariakani is exposure. Our goal is to ensure that Kenyans have access to a parcel of land they can afford and know that they don’t necessarily need to build their homes there; it could be a money multiplier for them.”

COVID IMPACT

Despite Oligro selling their plots at a high speed, business could have been better without Covid-19.

“The purchasing power of Kenyans has reduced, maybe due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Most clients at Oligro get to know it through their social media platforms and also through referrals.

The company has simplified their vision to fulfilling the dreams of Kenyans to own a home at the level of their background and income.

“In the homeownership equation, the most expensive part in a person’s budget when planning to own a home in Kenya is buying land,” Mwiti said.

“If we can equalise it and make it affordable and accessible to Kenyans, then owning a home will not be hard as it is right now, and that is what we are doing in Mariakani.”

He said that Mariakani has opportunities for investors, including building rental houses, and their aim is to provide affordable plots to the common mwananchi.

“We have identified other opportunities in different counties but we will be in Mariakani for five years because we want to watch it grow,” he said.

He said the population is growing and it will attract more investors and businesses because Mariakani is a central town of Kilifi, Kwale and Mombasa counties.

Edited by T Jalio