Why East Africa Is Getting More Golfing Communities

By Frank Mutulu AFKI Original Published: August 28, 2014, 2:30 am

Prior to independence, the only native Africans who were allowed in golf clubs were the caddies, cooks and gardeners. It is no surprise that after independence, club membership became a sign that one had made it and half a century later, exclusive members’ clubs are still populated by top businessmen and politicians.

The rise of the middle class has however expanded membership and as more Africans are able to afford membership and greens fees, demand for courses is increasing and influencing what the market is providing.

Kenya has seen multi-million dollar resorts themed on golf coming up over the last 10 years.

Karunguru Coffee & Golf Estate North of Nairobi is the latest in Kenya’s high-end golf property portfolio.

The $170-million project will have a nine-hole golf course set on a 550-acre coffee farm.

The brochure reads as follows: “Located in the idyllic countryside in Kiambu County, other amenities within the Karunguru Estate include Kenya’s first coffee museum, a commercial centre, a nine-hole golf course, sport fishing in the estate’s various dams, a clubhouse and an equestrian riding track.”

Other similar projects under construction in the coastal region and in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, all involve luxury homes coupled with world-class golf courses.

At the heart of the Rift Valley, players can tee off on courses trespassed by the animals of the savanna at Longonot Gate and Abedare Hills Golf Estate in Naivasha.

London-based WATG and David Jones, a former professional golfer-turned-designer, are designing Abedare Hills Golf Estate.

Developers say there is heavy demand for this type of estate for myriad reasons including growing popularity of the sport, networking and the planned housing that these estates offer.

Over the last 15 years more people are playing golf, said Lee Karuri, an architect, golfer and chairman of Longonot Gates.

In addition to sport, golf also offers a good networking platform for young professionals.

Karuri says that another reason developers are putting up the golf estates is to target retirees, who form a key part of the market. Retirees are finding havens in the golf communities.

In an interview with AFKInsider, Karuri said that traditionally, folk would retire and relocate to the countryside but this trend is changing since the pensioners are finding it hard to adjust to the new life.

The countryside does not have the same shops and variety that the city affords and as the retirees get older they will need quality medical care which is only available in major urban areas.

People still want to meet up and chat, as they did in the city, with those they are comfortable with.

“They still want to socialize and still have security. They also want people of the same caliber,” Karuri told AFKInsider.

The golf developments are also making an alternative case for investors in the region.

Property dealers say that rising property prices in prime cities such as Cape Town and Nairobi are opening an investment opportunity for Africans in the upper middle and upper classes.

William Kabui is managing director of Certiorari, a property agency. The high-end buyers in the East Africa region who want a real estate investment will first look to Nairobi, Kabui said.

“Kenya is the hub of East Africa and all the investors from Uganda to South Sudan are looking for safe investments,” Kabui told AFKInsider.

Multinational corporations setting up offices in Nairobi have also brought expatriates who are creating demand for golfing.

South Africa still leads the continent in the number of golfing estates. In 2013 CNN reported that out of some 850 courses in Africa, South Africa accounted for the lion’s share with 450 courses.

Egypt, Tunisia and Mauritius are other popular golfing countries.

Sign up for the AFKInsider newsletter — the most compelling business news you need to know from Africa and the African diaspora, delivered straight to your inbox.

Tags: , , , , , , ,