Insight into the Angola Rental Market – January 2016.


Contributed by our consultant on the ground in Luanda – Inyene Udoyen


As we all know the price of oil has gone down dramatically over the last year and our clients have expressed interest in the effect this is having on the expat rental market in Angola focussing on the following questions:

Has the demand gone down and is there currently a surplus of available properties and, if so, how has this affected the rental price?
For those expats that are in rented accommodation already; when it comes to renewals of leases, is there an opportunity there to negotiate a lower rent before renewing the contract?
Clients are expecting the rental costs to go down when the demand is not as high as it once was; is this happening or not?

Rental prices have come down and there will be a fair amount of availability soon. This month we are seeing a lot of changes in the volume of expat rentals. Many companies have either shut down completely or have cut the amount of staff drastically to cut costs. In the city prices have been coming down over the past year or so and this has sparked a lot of movement with many either renegotiating their contracts or moving to better quality accommodation for the same budget. Several major changes have affected the market:
• Introduction of 15% urban property tax (IPU) 2 years ago and consequent enforcement in companies with organized accounting meant landlords tended to put 15% on top of their original asking price.
• Recent law to limit advance payments to between 2-6 months.
• Recent law that all payment should be made in kwanzas and now only non-residents can quote in dollars in contracts.
• Recent banking restrictions locally mean that it is very hard to get dollars out of the bank even if one has deposits.
• Large gap between official exchange rate ($1:160) and actual rate at which forex can be bought ($1:300+ at bureau de change).
I mention these issues because they have affected what would be a basic drop in prices by muddying the waters somewhat. So although prices have gone down in global terms the asking prices have been affected by these issues and vary greatly. First of all for international clients who can still pay in USD outside the country we can definitely negotiate very good rates as everyone prefers this option. Payment locally in USD now does not hold as much appeal as previously as having the money in your account does not mean you can easily access it. A lot of rentals are still quoted in dollars at the official exchange rate to act as a basic hedge against the devaluing kwanza. Now there is a move to use only kwanzas but the landlords still think in dollars and not knowing where the kwanza will end up they have to take a guess and are mostly using rates somewhere between the official and reality.

Still overall rental rates are definitely down and most of our clients are renegotiating their contracts downwards and Sonangol (Sonangol is a parastatal that oversees petroleum and natural gas production in Angola. The company is responsible for the management of oil and gas reserves in Angola) has cut costs as well which means they may not approve higher costs as readily as before. This year they hope to gradually move to only referencing kwanza with no mention of dollars. Right now there is lot of activity as many companies are consolidating accommodations to save on other costs such as security and transport i.e putting all their staff in one building or complex. A lot of clients that are kwanza-rich and are here for the long-term are buying their properties rather than renting because prices are lower, people are desperate and it’s better than having the money devalue in the bank. Locals are also buying property for this very same reason.

We are also doing a lot of basic factoring now for our clients who can still pay outside the country which allows them to get a lot more out of their contracts e.g for the same price in dollars we pay the rent locally but can include whatever services they need, usually TV/internet, maid, furnishing…etc.

There is still not a surplus of new apartments in the city centre for now, but this is because there are 5-7 new buildings not on the market yet. Once these come online there will definitely be a surplus of apartments in new buildings in the city which should bring the prices down, however, given current trends their are likely to spark more consolidation with companies taking the advantage of putting their staff in new buildings to save the inherent maintenance and security costs associated with older buildings. In fact they are only empty because the owners have taken loans to build them and are angling to sell/rent them in their entirety to one entity, which until last year was a great and viable business model.

Talatona also has a reasonable amount of properties available right now and prices have come down considerably but it is still not the ghost town people expect as many have taken advantage of this dip to move in there from further out and some companies to consolidate their operations and staff dispersement around Talatona instead of the city or further out.

So to summarize:
Prices have come down about 20%.
Kwanza has devalued 16% since 1 January and is set to devalue more.
If you can pay in USD outside then prices have actually come down somewhere in the region of 40+%.
Landlords are now accepting 2-6 months payment frequency.

Thousands of foreign entrepreneurs would flock into South Africa – if only they could.

Tracy du Plessis from Relocation Africa was interviewed by The Times for comment


Mudslinging between government and immigration firms over bureaucracy and alleged profiteering are hindering the influx of immigrants, many of whom have critical skills.

The alleged blocking of immigrants must be balanced with the , country’s interests, the government says.

The immigration policies imposed by the South African government at the end of 2014 have drawn sharp criticism. But the government says it is targeting dodgy immigration lawyers.

For years immigration firms have cried foul over issues, such as immigrants wanting to open businesses in South Africa having to have R5-million and 60% of their staff having to be South Africans.

They are also upset about the department’s critical skills visa list.

Tracy du Plessis, Forum of Immigration Practitioners vice-chairman, said the 2014 amended Immigration Act made it difficult for foreign nationals to work in the country.

There is no communication on recommendations for a business visa applicant until after the application is made.

“The department’s reasoning is to stop fraud,” Du Plessis said.

Immigration expert Leon Isaacson of Global Migration SA said there were inconsistencies in processing visas, especially critical skills visas.

“The list was drawn up in haste. Professions, such as maths and science teachers, which the country has a 60000 to 80000 shortfall of, are not included.”

Bjorn van Niekerk, Integrated-Immigration director, said sections of the immigration legislation needed reviewing.

“There are serious barriers, including the massive increase in incorrect adjudications and baseless rejections.”

Home Affairs spokesman Mayihlome Tshwete said “middle-men” were misinterpreting policies aimed at assisting immigrants.

“There is a lot of corruption. We have lawyers under investigation. In the past people came to establish phantom companies, sometimes to launder money. We had to change our policies.”

  • Thousands of South Africans living in the UK face deportation. In April, the UK is set to pass an immigration regulation affecting millions of non-EU state immigrants. Those affected are likely to be semi-skilled workers earning annually less than £3,5000.

http://www.timeslive.co.za/thetimes/2016/01/25/Stop-block-on-foreigners

BURKINA FASO (Country risk rating: High); 15 January (Red24)


Australian nationals kidnapped in Baraboule


Two Australian nationals were kidnapped by suspected Islamist militants in the town of Baraboule, located in Burkina Faso’s northern Soum province, on 15 January. Local authorities initially stated that the victims, who were aid workers, were Austrian, but later corrected this to Australian. Details surrounding the abduction are unknown. There is a medium threat of kidnapping in Burkina Faso. As this incident demonstrates, the threat is most acute in the northern border regions of the country, and stems from groups operating along the country’s borders with Mali. These groups, which include al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its affiliates, have demonstrated both the intent and operational capacity to conduct attacks targeting both locals and foreign interests in Burkina Faso’s border areas. Additionally, aid workers are often viewed as high-value targets by these groups. This is due, in part, to the fact that such individuals can be used to extort significant ransom payments from their respective organisations.

Advice: Clients are advised against all non-essential travel within 100km of Burkina Faso’s borders with Mali, in the Sahel region, which includes Baraboule, as well as the Boucle du Mouhoun and Nord regions, due to the elevated risks of kidnapping, terrorism and general insecurity. Persons operating in the aforementioned areas are advised to implement robust security measures at all times and should review and update all travel, residential and personal security measures and evacuation procedures.

Machine Readable passports – Re-entry to South Africa


 

To comply with regulation 2(1)(a) of the Immigration Regulations, 2014 only MACHINE READABLE TRAVEL DOCUMENTS (MRTDs) will be accepted to enter South Africa with effect from 24 November 2015.


 

In the case of a bona fide emergency situation, travellers utilising issued Emergency Travel Documents will be allowed to enter and depart from South Africa.

Travellers who entered South Africa before 24 November 2015 on non-MRTDs will be allowed to depart and return to their countries of origin or residence.

Travellers who entered South Africa with a MRTD and lost it will be allowed to depart with Emergency Travel Documents.

PLEASE NOTE THAT:

Machine readable passports that have been extended are not accepted!

 

 

Home Affairs drowning in legal claims – South African Immigration

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) – 12 Dec 2015

A HOME Affairs legal officer in Pretoria has pleaded with the Western Cape High Court for mercy, saying she was “mortified” when she read a judgment handed down recently which described the department as dysfunctional and threatened to refer it to the public protector.

The senior legal administration officer, Yvonne Banyamme Seboga, has accepted full responsibility for the manner in which the matter, which led to the scathing judgment, was dealt with.

She blamed her oversight on a heavy workload and severely underresourced litigation unit.

The judgment stemmed from an application lodged against the department and refugee authorities by Kennedy Tshiyombo, who fled violence in the DRC nearly 10 years ago.

Tshiyombo received an asylum seeker permit which was renewed from time to time and he was asked to complete a fresh application for refugee status in October 2008.

But his application was rejected as unfounded days later and a later appeal to the Refugee Appeal Board was also dismissed.

He turned to the High Court, asking it to review and set aside the decisions.

Department officials, however, failed to file the administrative record of the case, which led to delays and to the matter eventually coming to a standstill.

Judge Ashley Binns-Ward delivered a judgment in the matter last month, saying it was plain there was a “systematic dysfunctionality” in the relevant branch of the department which had resulted in its persistent failure or inability to comply with its legal obligations in matters in which its decisions were taken on judicial review.

He said there had been undertakings that the problems would be addressed, “all to no effect thus far”.

Judge Binns- Ward gave the department and refugee authorities until last Thursday to show cause why they should not be held personally liable for the additional costs Tshiyombo incurred.

In addition, they were ordered to explain why he should not refer the matter to the public protector for investigation.

In response, the department filed Seboga’s affidavit in which she said she was to blame for the manner in which Tshiyombo’s case was handled.

She said the number of court cases lodged against the department had increased significantly while the number of staff members had nearly halved.

In 2012 more than 1 800 cases were served on the department. That figure had increased steadily to 2 056 served on the department in 2013, 2 358 in 2014, and 2 435 this year.

The increased number of cases had an adverse impact on the morale of staff members and led to the resignation of two junior legal administration officers, according to Seboga.

Seboga said the department was however in the process of appointing 10 legal administration interns, with the appointments to be made by January 1r.

Judge Binns-Ward has reserved judgment in the matter.