Sawubona – Meet the South African Economy & Property Industry

Sawubona means mean hello or good day in Zulu (including good morning, good afternoon, good evening) when addressing one person (multiple people = sanibonani). A more direct translation is “we see you” as an invitation to a deep witnessing and presence. This greeting forms an agreement to affirm and investigate the mutual potential and obligation that is present in a given moment.

That said, we at SA Proptech would like to say sawubona to the proptech community in South Africa (referred to here on as SA) and globally. We see you and founded our association to recognise, connect and promote the growing proptech community at home, while providing insight into this as yet largely unknown sector of the property industry in SA as well as connecting with international communities. While it may be unknown to some, that does not mean it is insignificant. There is a variety of exciting, innovative and world-class activity taking place which we look forward to sharing with you in these regular updates.

To start, we wanted to provide a brief overview of the economy and property industry in SA for those of you who are unfamiliar, or to those who would like a recap. South Africa is home to Africa’s largest economy, second to Nigeria which has taken the lead on a few occasions recently. It is a diversified economy (as seen below) with various robust sectors from manufacturing to financial services. Many multinational companies have their African or sub-Saharan African headquarters in the country and it is often referred to as the business and banking gateway to the continent.

The property industry is dynamic and sophisticated with an international reach. The sector is supported by various industry and professional bodies, and robust education institutions produce a variety of property and built environment graduates whose qualifications are often globally recognised. The residential sector is active with a strong demand for housing in many metros, from middle-income to affordable housing. The residential sector has seen significant activity in affordable housing and resi-focussed funds are becoming more common. On the the commercial side, the office, retail and industrial sectors are significant in size and opportunity, although in the current economic climate the industrial sector is performing the most favourably.

SA’s listed sector utilises the international REIT structure with many SA REITs dual listed on international stock exchanges. Many of these REITs have also made significant investments in property markets in Australia, the UK, the US and various European countries (predominantly Eastern-Europe).

Key Facts – South Africa

Population – over 57 million people


  • Nominal GDP – just under US$350 billion (Africa $2.19 trillion)
  • GDP per sector
    • Finance 20%
    • Public Sector 18%
    • Manufacturing 13%
    • Transport & communication 10%
    • Mining 8%
    • Personal services 6%
    • Construction 4%
    • Electricity 4%
    • Agriculture 3%

(Stats SA, 2017)


Property Industry – Key Figures

  • Total value – R5.8 trillion (US$419 billion). Residential property accounts for just under three quarters of this value (Property Charter, 2016)


  • Commercial Property carries a value of around R1.3 trillion, up from some R780 billion, with almost R790 billion held by corporates, R300 billion held by REITs, R130 billion by unlisted funds, and R50 billion by life and pension funds. (Property Charter, 2016)


  • Commercial Sector in Terms of Space (SAPOA/MSCI, 2018)
    • Office – 18.5 million sqm
    • Retail – 23.4 million sqm
    • Industrial –  approximately 9 million sqm


  • Listed sector value – R600 billion (US$44 billion) including dual listed (2019 estimate)


Latest Proptech News

  • Rental management & rewards app Flow raises R20m (US$1.45m) funding from SA and international investors

Proptech newcomer Flow recently raised R20m funding from South African venture capital firm Kalon Venture Partners (R10m) and a co-investment of an additional R10 million from an international VC which is being finalised.

According to Kalon VC the funding will be used to accelerate the development of app which aims to be the number one app for tenants, to boost users and increase the range of rewards available to tenants.

The proptech startup was founded by serial successful entrepreneurs, Daniel Levy, Gil Sperling (Popimedia co-founders) and Jonathan Liebmann (formerly founder of Propertuity best known for creating the highly successful Maboneng Precinct in Joburg’s CBD through urban regeneration).

The first app is the first of its kind in the world according to Flow, with tenants in South Africa get rewarded for actions such as registering, adding their property details, paying their rent on time and looking after their rented property.

Tenants can use the app and be rewarded for good rental behaviour even if their landlord isn’t active on the app (although, there are many benefits for landlords to sign up to Flow too). Great tenants can earn thousands of points every month, increasing their Flow score and accessing incredible rewards.

For these rewards, Flow has struck partnerships with a number of leading brands in the lifestyle, entertainment, homeware, fashion and travel space, all of which are valuable within the lives of millennials (those between the ages of 22 to 37) – a group which makes up a large portion of renters in South Africa.




  • FNB bank launches platform for home sales

Last year FNB, one of SA’s largest banks, launched a residential transaction platform for customers on their app. The new functionality enables customers to securely list and sell their homes privately to buyers who most likely qualify for a home loan – while FNB claims a cost saving associated with the process.

Raj Makanjee, FNB Retail CEO, was quoted as saying the following about the new offering, “With over 8 million properties registered in the deeds office, we see a significant opportunity to become a game-changer in the property industry. The bank continues to innovate by delivering customer-centric integrated financial services underpinned by digitisation.”

Mixed reactions were received from the property industry at large according to our research. Estate agents where the first to come out with questions about the service and its possible impact on their industry and profession. This scenario provides a prime example of proptech’s potential for disruption in the property business where stakeholders may need to adapt or face the impacts of rapidly advancing tech-driven innovations.



  • SA Proptech will be at FUTURE:Proptech conference in London in May

We are excited to announce that SA Proptech co-founder and managing partner of iShack Ventures Wayne Berger will be attending this world-leading proptech conference in May along with iShack COO Richard Bensted. We look forward to meeting the international proptech community and sharing insight into the proptech sector in South Africa, as well as other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

If you are interested in attending the event at the Business Design Centre in London on the 14th of May, please follow this link:


Additional reading

Fast Facts on Investing in South Africa