In a number of African destinations, a new concept of flexible working spaces has emerged, complete with amenities such as a gym, kitchen, nursing rooms and gaming areas. We interviewed Michael Aldridge, CEO and founder of KOFISI Africa about what the new office trend means for the continent.
We’ve been in the Kenyan market since 2014 and rebranded as KOFISI in 2019. We have six centres in Nairobi, one in Dar es Salaam and one in Lagos. We’ve expanded our centre in Lagos and are taking on more space in Dar es Salaam. We are opening a centre in both Kigali and in Casablanca in 2024. We target on operating 300,000-500,000sq ft of work and office space in each gateway city on the continent.
There is a gap in the market for a premium, ‘customer service driven’ office product. Companies are looking to build a stronger culture of productivity and connection through superbly designed spaces fitted with the latest technology and a full range of hospitality services including room and reception services, food and beverage, restaurants, bars and wellness – akin to the services you’d expect in a hotel. We call it the ‘hotelification of the workplace’. We have attracted a number of multinationals such as Google, GIZ, Bolt and Amazon.
Post-Covid, there was a huge shift globally with companies embracing the flexible office model as opposed to long and costly office leases. The future of the workplace is more than providing just a desk and a chair. Hospitality and hotel design is shaping that trend, especially in Kenya and across Africa, where a young, savvy and technologically advanced working population wants to work from premium, engaging and service-led environments.
Nairobi’s Grade A office space is of exceptional quality, but there’s not enough of it, with an oversupply of Grade B buildings. Companies with offices inside Grade B buildings are often tied down to lengthy traditional leases with fixed rents too high for the current economic climate. Transitional clients often want to move into Grade A space, but their contracts are fixed. The current perception of a ‘glut’ in office space is because many landlords are not responding to the cyclical or recessional drivers in play. They’re holding out to achieve rental rates that are no longer affordable or justifiable to most businesses.
Road infrastructure has improved access to most of our centres, opening up Westlands and Riverside as a preferred destination for business. The Nairobi Expressway has provided easy access from the airport and reduced travel time between Karen and central Nairobi. However, we need a more forward-thinking approach to city planning with investments in cycle and bus lanes with pedestrian walkways. Some African cities have smart city traffic and management systems. A similar investment in Nairobi would enhance the urban experience in this innovative city.