Unlocking Access To The Property Sector
At last count, the South African property sector was valued at R5.8-trillion, according to the latest Property Sector Charter Council’s (PSCC) report.
However, the participation of black youth is still lacking in this area and Monedi Lefakane, chairman of the Youth in Property Association (YIPA), is determined to change this.
“The three main barriers to transformation in the property sector for a young person today are really networks, experience and economic growth,” explains Lefakane. “A lot of young people want to get involved in the sector through employment or entrepreneurship or even just an investment, but I often find that the challenge for them is that they either don’t have someone to ask for advice or, because it’s their first time in the sector, they have no idea where to start.”
Lefakane says the idea for YIPA came about in June 2016, when he was completing his BSc (Engineering) in Property Studies at UCT. “My property studies class was predominantly made up of white males who came from families with an existing legacy in the property industry. At the time, 70 per cent of the class was white and 30 per cent non-white with only 8 per cent being black.” However, he says, the challenge within the sector isn’t just numbers, it is access. Lefakane explains: “The property sector is a tight-knit community. Everything from great job opportunities to accessing funding and knowing which buildings are for sale requires you to have a network.
“The white student’s parents were architects, property developers and quantity surveyors, so helping their children land life-changing opportunities like internships, mentorship and information about the sector was very easy.” He believes these barriers have been a characteristic of the property sector for a very long time, which is why today we see a sector without any massively successful property fund started by a black person.
Learning the ropes in the industry often takes years and Lefakane says if young people lack experience with property investments and don’t know where or how to start, then they have to do a lot of work to get up to speed. And, often may fail because they are overwhelmed and lost.
Today, YIPA has initiatives focused on education, entrepreneurship and employment with a support base of over 1 500 individuals across the country and a sta of 12 in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The sector was already struggling pre-COVID-19, so the forecast going forward is cause for concern. “When there is low growth in an economy, there are far fewer opportunities and less activity taking place in the sector,” says Lefakane.
This results in fewer job opportunities for black youth to access the sector and a tougher environment that challenges their entrepreneurial skills.
New approach to an age-old problem
One member of YIPA who is devising creative ways to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on her business is Palesa Moloi, CEO and co-founder of innovative parking platform, ParkUpp. Moloi says the idea for the app came about while she was an audit trainee at the City of Johannesburg and was not allocated parking in the building. “I had to park on the street in front of the building and I was constantly going outside to check my car. This made me super uncomfortable. I eventually found a parking lot nearby that was not being used and a guard let me park my car there. “I knew parking was an issue that needed addressing because everyone experienced the same problem: finding parking or paying for parking. So, I started ParkUpp.”
Gaining traction took longer than she expected – about four years – and Moloi says that succeeding in the property sector was quite a challenge, as she didn’t have networks in the sector. Over time, however, she has developed the courage to continuously introduce herself to more people in the sector, share her idea and renew the initial business model.
She admits that even though they have made gains, the market is still quite challenging “especially during the COVID-19 climate, but we are exploring interesting ideas to utilise the listed parking spaces. We are currently working on a drive-in cinema – it is during times like these that people yearn to be together and have a shared experience and this is the safest and most creative way to do so”.
Moloi’s affliation with YIPA has been fruitful and she says that in 2019 she was given an opportunity to present ParkUpp at a YIPA event. “We gained a lot of interest from the event and met some influential women in the space including Zola Malinga, the co-founder of Jade Capital, Ipeleng Mkhari, CEO and founder of Motseng, and Nonhlanhla Mayisela, CEO of Izandla Property Fund. “They further helped me to navigate the space, which ultimately resulted in me receiving an award from the Women’s Property Fund and getting more listings on the platform.”
Moloi reminds new entrants that ideas take time to come to fruition and the journey is not an easy one. “Our initial ideas had many flaws, so we’ve had to pivot a few times before we found what worked. So, stay in the game long enough to be less wrong about your idea.” She is a believer in doing what you love. “I’ve always been interested in property from a young age, but also loved technology, so being able to fuse the two was super inspiring for me. I wanted to see my idea work and still continue to seek creative ways to keep us going.”
Brian Sango, sales manager of Property Inspect, says YIPA was one the first professional bodies he joined back in 2017. It allowed him to connect with other young and ambitious professionals looking to grow through property. “It certainly helped grow my network and establish relationships with some individuals who have shaped my career massively. Today I co-own a property investment company, am part of the South African Institute of Black Property Practitioners (SAIBPP)’s Western Cape Chapter Committee and I sit on the Management Committee of the Western Cape Property Development Forum.”
According to Sango, one of the biggest challenges is the market not being very receptive to new tools or methods. “I have found that it takes time for a new offering to be received. However, there are endless opportunities in the property sector. It is all about identifying a teething issue and offering a solution to it. This has been the gateway that has helped accelerate many start-ups in the sector.”
He shares that succeeding in the sector as a young black professional requires determination because, as we all know, there are good and bad days. “But if you’re determined, you can weather the storms along the journey. Secondly, I would say you need integrity, as it will help to build solid relationships with those you meet along the way. There is definitely power in collaboration and that can only be nourished by integrity. Lastly, loyalty – and by this, I don’t mean being loyal to a company or brand, but rather being loyal to one’s vision and goal – will give you the fuel and direction you need to get to your destination.” He emphasises that wanting something is one thing, but to get it you need to strive for it.