Considering Rwanda’s business friendly environment, Soteko has chosen Rwanda as the first country to start the smart city project with environment friendly buildings made with local durable materials.
IGIHE Belgium has caught up with the CEO Joël Buleli to talk more about the project.
IGIHE: How can a Rwandan residing in the country understand the project? How can he or she afford the project from a financial point of view?
Joël Buleli: One of Soteko’s main objectives is to facilitate access to affordable housing for as many people as possible. That is why we are in the process of setting up partnerships with local banks to provide loans at preferential rates to future owners. We are also exploring other possibilities for financial innovation, always with the aim of accompanying our future buyers.
One possibility is rent-to-own, which is a transaction that allows the tenant to acquire the property during the lease term. Another option is to group future homeowners in a co-operative that would make a group purchase of housing units. There are many leads and Soteko is exploring them all.
IGIHE: Why Rwanda?
Joël Buleli: As Soteko’s smart city concept became clearer, Rwanda became the obvious choice and the ideal country for the construction of our first pilot park. The country embodies Soteko’s values:
Socially engaged: the government has put in place a clear legislative framework that encourages the construction of affordable housing. In addition, the city of Kigali has an urban planning plan that anticipates the challenges and opportunities that the city will face by 2050, thus promoting investment.
Technologically integrated: Rwanda is a centre of innovation and a technological hub, as demonstrated by Kigali Innovation City. Innovative ideas and technological innovations are encouraged.
Environmentally responsible: Rwanda is known for its "zero plastic bag" policy. But the ecological approach is even more advanced. The country wants to be truly exemplary in this regard.
So you can see that the Soteko adventure has not found a better place to start on the continent than Rwanda.
IGIHE: Why the diaspora? How does our project meet the expectations of the diaspora?
Joël Buleli: Soteko City was designed by integrating the needs of the diaspora. The founders themselves come from the pan-African diaspora and beyond - Burundi, Togo, Cameroon, Rwanda, Congo Kinshasa, Belgium, Iran - and are well aware of the problems they face when buying a property at home. It is by building individual houses for the diaspora that the Soteko concept emerged in the mind of Joël Buleli, CEO.
We have designed our accommodation so that it can be managed in complete serenity, on-site or remotely. A digital platform, available on a website and as an application, is being developed.
It will allow you to monitor your water and electricity consumption, pay your bills online, access maintenance and repair services and, for those who so wish, rent their property.
This digital service will be made available to residents and visitors as soon as the first homes are delivered, which should be available in the second half of 2021.
To work effectively on the ground, the Luxembourg-based parent company will create a subsidiary in Rwanda, 40 % of whose capital will be open to local investors and partners.
IGIHE: Speaking of deliveries, can you tell us where you stand?
Joël Buleli: We opened our pre-sales on August 30 and temporarily suspended them on September 25. At that time, we already had orders for 26% of the first construction phase, housing and shops combined.
We did this for the simple reason that after our meeting with different authorities and institutions in Kigali (RDB, RHA, RSSB, MINAFRA and the Mayor of Kigali) it was important for us to adjust some aspects of our concept. For example, we have decided to take into account the criteria for state intervention in the construction of truly affordable housing.
The file will be presented to the authorities on 28 October and we will resume pre-sales on 2 November. Note that we already have a waiting list of several future buyers in Europe and Rwanda.
We will try to respond as best we can to the first requests. Interested parties can contact us at our e-mail address [email protected] or by Whatsapp at the following number: +32484704204.
IGIHE: Exactly, can you tell us more about the purchase contract you have put in place for the sale of the first homes?
Joël Buleli: Always keeping in mind how important it is for our clients to facilitate and secure the purchase, we opted for a performance-based contract. At the signing, customers pay nothing.
Then, each time a pre-defined step is finalized, a corresponding payment is requested. There are 5 deadlines and the remaining 10% are paid when the keys are handed over. In short, the customer only pays for what is already done or built.