THIS week, Zimbabwe Independent business editor, Shame Makoshori (SM) spoke to Tatiana Ellis TE,, a long time investor in the country and chief operating officer at West Properties about her journey into business and prospects for the property market. Below are excerpts from the interview.
SM: Tell us about yourself. Who is Tatiana Ellis?
TE: I am a Zimbabwean investor and a mother to five. Having been exposed to the business world at a tender age, I am inspired by challenges. When I stumble upon obstacles, I always find the energy to rise and try again until I succeed. This trait defines who I am, and gives me the power to wake up every day, and to work hard to build a better Zimbabwe.
SM: What challenges have you faced in your journey?
TE: Let me emphasise that as an investor, I am in Zimbabwe for the long haul. Having invested in Zimbabwe under the first republic, we witnessed the collapse of the local currency in 2008. Over the past two years, we felt the impact of the global pandemic on business and commerce. On an encouraging note, we have witnessed a positive trajectory on Zimbabwe’s investor attractiveness. This is why we are strengthening our investment in Zimbabwe.
SM: Which sector have you invested in and why did you choose that sector?
TE: I have invested in the real estate sector. The choice of investment was informed by our long-term view to business opportunities. As you know, it takes years to build, and it also takes years to start earning returns on property investments. But because of the appreciative nature of properties, and the value chain impact that it has on an economy, including job creation, infrastructure development and investor attractiveness, it is my conviction that investing in the real estate sector is a win for all.
SM: What is your interpretation of property market trends in Zimbabwe and at global level?
TE: Property market trends remain a function of liquidity and risk. The propensity of financial institutions to lend, and the propensity of the market to save plays a key role in defining global and national property trends. In Zimbabwe’s case, the first half of 2021 witnessed a slowdown in demand for both commercial and residential properties as markets and lenders grappled with the financial impact of the global pandemic — Covid-19 — on business and commerce. National lockdowns to contain the spread of Covid-19 created a going-concern risk for many corporate entities.
In the second half of 2021, it was a different picture as Zimbabwe witnessed a rise in property market activities, including property construction and demand for residential and commercial properties. This was largely driven by fund managers who were trying to hedge their funds against potential loss of value under lockdown. Corporate and individual investors were also under pressure to offload their excess liquidity for safe investment havens like properties. Consequently, property prices soared in the second half of 2021, and into 2022. As Zimbabwe’s financial service sector continues to improve, a renaissance of localised mortgage lending facilities in Zimbabwe will add an interesting dimension to the Zimbabwe property market’s growth prospects.
On locational preferences, the property market is gravitating towards property locations that are outside the central business district for their environmental and convenience advantages. Against these trends, I advise those looking for easy-to-manage, rewarding and risk-averse investment opportunities to consider investing in properties now.
Fact file: Tatiana Aleshina Ellis
- Zimbabwean investor with tentacles in real estate.
- The West Property chief operating officer
- Pacesetter and goal-getter with proven business leadership skills.
- She is also a proud mother of five.
SM: What economic challenges do you see in Zimbabwe?
TE: I see challenges as temporary, and opportunities as perpetual. I am glad that this interview is coming at a time the Financial Action Task Force has just announced Zimbabwe’s removal from the list of countries that are considered to be insufficiently compliant in implementing Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism Standards. This is good news to investors and a boost for Zimbabwe as it speaks to the financial attractiveness of Zimbabwe as a nation. Adding to that, the AfDB Infrastructure report estimates that Zimbabwe requires US$2 billion annually until 2032 for financing economic infrastructure. With the government of Zimbabwe currently funding about 20% of this financing requirement, the remaining 80% gap is an opportunity for local and international investors to foster infrastructure development partnerships.
SM: When and how did your investment journey begin?
TE: My investment journey began in 1997 and it was inspired by my family. Having been born in an enterprising and business minded family, the zeal to become an investor came to me naturally. We really wanted to participate in an interesting project, something new and exciting. And 25 years later, here I am, still standing, still growing and still counting the tangible fruits of our shared belief in Zimbabwe’s future.
SM: How do you juggle your time?
TE: Apparently, there is no shortcut to success. You have to work hard. I start my day early at 5am with a run or gym session. By 7am, I am in the office, planning my day, and catching up with the latest news on investment and business developments in Zimbabwe and beyond. From there onwards, it is a hive of work and meeting activities for me. On weekends and afterhours, I always give time to family, friends and associates in the business community.
SM: From your response, it seems you have an 8am to 5pm job? Tell us more about this job and what it offers to Zimbabwe.
TE: I go to work every day. I work at West Property as a chief operating officer. We are into property development, both commercial and residential. We have the Mbudzi flea market and the upcoming Mall of Zimbabwe under our commercial belt. On the residential side, we have spearheaded a number of developments in Zimbabwe, in Pomona, Borrowdale and many other locations. Pokugara is our latest offering, and it is located in the plush suburb of Borrowdale, boasting both opulence and expediency. Our mission is to delight our customers with the latest innovations, and our developments are testament to its fulfilment.
SM: Where do you see Tatiana Ellis in the next decade?
TE: As a Zimbabwean investor, I see myself growing my investment portfolio in real estate, and into other areas. As a mother, 10 years from now I see myself enjoying passionate time with my grandchildren. Lastly, as a woman, I see my journey inspiring other women to venture into business, and to see challenges as stepping stones to their clouds of greatness.
SM: This month is International Women’s Month. What is your message to fellow women in business and in society?
TE: This year’s International Women’s Day is being celebrated under the theme, “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”. In line with this theme, I salute all women who have made an impact in their various fields of influence – breaking the bias, overcoming adversity, and raising families. This includes women in society, women at work, and women in leadership. Again, I challenge them to tell their stories of resilience and sacrifice to inspire and empower future generations.
SM: Advise women on the rigours of starting a business, raising capital.
TE: As an investor and a proponent of gender equality, the advice I am going to share transcends beyond the imaginary gender divide. To all those wishing to start a business, my first advice to you is to do it. Secondly, do not venture into a business out of passion and peer pressure, pick a business opportunity that passes the viability test. Thirdly, starting a business is not a walk in the park. Numerous researches on start-ups concluded that 21,5% of start-ups fail in the first year, 30% in the second year, 50% in the fifth year, and 70% in their 10th year. For a start-up to escape from the jaws of this reality, hard-work, innovativeness and perseverance must be its three driving forces. Lastly, raising capital is a challenge for many businesses in Africa. This calls for start-ups to be innovative in their capital outlays, including raising capital. If you cannot start small, consider business partnerships to broaden your capital base, and to spread your risk. Ask yourself what is better between owning 50% of an elephant and 100% of a rat?
SM: Your parting words to all Zimbabweans?
TE: Zimbabwe is a beautiful country, with beautiful people and many opportunities. I am happy to be one of its investors, for the long haul. Again, I commit to building brand Zimbabwe through sharing its rich heritage, as well as my positive experiences in this country with potential investors and tourists.