NZ Renaissance man plans Congo city

By Anne-Sylvaine Chassany

Kiwi Stephen Jennings' Renaissance Group is investing in Africa. Photo / Supplied
Kiwi Stephen Jennings' Renaissance Group is investing in Africa. Photo / Supplied

Renaissance Partners, the investment unit of New Zealander Stephen Jennings' Renaissance Group, plans to build a 2600ha city in the Democratic Republic of Congo as it seeks to benefit from Africa's urbanisation.

Arnold Meyer, Renaissance Partners' managing director of real estate in Africa, said the Russian firm was working on a master plan for the new urban centre after securing the land outside Lubumbashi, the country's second-largest city.

Renaissance was considering similar projects in Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Rwanda, he said.

"The West has peaked in terms of economic growth and the new markets are in Africa. And the main drivers of this growth in Africa are going to be cities."

Jennings co-founded Renaissance in Moscow in 1995 and his wealth was estimated this year to be about US$900 million ($1.09 billion) in the National Business Review Rich List.

It's believed he's one of several business people from Russia here for the Rugby World Cup, which the Russian national side is contesting for the first time.

Renaissance's Lubumbashi project will be more than double the size of Tatu City, the US$5 billion centre the Russian firm is building from scratch outside the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

The Moscow firm plans to take advantage of Africa's economic growth and emergence of an urban middle class demanding better infrastructure.

In Nairobi, where the population has been increasing about 4 per cent a year over the past decade, one in four residents lacks access to piped water and about 40 per cent of people use open-pit toilets, according to Kenya's statistics agency.

Tatu City, a 1010ha site about 14km north of the capital, will eventually have 62,000 residents and include a stadium, technology park, hospital, shops, office towers and playgrounds, the firm said last year when it started the project.

The Nairobi Stock Exchange was in talks with Renaissance about relocating there, Meyer said.

"We've had two meetings with the stock exchange, and we have another presentation in two weeks. We created a zone which would be ideal for them."

Renaissance was now installing electricity and water lines in Tatu, which would function as an independent municipality, and expected the first buildings to be up by the end of 2013.

The firm would sign an agreement with Kenya's government next week to include Tatu in the country's Vision 2030 plan, designed to boost infrastructure.

Renaissance was in legal dispute with a local partner over the ownership of coffee lands north of Tatu, some of which Meyer said could be used as an extension of the city. The dispute hadn't affected the Tatu development itself.

The firm was also working on the design of two projects, each about the same size as Tatu, outside Accra and Takoradi in Ghana. It was considering buying land near Port Harcourt, Nigeria's oil harbour, as well as near Dakar, the capital of Senegal, and Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, he said.

"In 1980, you had 400 million people on the continent. Last year the population went through the one billion barrier.

"And in another 30 years, that doubles to two billion. Imagine the combined energy."

- Bloomberg

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