With a longstanding successful history of over 20 years, and a large portfolio of many residential and commercial projects across Egypt, Palm Hills Developments (PHD) continues to serve its local and international clients with world-class standard features across multiple booming locations around Egypt. Recently, this real estate giant has partnered with the government to further produce major developments in east and west of Cairo to cater to the city’s ever-increasing property demand. We sit with PHD’s CCO Mona El-Helw to look back at the growth of Egypt’s most vibrant market and where it is headed today. El-Helw also reveals PHD’s upcoming projects and plans, continuously uplifting the real estate sector in Egypt.

How do we put the Egyptian property market on the world map and attract foreign homebuyers to come invest in Egypt?

El Helw: The Egyptian real estate market has tremendously developed locally in recent years. The volume of the market has grown immensely, with several new markets opening across various Egyptian cities. For that reason, the idea of “exporting real estate” should now be our top priority as developers. To be able to attract foreign homebuyers, we need to, first and foremost, create awareness. Egypt currently has massive ongoing developments across its coastal cities, such as the North Coast and the Red Sea, and I believe such areas serve as a starting point in attracting foreign homebuyers. As a country, we are truly blessed with beautiful pristine waters across our coastlines, as well as, pleasant weather all-year- round. Such features make us quite unique and ideal for foreigners, not to mention the affordable prices given the currency exchange today. We need to take advantage of the foreigners’ thrive for our sun and sea. If we take the British, for example, they are fans of our weather and our seashores; hence, we find them potential clients to our market to buy second or even third homes. Such awareness can initially be achieved by participating in international property shows and exhibitions. Through these shows, we get to meet a new segment of homebuyers and get to showcase what we have. Palm Hills Developments was privileged to showcase its projects in one of the exhibitions that took place in the UK, and we were thrilled to have a number of retirees interested to buy homes by the Egyptian seas. In line with participation in international exhibitions and creating awareness, we need, as a nation, to develop our legislation and, as developers, to develop legal contracts to cater to the foreign clientele and guarantee their trust in us.

How do you see the development of the real estate market in 2017? And where do you see it heading?

El Helw: From 2013 to 2016, the real estate market growth increased drastically despite the political instability and economic reform we witnessed. Naturally, the post- revolution phase and the political instability negatively affected this sector yet the growth of the real estate market had already begun. It quickly recovered and has helped with the economic growth of the country as a whole. We all agree that it was definitely the driving force of the economic growth.

By the end of 2016 came the devaluation of the pound, which was another challenge for us. In other economies, this condition should create some sort of a disturbance in the real estate market. However, in Egypt, we witnessed around 40% growth in this sector, which proves that the property market in Egypt remains evidently stable. In 2017, we were faced off with another obstacle, which was the increasing interest rate as part of the economic reform plan. Again, this was supposed to negatively affect the affordability, cash flow, and the purchase power in Egypt. However, we have seen real demand, given the high population of Egypt, 60% of which are under 30 years old, and with 900,000 marriages annually. All of these factors have attracted many to invest in our market. Also in recent years, and in spite of the economic challenges that were supposed to set us back, a number of foreign developers, including Arab and Chinese developers for instance, have targeted Egypt. Our real estate market has a volume that is unlike those of other countries.

What does Palm Hills Developments have in the pipeline?

El Helw: Palm Hills has a history of over 20 years in the Egyptian market. We have completed and are currently delivering several phases across our 20-projects- portfolio. We are also partnering with the NUCA on two major projects. The first project is a-500-acre- land in New Cairo “Palm Hills New Cairo,” which was launched last April, and has received great appraisal from our clients so far. Our second project also in partnership with NUCA, which is yet to be launched this year, is a project consisting of 3,000 acres of land in 6th of October. Both projects enjoy prime locations, which are definitely a huge value for the Egyptian market. Palm Hills New Cairo is located next to the New Administrative Capital, whereas the 6th of October project is located next to the soon-to- be-finished new Ring Road, linking the east and west of Cairo. At the moment, Palm Hills Developments is also opening up a new market in Alexandria, with our debut project soon to be announced. In addition, we are adding new phases to our projects on the North Coast and have launched a new project there as well, called Hacienda West. It is a very busy time for us with many new projects and launches in our pipeline, which we cannot wait to share with everyone!

In line with Egypt’s development vision of 2030 and 2050, is Palm Hills Developments eyeing new cities, like those of New Aswan, New Luxor, El Galala City, to name a few?

El Helw: We are definitely always on the lookout for new lands to acquire, and new projects to produce in strategic locations to ensure our clients have a wide selection of great settings to live in and be a part of.

From a real estate investor’s point of view, how do you see women leading this market? Or what challenges are women faced up with in this sector?

El Helw: With all the reforms taking place today, we have seen women take the lead across many sectors and have brought new visions that are proven to be successful. The real estate sector is no exception, with many great female leaders taking on roles that were previously dominated by men. However, I truly believe that success in any leadership position and in any field is entirely based on “teamwork”; it is never a “one man show.” Also, any leader or any head of any department must be passionate about the job and give it their all, and that is the key to successful leadership.