Office space too expensive? Consider co-working instead

The supply of office space in Nairobi has increased at a compound annual growth rate of 27.5 per cent — from 1.6 million square feet in 2011 to 5.4 million square feet in 2015 — in the last five years, according to a report recently released by Cytonn Investments Management Ltd. Yet this still does not satisfy the demand.

Thursday February 11 2016

The Nairobi Garage is one of the three in a

The Nairobi Garage is one of the three in a chain of coworking tech hubs in Africa, with sister hubs in Cape Town, South Africa, and Lagos, Nigeria. PHOTO| LUKORITO JONES 

The supply of office space in Nairobi has increased at a compound annual growth rate of 27.5 per cent — from 1.6 million square feet in 2011 to 5.4 million square feet in 2015 — in the last five years, according to a report recently released by Cytonn

Investments Management Ltd. Yet this still does not satisfy the demand.

Going by the rapid growth rate and an insatiable demand for Grade A offices, the real estate and investment company predicts an undersupply of about 3.6 million square feet in 2016, and 6.1 million in 2017.

This, the firm’s Real Estate Service Manager, Mr Johnson Denge, says is partly due to an increase in the number of global companies establishing bases in the country.

So individuals and firms seeking office space should consider cheaper and more innovative alternatives such as co-working, an idea that is gaining popularity in Kenya’s cooperate circles.

“Co-working is where various companies and individuals use a shared office,” explains Hannah Clifford, the general manager at Nairobi Garage, a firm that offers co-working space, where businesses and individuals rent space.

“With the price of offices and the cost of utilities rising, particularly in Nairobi’s high-end locations, setting up and running an office or expanding  can be a huge headache. Our aim is to take all of that away and build spaces that are as beautiful as they are

practical,” Ms Clifford adds.

The Nairobi Garage is one of the three in a chain of coworking tech hubs in Africa, with sister hubs in Cape Town, South Africa, and Lagos, Nigeria.

“We set up shop in Kenya three years ago with a branch on Ngong Road near the Junction Mall. The idea of co-working, which was new at the time, rapidly caught on and before long, we were hosting more than 30 companies and leasing 130 desks,”

explains Zane Maurina, the firm’s head of communication and partnerships.

INCREASING DEMAND

It was this increasing demand that saw Nairobi Garage open a new location in Westlands at the close of 2015.

“Our new office at The Mirage on Waiyaki Way is by far the biggest co-working space in Africa, with 400 desks,” says Ms Maurina. “We expect to host 70 companies within this space, bringing the number of companies and SMEs under our roof to 100.”

The business hub is proving extremely popular, especially with tech companies that come to set up business in Kenya from overseas.

“When multi-nationals come to Kenya, they are usually bogged down by excessive rigmarole that is involved in setting up a presence. We thus guide them through the paperwork and offer them office space at a fraction of the costs that they might incur in

leasing independent office-space,” offers Maurina.

“We are planning to include other value added services such as legal accounting and graphic design at minimal costs to entice more multi-nationals,” promised Ms Maurina.

Mr Noah Thairu, who works with Australia’s online customer service firm, Influx, is a happy member of the Nairobi Garage. “I normally work from home, but I occasionally buy a day pass at Sh2,000 to work here. It helps me network with other people in

my industry. Setting up a corporate Internet connection on my own would have been ridiculously expensive, so I appreciate the free, high-speed WiFi at Nairobi Garage,” he says.

“The company I work for requires that we meet once every two months, and we always hold our meetings at the Nairobi Garage,” says Ms Brenda Maritim, another tenant.

However open office spaces do have a downside. “Though security is guaranteed, introverts might experience trust issues when dealing with strangers. Conflicts might also arise, especially in a case when two direct competitors share a floor,” they said. 

For Sh15,000 a month, a Nairobi Garage user is entitled to  24/7, access, use of meeting room, storage and printing at a fee.

“We also hold events for our members to boost their business acumen,” says Ms Maurina. “Every Thursday, overseas companies from overseas deliver talks.”

The facility also boasts a café.

“We offer beverages with meals at an affordable cost, so our tenants don’t have to waste valuable working time walking to and fro lunch,” says chef Amanda Gichuru, who runs it.

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