Shared, flexible office spaces will prove crucial in AfCFTA pursuit – AfricaWorks CEO

Founder and CEO of AfricaWorks, Gregoire Schwebig

… market poised to reach US$200billion by 2030

As businesses seek to expand into various markets, the growing demand and availability for shared, flexible office spaces will prove a critical element in success of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of AfricaWorks, Gregoire Schwebig, has suggested.

In his view, the arrangement will lower the barrier to entry for businesses of different scales and minimise complaints regarding the ease of doing business – a key determinant of how well the AfCFTA fares.

“We believe that as the AfCFTA grows, shared office spaces will make it easier for businesses which are either sceptical of long-term growth or just do not have the resources to go into other territories. We are already seeing companies from other parts of Africa expressing willingness to come over,” Mr. Schwebig – whose outfit hosts some 400 corporate members and in excess of 3,000 people in Africa – said during an interaction with the B&FT.

He added that the setup also allows businesses to save on expenditure and focus on their key competencies, ensuring that they are efficient and more productive.

Using the current setup as an example, he said businesses will also have the added benefit of drawing synergies from their close interaction within a shared space.

“What we are seeing is that as we have large multinationals, budding startups and other local small and medium-sized businesses all interacting closely, they are learning from one another and conducting business together, which will ultimately serve all stakeholders well,” he remarked.

Despite gaining traction at the turn of the last decade, the concept of shared, flexible office spaces exploded following the advent of COVID-19 and its lasting effects on the future of work.

Estimates, including one contained in the 2021 Global Flex Space Report by British commercial real estate services company Jones Lang LaSalle Incorporated (JLL), suggested that more than 40 percent of tenants surveyed expect to increase their use of flexi-space as part of a post-pandemic work strategy.

This comes as the global flexible office market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.16 percent by 2030, reaching US$200billion, up from US$37.54billion in 2020.

Mr. Schwebig is optimistic that the market holds even more room for growth, especially in Africa, as there is a concerted effort to surmount infrastructural challenges using solutions such as flexible office spaces.

“Without a doubt, we can expect to see Africa at the fore of this shift, and businesses and wider economies will unquestionably be the beneficiaries.”

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