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The Real Estate and Home Expo converges developers with their supporting ecosystem actors: 251 CEO | Addis Zeybe

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One of the prominent communication firms, 251 Communication is throwing a grand expo named ET Real Estate and Home Expo on Dec 17 and 18 for the fifth year at Skylight Hotel. The expo is believed to bring together real estate developers and all the major actors in the industry from finishing companies to mortgage banks. Addis Zeybe had a brief conversation with Cydney Ross, CEO of 251 Communications, about the expo, what is there for participants, along with the special offers and opportunities the expo brought in this year’s edition. 

Addis Zeybe: As an introduction, tell us about yourself and your position in brief.

Cydney: Okay, so my name is Cydney Ross. I’m the CEO of 251 Communications. I am originally from St. Louis, Missouri, but have lived in Ethiopia now for four years. So it’s been a journey from 2019 until now. But I feel like I’ve learned so much and I’ve seen the economy change in so many ways. Privatization of different companies, investment coming into the country, and also development across all the different industries and sectors. So it’s been cool to be a part of it, especially as someone who is from the outside. And just recently, I feel so honored that the company’s founder Addis Alemayehu asked me to take over 251 as a CEO. So I’ve been now at 251 for eight months.

Addis Zeybe: How is your time so far as a CEO? 

Cydney: I’m learning a lot. I’m humbled every day. I’m humbled because I come in thinking, oh, I know, I think it should go this way, or I think it should go that way, but I don’t know really. And that’s why I have an idea, and I do my best to help guide my team and support them to execute based on their subject matter expertise. But it’s, yeah, it’s difficult. And now, you know, the economic environment is unhelpful when you’re working with multinationals. A lot of the clients that we used to have would have invested a lot in billboards or TV because of the conflict and covid, some of that investment has slowed down. So it has its ups and downs, but so far I’m loving it. It’s a great honor. 

Addis Zeybe: Going straight to the real estate expo, when was it first launched? And what was the basic objective when it was established?

Cydney: This is the fifth one. Back then, at the time it was conceived there were so many real estate developers and so many new projects that were coming up. And also given it was the time of Christmas and New Year seasons, there were so many diasporas who were returning to Ethiopia. And no one was equipped with the knowledge to help them research and find out the real estate companies, and what their projects look like. So our goal was to create an expo and an environment for the people who are looking to buy, or those who are exploring their future, to connect directly with those developers. And in Ethiopia, we’re all familiar with “Delalas” (brokers), right? Some “Delalas” are trustworthy and some of them are not. So it’s always helpful to create, and have an environment where buyers can speak directly to the sellers.

Addis Zeybe: So what was the significant outcome that 251 experienced from the previous expos?

Cydney: I think the people who benefit the most are those who are looking to buy properties and those who are looking to sell. So our job is just to facilitate. It’s not to make 251 famous. And from the real estate side, they’re all so grateful that they have an opportunity to meet their customers in one place. And I think the best feedback that we received is that each year they come back and each year our expo gets bigger. I think this year we have a larger number of participants. We’ve sold most of the booths since we started.

Addis Zeybe: How many booths are prepared for the upcoming event?

Cydney: I think we are up to 32 till now.

Addis Zeybe: Are real estate developers the only participants in the current expo?

Cydney: No, it’s open. The real estate developers were the ones who were the most familiar with the expo. But this year, if you noticed, we’ve changed the name from just Real Estate Expo to Real Estate and Home Expo. Our goal is not only to provide an opportunity for the real estate companies but also for those architects or interior designers or people who have furniture all come and talk to their target customers. We are hoping that the same time you’re talking to your new developer, you can also think about what your kitchen may look like and there are cabinets there that you can choose from. 

Addis Zeybe: What do you think makes the current expo different from the previous ones?

Cydney: This year, I think people can expect more real estate developers to be there. New projects, bigger projects, and also more of the home vendors that I just mentioned. And I think especially if you’re not someone who lives in Ethiopia if you’re only visiting, it’s helpful to see from whom you can buy. The expo also caters to all your property-owning demands in one place. So we’re bigger, we have more developers. I think as the economy has changed, there are even more real estate projects that are happening, and we are really aiming to make the process as transparent for many people as possible. 

Addis Zeybe: Is there a bigger picture for the Expo?

Cydney: We hope that the developers come together with their supporting ecosystem actors, including some financial institutions there as well. We are inviting some banks such as mortgage banks, banks that are very focused on reaching those individuals with housing and real estate interests, and Ethiopians who have foreign currency bank accounts. You know, real estate is an amazing way for people to invest back in their country. And we know that so many Ethiopians do imagine moving back once they retire. 

We believe that we will be encouraging investment in the Ethiopian economy by making it easier to understand and digest all the moving pieces within the real estate network. And, more importantly, to build trust. It’s, there are so many bad stories out there about how people may have been burned by someone that they thought they could trust and they didn’t anymore. So this kind of event, at least allows people to have a broad understanding of who the major actors are out there, and then they can decide who they want to work with, and the hope that their dream home can become a reality.

And we’re also very lucky this year, hopefully, things work out. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) reached out to us. We’re planning a press conference at the beginning of the event to discuss issues in the real estate industry, and the problems all the different real estate developers are facing. IFC has graciously asked to participate in the green financing element. So they have developed a new fund that is really focused on supporting African developers, and real estate developers to build green buildings. As climate change worsens, as urbanization worsens, as you know, there’s a real urban housing crisis here in Addis. As those issues are compacted green buildings, those that are sustainable will be able to withstand all kinds of forces of nature. It’s important. And it’s good to know that there is money out there to support developers to do that. We hope that IFC comes in to be part of it. 

Addis Zeybe:  So is this event for everyone? You know some people might think an event like this is for diasporas and people with high incomes. Can anyone walk in and take part?

Cydney: Yes, of course. this event is for anyone who is considering buying a property, who is looking at the various options, who is building a savings plan so that maybe one day they can buy their dream house. This is an opportunity for everyone, even young college students, for them to see what is out there, how much does a property cost? What kind of job would they need? Or how would they need to save in order to eventually afford a home for themselves? So we really encourage anyone who’s curious about the real estate market to know the developers, know the different options to come to the expo and enjoy themselves and have a good time. It’s free with no entrance fee. I’d like to invite anyone to drop by, walk around, maybe pick some pamphlets, and have a good time. 

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