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Leading change on the international stage

One manager’s mission to elevate the real estate market in Ghana

By <i>Journal of Property Management</i>
A delegation of government officials and academics from Ghana visited Chicago and the National Association of REALTORS® to discuss the real estate market.
A delegation of government officials and academics from Ghana visited Chicago and the National Association of REALTORS® to discuss the real estate market.

IREM’s mission of advancing the real estate management profession through ethics and education spans the globe. One example of this mission being carried out is the work of Victoria Sampah and her ongoing efforts in Ghana to elevate the country’s real estate market by strengthening its legal framework and driving professionalism among property managers. Drawing on her experiences with IREM both for inspiration and a roadmap for change, Sampah’s work is already having an undeniable impact on Ghana’s market.

Victoria Sampah

With nearly 25 years of experience, Sampah is a broker and consultant with Abri Consult Ltd. and serves as principal of Abri Properties Ghana, where she oversees property operations. Born and raised in Ghana, she completed her university education in her home country before relocating to the United States, earning a Master of Science in real estate from Roosevelt University. She began her real estate career in the Chicago area. Through her work as a young professional in the U.S., she first learned of IREM and enrolled in some courses.

In 2011, Sampah shifted her professional attention toward a gap she’d identified back in Ghana and founded the Ghana Real Estate Professionals Association (GREPA). In 2014, she earned her Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) designation from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), and from 2016 to 2018, she served as the NAR Ambassador to Ghana.

The long road to market change in Ghana

In 2011, Sampah traveled to Africa to study the real estate markets in several countries, survey the needs of property managers and tenants, and bring together the current class of real estate professionals. Over the next four years, she often observed property managers struggling to navigate the changing realities of their countries’ real estate markets. Not only was there a lack of organization and coordination among leaders in the field, but in many countries, the type of regulation that leads to stability and growth was also largely absent. She knew that to bridge this gap, she would need to work to change the market and start a school for real estate management.

Sampah had discussions on global disparities in the state of property management, and she learned that new IREM property management training was being offered in South Africa—now home to an official IREM chapter. She reached out to the international team at IREM HQ. She recalls asking, “How can I help improve this situation by utilizing all the knowledge I have acquired? Africa is a place where I understand the markets very well, and I know that I can transfer some of my knowledge to the professionals on the ground who are managing properties throughout the continent.”

Realizing that in Ghana she was in a position to help young professionals benefit from more formalized education, she began her long journey to advance the profession of real estate management. Step one: Better organize the property managers driving the profession in Ghana. “Until you have organized people well, you can’t hope to get any kind of successful institution going,” she explains.

In 2017, she spearheaded a visit by members of the Parliament of Ghana and leading academics to Chicago, where the delegation met with NAR. The week-long study visit consisted of discussions, learning, and brainstorming. Ultimately, the visit helped propel new real estate legislation in Ghana.

New legislation spurs change

Sampah’s push for legislation that protects tenants, establishes real estate agency practices, and provides clear standards for ethical practices in property management quickly bore fruit with the implementation of the Real Estate Agency Act in 2020. Drawing on similar legislation in other countries, the law seeks to better regulate Ghana’s real estate market and the property management profession as a cohesive industry. By helping protect and educate both tenants and managers, the landmark legislation laid the groundwork for further growth and development.

The Ghana Real Estate Agency Council serves as the administrative arm of this law. The Council ensures implementation, monitoring, and issuance of licenses and certificates. It also establishes codes of practice, coordinates with other government agencies, and—perhaps most critical to Sampah’s cause—establishes professional development and continuing education programs for real estate practitioners. Sampah sits on the board of directors that oversees the council. Though these education programs are still on the horizon, she hopes to leverage the momentum achieved with the new legislation in Ghana and form an official partnership with IREM.

What’s next in Ghana

These achievements are part of an ongoing journey that spans more than a decade. And yet, even with the enormous milestones in legislation and public policy already achieved, there remain many challenges to overcome before Sampah’s vision of founding an accredited property management school in Ghana is realized.

An essential next step in the country is establishing quality education in ethics and property management best practices. This education would yield immediate benefits, such as improving managers’ knowledge base and understanding of the market. Those benefits would extend to tenants, whose experience would improve with professional management practices. One of the significant gains from the legislation that Sampah led was standardized licensing for professionals, intended to reduce harmful business practices. IREM’s emphasis on ethical, professional practices is a logical next step in continuing to elevate property management in Ghana and a primary reason that she plans to implement IREM courses at her school.

A beacon of the future

Addressing systemic issues in a real estate market gives owners and managers the resources and assurances they need to take on larger and more ambitious projects. Ghana’s reforms provide the country’s real estate industry with the structural and legal capacity to capitalize on greater development opportunities.

Cannon House

A perfect example of this is Goldkey Properties, a real estate company with properties across Accra, the nation’s capital. Goldkey Properties recently added Ernst & Young Advisory Services Limited to their Cannon House, a futuristic smart building with sleek glass exterior walls. Goldkey’s management team hopes to set a new bar for what’s possible in real estate development in the region. Through innovation in building technology and mixed-use development, these projects exemplify the future of property management in Ghana. Sampah has been working closely with Goldkey’s team of property managers, and she hopes that this group of professionals will be among the first in Ghana to benefit from her school.

Ghana is full of beautiful vistas and opportunities for exciting new economic developments, including in the real estate market. Having the structural and legal backing to support an official real estate management school will further enrich the market and lead to many more development projects like Goldkey’s Cannon House. Sampah hopes that training property managers will further elevate real estate management in Ghana and serve as a model for other countries throughout Africa.

Journal of Property Management

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