The Reporter (Addis Ababa)

26 April 2014

Ethiopia: Govt Intervenes in Access Real Estate Fiasco

Representatives of the Ethiopian government including, Mekuria Haile, Minister of Urban Development and Construction, Kebede Chanie, Minister of Trade and Director General of the Federal Police Commission, Assefa Beyu, gave assurance to members of the Board of Directors of Access Real Estate S.C. (ARE) saying that they are committed to salvaging the troubled real estate company.

During a meeting held on Thursday, which lasted until late in the evening, government officials said that the administration has not given a cold shoulder to the issue and will work with the home buyers' committee to solve the issues faced by ARE.

Back in January, another steering committee chaired by Kebede Chanie was established by the Prime Minister's Office to look into the matter. The committee includes Mekuria Haile, Assefa Beyu, and representatives from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Justice, Document Authentication and Registration Office, the Addis Ababa City Administration's Land Management Bureau and the home buyers' committee.

However, due to various reasons, the committee was not able to meet for the last three months, which frustrated the already irate home buyers. The delay led some home buyers to take things to court, particularly those who bought properties from a third party indirectly through ARE. This eventually led the committee to call an urgent meeting on Thursday and pledged to find a lasting solution to the matter.

In relation to this, some 500 home buyers have been summoned today to the offices of ARE and will be informed of the decision made by the committee. Formed by Ermyas Amelga together with five shareholders, with a 50,000 birr registered capital, ARE came up with too-good-to-be-true offers of building homes using steel structures and magnesium boards introduced by YBEL Industrial. An undertaking that aimed at cutting construction costs in half and reduce the build period to just six months. During its formation Ermias Amelga, the then CEO, brought onboard Access Capital Services S.C., an aspiring private equity firm in Ethiopia, where he owns a major share.

Five years after the company's formation and three years after it started operations, it has yet to deliver a single unit from any of the 19 sites it claims to have been developing. Despite customers trust, which was above reproach, and their unabated patience, such serious trouble came to a head in February of 2013, following the arrest of Ermyas over a bounced cheque and his subsequent departure abroad - an act that was followed by angry homeowners flooding the offices of Access Real Estate demanding their money back.

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