Madagascar generally conjures images of exotic animals, balmy beaches or the vanilla pod on an ice-cream container indicating high-quality flavour – the country is, after all, the world’s second largest exporter of the flavouring. Agriculture, fishing and forestry are the mainstay of its economy. But for an island of 25 million people – 60% of them under the age of 25 – high-value job creation is crucial to growth.

Numerous countries have realised the importance of business parks to attracting the foreign investment key to creating these jobs, and a major local developer in this sector is Vision Madagascar (ViMa). The privately held national leader in property development, forestry and energy employs 300 people around the country. In 2000, ViMa took on development of the Explorer Business Park (EBP) in the capital, Antananarivo, which it grew from a €1m acquisition of 3 hectares of land to a multi-use commercial business space. Home to more than 40 companies and several foreign embassies, today it is worth more than €20m.  


Reaching for the sky

Zouzar Bouka, president of ViMa, is behind not only the EBP but also a new development within the park, the Explorer Tower (ET). Slated to begin construction in April 2018, the ET will be a 26-storey mixed-use tower set on 6000 square metres of business park land, at an initial investment of $30m. Out of its planned 30,000 square metres, 10,000 square metres is dedicated space for what will be its anchor tenant, French multinational Teleperformance, which specialises in BPO.

Teleperformance, which already employs 200 people in the EBP, is set to expand its current facility to a second building of 1600 square metres – its expansion stock – with the capacity for 200 extra staff while it waits for the ET to be built, which will be able to house a further 1000 staff. Essentially, the company’s expansion requirement is being met by ViMa’s development plans, which in turn will be able to launch the tallest high-rise in the country thanks to such a collaboration.

While negotiations are ongoing, Mr Bouka says Teleperformance has signed the memorandum of understanding for the tenancy occupying one-third of the planned tower. “We want to leverage the fact that Teleperformance is there, to create the best tower in Madagascar,” he says. “That’s my goal. That is why I’m using the best architects and trying to have a very environmentally sound building, plus offer facilities such as a gym, a racquetball court, a wellness centre, other offices, solar panels, etc. I really want to create the type of building you would see in London or Paris.” 

Changing perceptions

ViMa’s aim is to transform the capital’s skyline and to change the perception that as a developing country, Madagascar cannot offer high-quality, modern and environmentally innovative commercial space. In a country with a poverty rate of 70%, the developers at ViMa are keenly aware of the importance of attracting and keeping high-value job creators.

The process of financing for the tower is currently ongoing as ViMa looks for partners to fund the project. “Right now we have the land and the architect who has already prepared the plans,” says Mr Bouka, referring to UK firm CH+MRP Architects. “We’ll need to go fast because Teleperformance will need more space – already in one year it has expanded to nearly 4000 square metres of building space. We’ll get our financing and permit before April so we can start the construction.”

Central to ViMa and Mr Bouka’s vision is the pursuit of environmental sustainability. “The outdoor areas, high ceilings and bioclimatic facades respond to the tower’s orientation and enable maximum natural light to penetrate work areas without over-heating or over-reliance on air conditioning,” according to a design brief from CH+MRP. Other aspects of the tower’s design will aim to make it as close to carbon neutral as possible.  

Tenants in the EBP’s 13 buildings currently include the Moroccan and Norwegian embassies, the African Union representative office, the Thai and Australian consulates, the American Chamber of Commerce, and several multinationals including Airtel, Nokia, Chinese state-owned companies CRBC and CHEC, French banking group BRCE and UK office space provider Regus.

“One of the things I want to do with this building, in the follow-up with Teleperformance, is to attract similar kinds of companies: data centres, TV stations, other information and communications technology providers and international institutions that can afford to be in that kind of very hi-tech environment,” says Mr Bouka.

More than 90% of Teleperformance’s existing staff are Malagasy, and the company’s projected expansion, like ViMa’s construction goals, are a positive sign of further development in the country.