Addis Ababa, Ethiopia -By his own admission, founder of Access et al, Ermyas T. Amelga, has collected over 1.3 billion Br from the public, through Access Real Estate SC, a company he helped establish and where he controls a majority share, alongside Access Capital Services SC. Yet, his closest business associates estimate the figure could be as high as 1.7 billion Br, mobilised from homebuyers numbering a little over 2,000.
Today, the real estate firm, praised by many of Ermyas’s supporters as pioneering the industry, finds itself in a typical “bank run¬ crisis. It is a situation in which a large number of customers demand to withdraw their money simultaneously, due to concerns over a company’s solvency. Such a decision from customers comes when they panic about the prospect of losing their savings.
Nothing explains the mood in Addis Abeba over the past couple of weeks, in relation to Access Real Estate, better than sheer panic. Only last week, prospective homeowners conducted a series of meetings in different sites of the company, plotting a way to recover their money or retain assets believed to be under the company’s deed.
One such meeting took place inside a construction site located adjacent to Nyala Motors, where Access Real Estate entered into the market immediately after it was formed by 65 shareholders. It is a plot leased by the city to Eskinder Kassa, a returnee businessman who wanted to start a real estate business in the early 2000s. Partnered by Access, he formed a company by the name MERAF Plc, where Access held a majority share, and leased over 6,000sqm plot from the city administration.
It was to be one of the first projects for a public company that had managed to raise close to 35 million Br in equity from its shareholders.
The contract to build eight blocks of condos was given to Gabby Investments Plc, owned largely by Biniam Mebrhatu, an engineer by training and a founding shareholder of Access Real Estate Ã¢â‚¬â€œ although he left the company after selling his over two million Birr worth of shares, shortly after the firm’s founding, in 2008.