Nib International Bank has inaugurated a 37-storey headquarters in the Sengatera area, known as the Wall Street of Addis Abeba, 22 years after it was established.

Located on Ras Abebe Aregay Street, just behind the National Theatre, the construction of the beehive-inspired building cost almost two billion Birr, around 400 million Br off budget when construction began five years ago. Laying on a 3,600sqm plot of land, the building features a gymnasium, a conference hall with the capacity to accommodate 500 people, a daycare centre, a health clinic and four basement levels.

It is a landmark moment for a bank that began business with one branch and 27 staff after 717 shareholders formed it with a paid-up capital of 27.6 million Br. Nib Bank has expanded since, with its network reaching 380 branches and a workforce of over 7,400.

Assefa Gebeyehu Construction Architect & Engineers was first contracted for the initial design for five million Birr after vying with 82 contestants. But ETG Designers & Consultants and Hailegebriel Consult, Architects & Engineers Plc undertook the redesign work, bringing the total fee to 10 million Br. China Jiangsu International Economic & Technical Cooperation Group, founded four decades ago, was contracted to do construction. The same company was hired to build the 1.5 billion Br headquarters for Hibret Bank, just down the street from Nib's new head office.

The foundation work for Nib's headquarters (the Hive) was first contracted out to China Railway for 78.2 million Br. Later, a local firm established in 2011, Anchor Foundation Specialist, was subcontracted for 60 million Br. Anchor also carried out the foundation work for Zemen Bank's headquarters, under construction in the same financial district.

China Jiangsu commenced the second phase two years later and finalised the work this year. But it was challenged by economic woes, forcing its executives to demand renegotiation of its contract, a proposal rejected by the Bank's management.

"Though it was not an easy ride because of the depreciation of the Birr and the shortage of foreign currency, we've managed to deliver on the project, thanks to the four-year stock of construction materials that we had readied at the beginning of the construction," said Lucas Qiu, country head for China Jiangsu.

The honey-coloured building is the latest to open its doors. It will soon be joined by the headquarters of other banks, including Zemen Bank and the state-owned Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE). In late 2016, Zemen contracted China Wu Yi Ltd to erect its headquarters for 1.2 billion Br. The project is a 32-storey building on 2,300sqm of land. Under construction by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation since 2016, the 48-storey headquarters of the CBE's is in the final stages, scheduled to inaugurate before the end of this year. Hibret Bank moved into its 32-storey building earlier this year.

The sheer size of these properties leads the banks to rent out a significant chunk of the space to tenants. The management of Nib will be putting up 10,000sqm of space, a fifth of the total floor area, for rent. The Bank expects to generate 50 million Br a month from rent, 20 million Br higher than what it had been spending to lease its previous headquarters inside Dembel City Centre, along Africa Avenue (Bole Road).

"We plan to lease out the bottom 16 floors and use the space above for our offices," Leulseged Niguse, vice president for strategy and transformation, told Fortune.

Nib Bank's paid-up capital grew to 4.3 billion Br, a 26.5pc increase from 2019/20. Its total assets swelled by 28.5pc to 54.6 billion Br, while deposits from over 1.7 million accounts reached 43 billion Br.

Assefa Gebeyehu, managing director of the design firm, was delighted to see his work reflected in Addis Abeba's fast-changing skyline. Designing a building matching the Bank's adage and bee-inspired motif was a challenge, Assefa told Fortune. However, he believes the work serves as a testament to the capabilities of local architectural firms.

"We've demonstrated our abilities, and others should take note and consider awarding such contracts to domestic firms," Assefa said.

PUBLISHED ON Sep 04,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1114]

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