gameVia Caroline Mutoko

East Africa’s largest Mall, Garden City is opening today and this has caused quite some excitement among Nairobi’s middle class. The new mall is hoping to revolutionize shopping in Nairobi, as well as deliver the knockout punch to TRM.

Anchor tenants Game Supermarket (Massmart) and Nakumatt will be among the tenants opening today, with the rest expected to do so in coming days.

Now, as Twitter got wind of these development, someone unearthed a 2014 article from UK newspaper The Guardian, titled: “British aid money invested in gated communities and shopping centres”

The paper writes:

Millions of pounds of British aid money to tackle poverty overseas has been invested in builders of gated communities, shopping centres and luxury property in poor countries, the Guardian can reveal.

CDC, the little-known investment arm of the British aid programme, has invested more than $260m (£154m) in 44 property and construction companies in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

At least 20 of these are hotels, shopping centres or companies that build or manage gated communities and luxury property, according to Guardian research.

CDC, formerly the Commonwealth Development Corporation, says these investments will create thousands of jobs for poor people in construction and services. But leading British NGOs questioned how supporting upmarket property could be an acceptable use of UK aid money.

It then lists Garden City among CDC’s investments:

Among CDC’s luxury investments are:

In El Salvador, a company that received $3.3m from CDC in 2004 built 10 gated communities amid growing local concern that such developments are putting pressure on water resources and privatising what the little green space left in the country.

In Kenya, $25m has been put into a 13-hectare (32-acre) mega-development in Nairobi called Garden City with hundreds of upmarket flats, a business hotel and what will be east Africa’s largest shopping centre.

In Mauritius, more than $24m has gone to a developer whose portfolio includes a 170-hectare “aspirational ocean lifestyle village”, with luxury beachfront homes from $500,000 and an elite boarding school managed by the Berkshire-based Wellington College.

In India, one CDC-backed business has developed what it describes as “South Asia’s first truly international luxury apartment project”, home to “a Forbes billionaire, prominent entrepreneurs, CEOs, directors and chairmen”.

On that article, The Guardian does not once mention Actis Capital, the actual developer of the mall. 

While there is indeed some connection between Actis and CDC, the paper is wrong in claiming that aid money was used fund the construction. They fail to mention that the UK government (CDC) sold its remaining 40% stake in Actis in 2012, making it a wholly private equity group.

Back in 2004, CDC sold a 60% share in Actis to the group’s managers, who included 13 individual partners; and 12 overseas corporate partners. It is actually The Guardian newspaper that reported the story.

Logic dictates that if CDC sold 60% in 2004, and their remaining 40% stake in 2012, they no longer own Actis, and therefore no Aid money has been used.

But of course just like Kenyan media, the Guardian thrives on writing sensational headlines.