Africa: A property hot spot

Take a cheap flight to this culturally rich paradise.
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The Independent Online

It's a bit like an unspoilt Caribbean, but much cheaper and only half the distance", is how Odette Lewis describes Cape Verde, an archipelago in the Atlantic lying 385 miles west of Senegal.

Lewis, a hairdresser from Bingley in North Yorkshire, bought her off-plan two-bedroom beachside apartment there last spring for £54,000. It overlooks a fabulous sandy beach and is on Boa Vista, the second largest island in the chain.

There are 10 islands in all, covering about 1,500sq miles and home to 500,000 people. The population is a mix of Creole, Portuguese and African. The official language is Portuguese but there is also a wide selection of dialects in use.

The islands have had a colourful history, and were first colonised by the Portuguese in the 15th century, before serving as a major centre for the slave trade and finally achieving independence in 1975. Cape Verde is a culturally fascinating place, too, being rich in musical, dance and literary traditions.

Politically, the island is relatively stable. High unemployment means low labour wages and much of the archipelago's crumbling infrastructure is being repaired thanks to aid grants from both the EU and the World Bank.

Cape Verde's islands are divided into two groups: Barlavento to the north and Sotavento to the south. Boa Vista is the largest island in Barlavento while the others are Sao Nicolau, Sao Vicente, Sal and Santo Antao.

Sotavento to the south, meanwhile, is made up of Fogo, Maio, Brava and Santiago. The latter is the largest in this group and is also home to the archipelago's capital, Praia, a handsome town where large, colonial-style family houses can be picked up for around £275,000.

However, most of the property currently for sale in Cape Verde is like Lewis's - new-build beach-side apartments. The biggest new developments are being put up on the islands of Sal, Boa Vista and Santiago. Two-bed apartments can be bought for as little as £27,000, although prices are rising and those in prime beachside locations can sometimes fetch as much as £100,000.

In the past, it was Germans, Italians and Irish developers who were behind this new-build activity, but now the British are getting involved as well. And this interest in Cape Verde now looks set to increase further as a result of a new direct flight link from the UK due to start at the beginning of November. Routes in the past were circuitous and flights were expensive - typically £600 to £700. The new direct flights being introduced by Charter Flights will cost roughly half that.

These new routes have not escaped the attention of agents such as Paul Akwei. He is managing director of the Cape Verde-based company Noscasa - a subsidiary of the UK-based Ground Level Properties.

"We've set up largely in anticipation of the new air link," he says. In the past, he says, looking for property in Cape Verde could be a fragmentary affair, very much hit-and-miss. Now, though, through Noscasa, he has put together an extensive portfolio of 2,000 properties - everything from plots of land, off-plan new-build developments through to colonial-style houses - which he thinks will greatly simplify matters for his British clients.

One of the first to take advantage of the new cheap deals will be Odette Lewis who has already booked herself on the first direct flight out on 2 November. She says she can't wait to finally see her new holiday apartment and that it has already proved a wise investment. "The same developers have started work on a second complex close to where I bought mine and apartments within that are priced around 60 per cent higher than what I paid for mine."