FEATURE: Humility in the face of success: Dr Michael Louis reveals the secret behind WestProp’s journey to the top

Business Reporter

IT is an early Thursday morning when a Whatsapp message pops up from an unusual contact. The WestProp Holdings Ltd official texted to confirm that my request for an interview with one of the reputable global property expert was granted.

“Let’s meet at 11 am sharp without fail,” the message read in part.

Upon my arrival at the interview venue, I was shocked to see a very selfless gentleman already waiting for me.

Despite the fact that he is the Chairman of a fast rising property firm which has taken over the market by shock from very humble beginnings in less than one year, Doctor Michael Louis neither speaks from cloud nine nor shows off the traits of a well to do business tycoon like what most peers in his social class would normally do.

“How are you? Please take a seat,” he said hurriedly breaking the state of shock I was in.

This is the tale of a man whose success story is not only hinged in Zimbabwe, but has a whole reputation scattered across the globe in business, philanthropy, education and politics to mention but a few.

Chronicling his journey in Zimbabwe, Dr Louis told The Humanitarian Post recently that the story of his life is deeply steeped in the values and tradition he adopted in his family background.

“I come from a third generation family business background which started in 1914 when my grandfather set up a retail business. He was of Lebanese origin which believes in very strong family oriented lifestyle,” he said.

Dr Louis said he has always maintained that status which has seen him working as CEO of the family business group where he is working hand in hand all four of his brothers.

“This sense of family has helped me to be a pro-people person in my approach to business. It also explains why I entered into politics in 1994 on the back of the release of Nelson Mandela from prison,” he said.

Quizzed on the reasons behind his acceptance of the chairmanship role at WestProp Holdings, the business expert said his belief in Ken Sharpe’s capabilities and strong Christian background motivated him to take the decision.

“Firstly, I realised the fact that the company’s CEO, Ken Sharpe is a leader of outstanding capabilities in Africa. With his skills of business entrepreneurship having known him for more than 20 years.

“Secondly, when he introduced me to Zimbabwe I just saw that his company was from a low base and had huge opportunities but to make it great you needed the skills, strategic partnerships, relational capital which is also areas of my strengths,” Dr Louis said.

The WestProp chairman said he was groomed into international relational capital for years and definitely knew that he could use such capabilities to make Zimbabwe great. He is very strong on Private Public Partnerships from his background as Local Government Minister where he learnt the importance of partnerships.

Through the guidance and determination from the company’s leadership, WestProp net profit after tax totalled US$ 2,721,188 for the half year ended 30 June 2023 with an aggregated fair value of US$ 201,750,000 for the Group’s land banks including 70% interest in Sunshine Developments (Private) Limited.

The company’s liquidity improved by 248% with cash and equivalents of USD 1,495,991 as of June 30, 2023, compared to US$ 430,091 for the previous year. The Group’s current ratio for this term was recorded as 4.7 times.

By all standards, WestProp has fast risen to become the top property market brand in the country currently implementing state of the art housing infrastructure and employing hundreds of citizens.

But for starters who really is Doctor Michael Louis?

He is a law graduate based in South Africa with a post graduate qualification from the J F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University on Privatisation and Regulatory Reform. Nyack University in New York awarded him an honorary Doctorate of Laws.

He has had a varied career path with extensive experience in Agriculture, Business, Education and Politics. Agriculture: MD of Komsberg Farming in Namibia, a greenfield investment in Namibia where he transformed a dessert into an award winning seedless table grape export farm, employing more than 1000 people during the harvest season.

He is currently the CEO of the Louis Group SA, a century old family business with interests in Property, Finance, IT and Hospitality.

Doctor Louis holds numerous awards including Top 100 companies, Top Manager of the Year, South Africa Leading manager of the Year award.

In education, he is chairman of Cornerstone University which he developed from a Missionary College to a fully-fledged university.

Said Doctor Michael Louis, “I spent a decade as a member of the Provincial Government. I have also served as a Minister of Public Works and Development Planning. My heart has always been to liberate and free the people of Africa. That belief was very instrumental in my contribution towards the Constitution Making Process of South Africa in 1996.

“And also more recently, I have been involved in a six years long Constitutional battle to challenge the Electoral Act of South Africa in order to attain a more direct election and a constituency based system where people can nominate the leaders directly,” he said.

The business tycoon also extended gratitude to the manner in which the government of Zimbabwe’s culture of receptiveness.

“Working with the Zimbabwe government has been a very outstanding experience. The government officials have been accommodating, supportive and welcoming.

“They are very warm and it has been so encouraging to see that with some of the launches of our projects, senior government leaders have been on the ground to extend the much needed support. This wouldn’t happen easily in other countries,” he added.

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