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Prepare For Resurgent Property Markets In Africa

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Derrick Roper, Managing Director of Novare Real Estate

Despite current circumstances – dominated by the human and economic cost of Covid-19 – the African real estate investment cycle will return to its long-term trajectory of accelerated development, driven by economic fundamentals and demographics.

Derrick Roper, Managing Director of private equity specialist, Novare Real Estate, says that, in time, African property markets will continue to reward resilient investors with superior returns. In the short-term, the impact of Covid-19 will be felt particularly in terms of movement restrictions that result in customers preferring to order takeaways while bulk purchasing essential products.

On the plus side, Roper says African real estate has experienced less of an impact due to the coronavirus because there are fewer cases and the continent relies less on tourism and international visitors compared with the US, Europe and Asia.

“The longer-term prospects for African property, driven by market fundamentals, remain promising. The opportunity for investors is that the uncertainty as a result of Covid-19 is likely to bring to the market quality assets at very competitive prices. Novare’s existing portfolio of properties across three economies is well positioned for the up-turn.”

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Novare Real Estate has been developing commercial property in sub-Saharan Africa for over a decade, financing and building projects that meet the growing demand for a modern shopping and office experience.

Roper says that African markets still offer significant investment and development opportunity given the short supply of A-grade commercial real estate. With supportive demographics and some of the fastest growing economies in the world, these markets are inherently sustainable and capable of producing risk-appropriate long-term investment returns for investors.

Supporting his positive outlook, Roper notes the performance momentum that was building up across the group’s portfolio of properties in Zambia, Mozambique and Nigeria prior to the onset of Covid-19.

“Before government rules designed to contain the coronavirus in various African cities by curtailing the movement of people, Novare’s malls and offices had been enjoying brisk trade and visitor numbers that were well up on the previous year. Our developments are relatively new and are establishing as preferred retail hubs with ever-increasing occupancy rates of between 80% and 95%.”

For example, Novare Lekki mall in Nigeria’s most populous city, Lagos, attracted 7.3 million visitors during 2019, a 40% increase in footfall compared to 2018.

Novare Apo in the capital city of Abuja recorded 1.7 million visitors in 2019, in line with the footfall achieved in the previous year. Novare Gateway, also in Abuja increased its foot count by 33% in 2019 to 3.3 million people.

The new Novare Central development – comprising a single-level retail shopping centre with A-grade offices on the first, second and third floors – in the vibrant Wuse area of Abuja experienced visitor numbers in the fourth quarter of 2019 that were over 20% higher than in the fourth quarter of 2018.

At Novare Great North in Lusaka, Zambia total footfall for 2019 was 3.36 million compared to 2.24 million customers in 2018, a 50% increase year-on-year.Novare Pinnacle mall, also in Lusaka, opened in March 2019 with a very satisfactory 4.4 million foot count over the nine-month period to December.

In Mozambique, more than two million customers visited Novare Matola during 2019, an increase of 82% on the footfall achieved in 2018.The increase in traffic to Novare Matola improved tenant trade which, in turn, resulted in the increased recovery of rental arears and decreasing rental concessions.

Financial concessions have also played a role in Novare assisting tenants through lockdowns and other restrictive measures in response to the pandemic.

Says Roper: “We’ve had to adjust to rapidly changing circumstances, renegotiating and reducing gearing levels across the portfolio. Also working closely with successful retail tenants to support them in all aspects to ensure they trade and offer essential products and services to customers.”

In oil-producing countries like Nigeria, the collapse in the oil price has compounded economic problems caused by Covid-19.

“With the exception of gold, we expect commodity prices to remain subdued this year, contributing to poor economic growth prospects. Looking further ahead, Novare anticipates that the recovering global economy will support commodity prices and expansion in Africa. This, combined with supportive demographics, will help return Sub-Saharan African property to its growth trajectory,” says Roper.

Novare Real Estate’s developments are through its Mauritius-listed property funds – Novare Africa Property Fund I and II. Fund I was closed in June 2010 after raising $81 million, while Fund II raised $351 million and had its final close on 30 June 2016.

The group’s aim is to deliver superior long-term investment returns for clients who are mainly institutional investors, including African pension funds. To optimise the success of its projects, Novare adopts a hands-on approach, with an on-the-ground presence in the countries in which it undertakes developments.

“Our team boasts unrivalled expertise in investment management, property development and facilities management. Novare takes pride in the contribution our projects make towards infrastructure development, economic growth and sustainable employment in the communities where we operate. The intention is to expand our geographical reach to include opportunities in Uganda, Ghana and Kenya,” says Roper.

Novare Real Estate

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Hospitality & Tourism

African Hotel pipeline resilient despite unprecedented challenges

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HTI Consulting CEO Wayne Troughtong

Acknowledged as one of the African continent’s leading hospitality investment experts, Wayne Troughton of HTI Consulting shared unique insights in the firm’s first ‘Virtual Hotel Club’ held in early July, a dynamic and informal Pan-African digital platform that saw 295 registrations across 15 countries.

Data was gathered from a survey that covered 14 regional and international operators active in the African hotel space (41 hotel brands and 219 projects currently under development). These included the likes of Hilton Worldwide, Marriot International, Radisson Hotel Group and Accor Hotels, amongst others.

Development sentiment largely positive

According to Troughton, whilst the African hospitality industry is facing unprecedented challenges and obstacles in light of the global pandemic, he noted that development sentiment remains optimistic amongst the majority(57%) of hotel owners as reported by operators on the continent.

“Despite closures and significant performance declines, long-term investment fundamentals for the Sub-Saharan region remain positive despite significant short to mid-term challenges currently impacting the sector,” he said.

“Of a total 219 hotel projects currently In Sub Saharan African pipeline a large proportion (68%) of these projects are proceeding as planned, with only 18% currently on hold for a limited period,and 13% on hold indefinitely.” he stated.

“Concerns amongst hotel owners are, of course, still apparent and, for several, a ‘wait and see’ approach relates to factors such as uncertainty around travel ban lifts in various markets, how to restore guest confidence, and the impact of Covid-19 on hotel valuations. However, the optimism displayed by many owners generally relates to understanding of the sector and adoption of a longer-term outlook,”he explained.

Outlook geared to opening doors

Despite the current environment, construction related businesses in several countries resumed activity as early as possible after lockdowns eased,commented Troughton.

“Encouragingly, this has resulted in 21 projects (representing 2946 hotel rooms in 15 African countries) still expected to open in 2020, with 52% of projects expecting short-term delays of 3 -6 months,” he said. “Longer term delays (9-12 mths or 12 mth+) are typically being seen on those projects that were in earlier (or planning) phases of development,” he stated.

“These delays can generally be attributed to uncertainty around how long travel lockdowns will continue. However, around 30% of projects under construction don’t expect COVID-19 to cause any delays to their ongoing development,” he said.

Hotel owners are clearly taking a long-term investment outlook and are expecting COVID-19 to be largely neutralised prior to their hotels opening. This relates particularly to those in the early stages of planning.

Angola – Luanda (Image by: Kirsten Hill)

Development pipeline remains healthy

Of the overall Sub Saharan Africa Development pipeline there are 219 branded hotels (representing 33 698 hotel rooms) across 38 markets.

“East Africa remains the region with the strongest hotel pipeline, followed by West and then Southern Africa. East Africa has 88 branded hotels currently in the pipeline, West Africa sees 84 branded hotels in its pipeline with Southern Africa sitting on 47 hotels,” stated Troughton.

Of the 21 hotels total projects expected to open doors in 2020, East Africa (40% of total supply), will see 1,134 rooms come on board, with the top cities being Antananarivo (22%), Dar es Salaam (20%) and Addis Ababa (20%).

West Africa (47% of total supply) sees 719 rooms planned to enter in 2020 across major cities including Accra (28%), Bamako (28%) and Cape Verde (24%).

Southern Africa (23% of total development pipeline) sees 963 rooms planned to enter in 2020, with South Africa – Johannesburg (71%) and Durban (21%) – seeing the predominance of activity, followed by Zambia.

Over the past three months HTI Consulting has engaged in numerous discussions with hotel owners who, Troughton states, have navigated different cycles during COVID-19 from survival (as hotels closed) to cost containment, defining hygiene safety protocols, staffing plans and ultimately, reopening strategies.

As several economies slowly start to open, so too have many hospitality businesses who are remaining positive and committed to the industry and demonstrating the determination necessary to over coming current adversities.         

Doing the deals

“Despite pressured economic environments and tough decisions, many hotel operators have, been able to successfully conclude and sign deals with owners during the lockdown period. A total of 15 new hotel deals were concluded by 7 operators in 8 countries, from the period March – June,” stated Troughton of HTI Consulting.

Feedback indicates these deals were close to fruition prior to the COVID crisis, with owners showing strong sentiment to continue with the projects. Further feedback from operators indicates these deals were also typically signed in primary African cities such as Abidjan, Accra, Lagos and Durban that boasted strong and diverse hospitality markets prior to the crisis. These locations are also likely to recover at a quicker rate than secondary nodes, believes Troughton. 

“Select operators who indicated that no deals were signed during this period pointed out that opportunities remain rife and that new enquiries are continuing to come through,” he said,

“It is anticipated that a lag will occur, with new owners typically being more cautious and awaiting to see how recovery unfolds,” he said. “Concerns have also been raised by owners around access to finance going forward as well as the willingness of the banks and financial institutions to fund hospitality projects at this point in time,” he continued.

“Whilst we haven’t seen any distressed sales at this point, with banks largely keeping hotels afloat, this may well change depending on the time frames we’re looking at to a return to ‘new normal’ as well as the potential resurgence of the virus in certain areas. The next 2 – 3 months will prove to be crucial, as many hospitality businesses do not have plans in place to ensure sustainability post this period.”

Opportunity sees operators doing it differently

“In several instances, feedback from large operators indicates a distinct shift towards conversions over greenfield development going forward, with a more flexible approach to the renovations and PIP costs.”

“Some operators are viewing this time as an opportunity to finalise forward planning during lockdown,” said Troughton “In several instances they have been able to take advantage of government support during this period in order to ensure they are able to streamline and accelerate internal approval processes, create more flexibility around brand stance, enhance their ability to pitch their products correctly to the local market and offer greater value and affordable experiences along with analysing fee structures over a select period.”

Also Read: Africa Rising: Why Project Managers Are Critical to Africa’s Future

“Whilst lockdowns have placed many hospitality businesses and investors in a stalemate position over the past few months, we’ve noticed a positive change over the past few weeks as more as more hospitality businesses resume activities and we see a significant uptick in the commissioning of hospitality advisory assignments,” noted Troughton.

Future Outlook

“It is reasonable to assume that a more cautious approach will be taken by hotel owners and investors in evaluating their investment strategy,” he said.

“Independent hotel owners mayindeed find it more difficult than the larger international brands to weather this current scenario. This too because branded hotels, and their new highly publicised hygiene protocols, may make for a more secure market and therefore allow them to see a more effective bounce-back and recovery.”

Hilton Addis Ababa (Image by: Kirsten Hill)

“Additionally those markets that are strongest in the area of domestic business travel (and then domestic leisure) should be amongst the first to recover.Indeed, focusing on the local market is what helped Asia recover from the SARS epidemic in the early 2000s.”

“For those owners and operators taking the the time to understand the changing markets we are facing, and willing to adapt to drive new demand, the medium to long-term outlook remains good,” stressed Troughton. “At HTI Consulting we continue to believe in the tourism potential in the region and strongly encourage further support from governments and brand managers to allow owners to minimise further losses and support recovery,”

“Despite current challenges and the overall uncertainty that trouble us all, there will be better times ahead and the travel market will eventually emerge stronger and more resilient. As governments slowly roll back travel restrictions and prepare to reopen society, the future winners are those that build a future based on a strong risk mitigation approach and display flexibility and innovation,” he concluded.

Released by: Kirsten Hill for HTI Consulting

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Carbon, Nigeria’s Leading Fintech Releases Its 2019 Financial Report

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Carbon co-founder and CEO, Chijioke Dozie

Carbon, Nigeria’s leading digital financial services company has released it’s 2019 financial statements audited by KPMG, detailing its product growth and $17.5mm in revenue

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It began operations in 2012 and within the space of six years, it grew revenue steadily, reaching an all-time high of $17.5mm in full-year 2019. In the same year, and expanded its product offerings to the Kenyan market and it’s disbursement volumes have grown from N13bn (2018) to N23bn.

Formerly called Paylater, Carbon pioneered instant lending in Nigeria and was the first mobile app to provide access to credit digitally and without requesting individuals to present the documents and collateral traditionally associated with accessing loans. Earlier this year, Carbon introduced its iOS app and USSD (*1303#) service. It also announced its Disrupt Fund, a $100,000 Pan-African fund to address the lack of capital for African tech startups.

“The company will continue to share it’s audited financials annually, thus upholding a culture of transparency and accountability,” says Ngozi Dozie, Founder.

So far this year, Carbon has introduced multiple new features for its customer base including Carbon Express: a keyboard allowing users to make payments from any social app, periodic investments, free bank transfers, monthly wallet interest, and more.

It also plans to introduce debit cards, a reward program for loyal customers and SME accounts for entrepreneurs, in the months to come.

The full annual report is here.

Carbon

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Press Release

L’Oréal Appoints Hlengiwe Mathenjwa As Director

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Loreal Midrand Manufacturing Plant Director, Hlengiwe Mathenjwa

L’Oréal South Africa announced today the appointment of Hlengiwe Mathenjwa as the new Director of its Midrand manufacturing plant in Johannesburg, effective 1July 2020.  A South African talent, Mathenjwa takes the helm of L’Oréal’s first and largest manufacturing facility in the Africa & Middle East region, which includes two other world-class plants in Nairobi, Kenya and Cairo, Egypt respectively.

Hlengiwe’s vast experience in the chemical industry led her to L’Oréal South Africa in 2013 as a Lab Manager before growing to take the lead of the Quality Department. Sharing highlights of her journey, she says: “My time at L’Oréal has been so empowering. Having the opportunity to spend one year at our Caudry Plant in France, specialising in skin care, on a Performance Improvement assignment transformed my career. It was hard being away from my family and adjusting to a new culture.” Upon returning to South Africa Hlengiwe took up the role of Production Manager overseeing the manufacturing of products made locally.

L’Oréal’s South African plant, located in Midrand, Johannesburg, specialises in hair care, skin care and personal hygiene products. It produces a large array of the company’s international portfolio of African Beauty Brands – such as Dark & Lovely and Restore Plus – developed by L’Oréal’s unique team of dedicated scientists and biologists based in South African Research and Innovation Center. Working closely with African hair stylists and dermatologists over the past years, the Center has developed extensive knowledge on the beauty needs of Sub-Saharan Africa consumers, and established L’Oréal as an expert of consumers of African descent on a worldwide scale.

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Stretching over around 35,000 square meters, L’Oréal’s Midrand plant employs today more than 150 staff members across different functions, with over 56% female employees, and exports its production throughout Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

“I am very grateful and humbled to be given this opportunity to lead our Midrand Plant. I appreciate the recognition and trust that the company has put in me. I am looking forward to working with everyone to lead L’Oréal Manufacturing Midrand through this unprecedented time and beyond”, concludes Hlengiwe. 

L’Oréal 

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