RDC Properties Chairman, Guido Giachetti said they continue to experience challenging trading environment on its retail segment in Botswana and Mozambique.
Despite completing the extension of the XaiXai shopping centre in Mozambique, the company indicated that there has been a setback with Botswana based large supermarket retailer not carrying out the fitting out of their unit. The development started in 2017 on the back of binding expression of interest with this retailer but they could not make a good undertaking. “We are actively sourcing another anchor tenant and remain reasonably positive for the future,” wrote Giachetti in the company’s latest annual report.
In 2016, RDC Properties indicated that the group is undertaking retail developments in two sites in Maputo, Mozambique, which would launch Choppies as the main anchor. RDC Properties owns 33 percent shareholding in XaiXai Shopping complex. The project comprises 1,539 square meters of anchor shop and 2258 square meters of line shops. The Xaixai project is accounted to the tune of USD784 000 which is 0.4 percent of the group’s investment and property portfolio prior to revaluation to be done at stabilization.
The domestic retail property market remains challenging but the group has been able to maintain the vacancy levels at a very acceptable level of 3.5 percent. However, he said in such difficult conditions the company’s portfolio remained resilient as it has a good and well-balanced income stream. “We are able to be cautiously optimistic about the year ahead as our primary focus is hands on management of the existing asset base and growing shareholder value by identifying potential developments and acquisitions of properties in sectors and geographies with good future growth,” said Giachetti.
On his part, RDC Properties Chief Executive Officer, Jacopo Pari highlighted that the trading environment was challenging in line with the region but the group showed strong resilience in its Botswana based portfolio. Rental revenue in the country was up by one percent with the tourism and hospitality sector being the largest contributor while the commercial sector along with retail has been under pressure. The industrial and residential demand was solid throughout the period.
Botswana Railways hit by fuel theft
Botswana Railways lost fuel business due to continuous incidents of stolen fuel from the tanks and delays mainly at Mafikeng, in the north Western side of South Africa.
Botswana Railways Chief Executive Officer Leonard Makwinja said, during 2017/2018, their biggest failure was in this area. “Our biggest failure in this aspect was on imports, transporting of fuel from South Africa proved to be a challenge.
There have been incidents of fuel loss on tankers, sometimes a delay in Mafikeng when trains changed and when it arrives in Botswana the tank would be half empty, “said Makwinja. He said this was worsened by allegations that road transportation was cheaper. Currently, they have employed a fuel consultant to look into the whole fuel transportation. “We believe a solution will be found soon.”
The BR Chief explained they heavily rely on the relationship with Transnet to successfully execute its freight mandate. Most of the imports through rail come from South Africa and the main export through rail which is salt and soda ash is transported from Botash to Mafikeng. “Going onwards we have to depend on Transnet for connections to the respective destinations. Our strategic plan going forward is to improve our services to the oil companies so that we are more reliable, timely and profitable.”
During the period, Makwinja said they had to focus on cost containment. The main cost drivers are staff cost, fuel and maintenance of the locomotives. In his statement on Botswana Railways 2018 annual report, Makwinja said the organization’s performance was subdued due to lack of capacity to meet the demand. “In terms of tonnage, our target was 2 million tons but we only achieved 1, 5 million tons. This adverse variance can be attributed to a number of factors including lack of sufficient locomotives and practicing conservative business initiatives and marketing,” he said.
Calls to improve crop yields with technology
Greenhouse Technologies managing director, Amanda Masire has urged entrepreneurs to venture into agriculture as it is a lucrative business and more beneficial to the national economic development, despite climate change challenges.
Speaking to Business Trends, Masire said there is a need for more training and knowledge on modern agriculture technologies for the country to have sustainable food production. “I am passionate about agriculture and food production. I want to help my country to produce food for itself and reduce dependency on imports. I have learnt that despite all the challenges of climate change, we can still produce our own food through the use of modern technologies,” said Masire.
Masire is an agri-business developer, specializing in horticulture, beekeeping and fish farming. She currently operates Greenhouse Farmers Academy offering training and mentorship on horticulture farming. “Agriculture is the most lucrative business that young people should be looking into. Currently, we depend much on South Africa. We should rise up and develop the sector because as Batswana we have rich land that we are not utilising.” Her services include horticulture starter kit, which includes business plans, lessons, fertilisers and all equipments necessary for a particular horticulture project.
She is currently working with the Ministry of Agriculture Development and Food Security to develop the ISPAAD Program. She said government would embrace modern farming technologies to improve food production. “Most Batswana have lands which they are currently not ploughing because of climate change conditions while the government gives out fertilizers and seeds every year to subsistence farmers yet there is no yield. I have come up with solutions, which include testing soil and supplying lime treatment to reduce acidity. This will help improve crop yield when adopted with other technologies,” she said.
Speaking during Stanbic Lionness Lean In Africa, Masire said with the challenges in the agriculture sector, Batswana should stop looking much into the problems and getting discouraged but should rather think of solutions. “Government is trying but we individuals also need to be innovative and assist government in improving food security. Young people should take opportunity of the agri-business market and reduce unemployment,” said Masire.