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A Darker Reason Why SA’n Business is Moving into Africa?

Reports abound of more and more South African companies doing business in Africa, but why are they not investing that money locally, are there challenges to making development work locally? Looking back over the last few quarters some disturbing stories have emerged.

It can’t be a good sign when you hear the news that a company like Resilient is looking elsewhere to do business.

Des De Beer (courtesy FM)

Des De Beer (courtesy FM)

Johannesburg-based real-estate investment company Resilient, which has a local market capitalization of 11 billion Rand is looking to Nigeria to expand its business. This on its own is not a worry since many SA firms are expanding into Africa. However it’s the stated reasons and comments from its executive that raise some eyebrows.

According to The Citizen’s Micel Schnehage, Resilient’s Director Des de Beer explained that it’s the firm’s struggle with local government. “(Resilient) is hampered by extensive bureaucracy and red tape, resulting in expensive delays.” He went on to state that the era for Resilient to develop non-metro malls was over.

What seems to have been the last straw was the loss of documents pertaining to the Mafikeng Mall by local authorities 17 times. “They’re not accountable to anyone so they don’t really care,’’ said de Beer.

Unlike South Africa, is the implication, Resilient believes there is a sincere intention in Nigeria to see the country raised up and that officials are largely positive facilitators of the investment process.

Another big player in the industry, Redefine, the second largest listed SA property loan stock company by market cap on the JSE, with assets exceeding R37bn, claims to be hampered by red tape.

The value of the group’s properties declined by 1.7% in the review period while the South African portfolio valuation increased by R260million. Red tape involving local authorities and other government departments are holding back developments in rural areas.

Redefine’s CEO Marc Wainer

Redefine’s CEO Marc Wainer

Redefine’s CEO Marc Wainer announced last year that Redefine intended to launch a shopping centre of between 20 000m² and 30 000m² in a rural area which could create between 4 000 and 5 000 jobs. This includes cleaners, security guards and other workers needed by retailers.

However, Wainer said instead of the authorities welcoming these developments, processes are being frustrated by officials wanting their palms greased before setting the ball rolling.

The Redefine head said retailers are keen to enter into rural areas with a growing segment of the market’s buying power increasing in terms of social grants, but are now rather opting for Africa. Wainer cited a recent announcement by Liberty Properties to opt for its new growth in Zambia. “It’s easier to do business in Africa than South Africa,”  Wainer told reporters. He added that money being spent offshore should be spent locally, but conditions frustrate this.

In an interview with CitiBusiness  Wainer lashed out at government, criticising the administrative practices of local authorities. At the time he added Redefine was not going to invest in areas where bribes were expected, citing the former Hammanskraal as an example.

But this doesn’t mean everything’s rosy in Africa either, doing business where local authorities are concerned can be a red tape head ache for developers in general. By way of example consider Steven Singleton’s  story.

Steven Singleton wrote to the Daily Maverick about his struggle in setting up a Private hospital in Zambia where he was frustrated at every turn by Zambia’s top banker and business mogul Rajan Mahtani: “Business in Zambia is very much like this and magnates such as Mahtani make sure it stays that way and he retains control.

In my case I offered him what I considered to be “a project on a plate” and, instead of rewarding the provider, he not only took the project, but the plate as well. Why? Because he could, and there was no recourse to be had.

This is all too often the nature of doing solo business in Africa. Powerful and politically connected parties are able to move with relative impunity as long as their alliances are intact or until a change of regime shifts the balance of their power base.”

Although not the same situation, the dynamics are similarly reported when trying to do business involving local authorities in South Africa it seems.  Whether this is an African challenge or a South African challenge, developers have their work cut out for them as they try to invest and develop under

Golf Estates: “Swing hard in case you hit it!”

As a social phenomenon it’s not surprising that golf estates would do well in South Africa, given the priority of security on the one hand and sharing the outdoors within one’s community on the other

“If you think it’s hard to meet new people, try picking up the wrong golf ball.”  Jack Lemmon

As a social phenomenon it’s not surprising that golf estates would do well in South Africa, given the priority of security on the one hand and sharing the outdoors within one’s community on the other.

It’s hardly unusual that people will take whatever measures possible to ensure the safety of their family and the lifestyle that they have become accustomed to. So it may come as a bombshell to find a slump being reported by some in the golf estate property market.

We know that property world-wide is depressed and so it stands to reason that the golfing estate market would not be immune to such pressure. Golf estates like those along the Cape’s Garden Route that were lauded as a major economic driver during the last ten years are currently struggling.

“These greens are so fast I have to hold my putter over the ball and hit it with the shadow” Sam Snead.

Not so for these golfing estates:

  • Pinnacle Point had as many as 15 properties for sale a couple of weeks ago, including a R14m luxury house.
  • 46 properties were on sale at Kingswood in George.
  • 53 properties were listed at Pezula in Knysna.
  • 26 properties for sale at the Oubaai golf estate outside George.

That’s a lot of stock!

In Plettenberg Bay, two massive golf estate developments, Hangklip and Roodefontein, have been put on hold despite winning approval from the provincial government and Bitou municipality as early as 2009.

Environmentalists in general and in the Cape in particular, are not big fans of golf estates, due to the high volume of water required to maintain these emerald isles and the reputation – fair or not – of the ecological destruction caused by the landscaping.

In the late 90’s investigations were made in the Western Cape, when local environmentalists made enough noise about the potential threat of golf estates to local ecology. By the time local government had produced a report in the mid 2000’s, twenty two golf courses were already fully functioning with more on the way. The report declared the golf courses unsustainable but no one had the political will to declare a moratorium.

The Cape Times quotes Tasneem Essop, Western Cape Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC, as saying the negative impact on natural resources, especially limited water supplies, might well outweigh the benefits of golf resorts. However the claims of tourism and job creation benefits needed to be properly assessed, she said.

Elsewhere in the country it’s the newer developments that are the most at risk, with banks withdrawing their funding for some of these projects as enough buyers can’t be found to warrant financial backing. This is due in part to the slump in the market in general and, as Alliance Group’s Rael Levitt believes, that the South African golf estate market has been overdeveloped in the last five years and that a number of estates will, unfortunately, go into liquidation in the near future.

“The ball retriever is not long enough to get my putter out of the tree.”  Brian Weis

Perhaps the golf estate market is more resilient than we think. Take the Ernie Els’s Copperleaf Golf Estate in the centre of Gauteng. Previously known as Gardener Ross, the name changed when developer Investec Property took over the development in 2010. Yes it’s true, the developer’s well ran dry and the land owners put their stands on the market.Since Investec Property took over and redesigned the development, land owners have taken their land off the market and want to build homes. This is an estate where a three bedroom, two bathroom home with a double garage has the entry level priced at R1.9 million.

There is also something for environmentalist to consider: the development has its own water treatment works, which recycles grey and sewerage water for the irrigation of the golf course and 2700 trees are currently being planted to add to the existing park, wetlands and grasslands.

One of the big criticisms of such estates is the high levy. One really needs to take this into account in any sectional title community but just for the record the levy at Copperleaf is being quoted to the public at R1500 monthly. One would figure this to be affordable if being in the market for a R2 million bond.

The big advertising pull is that of family living rather than just golf. The press releasefor Copperleaf tells us that:” Investec Property wanted to create a child friendly environment, family entertainment destination that all family members living at the estate or visiting the estate can enjoy.” Sam Hackner of Investec Property says that the recession has helped to separate the reputable developers from the suspect ones and right now, Hackner believes, the industry is left with reputable ones with integrity. Time will tell.

Like any investment, you want something for your trouble. The perception that golfing estates are a rich man’s refuge is not without foundation. To build a golf course of any quality costs in the region of R50m plus and once you’ve added the cost of the land, club house facilities, spa and other amenities, you have a business scenario not for those easily overwhelmed, with the sale of residential stands being the only means of reclaiming the investment.

In the early days the investment attraction was the weekend or holiday properties. But now a decade later there are hundreds of established residential golf estates offering more than thousands of properties, this has become a very different market. Golfing estates are now viable primary residential options.

Andrew Golding of Pam Golding Estates believes what is also likely to contribute to the success of golf estate living, is the virtual office scenario employed by so many entrepreneurs, as well as small to medium size business owners, whereby this sector can be based anywhere and enjoy a lifestyle perhaps originally intended only for the leisure consumer.

This leads one to consider the importance of golf. With little more than 125 000 registered golfers in South Africa – the target market is small.  Developers have had to shuffle their cards a little and make their appeal more broadly inclusive. Health and wellness, equestrianism, angling, walking and other sporting pursuits come into the mix. One may be forgiven for imagining scenes of people and friends galloping down the fairway or retirees fishing in the water features. Heaven forbid! But in earnest, options are opening up, broadening the scope of what golf estates can offer.

Continued research proves that there are two consistent and specific reasons for investment in real estate around a golf course – security and community. While those are creatively on offer, Golf estates will continue to be an attractive investment for retirement, rentals and lifestyle. Not being too reliant on the Golf aspect may preserve the future of Golf estates.

Or in the words of Dan Marino “Swing hard in case you hit it.”