Growth of African Tourism as industry remains resilient
The festive season in Africa also marks the highest season in the tourism industry, as demand for getaway destinations in the continent surges.
According to a Hospitality Report Africa – 2018/19, IATA’s most popular airline destinations in Africa in terms of traffic are South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Nigeria, Tunisia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Mauritius and Tanzania respectively. These being just among other African countries favorited by tourists not only during Christmas seasons but also throughout the year; for their exotic and relaxing nature.
Magnificent sceneries, wild and untouched nature for remarkable safaris and inestimable coastlines, Africa is indeed a favorable tourism destination. In the report by Jumia Travel, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary General Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili, shares his insights on the growth of African tourism.
Jumia Travel (JT): How is the African tourism sector performing and which are the driving factors?
Zurab Pololikashvili (ZP): International tourist arrivals in Africa are estimated to have increased by 8%. Results were driven by the continued recovery in North Africa and the solid growth in most destinations that reported data. Tunisia continued to rebound strongly in 2017 with a 23% growth in arrivals, while Morocco also enjoyed better results after weaker demand in the previous year. Growing demand from European source markets and a more stable environment contributed to the positive results.
In Sub Saharan Africa, strong performance continued in large destinations including Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire, Mauritius and Zimbabwe. South Africa reported slower growth in arrivals though a strong increase in expenditure. Island destinations Seychelles, Cabo Verde and Reunion Island; all reported double-digit growth in arrivals, benefiting from increased air connectivity.
The driving factors
The Africa agenda 2063 remained a strong driving factor to the growth of the industry; Issuance of the AU e-Passport and creation of visa upon arrival, e-visa and visa-free travel for African citizens in line with the concept of unrestricted movement of persons, goods and services across the countries. Others include; infrastructure development aiming at unlocking intra-regional economic exchange and establishing regional value chains for increased competitiveness, as well as political good will and mainstreaming of national agenda and implementation of tourism transformation policies.
JT: What are the greatest challenges facing the growth and expansion of the tourism sector in Africa?
ZP: Among challenges hindering the growth of the sector are travel advisories by international tourist sources and Political instability at some. Inadequate air travel between the major African cities due to poor intra-African air connectivity and lack of strategic marketing of brand Africa are also among top issues. We are also dealing with negative perception of brand identity and image of the continent.
Africa is not a country but a continent, home to more than a billion very creative, entrepreneurial and tech savvy Africans. It is however viewed as the only home to a fascinating wildlife and torn apart by war, poverty and diseases. Last but not least, underdeveloped tourism infrastructure, visa restrictions and lack of a common visa policy, and lack of access to adequate funding and underfunding at the ministerial level.
In response to these challenges, the UNWTO is aligning and developing national tourism strategies and policies in line with national agenda. The 10-point UNWTO Africa Agenda is a road map towards the maximization of Africa’s tourism potential. We are putting emphasis on travel and Tourism as a driver of jobs growth and economic recovery, provision of technical support to governments and affiliate private sector organizations for the development and promotion of sustainable tourism at the destinations. UNWTO is also providing Risk and Crisis Management courses in conflict prone zones as well as helping in the establishment of brand and image of African campaigns.
JT: What role is the rising Middle Class playing in boosting Africa’s domestic tourism, as a contribution towards achieving the middle-income status?
ZP: People’s movement is no longer a luxury set aside for the few with high per capita income but a basic need for the ever-increasing majority of the middle class who create and shape the future generation entrepreneurs. A growing middle class is a sign of a robust economy. The existence of domestic tourists who have more money to spend at their disposal and thus willing to travel more, has led to the mushrooming of low cost airlines, upward growth of bed capacity in main cities, flourishing of the so called shared economy etc.
Traditionally, tourism was seen as a thing for the foreigners, but this myth has been demystified by the fact that travel and leisure is not the sole domain of foreigners but also, for the locals to have a real-life experience of the richness and diversity of their countries which translates positively into the national economy.
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Grit divests from Letlole La Rona
Grit Services Limited, a member of the pan African real estate group, London Stock Exchange listed Grit Real Estate Income Group is divesting from Letlole La Rona Limited (LLR), a local real estate company established by government investment arm Botswana Development Corporation over a decade ago.
The Board of Directors of Letlole La Rona Limited this week announced in a statement to Unitholders that Grit Services Limited (‘Grit’) has informed them of its intention to exit its investment in the company.
Grit has been a material shareholder in LLR since 2019. On 07 March 2023, Grit sold 6 421 000 linked units, representing 2.29% of the Company’s total securities in issue, at a market value of BWP 22 537 710.
This trade follows previous sales of 6.79% in December 2022, as communicated to Unitholders on 10 January 2023, as well as a further sale of 4.78% (representing 13 347 068 linked units) on 24 February 2023 to various shareholders.
In aggregate, Grit has sold 13.9% shareholding in the Letlole La Rona between December 2022 and March 2023, resulting in current shareholding of 11.25% in the Company.
Letlole La Rona said in the statement that the exit process will take place in an orderly manner so as to maintain stability of the Company’s share price.
The statement explained that Grit’s sale of its entire shareholding in LLR is in line with its decision to exit investments where it does not have majority control, or where it has significant exposure to currencies other than US dollar, Euro or hard-currency-pegged revenue streams.
“Grit has announced similar decisions pertaining to certain of its hospitality assets in Mauritius recently. The Company would like to advise Unitholders that it remains focused on long-term value delivery to all stakeholders” LLR said
In July last year as part of their Go-to-Africa strategy Letlole La Rona acquired an initial 30% equity stake in Orbit Africa Logistics, with an option to increase this investment to 50%. OAL is a special purpose vehicle incorporated in Mauritius, owning an industrial asset in a prime industrial node in Nairobi, Kenya.
The co-investment was done alongside a wholly owned subsidiary of London listed Grit. The Orbit facility is situated on a prime industrial site on Mombasa Road, the principal route south of Nairobi center, serving the main industrial node, the port of Mombasa and the industrial town of Athi River and is strategically located 11 kilometers south of the international airport and 9.6 kilometers from the Inland Container Depot.
Grit shareholding in Letlole La Rona was seen as strategic for LLR, for the company to leverage on Grit’s already existing continental presence and expand its wings beyond Botswana borders as already delivered by Kenya transaction.
Media reports have however suggested that LLR and Grit have since late last year had fundamental disagreements on how to go about the Go-to-Africa strategy amongst other things, fuelled by alleged Botswana government interference on the affairs of LLR.
Government through LLR founding shareholder – Botswana Development Corporation has a controlling stake of around 40 percent in the company. Government is the sole shareholder of Botswana Development Corporation.
Letlole La Rona recently released their financial results for the six months ended December 2022, revenue increased by 4% to P50.2 million from P48.4 million in the prior comparative six months, whilst operating profit was up 8% to P36.5 million. Profit before tax of P49.7 million was reported, an increase of 8% on the prior comparative six months.
“We are encouraged by the strong results, notwithstanding a challenging economic environment. Our performance was mainly underpinned by annual lease escalations, our quality tenant base and below average market vacancy levels, especially in our warehouse portfolio,” Kamogelo Mowaneng, Letlole La Rona Chief Executive Officer commented.
LLR reported a weighted average lease expiry period of 3.3 years and escalation rates averaging 6.8% per annum for the period ended 31 December 2022.Its investment portfolio value increased by 14% year-on-year to close the period at P1.4 billion, mainly driven by the acquisition of a 30% stake in OAL in July 2022.
The Company also recorded a significant increase in other income, predominantly due to foreign exchange gains on the OAL shareholder loan. “We continue to explore pipeline opportunities locally, and regionally in line with our Go-to-Africa strategy and our interest remains on value-accretive investments,” Mowaneng said.
An interim distribution of 9.11 thebe per linked unit was declared on the 6th of February 2023 for the half-year period to 31 December 2022, comprising of a dividend of 0.05 thebe and debenture interest of 9.06 thebe per linked unit which will be paid to linked unit holders registered in the books of the Company at the close of business on 24 February 2023.
Stargems Group establishes Training Center in BW
Internationally-acclaimed diamond manufacturing company StarGems Group has established the Stargems Diamond Training Center which will be providing specialized training in diamond manufacturing and evaluation.
The Stargems Diamond Training Institute is located at the Stargems Group Botswana Unit in Gaborone.
“In accordance with the National Human Resource Development Strategy (NHRDS) which holds the principle that through education and skills development as well as the strategic alignment between national ambitions and individual capabilities, Botswana will become a prosperous, productive and innovative nation due to the quality and efficacy of its citizenry. The Training Centre will provide a range of modules in theory and in practice; from rough diamond evaluation to diamond grading and polishing for Batswana, at no cost for eight weeks. The internationally- recognized certificate offered in partnership with Harry Oppenheimer Diamond Training School presents invaluable opportunities for Batswana to access in the diamond industry locally and internationally. The initiative is an extension of our Corporate Social Investment to the community in which we operate,” said Vishal Shah, Stargems Group Managing Director, during the launch of the Stargems Diamond Training Center.
In order to participate in this rare opportunity, interested candidates are invited to submit a police clearance certificate and a BGCSE certificate only to the Stargems offices. Students who excel in these programs will have the chance to be onboarded by the Stargems Group. This serves as motivation for them to go through this training with a high level of seriousness.
“Community empowerment is one of our CSR principles. We believe that businesses can only thrive when their communities are well taken of. We are hoping that our presence will be impactful to various communities and economies. In the six countries that we are operating in, we have contributed through dedicating 10% of our revenues during COVID-19 to facilitate education, donating to hospitals and also to NGOs committed to supporting women and children living with HIV. One key issue that we are targeting in Botswana is the rate of unemployment amongst the youth. We are looking forward to working closely with the government and other relevant authorities to curb unemployment,” said Shah.
Currently, Stargems Group has employed 117 Batswana and they are looking forward to growing the numbers to 500 as the company grows. Majority of the employees will be graduates from the Stargems Diamond Training Center. This initiation has been received with open arms by the general public and stakeholders. During the launch, the Minister of Minerals and Energy, Honorable Lefoko Moagi, stated that the ministry fully endorses Stargems Diamond Training and will work closely with the Group to support and grow the initiative.
“As a ministry, we see this as an game changer that is aligned with one of the United Nations’ Six Priority Sustainable Development Goals, which is to Advance Opportunity and Impact for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). What Stargems Group is launching today will have a huge impact on the creation of employment in Botswana. An economy’s productivity rises as the number of educated workers increases as its skilled workmanship increases. It is not a secret that low skills perpetuate poverty and widen the inequality gap, therefore the development of skills has the potential to contribute significantly to structural transformation and economic growth by enhancing employability and helping the country become more competitive. We are grateful to see the emergence of industry players such as Stargems Group who have strived to create such opportunities that mitigate the negative effects of COVID-19 on the economy,” said the Minister of Minerals and Energy.