Global executives see emergence of Sub-Saharan Africa as consumer market
Geoffrey White, CEO of Agility Africa
Consumer spending by a fast-growing middle class is as important a growth driver for Africa as mineral and resource demand, according to a new survey of global logistics executives.
In the survey, which is part of the 2016 Agility Emerging Markets Logistics Index, industry executives rank South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana as the most promising markets in Sub-Saharan Africa. Poor infrastructure, lack of power generation and corruption continue to pose the most risk to African economies, according to the more than 1,100 executives responding to the survey.
Despite recent growth and surging foreign investment, Sub-Saharan Africa remains a challenging frontier for many. Only 21.2% of logistics industry executives surveyed said their companies have operations there.
Another 12.7% said they are in the planning stages to enter African markets. More than 43% said they have no plans to set up in Africa. “The results show a serious disconnect between the perception of the market and actual opportunities. These are some of the world’s fastest-growing economies.
Africa’s requirement for logistics services and supply chain expertise is huge and growing every day. At the same time, many of the companies that need logistics to enter the market don’t know how to get started in Africa or aren’t willing to take the risk,” said Geoffrey White, CEO of Agility Africa. “The market is open for first movers who can navigate risk and nurture African talent. The opportunity is for those seeking to build long-term, sustainable businesses that bring world-class practices and adapt to local conditions.”
The Agility Emerging Markets Logistics Index, now in its 7th year, offers a snapshot of logistics industry sentiment and ranks the world’s 45 leading emerging markets based on their size, business conditions, infrastructure and other factors that make them attractive to logistics providers, freight forwarders, shipping lines, air cargo carriers and distributors. China, the world’s second-largest economy, remains the leading emerging market by a large margin. Among the countries at the top of the Index rankings this year, UAE (No. 2), India (3) and Malaysia (4) leaped over the commodity-dependent economies of Saudi Arabia (5), Brazil (6) and Indonesia (7). Rounding out the top 10 are Mexico (8), Russia (9) and Turkey (10).
The leading markets in Sub-Saharan Africa are South Africa (No. 16) and Nigeria (17). South Africa has Africa’s most advanced logistics industry and transport infrastructure, but its economy has been hobbled by chronic power shortages, slumping commodity prices, a plunging currency and labour unrest. Nigeria climbed 10 spots in the 2016 Index, tying Egypt (No. 22) for the biggest gain by any country in the seven years since the Index was first published.
Nigeria’s enormous potential has become clearer since its recent decision to update the methods by which it collects economic data. Even so, its economy is heavily reliant on oil and has been hurt by low energy prices.
Other countries in the region fall toward the bottom of the rankings: Ethiopia (37), Tanzania (40), Kenya (43) and Uganda (45). Among countries in North Africa, Morocco ranked No. 20, trailed by Egypt (22), Algeria (30), Tunisia (36) and Libya (41).
Other Index findings: UAE, home to the powerhouse economies of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, has the best business climate and the best “connectedness,” a measure of infrastructure and transport connections, of any emerging market. As a result, UAE ranks as the world’s No. 2 emerging market after China, even though China’s economy is 25 times larger; India’s is five times larger; and Brazil’s is six times larger.
UAE, Malaysia, China, Chile lead in “connectivity,” meaning they have the best infrastructure and transport links, along with the most efficient customs and border administration.
Nigeria’s size and growth suggest it should rank near Brazil (No. 6) or Mexico (8) in the overall Index. But Nigeria is no more business friendly than Venezuela and Uganda, and its weak infrastructure, transport links and customs regime puts it with Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Tanzania in “connectivity.”
Among countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa has the best “connectivity.” In North Africa, Morocco has the best business climate and connections.
Countries in Latin America are losing ground to other emerging markets as a result of recession and political turmoil in Brazil, the region’s biggest economy, and depressed prices for commodity exports. Of the 10 countries that slipped furthest in the Index, six are in Latin America: Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela. Even so, Chile continues to be the top-ranked emerging market with GDP under $300 million.
Russia, hurt by Western sanctions and isolated economically since it began backing rebels in Ukraine and intervened militarily in Syria, fell from No. 7 to No. 9 in the Index. Tension with Russia and the loss of economic output in the breakaway Crimea region have hurt Ukraine, as well. Ukraine fell four spots to No. 34. Other survey findings: Industry executives view oil prices and China’s economy as the leading risks to the global economy in 2016. Both represent potential threats for some Sub-Saharan economies.
Mozambique, Uganda, Tanzania and others want to exploit huge new energy finds but are hamstrung by low prices. China, the leading buyer for African minerals and other key commodities, will buy less as its economy slows.
Logistics executives see “economic shock” as the top risk in Asia Pacific, a sign of concern that a slowdown in China could ripple through economies and supply chains elsewhere in the region. A significant percentage (38%) said they are reassessing their China strategies. In the past, industry executives said natural disasters and corruption were the top risks in Asia.
The logistics industry is intrigued by the possibility that Iran could emerge from its long economic isolation as the result of an agreement to curtail its nuclear program. In the survey, Iran moved up 12 spots – from No. 27 to No. 15 – among countries with potential as major logistics markets. “It was a volatile year for emerging markets, and you see that in the Index. Eight of the top 10 emerging markets shifted places,” said Essa Al-Saleh, President and CEO of Agility Global Integrated Logistics. “Despite the turbulence, the fundamentals driving growth remain consistent – a rising middle class with spending power, progress in poverty reduction, growing populations.
That’s why we are still positive on the outlook for emerging markets and see them driving global growth.” Transport Intelligence (Ti), a leading analysis and research firm for the logistics industry, compiled the Index. John Manners-Bell, Chief Executive Ti, said: “The world’s economy is still riven by instability, and emerging markets such as China and Brazil have not been immune.
However others, such as Mexico, are in a far stronger position and will benefit from the economic growth experienced in the U.S. and Europe. More than ever, investors in emerging markets need to be discerning and the results of our Index are critical to providing clarity in a confusing and complex world.”
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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.