GOING ‘MAL’ FOR MALLS COMES WITH REGRETS
YEAR-END in many African countries force-feeds us those Christmas carols by Boney-m, shiny confetti and blinking street lights. It is on this occasion that one cannot ignore headlines such as the one in East Africa this past weekend. It dominated discussions in my circles about how Africa is the dream investment destination for shopping malls. We, Africans, are higher-grade consumers and proudly so.
Africa has dominated the economic growth rate stakes over the past decade and is set to continue.
The World Bank’s figures feature six African economies in the top 10 global performers for 2018. They are Ghana, Ethiopia, Cote d’ivoire, Djibouti, Senegal and Tanzania. The leader, Ghana, clocked 8.3% and the last of the six, Tanzania, 6.8%. A fine blend of mainly West and East African countries on a continent that grew by 3.2%.
This above average performance is sadly not evenly shared by the
1.2 billion Africans, a recipe for socio-political instability. It is not driven by what Africa truly craves, industrialisation, either.
Instead, as the recent report by Sagaci Research shows, it is due to an upsurge of consumer products made with African minerals in China, US, Europe – everywhere except Africa.
Brand Africa found that although MTN and Dangote are the most admired African brands, American sports apparel company Nike remains the darling of Africans. Oh yes, we love our Gucci, Ralph Lauren and Cartier.
The phones that MTN dishes out on its packages are not African. Samsung, Huawei and Apple are all electronic gadgets manufactured with our coltan, tin and other minerals that fuel conflict and child labour in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Njiraini Muchira quotes this sixth edition of the Shopping Malls in Africa report to explain this growth as being due to a rise in the “development of shopping malls, with numbers more than doubling over the past eight years” on the back of “urbanisation, population growth, increased interest from international retailers, changing consumer lifestyles and rising household incomes”.
Here in South Africa, it is not uncommon that when a new mall emerges, it kills spaza shops and other vendors in its wake.
Somehow, our governments lack the courage and foresight to enforce not only the requirement that these shopping centres be matched by a higher number of factories to give the locals a share of the bonanza, they do not have the vision to provide basic amenities for workers like safe and dignified taxi ranks within these malls.
There is no question that retail property and consumer products are essential to economic growth, but this should not be at the expense of local economic development. So far, these developments have solely focused on the interests of tenants.
While here in South Africa black people are convulsing over the remarks of Dr Johann Rupert on Power98.7’s
shopping mall developers and their tenants are singing the old merchant’s prayer: Lord, give me a lot of fake jewellery and that African boy’s address (or credit card details).
is Open for Business,