GO­ING ‘MAL’ FOR MALLS COMES WITH RE­GRETS

Sunday Tribune - - GENDER - VIC­TOR KGOMOESWANA @Vic­torafrica Con­ver­sa­tion, Chair­man’s Kgomoeswana is the au­thor of a me­dia com­men­ta­tor and pub­lic speaker on African busi­ness af­fairs

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,

Africa

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