Botswana has a resilient property market, a housing sector that balances development activities with socioeconomic concerns, and a construction industry that has the support of Government’s Economic Stimulus Programme as well as the Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan.
In the past decade there have been substantial improvements in land management policies to expedite access, distribution and demarcation, development and utilisation of land, with the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model being used to facilitate land servicing. The private sector is given the opportunity to provide housing where it has competitive advantage, while Government assists in areas that are not commercially viable, such as rural or remote locations. Citizen empowerment through local outsourcing is a key constituent of development initiatives.
Botswana’s sound macroeconomic foundation and desirability as an investment destination have encouraged the steady development of the property market, with several prominent players having listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange.
According to the Bank of Botswana’s Monetary Policy Report of December 2020, Botswana’s property market generally improved in the second quarter of 2020. However, by the end of 2020, the market had started to weaken in the wake of the disruptions caused by Covid-19 and the accompanying sluggish performance of the economy that subdued demand. The usually resilient domestic real estate sector experienced contractions in margins along with high vacancy rates and slow sales.
In the residential market, rentals performed better in the second quarter of 2020, compared with the first quarter, due to good demand for sales and rentals for low-end properties, despite the lockdown. However, demand and supply for rentals and sales in the medium-end property segment decreased marginally in the period under review.
There has subsequently been an improvement in demand for lower-end, medium and prime-located residential housing, given the relative affordability of properties in these categories compared with those in the upper-end market. The more expensive properties are usually bought by foreign investors, and the current slow uptake may be partly attributed to the amended Transfer Duty Act, which raised the transfer duty from 5 percent to 30 percent for
non-citizen property buyers. Yields in the sector still hover around 5 percent to 6 percent.
Over the past five years, there has been a development trend of new residential nodes emerging in Gaborone and surrounding areas, away from the more expensive centrally-located city areas. As the capital’s road networks continue to improve and supply increases in the market, prime rentals and sales within Gaborone may be subdued as both tenants and buyers opt for the greater Gaborone nodes.
The market for office space remains weak due to increasing supply from completed construction developments, such as the Botswana Unified Revenue Service building in the Gaborone Central Business District (CBD). Despite Covid-19 movement restrictions and the generally lower demand for office space, there was still some uptake, although limited, in the CBD by Government (a major consumer) as well as by some corporates.
Going forward, the supply of office space is likely to continue rising, given the ongoing construction projects and planned office buildings in the CBD, such as by the Botswana Housing and Water Utilities corporations. These will exert additional downward pressure on rentals, especially in the decentralised office locations. Meanwhile, as a result of the pandemic, most companies have allowed their employees to work from home, which could also negatively affect the demand for office space.
Similar to the first quarter of 2020, the demand for retail space remained fair across all market segments in the second quarter. The supply of retail space is expected to rise due to the development of a major shopping centre in the CBD, with another one proposed for Mogoditshane.
Demand for retail space is growing in Jwaneng, Maun, Francistown, Mahalapye and Palapye. This is because most of these locations have a few retail schemes at planning and/or construction stage, and they are to be anchored by reputable supermarkets. By the fourth quarter, the sector continued to show healthy rentals, with yields between 7.5 percent and 8 percent.
It was reported in December 2020 that Botswana Railways (BR) is planning to build more malls through its subsidiary, JTTM Properties, which owns the popular Rail Park Mall.
Furthermore, Botswana Railways also plans to start construction during 2021 on the long-awaited BR Mall in Francistown, which will be built on an 11-hectare plot belonging to BR properties. The state-of-the-art mall will house retail outlets, offices, cinemas, a filling station, piazza and a football court.
With regard to industrial property, in the second quarter of 2020, the supply of larger, unoccupied warehouse space decreased, while demand improved. Meanwhile, the availability of prime location industrial space is expected to drop going forward, given that most of the centrally located industrial land is almost fully developed and occupied. By the end of 2020 it was evident that the industrial sector, which is mainly underpinned by manufacturing and logistics operations, had proven more resilient than other real estate subsectors during the pandemic.
Housing finance is provided through specialist property financing institutions. These include the Botswana Building Society (BBS) as well as commercial banks, although most of the latter group have fairly conservative lending practices which limit the areas they will finance to towns, cities and large villages. Bank stipulations, such as a minimum income requirement, put mortgage finance out of the reach of many Batswana, thus opening the door to financiers able to offer construction or housing microloans.
The Real Estate Institute of Botswana (REIB) is the leading professional body representing the interests of property surveyors. It promotes and encourages professional and ethical conduct in respect of the management and development of land and property.
The Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) manages a property portfolio comprising four major sectors – residential, commercial, hotel and industrial – with the industrial sector accounting for the largest share of the portfolio by value.
Botswana Insurance Fund Management (BIFM) is a 74.9 percent owned subsidiary of BIFM Holdings and is 25.1 percent owned by a Citizen Employee Share Scheme. BIFM Holdings, together with Botswana Life Insurance Limited (BLIL), are wholly-owned subsidiaries of Botswana Insurance Holdings Limited (BIHL), a company listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange.
BIFM has been instrumental in developing some of the most significant properties in the country, notably the Airport Junction Shopping Centre, Rail Park Mall and Fairgrounds Office Park. PPPs are undertaken with Government, and BIFM prides itself on having delivered these projects successfully, on time and within budget. This includes the Lands Tribunal and Office of the Ombudsman Building, as well as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Headquarter buildings.
Contributing some 7.5 percent to Botswana’s real GDP, construction is a major job creator and has historically been one of the country’s best-performing economic sectors. This has had a notable impact on socioeconomic development, providing much-needed housing as well as factory and commercial space, roads, schools, hospitals, dams, sewerage and water treatment works. In recent years, legislation governing the industry has set professional standards for improved performance and self-regulation to protect public interest.
Construction grew by 3.1 percent in the 12-month period to September 2019, down from 3.7 percent in the corresponding period in 2018. The lower growth was partly due to the completion of some construction projects, such as shopping centres across the country and in Palapye. However, reflecting the adverse impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the sector contracted by 6.8 percent in the year to June 2020.
Government is cognisant of bottlenecks in the implementation of development projects, pointing to capacity challenges in areas such as project design, contracting processes, project implementation, project monitoring and evaluation. This is to be addressed by handing over the responsibility for implementation of selected major projects to the private sector, accompanied by robust contract supervision structures.
To alleviate pressure on the Government budget in the short to medium term, the spotlight is thus on PPPs. In this regard, the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services has invited the private sector to undertake the Reclamation and Treatment of the Wastewater project at Glen Valley, while the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security has already pre-qualified bidders for the Coal to Liquid project. In addition, requests for expressions of interest to build, finance and operate the following projects on a PPP basis will be issued during 2021/22: the Zambezi Agro- Commercial Development project and the Chobe-Zambezi Water Transfer Scheme; Tshele Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility; Sepopa Prison Farm; Headquarters for Botswana Prison Services; Serowe Magistrates Court; the Offender Rehabilitation Centre in Lobatse; the Francistown–Nata road; Maun–Mohembo road; and the Mmamabula– Lephalale and Mosetse–Kazungula railways.
Botswana is ranked 44th in the world when it comes to ‘dealing with construction permits’, according to the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business report, with only Mauritius ranked higher in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The implementation of the Economic Stimulus Programme has demonstrated the ability of the construction industry to boost employment. Furthermore, as part of Citizen Economic Empowerment and Economic Diversification Drive initiatives, Government continues to prescribe domestic sub-contracting of up to 30 percent of the contract amounts on works awarded to non-citizen contractors. In addition, emphasis is placed on the procurement of locally manufactured goods in all Invitations to Tender (ITT) documents.
Government’s focus on transformation has also necessitated the review of the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal (PPAD) Act and the Local Authorities Procurement and Asset Disposal (LAPAD) Act. The possibility of changing the 30 percent reservation policy for citizen owned companies to a minimum 60 percent for major projects in this country is also being considered.
The Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing Development is presently implementing more than P1.2 billion worth of infrastructural projects which are at various stages of construction. As at December 2020, this included Shakawe and Moshupa primary hospitals, Maun General Hospital, Letlhakane and Ghanzi senior secondary schools, Maitengwe police station and Scottish Livingstone Hospital maintenance. Over and above this, 19 others
are at the planning or pre-contract stage. The Ministry is also promoting business models such as consortia and joint ventures between citizens and non-citizens, as well as cooperatives among citizen-owned construction companies.
Furthermore, the Ipelegeng public works programme is to be re-engineered, with the focus on maintenance of public facilities, especially schools, and implementation of development projects at the local level. The revamped Ipelegeng will empower beneficiaries through capacity building and development of technical skills for sustained livelihoods. Their training will be conducted in partnership with local institutions, including, Madirelo Training and Testing Centre, CITF and Brigades.
The Construction Industry Trust Fund (CITF) was established by Government to address the need for semi- skilled and skilled artisans during the implementation of national development plans, particularly in the construction industry, and to fill the skills gap in the mining industry. The CITF has been in operation since 1991, and major developments projects, such as Jwaneng Cut-8 and the Kazungula Bridge, have benefitted from artisans trained under the Fund.
The CITF continues to empower Batswana with the requisite skills for the industry. Training courses have been expanded to include Overhead Power Lines Installation, Solar Water Heating (Thermal), Photovoltaic (PV) and Roads Maintenance. This is to reduce dependence on external recruitment of semi-skilled and skilled artisans. Additional new skills training programmes, such as Mechatronics, Hydraulics and Pneumatics, and Programmable Logic Control (PLC), kicked off in May 2019.
As a means of strengthening institutional capacity to empower the youth with globally competitive vocational skills, Government has rationalised the functions of the Madirelo Training and Testing Centre (MTTC), the Brigades and the CITF to form a Rapid Skills Development Centre (RSDC). The establishment of the Sojwe, Bokspits, Phitshane Molopo and Ncojane RSDCs has begun, with the Shakawe and Khakhea centres to commence in the 2021/22 financial year.
The Department of Housing is a professional service department under the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing Development. Its responsibilities include the design and formulation of national housing policies and monitoring and provision of guidance to local authorities, private developers and other institutions. NGOs and community-based organisations are also actively involved in low-income housing delivery. The provision of decent housing and shelter – considered a basic human need – is part of Government’s strategy for building an inclusive society.
A National Housing Strategy is being finalised, with the emphasis on increasing access to housing for all. Its main features include: delivery of housing through PPPs; improved access to affordable housing finance; establishment of a Housing Fund; and coordinated social housing programmes for the youth and less privileged.
The review of the National Policy on Housing, prompted by the need to improve housing delivery and promote home ownership, is expected to be completed by end of the 2021/22 financial year.
The parastatal Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) has historically built houses in mainly urban areas – particularly Gaborone and Francistown – and has been actively involved in promoting home ownership by citizens. In addition to building houses and flats in the high, medium and low-cost categories, BHC has been a dominant player in the rental market.
The Corporation has set itself the goal of having a roof over every Motswana by its 50th anniversary year – 2023. This translates into the delivery of some 8 000 housing units.
All housing implementation programmes were in 2012 transferred to BHC as the single housing delivery vehicle for low-income housing and Government’s district housing projects. BHC, as the contractor, is involved in the construction of low-income projects, while applications and assessments, signing of loans and collection thereof remain the responsibility of local councils. BHC provides technical assistance by carrying out site inspections, with the respective councils (as the regulator) ensuring compliance with building standards. Upon completion, housing units are handed over to councils to pass on to beneficiaries and issue occupation certificates.
Since the beginning of NDP 11, 1 333 units out of the 1 972 have been completed, with construction of the remaining units expected to be completed by the end of the 2020/21 financial year. Government is presently working with stakeholders, including the BHC, in promoting high density housing, particularly in urban areas, where there is shortage of land.
The Low-Income Housing Programme contains three components – Self Help Housing Agency (SHHA) Home Improvement, Turnkey Development Scheme and Integrated Poverty Alleviation and Housing Scheme (IPAHS). In addition, Government continues to roll out housing schemes such as the Public Officers Housing Initiative, Housing Scheme for Public Officers D4 and below, BHC housing and Third Party Projects, Instalment Purchase Scheme (IPS) and Youth Housing Scheme.
The Instalment Purchase Scheme (IPS) was introduced to promote home ownership among citizens who are renting BHC houses. The IPS is available to citizens of Botswana between the ages of 18 and 65 years. The scheme goes hand-in-hand with the Youth Housing Scheme that is tailor-made to reduce the shortage of accommodation among the youth who cannot afford rentals in the private market.
The Self Help Housing Agency (SHHA) offers Botswana’s most successful low-income housing programmes, enabling beneficiaries to start housing projects using their own resources. Established in 1973, it has been extremely effective in providing affordable housing for low- income groups while helping to upgrade existing squatter settlements.
The two products under the agency comprise loans through the SHHA Home Improvement Scheme and housing units available for purchase under the Turnkey Development Scheme. Zero interest is charged on loans, except in the case of defaulters, who are charged 10 percent. The repayment period for loans under both schemes stands at 20 years. To curb incidences of incomplete structures, councils are expected to carry out inspections to monitor the condition of housing projects and to verify the level of development.
The Integrated Poverty Alleviation and Housing Scheme (IPAHS) caters for those who do not qualify for SHHA loans and the Turnkey facility. The scheme aims to train low-income rural and urban households or individuals to acquire productive skills, such as brick moulding and brick laying, as well as business skills. Initial capital to set up projects to produce and market building materials is provided by Government. Subsequently, households venture into business to generate income, which enables them to build their own houses.
The IPAHS has a total of 19 commercial brick moulding projects nationwide. Four additional projects have since been designated in Lehututu, Mmathubudukwane, Gumare and Francistown. The revamping of the IPAHS initiative is expected to be completed by the end of the 2021/22 financial year.
Commendable progress has been made in uplifting the lives of remote area communities under the Remote Area Development Programme (RADP), expedited through the 2014 Affirmative Action Framework for Remote Area Communities.
The Botswana Government is also engaging other partners to complement its efforts in providing basic shelter to the disadvantaged. The President’s Housing Appeal for the needy has received contributions from the private sector, individuals and public officers to support this initiative.