With growth potential and investment in Africa increasingly under the spotlight, the South African based parking management company, Interpark – a member of the Excellerate Property Services group, is focused on increasing its footprint into the continent.
Says Kate Wolfaardt, managing director of Interpark: “We are extremely positive regarding the future of Africa and the opportunities it offers, not only from our own business growth perspective but also in regard to providing technologically advanced service offerings and parking solutions in the various countries in Africa.”
Currently Interpark has over 240 contracts across South Africa, Swaziland and Botswana, with its first site in Namibia due to commence in November this year (2013).
Says Wolfaardt: “Having first established our presence in Swaziland 10 years ago, we have entrenched our position in the market with operations in Swazi Plaza (a retail and office development), The Mall and The New Mall in Mbabane, and River Stone Mall and Bhunu Mall in Manzini. In Botswana we operate at Masa Centre, a mixed use development comprising offices, retail and hospitality components which is situated in Gaborone, while our new operation in Namibia will be situated on a large parking site at the sizeable Maerua Mall (comprising retail and offices) in Windhoek,” says Wolfaardt.
“These Interpark-managed parking facilities are all located in busy nodes, with a strong emphasis on retail centres at present. As the demand for shopping centres and office space has grown, so too have parking requirements in Africa. In Swaziland our activities took off from the outset as one landlord introduced paid parking to three of his properties at the same time in close proximity to each other – Swazi Plaza, The Mall and New Mall in Mbabane. We were pleasantly surprised by the quick acceptance of paid parking by the local community.”
She says Interpark plans to review any opportunity to introduce revenue generating parking. Generally, main airports are a primary target as they provide a gateway to the country and have a high profile as business people and holidaymakers make use of the parking facilities. “Also on our priority list are retail sites and some commercial sites with good potential as these can generate sound income streams for the property owner.
“Our Swaziland operations are managed from our Northern Gauteng regional office, which will also manage our Namibian operations when Maerua Mall comes on line later this year, while Botswana is operated out of our Southern Gauteng regional office. Interpark employs approximately 2 000 employees in total and our expansion into Africa is creating new job opportunities for local residents. We estimate that by March 2014 we will probably employ some 55 staff outside of South Africa.”
Trend towards pay on foot parking
Having operated for 40 years in South Africa, Interpark sees a high incidence of pay at exit sites, especially at small sites and hospitals. “However,” says Wolfaardt, “we follow the European trend towards a pay on foot market at airports, large, medium and small retail centres and some hospitals. Naturally, the pay on foot model eliminates traffic congestion and facilitates ease of traffic flow, particularly in retail centres as pay on foot pay stations may be spread at several points for quick and efficient payment.”
Wolfaardt says outside of South Africa, as modern shopping centres become larger with fewer exits, the natural progression will be towards pay on foot parking. “We have already introduced the pay on foot parking model at several of our sites over our borders. In Swaziland we commenced with pay at exit technology, then we introduced our first pay on foot site at River Stone Mall in Manzini about three years ago, and we are now installing our fourth pay on foot site in the Kingdom. At the Masa Centre in Botswana we started with a central pay point due to the fact that the note readers on the pay stations were not programmed to accept the local currency, the Pula. However, with technological advances since then we are now able to offer pay on foot to this market.”
In Namibia the paid for parking industry began with pay at exit, with the airports being the first to adopt pay on foot technology about two years ago. Now Interpark is launching pay on foot into the Maerua Mall, which currently has pay at exit parking. At present Zimbabwe only has pay at exit sites due to the challenges with currency sets in recent years, however, Interpark is looking to take advantage of the dollarization of the currency and introduce pay on foot parking solutions into this market. In the rest of Africa, paid for parking is mostly on a pay at exit basis, mainly due to the local currency.
Says Wolfaardt: “We find that people in Africa are increasingly becoming accustomed to travel beyond their borders and abroad, being exposed to a prevalence of automated pay on foot parking facilities – and as long as the technological support for such equipment is available in these countries, we will continue to see growth in the pay on foot parking model in the continent. From an Interpark perspective we source proven and quality equipment via suppliers in South Africa, with vendors who have an appetite to install and support their equipment in these countries. Pay on Foot equipment should deliver a robust 10 year life expectancy with proper maintenance and support, so we need partners that mirror our commitment to these markets.”
Security is a vital component for any parking facility, not only from the landlord’s perspective and those utilising the parking, but also in terms of cash management at the pay stations. “Introducing paid parking always assists with the access to and egress from a property as a parker must take a ticket to enter through the barrier and pay to exit through another barrier. Additional products such as intercom and CCTV systems not only add to the security of the access and egress, but also of the cash management of the pay stations where pay on foot is employed,” says Wolfaardt.
In pursuing its expansion strategy in Africa, Interpark will capitalise on the opportunities presented by the bundled service offering of the Excellerate Property Services (EPS) group – which includes JHI Properties, JHI Project Management, Excellerate Facilities Management and Sterikleen, among others.
Says Wolfaardt: “There are naturally some challenges faced in rolling out a business model into other countries, and we need to be aware of factors such as: local labour law and wage and salary structures that attract skilled people; the transposing and implementation of our operating controls and standards and the training of staff; in-country technical support from the technical supplier; and our in-country business partner.”
However, she adds that a key advantage of Interpark is its willingness to seek business particularly in countries that border South Africa and where EPS already has in-country representation and is trading in related property services. “Added value for clients is that we also offer our parking design consultancy services free of charge to the professional team and landlord, in instances where we have been brought in at the early stages when we can offer advice and knowledge based on our many years of experience in the industry.”