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Mall of Africa's journey is a strong testament to the value of solid financial relationships

The opening of the Mall of Africa in Waterfall Estate in Gauteng makes it the largest single-phase shopping mall development in South Africa’s history. But the physical size of this mega-mall is not the only thing that makes it a landmark SA development.

According to D’Anvo Jones, Divisional Executive: Property Finance at Nedbank Corporate and Investment Banking, the financial structures that made it possible are equally impressive.

Since the development was first conceived, NCIB Property Finance has acted as primary finance partner to the Mall of Africa developer, Attacq Waterfall Investment Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Attacq Limited.

Jones points out that the success of the financial structures on which the Mall of Africa has been established is a direct consequence of the strong relationship that already existed between Attacq and NCIB Property Finance.

“Financing a development of this size takes far more than getting access to finance,” Jones explains, “it requires a strong partnership between a developer and a market leading financier that is built on a shared vision, mutual trust and respect, and an ability to work together to think out of the box in order to engineer innovative andrigorous financial solutions.”

According to Jones, the fact that NCIB Property Finance and Attacq have enjoyed exactly such a relationship since long before work began on Mall of Africa, has been key to getting the development to the point at which it now finds itself – opening its doors to consumers hungry for an exciting new retail experience.

Jones is confident that, despite the continued economic challenges facing South Africa and its people, a strong market for a mall the size of Mall of Africa still exists.

“While there may be those who question the viability of opening another massive regional shopping mall against a backdrop of an economic downturn, in our experience, a retail development that offers good accessibility, a diversity of local and international tenants, and a variety of attractive consumer experiences has every potential to thrive irrespective of short to medium term economic climate challenges.”

“Mall of Africa certainly ticks all of these boxes,” Jones continues, “and its success prospects are further enhanced by its location in the heart of a thriving and fast growing mixed-use precinct that includes strong growth in office occupation, increasingly popular residential areas, and even an appealing hospitality offering.”

Jones is certainly qualified to make this call, given that NCIB Property Finance has been a key role-player in much of the development in Waterfall that has preceded the Mall of Africa, including the provision of finance to such well-known brands as Cell C, Stryker and MB Technology Distribution Centre.

In response to the question of whether the 131 000m² Mall of Africa is likely to make a sustained contribution to the growth and development of South Africa’s economy as a whole, Jones is adamant that the development already is.

“The construction of Mall of Africa has had up to 8 500 contractors across a diversity of industries on site at various times,” he explains, “and in addition to the short-term, indirect, employment opportunities that this has created, the mall is expected to provide work for about 4 500 permanent employees after opening.”

In addition to the quantifiable economic contribution this job creation makes to Gauteng, and South Africa as a whole, he is confident that the mere presence of the mall is almost certain to drive steady and sustainable economic growth and development in and around the Waterfall area for decades to come.

“Waterfall is already a city that has developed at a speed and scale previously unseen in South Africa,” Jones enthuses, “and the presence of Mall of Africa will definitely accelerate this growth going forward.”

He also points to another benefit of the completion of Mall of Africa being the message it sends to international investors and property developers.

“By realising this exceptional vision, Attacq Waterfall has shown the world that South Africa has the ability, expertise, resources and possibly most importantly, the will to deliver mega-developments,” he concludes, “and our hope at NCIB Property Finance is that the international community’s response to this message is, at the very least, to pay closer consideration to the many valuable opportunities that South Africa presents them.”