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Going into 2023, there was cautious optimism within the property services industry. Foot count in commercial and retail properties returned to pre-pandemic levels, which in turn inspired confidence amongst occupiers to sign longer lease agreements. Signifiers that the industry’s post-Covid-19 recovery was gathering momentum, despite challenges around raising inflation and energy costs plaguing the economy, writes Group CEO, Broll Property Group, Malcolm Horne.
Building up to the 2023 State of the Nation address (Sona), industries, organisations and leaders joined in a chorus urging the president to address the load-shedding crisis directly and offer strategies and assistance.
In response, the government has gazetted new state of disaster regulations, established a new ministry to ‘project manage’ South Africa’s electricity needs, and recounted a list of operational initiatives aimed at resolving Eskom’s debt, criminality at its stations and the enterprise’s eventual unbundling.
While these measures are encouraging and indicate a desire to accelerate the righting of wrongs, the industry will be keeping an eye on how this plays out in reality. From an industry perspective, we understand we have a role to play in supporting the government in addressing the crises.
In the face of the ongoing power and water cuts, we can do more to assist businesses in improving the productivity of their built environments. The commercial real estate service providers can play a decisive role in shaping a more sustainable future.
That’s why, at Broll, we launched an Energy, Water, and Sustainability (Broll EWS) service line last year to help clients navigate new ESG regulations and become more knowledgeable and resilient. We advise on how to reduce operating costs, create automated processes to ensure correct billing, reduce the risks associated with energy scarcity, and optimise asset maintenance, amongst others.
As the president said: “We have deep skills and expertise right here in South Africa – we just need to use them”. Not only does this apply to the energy sector, but to the wider commercial real estate sector too. We need to bring our expertise to bear in all aspects of the real estate sector and support measures to bring about more expedient solutions to the country’s energy crisis.
The president and by extension the government, have repeatedly expressed their need for help in administering the state and society. This is more evident than ever as we grapple with rolling blackouts and oversee the Just Transition. Put differently, our nation’s sustainability is a collective responsibility.
As eyes now turn to the Minister of Finance’s Budget Speech on 22 February, which is expected to unpack National Treasury’s adjusted bounce-back loan scheme and proposed tax incentive for businesses and households installing solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, the commercial real estate sector will expect to gain more concrete insight into how monies will be allocated in supporting government’s ambitions.