Interpark expands further into Africa

Interpark expands further into Africa

The parking garage at Masa Centre in Gaborone, Botswana.

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 on the continent.

Says Kate Wolfaardt, managing director of Interpark: “We are extremely positive about the future of Africa and the opportunities it offers for growing our own business and providing technologically advanced services and parking solutions in the various countries in Africa.”

Interpark has more than 240 contracts across SA, Swaziland and Botswana, and its first site in Namibia is due to commence in November.

“Since first establishing 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 in Gaborone, a mixed use development with offices, retail and hospitality components. Our new operation in Namibia will be on a large parking site at the sizeable Maerua Mall in Windhoek, with retail and offices,” says Wolfaardt.

“These Interpark-managed parking facilities are all 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 near each other at the same time – Swazi Plaza, The Mall and New Mall in Mbabane. We were pleasantly surprised by the community’s quick acceptance of paid parking.”

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 Interpark’s priority list are retail sites and some commercial sites with good potential as these can generate sound income streams for property owners.

“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, and Botswana is operated out of our Southern Gauteng regional office. Interpark employs about 2 000 employees and its expansion into Africa is creating new job opportunities. We estimate that by March 2014 we will probably employ about 55 staff outside South Africa.”

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, Wolfaardt says Interpark follows the European trend towards paying on foot systems 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 that as modern shopping centres outside South Africa 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 across our borders. In Swaziland we started 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 as the note readers on the pay stations weren’t programmed to accept the local currency, the Pula. However, with technological advances since then we can 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 at 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 intends taking advantage of the dollarisation of the currency and will introduce pay on foot parking solutions. In the rest of Africa, paid for parking is mostly on a pay at exit basis, mainly due to the local currencies.

“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 that are prepared 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,” says Wolfaardt.

“Security is a vital component for any parking facility, for landlords and users as well as for cash management at the pay stations. Introducing paid parking always helps with entry and exit at properties as parkers must take tickets to enter through the barrier and pay to exit through another barrier. Additional products such as intercom and CCTV systems add to the security of the entrance and exit, and of the cash management of the pay stations where pay on foot is employed.”

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 in other countries, and we need to be aware of factors such as local labour laws 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, a key advantage of Interpark is its willingness to seek business particularly in countries that border South Africa and where EPS is already represented 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 professional teams and landlords when we are involved at the early stages of projects, when we can offer advice based on our many years of experience in the industry.”



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