First National Bank Botswana, one of the leading mortgage lenders, has pledged commitment to the local market although it is frustrated by frequent changes in the faces of decision makers at the government enclave.
FNBB Chief Executive Officer, Lorato Boakgomo-Ntakhwana, said even though they have tried on a number of occasions to engage on the bank’s products that caters for prospective home buyers, the plans always suffer a set back as a result of movement of officials.
“We usually start talks with one minister or director, but before we know it he or she has been shifted and we are forced to start from the beginning when a new one comes on board,” the CEO said.
“This has interrupted with our attempts to play our part as a commercial entity in a bid to address this issue of affordable housing.”
The situation is made worse by the wide spread of government as sometimes they engage other departments while others are not aware. “It then becomes difficult to tell if one hand of the government is aware of what the other is doing. There is just too much disconnection,” she noted.
Boakgomo-Ntakhwana said that her bank is committed to the Botswana market and it is ready to offer all the products and services that are offered by First Rand Holdings (mother company) in other African markets where it operates.
There was a similar problem in South Africa, where the bank originates, but the private sector and government have since joined hands to provide affordable housing to the low and middle income earners in Africa’s largest economy.
The affordable housing market is aimed at households earning between P3 500 and P15 000 a month. FinMark Trust’s past findings on the local property market showed that the housing finance sector continues to expand in all sectors of the market, with high end mortgage borrowing showing particular growth.
Available figures shows that all the major commercial banks and the Botswana Building Society (BBS) continue to increase the book value of their mortgage portfolios, and construction of private housing, particularly in the mid and high-cost brackets continues to grow.
However, it has been noted that the low end of the housing finance market, particularly with regard to employed people in the lower income brackets and among the informally self-employed or under-employed, is not adequately addressed.
Experts are of the view that it is in this area that development efforts could make a substantial impact.
During a roundtable discussion organised by FNBB last week, property developers admitted that though there is huge demand for affordable housing, there is nowhere low-middle income earners can go when they want to stop renting and start buying homes.
Real Estate Institute of Botswana President, Modiredi Maruping, agrees that the property market is very thirsty for affordable housing saying the market is ripe and only players need to come to the fore.┬á
“Government, commercial banks, private developers and pension funds need to start talking because affordable housing can only be affordable in the real sense if all players participate. We must have within our mist active supporters of affordable housing (advocacy group) whose aim will be to steer policy,” he said.┬á