Wrapping up a year like no other
SA REIT Association 2020 Wrap-up Message by CEO Joanne Solomon
2020 will go down as one of the most challenging years in recent times, marked by enormous uncertainty from a human and social perspective, requiring unprecedented adjustments to the way we live, work and play. However, what is evident about 2020 is a sense of resilience and unity as the world faced a common challenge, COVID-19.
The pandemic has forced countries, industries, companies, associations and individuals to acknowledge that the structural societal changes regarded as a ‘nice to have’ less than a year ago are now requiring urgent attention. There are no doubts that 2020 has presented the same reality for our members which were already facing significant socio-economic headwinds and structural changes across sectors.
Repositioning for long-term sustainability
For the SA REIT Association (SAREIT), 2020 was always set to be the year of repositioning. The new strategy and resources will support our intent to reclaim relevance as the industry’s voice and, most importantly, to create a platform for stakeholders to work collectively in ensuring that REITs are positioned for long-term sustainability by addressing key issues proactively.
From the onset of the pandemic, SAREIT recognised its role to drive a collective approach for the broader property sector, not just REITs. We initiated the formation of the Property Industry Group (PIG) together with the South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA) and the South African Council of Shopping Centres (SACSC) which helped the industry navigate the initial months of the pandemic. PIG certainly proved to be an invaluable platform to address the unprecedented challenges resulting from the government’s response to COVID-19 and ensure the survival of the entire sector’s value chain.
Our committees continue to drive new and current workstreams leading to the well-received Second SA REIT Best Practice Recommendation for Financial Reporting, with the JSE considering it a benchmark for other sectors to follow. We are also looking forward to resolutions on various issues, including the VAT Apportionment matter, in the new year.
While engagements don’t always result in mutually beneficial outcomes, as was the case regarding temporary amendments to the REIT legislation earlier this year, I am certain that we are laying solid foundations to help our industry navigate challenges in the long-term.
No pain, No gain
The property sector is a long-term game, and despite its current performance, our asset class has proved its resiliency over many cycles and will continue to be a material contributor to the South African economy.
Having been involved in the industry for over two decades before taking on my new role as SAREIT CEO in May, I know that even though the structural changes due to economic issues precipitated by the pandemic, the property sector will continue to present an attractive investment proposition due to its size, diversification and tax advantages. I look forward to seeing the response of property companies as they, in turn, leverage disruptive technologies and reimagine their business models for continuity and sustainability.
I strongly believe that once the economy starts to recover, the sector will improve and regain its position as a stable asset class offering unmatched benefits to investors.
Much has been achieved in the past year, and SAREIT’s investments in capacity could not have come at a better time. Many essential building blocks have already been put in place, including new digital assets, enhanced stakeholder communication and engagement programme as well as the establishment of the new research and institutional committees.
The Association is entering 2021 on a strong footing, backed by a sound strategy and clear objectives that will see us fully assume our role as the voice of the industry and deliver the right level of support for our members. Maintaining open dialogues with government, regulators, other business associations, and various interested parties will be critical to ensure that we help establish a sound and conducive business environment to support South Africa’s recovery.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank our executive team and committee members for their dedication during a difficult year personally and professionally for many. I look forward to continue working with all of them, and our many stakeholders to drive good governance, innovation and international best practices that will ensure that the successful track-record of REITs as an investment class is maintained in the long-term.