by Charlie Tryon, Maris CEO
Our forecasts for a record year in 2022 came to fruition with the most profitable 12 months in Maris’ history, driven by strong performances in our mining and services divisions. The results somewhat masked the achievements in our renewables division, which surpassed 35 MW of installed solar capacity, and our agriculture, forestry and food division, which was buffeted by inflationary cost rises that have now abated.
Hard work across the group has yielded expansion in all our divisions – our 2022 round-up, below, has all the highlights. Climate change increasingly shapes our portfolio and we are proud to be addressing the urgent need for climate-smart investment opportunities that move the world along the road to net-zero. Our renewables business goes from strength to strength and we’ve launched Equator Mobility – Kenya’s first provider of fully-electric commercial vehicles – as well as Agris Equatorial Forestry, a new forestry business and carbon project developer. These are landmarks in the evolution of Maris, backed by our closing of a $12m climate-aligned financing round with Proparco, France’s development finance institution.
ESG funds have taken a battering this year, in the face of the war in Ukraine, turmoil in energy markets, cost-of-living crises, and widespread political uncertainty. This reinforces our approach to ESG as a central part of our operation strategy, rather than an end goal. Positive social impact has always been our license to operate within the vulnerable communities that are our workforce. If our operations weren’t environmentally sustainable, we would have no home. We welcome increasing regulatory scrutiny – it will help investors and voters see through greenwashing.
The IMF’s recent outlook for Africa was sober, but the continent is free of many of the structural problems that blight the rest of the world and we are unlikely to see a recession. A number of GDP forecasts proved to be overly pessimistic – inflation has peaked in Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania, for example, and they seem to be largely out of the woods. Debt levels are relatively modest and our young population means we have a ready supply of eager labour.
A handover of power in Kenya was smoother than many of us feared and we were delighted to host His Excellency the President, Hon. William Ruto at Africa Logistics Properties last month. They celebrated the opening of Twiga Food’s 20,000 sqm distribution centre at ALP North, where the President emphasised the importance of technology and innovation as catalysts for the country’s economic recovery. Kenya’s renewable power base keeps costs low and is producing a surplus of power, something our friends in Zimbabwe and South Africa can only dream of. It’s getting the attention of manufacturers and I’m excited to see businesses keen to relocate their operations to East Africa.
We head into 2023 anticipating good growth across our portfolio and the likelihood of several exits and a special dividend for shareholders. But first a look back at the highlights from 2022 in our yearly round-up, below. Don’t forget to follow us on LinkedIn and watch our new series of short films about Maris operations across the continent. It includes some breathtaking shots of this glorious continent.
After increasing its footprint to seven countries in 2021, META Group remains on target to exceed EBITDA and NPAT budgets for 2022. The expansion plan started in 2020 is on track and the Group is now focused on developing its after-sales and service offerings across individual dealerships. Equator Equipamentos continues its sales and leasing business, expanding its range of heavy equipment, spares and services. META Electric and e-Zuri merged their fledgling operations to form Equator Mobility, Kenya’s first provider of fully-electric commercial vehicles on lease. The business is exploring a number of electric mobility offerings, putting us at the forefront of an e-revolution in East Africa.
Phase 2 of construction is complete at ALP West, Africa Logistic Properties’ grade A warehousing and logistics facility in Nairobi. ALP became the first African signatory to the World Green Building Council’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings commitment and is decarbonising across its operations. ALP is well advanced in discussions to sell our ALP North development at Tatu City in Q1 2023. MMO celebrated its ten-year anniversary and continues to evolve their serviced offices offering in line with global changes in working habits and the return of multinational companies to Mozambique.
Equator Energy continued to add industrial-scale installations across the continent and were the first C&I solar company in East Africa to cross the 30MW mark. According to a report from the International Renewable Energy Agency, Africa has benefited from only 2% of global investments in renewable energy since 2000. EE’s growth demonstrates how sustainable developments here yield remarkable environmental and financial returns. As well as reducing their customers’ power bills, Equator Energy’s portfolio saves 58,000 tonnes of GHG emissions every year.
Our mining division Mopani Gold has had a record year and is poised to close a $5-10m financing round in Q1 2023. It presents an exciting opportunity to develop under-explored assets with early production opportunities and significant exploration potential. Our geology team at Venice Mine, Zimbabwe have mapped substantial potential reserves, which allow us to follow in the footsteps of Caledonia Mining Corporation, one of Zimbabwe’s best-known success stories. Karebe mine in Kenya is one of the world’s highest-grade mines, with expansion potential across the license area.
Agriculture, Food and Forestry
Agris acquired Ndabibi farm, north-west of Nairobi, which will become Agris’ flagship production centre. We are developing a 390 ha avocado plantation in partnership with Granot, one of the world’s biggest avocado producers. Ndabibi also allows expansion of Evergreen Herbs, which finished the year strongly, consistently exporting more than 120 tonnes per month to Europe from the Athi River and Kajiado farms. Wakulima Tea Company in Tanzania had a challenging year with droughts pushing production down. But with tea prices recovering and rains picking up considerably, we’re looking forward to a recovery in 2023.
At ETC in South Sudan we planted another 200ha of teak and restored 150ha that had been damaged by wild fires. ETC’s Excelling in Excelsa program to revive the local coffee industry, has exceeded its goal of recruiting 1000 outgrowers. Local small scale farmers have planted 225 ha of seedlings and the coffee at our central plantation is thriving. In 2023 we will increase both the number of outgrowers and the planted area per farmer and remain on the lookout for investors and partners to support us in putting South Sudan on the speciality coffee map. Agris Equatorial Forestry is our new commercial forestry and carbon project developer. We have identified several exciting opportunities across the continent, which are currently undergoing feasibility assessments. Stay tuned in 2023.