There was a time when investors in tourism wouldn’t touch South Africa with a bargepole. But now you can’t keep them out, says Graham Boynton
Two major international investors in South Africa are the Indian healthcare billionaire Analjit Singh and the German business leader cum philanthropist Jochen Zeitz. And they aren’t the first — in recent years, both the diamond billionaire Lawrence Graff and Sir Richard Branson (who among other things is co-founder and co-chair of not-for-profit initiative The B Team) have invested substantially in properties in the Cape Winelands.
However, Zeitz and Singh have taken investment to a new level. Singh visited South Africa for the first time with his daughter in 2010 to attend the World Cup and says he “fell in love with Franschhoek from the very first moment I saw it. I felt a gripping feeling of belonging, an energy, a sense of place.”
He then set about buying up large chunks of the pretty town, starting with three estates at the foot of the Klein Dassenberg range. The 68ha property, now renamed Leeu Estates, opened in June; the centrepiece is an immaculately restored 19th-century manor house with six rooms, and there are 11 cottages in the manicured grounds. At the same time he bought a controlling share in the award-winning Mullineux Family Wines as well as The Wine Studio, a winery and tasting room on the estate that will be overseen by Andrea and Chris Mullineux.
Singh’s other significant purchases include a 12-room property in the heart of Franschhoek called Leeu House; 21-room Le Quartier Français, the most celebrated auberge in South Africa, with its Tasting Room restaurant; Tuk Tuk, a craft beer microbrewery next to Leeu House; and over the road, Marigold, the town’s first Indian restaurant.
By contrast Zeitz has put his money on central Cape Town and has created a major new cultural institution: the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (or Zeitz MoCAA). The new not-for-profit institution is to be opened in the V&A Waterfront’s Grain Silo (together with a new hotel managed by Liz Biden’s Royal Portfolio company) and, apart from housing the most important modern works on the continent, will also promote the development of African art. The inaugural exhibition opens on 23 November. For more information on this, turn to page 32.
These four international entrepreneurs — Branson, Graff, Singh and Zeitz — have not only dramatically raised the standards of South Africa’s culture and tourism offering but they have also paved the way for further international investment. Confidence begets confidence and there are already rumours that more are coming.
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Graham Boynton has written for numerous newspapers and magazines, including Vanity Fair, Esquire and Condé Nast Traveller, and was the travel editor of The Daily and Sunday Telegraph between 1998 and 2012. A regular visitor to Africa, where he grew up, his current consultancies include work as media director for the African Travel & Tourism Association (Atta). The views expressed in this column are his own.