So little time, so much to do – this was a constant sentiment this year, which, for so many of us, was one of great pressure from all quarters.
Developments took place so fast that we had to make time count. On a personal level, I had to make use of my support systems, drawing on other people’s schedules and assistance – and remembering to take time for mindfulness, to embrace the moment and all the good I came across.
When we start with ourselves, giving ourselves time, we are able to find a balance and see the bigger picture.
At work, too, we had to make sure we were focusing on what was important and finding the balance that would enable us to perform.
Our customers operated in an extremely challenging environment this year, leading to cash-flow challenges and some companies performing less well than expected. In South Africa, Eskom reduced its purchases, and its price demand to the creosote industry led to overall weakness in the timber industry due to an oversupply of timber and a shrinking market. This resulted in lower activity and thus less liquidity in the industry.
“I had to make use of my support systems, remembering to take time to embrace the moment and all the good I came across.”
Nevertheless, it was encouraging to see the resilience of the local market due to new opportunities. For example, there was a rising demand for more CCA-treated timber to support shade-netting, as agriculture continued shifting into niche, higher-margin products such as berry production.
Most of our customers started exploring mechanisation this year, to reduce their overhead costs and labour uncertainty. We believe that in the coming years, many of these customers will benefit from the lower costs that will result.
In East Africa, we have seen healthy growth. Unfortunately, this was not supported by liquidity, as governments struggled to keep up with the financing of infrastructure projects including electrification. This was extremely frustrating to many of our customers but gave Dolphin Bay the opportunity to strengthen many of our business partnerships by helping when possible. This came at a cost to our business, but we firmly believe it will be worth the investment.
We are excited by the ramped-up capacity of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the influence this will have on infrastructure development in many African countries. The need for electrification is vast and must be fulfilled through capital commitments from a reputable source. Africa’s development has been held back largely due to corruption and a lack of liquidity, which have kept a large proportion of the rural population in the dark. While many governments have made substantial efforts to reduce corruption, there is still much work to be done. We believe this will be a key focus of the AfDB in its efforts to ensure the correct allocation and use of funds.
On a broader level, major movements in the world’s biggest economies had a significant impact on emerging markets in 2019. The US reversed its monetary stance by reducing interest rates from a previous hiking cycle, in an effort to stimulate its economy, which resulted in wild swings in commodity prices and exchange rates. This was compounded by the US-China trade war and the Chinese slowdown in manufacturing. This alone has made it an interesting year – one in which there was no room for complacency.
At Dolphin Bay, we diversified into different markets to offset negative fluctuations experienced in some quarters. We are disappointed, as are many of our customers, that some parts of the market were not as vibrant as we all expected. However, the market has not reached its full potential and we are optimistic that 2020 will be a significant year as many companies position themselves to better serve their markets.
We are entering unpredictable times with great risk but even greater rewards, as product volumes are rising significantly in some markets and, as a result, business relationships require greater trust than in the past.
Each customer is unique, requiring a different approach, just like all our family members – both adults and children. We all need the space to grow into our own irreplaceable personalities, rather than be moulded into those of our partners or parents.
This is the approach we bring to our business relationships, too.
In a world where everyone tries to fit in, we need to approach others with insight and care.