It may not yet be Dubai, but Gaborone is fast emerging as the place to shop in southern Africa.
Not a year goes by, it seems, without some fabulous new mall opening in Gaborone. And such is the size and scale of the city’s retail parks that shoppers are now being drawn from neighbouring countries to Botswana’s growing range of upmarket stores and opulent malls.
The latest offering, the Airport Junction Shopping Centre, opened in 2012. As its name suggests, the new mall is located in the north of the city, close to Sir Seretse Khama International, and has an impressive 50,000 square metres of fully enclosed retail space.
Estimated to have cost about BWP 385 million, Airport Junction is an interesting mix of high fashion outlets, classy international brands and, of course, an anchor supermarket and department store.
Airport Junction opened for business just six months after the BWP350 million, 31,400 square metre Rail Park Mall, located alongside the city’s railway station (these days there is only a twice-weekly passenger service to Bulawayo in Zimbabwe) so the mall gets little business from rail passengers. But it is a busy part of the city. In fact, driving to and from the mall can be tricky owing to traffic congestion at certain times of the day.
In addition to the citizens of Gaborone, developers of the new mall have targeted shoppers from outlying areas, most of the tenants at the mall being retailers.
The open food court covers an area of 2,000 square metres
Reflecting its location and the everyday needs of its visitors, there is a Food Lovers Market, Choppies Hypermarket, Debonairs, KFC, Chicken Licken and furniture stores like Ellerines and Beares.
Food Lovers Market and Choppies are the anchor stores of the mall. The mall’s upper deck is reserved for office accommodation. A direct overhead pedestrian bridge has been constructed across the railway station for access to the mall. Stalls in the car park are set aside for informal traders.
Rail Park’s opening followed two other and smaller shopping malls at Sebele along the Gaborone-Francistown highway. Uncovered and laid out on two levels in an ‘L’ shape, Sebele is more a convenience destination
than a place for a day-long shopping expedition. This is reflected in the outlets on offer, such as a supermarket and a fast
Game City had previously set the standard and still does. Despite the recent competition, this is still probably Gaborone’s most visually impressive and largest mall.
River Walk provides a different kind of environment, one that extends into the evening. River Walk’s unique selling point are its food and its delightful night-time ambience. The mall still has plenty of stores, but it seems visitors like to eat and then shop here rather than the other way around.