France’s richest man invests in Botswana

Photo by Eric Piermont | AFP | Getty Images

The spirited campaign by some conservationists against the Government of Botswana regarding the proposed lifting of the hunting ban seems to be bearing positive results for Botswana tourism.

Some conservationists have called upon tourists and investors to boycott Botswana’s tourism sector as the country wanted to wipe out elephants; this is despite Government’s constant denial. One of the first investors to defy the ‘sabotage Botswana campaign’ is France’s richest man, Bernard Arnault and his family, who have chosen Botswana for their first hospitality business investment in Africa. The LVMH Group – which owns luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Givenchy – led by Arnault has been given the green light by the Competition Authority of Botswana to operate their first safari business in Africa.

Arnault, who recently made international news headlines after he pledged over P2 billion (€200 million) to help rebuild the Notre Dame Cathedral which was gutted by fire recently, has entered the safari lodges business in Africa. They have acquired Belmond Eagle Island Lodge which is situated in the Okavango Delta in Xaxaba Island and one of the most sought after lodges by Europeans billionaires. LVMH, which is a holding company, mainly operates in the production and sale of luxury goods through a portfolio of 70 luxury brands and over 4500 points of sale worldwide.

The LVMH is indirectly controlled by the Arnault Family Group through Groupe Arnault SEDCS and has been given the green light to also acquire Belmond Khwai Lodge, a lavish tented camp on the Kwai River in the Delta floodplains. It was opened in 1971 by Harry Selby and was one of the first lodges to promote safaris with a conservation ethos.

The French group also produces Moet champagne and Hennessy. Botswana’s Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Kitso Mokaila said in an interview that he was not aware of the transaction but it could signal a good sign for the country.

Kitso Mokaila

“We are really in need of direct foreign investment and if this transaction goes through it could not only benefit the tourism sector but the country as a whole,” he said.

Mokaila emphasised that their focus is to ensure that communities living in tourism areas play a key role in driving the sector. LVMH Group has an accelerator programme for 50 international start-up businesses.

Who is Bernard Arnault?

He is regarded as the pope of fashion as he is the richest man in the industry with his net worth standing at $70 billion (P700 billion). He was born in March 1949 in Roubaix in Northern France and is regarded as an arts lover. He turned around Christian Dior and built a luxury brand empire worth billions.

Late last year, LVMH announced that it had acquired luxury hotel, train and river cruise company Belmond for $3.2 billion (£2.5bn). Belmond, formerly known as Orient-Express, was established more than 40 years ago with the acquisition of Hotel Cipriani in Venice and has a portfolio of 46 hotels, restaurants and rail and river cruise experiences.


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