Botswana Exporters and Manufacturers Association (BEMA) President Nkosi Mwaba has called upon the business community and government to offer unwavering support to local enterprises, before allowing foreign companies to fish in the local market.
“We need to unapologetically support, protect and develop local industries before rushing to conform to often unrealistic regional trade expectations,” said Mwaba.
The President argued that open market only favours already thriving economies not small and developing economies, where entrepreneurs compete with already established companies.
“The spirit of open borders is noble idea and works well in a perfect world with all things being equal. The truth is, we do believe in free trade and an open border system, but only if it is fair and only if it is aligned to the healthy development and growth of Botswana companies,” Mwaba said.
BEMA believes deliberate efforts to support local entrepreneurs will unearth local world-class companies and produce world -class products.
“We need to move away from the mindset where businesses and procuring entities find it okay to prefer foreign brands to our own,” said Mwaba adding that uninterrupted and unlimited importation presents unfair competition.
He called upon government to swiftly address issues of trade to allow local companies to grow before imports are allowed to flood the country.
“Let us grow in the spirit of putting Botswana first.”
Latest Statistics Botswana data indicate the country’s exports for May recorded an increase to P6, 553.1 million in which diamonds accounted for 91.0 percent of total exports, copper and nickel 0.1 percent, gold 0.6 percent iron steel and related products 0.2 percent, machinery and electrical equipment 2.8 percent, meat and meat products 1.1 percent, plastic and plastic products 0.4 percent salt and soda ash 1.0 percent textile 0.4 percent, vehicles and transport equipment 0.6 percent while other goods share was 1.9 percent.
On the reverse side, the total imports value for May was pegged at P4, 127.8 million showing a decrease of 11.6 percent.
Mwaba believes that supporting local companies could also curb the growing concern of upward spiraling unemployment numbers.
According to BEMA, the country needs to generate momentum in its net exports and bring them to at least 15 percent of the annual GDP.
Early this year government signed the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) Agreement which consists of 26 countries of the three Regional Economic Communities of Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Commission (EAC), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Botswana becomes the 22nd country to append its signature to the agreement which aims to boost intra-African trade through the creation of a wider market, increased investment flows, enhanced competitiveness and development of cross-regional infrastructure.
TFTA is expected to come into force in April next year, supporting efforts to achieve the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which was launched this year.
So far, other countries that have the agreement include Angola, Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Kenya, State of Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, eSwatini, Zambia and Zimbabwe.