The business community has reiterated its call to authorities to provide incentives in order to improve the country’s competitiveness and productivity, to help spur the country’s exports.
The Botswana Exporters and Manufacturers Association (BEMA) Chief Executive Officer, Mmantlha Sankoloba has prepared a dossier to help government identify gaps on local export capacity. The report has already been shared with government for consideration.
“It is well-known that developing export capacity is a critical driver of firm level competitiveness and productivity,” said Sankoloba, adding that thriving exports also have a ripple effect on sustained poverty reduction and job creation.
“It equally worries the Association to see a lot of youth roaming the streets, we have so much potential in manufacturing and we need a strategy to retain the investors.”
She said a lot of effort should be channeled on export development (goods and services) to create deep and durable markets and diversification of the economy to facilitate inclusive growth.
“Export capacity development activities that focus on sectors and markets where smaller producers as well as the poor are better represented can have real sustainable pro-poor trade impacts. Within the smaller landlocked countries, such as Botswana, exports led growth is a key priority to drive productivity,” Sankoloba said.
Though calls to improve the country’s exports revenue is now sounding like an old record, Sankoloba said government, trade support institutions and private sector should support competitiveness with a coherent strategy. “There is no pivotal point, where we meet and everyone is doing their own things, which, unfortunately is detrimental to trade,” said the BEMA CEO.
Sankoloba wants government to improve advocacy on key issues such as competition, standards, tax and inclusiveness of the benefits from trade and transport facilitation and private sector development.
Over the years Botswana has performed badly on AGOA, a trade programme that give preferential trade quotas for the country to export into the US.
BEMA argues that in order for local exporters to maximise utilisation of AGOA, authorities should improve the ease of doing business, provide export incentives and an inducement or reward to the exporters. Botswana’s exports efforts are crippled by high costs of transportation and logistics, lack of skilled manpower and the inability to import the required manpower due to difficulties faced in obtaining work and residence permits and lack of any incentives or funding for upgrading of equipment and replacements to meet quality standards set by overseas buyers and companies.
The Association also notes the non availability of training facilities locally for providing specialized skills required to operate, and maintain state of the art equipment, lack of access to land to expand existing manufacturing facilities.
On the other hand, other AGOA eligible countries such as Lesotho have competitive advantage over Botswana as they have incentives.
Sankoloba said the country has lost a few manufacturers to its peers in the region due to lack of incentives.
“We need incentives, it has not been easy for them (manufacturers and exporters) but they stick around. It’s about time government listen to the private sector,” calling for authorities to start implementing short-term initiatives.