European Union (EU) ambassador to Botswana and SADC, Jan Sadek has vowed to double Botswana’s non-mining sectors exports. Speaking at the officially launch of the SADC Trade Related Facility for Botswana, the ambassador said he wants to see more products labeled, Made in Botswana, not only in Europe but across the world.
“It is possible to double the country’s non diamond exports. We have a strategy, the expertise and I have confidence in the work of the government,” said Sadek. Over the past four years, European Union has funded Botswana to the tune of approximately P26 million for the country to implement various interventions to prop up its participation in international trade. The grant came under the financial and technical support for the SADC Protocol of Trade and the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between EU and SADC EPA Group.
Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Bogolo Kenewendo has applauded the project, as springboard for the country’s exporting appetite.“With the support under the Trade Related Facility (TRF) targeting standards and quality, the country will upgrade and meet the EU standards to penetrate and diversify,” said Kenewendo, adding that the project is being launched after exhausting 30 percent of the grant.
The TRF contribution agreement came into force on 1st October 2014 and was expected to be implemented over a period of 5 years to 30 September 2019. The project has therefore, been extended with another two years. Citing statistics, Kenewendo said in the three years from 2015 to 2017, Botswana enjoyed an overall total positive trade balance of around US$43.0 billion, adding that during the same period, Botswana’s exports to EU countries were valued at US$54.1 billion while imports from EU were valued at US$11.1 billion.
“The Botswana SADC TRF project therefore is crucial to make meaningful contributions to exports between Botswana and the EU,” said Kenewendo. Current industries registered to trade under the EU, SADC –EPA agreement include beef, furniture, underground mining vehicles, textile and organic fertilisers.
Some of the project that government is using the finance and technical assistance on include drafting new Customs Act, standards import inspection regulations, national e-commerce strategy, capacity building services to Botswana Trade Commission and training of Botswana Bureau of Standards officers.
Meanwhile, the SADC secretariat says it stands ready and committed to jointly work with Botswana and other member states, as well as with the EU, in making the TRF a crucial instrument to further economic integration across the region.
Custodians of the national image – Brand Botswana have implored the nation to move out of its comfort zone and aggressively market the country to the global village. Thuso Palai, Manager of Brand Botswana – International said Botswana is unknown to the world over, making it hard for the country to attract the desired foreign direct investment (FDI).
“It’s not a single entity’s responsibility but a national responsibility,” said Palai citing that global perceptions indexes lowly rate Botswana. “Therefore more needs to be done to promote and position Botswana favourably around the world. A nation’s identity is driven by how Batswana behave with each other and engage with the rest of the world,” Palai added.
The brand specialist said citizens should remember that they are an extension of the brand called Botswana hence the need to communicate with one voice on issues of national interest. “Sometimes our responses are not coherent, we need to speak with one voice,” said Palai citing the currents debates on the country’s wildlife, especially elephants and the recent blacklisting by the European Union (EU) on anti-money laundering (AML) related issues.
“The most vocal should be citizens to defend on some of the things that the international community talks about,” said Palai, highlighting that sometimes government responses can be regarded as propaganda. Palai said though Botswana brand has been doing well in the past other countries have caught up and a new niche has to be found for the country.
“What do we do to differentiate ourselves from other countries,” quizzed Palai. He bemoaned that the country’s perception indexes are going down, despite the country being largely unknown on the global market. According to Palai some of the factors that influence global perceptions about a nation’s brand include sport, arts and culture, tourism or hospitality sector, politics or international relations, immigration, ICT, innovation, technological advancements, people and media.
He emphasized that innovation aids the country’s identity and awareness through its different fields such as technology – software and app development, indigenous knowledge – protecting and packaging coupled with research and development in mining and biotechnology.
Meanwhile, Brand Botswana has pinned its hope on Nation Branding Hexagon strategy to prop up the country’s image. The blueprint focus on tourism, people, exports, trade, investment and immigration, governance, culture and heritage.
The Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs Edwin Batsu was expected to officially open the newly refurbished Nhabe Museum earlier this week.
The buildings and the refurbishment were fully funded by the European Union (EU) to the tune of P1million. The Nhabe Museum, one of the tourist attractions in Maun is located strategically at Maun’s CBD, and prides itself for being the region’s centre of arts, crafts and culture.
A press release states that the museum underwent a facelift in 2015 that included the erection of new structures. Constructed with innovation and creativity using timber and iron sheets, the new structures morphed into artists’ studios, offices and an auditorium/conference hall. The construction of the facilities was completed in 2016, the release says.
The new buildings house stakeholders such as the Okavango Artists Association (OAA) and the Poetavango Collective. The two organisations, as well as other stakeholders, local businesses and the general community, will benefit directly from the facilities/buildings, the release points out.
“The structures and the new refurbished space in the museum are a direct result of what is possible when organisations and NGOs work in unity to achieve common goals. Since Poetavango and OAA were already working creatively together, it was easier to convince donors, through the assistance of SAREP and Travel for Impact,” the release explains.
The release hopes that the shared space and resources will become a model of inspiration for more allegiances and collaborations between other NGOs. The museum is home to an assortment of artistic and cultural displays of sorts, promoting the cultural, artistic, educational and historic aspirations of all the people of Ngamiland.
For years now, says the release, the museum has become a shelter under which lovers of arts and culture meet to share, to learn, to teach and to delve in various artistic and cultural expressions. “The museum welcomes all, regardless of age, tribe or nationality and encourages participation by the community in activities of self expression such as arts, crafts, dance, music drama and poetry,” the release explains.
The Nhabe Museum, which opened its doors to the public in April 1996, is a Non-Government Organisation based in Maun that receives an annual grant from Ministry of Environment Natural Resource Conservation and Tourism through Department of National Museum and Monuments.
Will impact BMC privatisation but that is a matter for local farmers to tackle
Botswana’s envoy to the United Kingdom, Roy Blackbeard says Britain’s exit from the European Union (UE), famously known by the acronym BREXIT, can be both good and bad for the country.
Speaking to BG News on the sidelines of the Heads of Mission conference in Gaborone, Blackbeard said the good part of BREXIT for Africa is that, once they (UK) have left the EU the British government will consider investing in other markets. “There is no doubt about it that it is going to bring investments and employment,” he said, but cautioned that we should avoid getting swamped with British investors who may or may not repatriate their funds to UK.
Asked how many companies have set up in Botswana since his tenure and how many jobs and FDI have they contributed to the country, Blackbeard explained that he is accredited to a wide jurisdiction that includes not only the United Kingdom, but some 11 countries as well. However, he mentioned his greatest achievement in tourism, where he’s managed to capture the Spanish market from East Africa to our shores and in the process created jobs for locals.
He said the number of tourists from Spain has grown tremendously. “We have now reached a point where we are seeing one tourist company on two occasions in a year bringing more than 100 tourists to this county,” he waxed lyrically.
Blackbeard also covers Israel, with which they are exploring commercial interests in solar energy PV and water recycling as well as tourism. As for Czech Republic, he says Botswana has 100 students studying medicine. “We manage those students and visit them from time to time. We are also involved in the tourism industry there,” he said.
The UK tourism market has been a little bit more challenging because the UK sees Botswana as a middle-income country and tends to look to other countries. “But to try and penetrate they group local tour operators into groups of up to 10 and take them around the UK to places like Manchester, Newcastle Birmingham and arrange one on one meetings for them with tour operators.
Blackbeard admits that attracting foreign direct investment into Botswana is every Mission’s Achilles Heel.
He says numerous hurdles among them, land exist. He cited his recent visit to Croatia, which he also covers. He says our Honorary Consul there is involved in the process of landmine clearing and have been involved in places like Mozambique and Angola where landmines are abound.
“We are trying to encourage them to relocate to Botswana and then cover those areas from here. But the main impediment is not so much the finance, it is the slowness and the uptake that has taken place in terms of land and in terms of issuing permits. Sometimes we find the procedures slow,” he lamented.
On BMC Privatisation
The challenge is posed by BREXIT. One of Botswana’s main markets was the UK, but with the country leaving the union, it will adversely impact Botswana’s flow of beef to the European countries, notwithstanding that our source of supply at times leaves a lot to be desired given the problems that we have.
He said that BREXIT will further impact our other agreements with the EU such as the Lome Agreement and the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). So, in the medium to long term, we must bide our time until we know exactly how BREXIT pans out, he advised.
However, for Blackbeard, the privatisation of BMC has always been a challenge and should be left to our local farmers to sort out. As the market grows and the demand for beef grows in the region that itself, given that the price structure keeps changing, will obviously pose a challenge, he said.
The domestic economy will accelerate at a much faster pace in 2017 compared to last year, a top economist from leading global lender, Standard Chartered plc Razia Khan has told business leaders during her visit to Botswana last week. The country, which has experienced back to back droughts and fall in diamond sales looks set to return to glory days this year, picked mainly by diamonds, the mainstay of the economy. “Growth will be better this year,” said a confident Khan at an event organised by Standard Chartered Bank Botswana and Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC). However, the British-based economist did not disclose the forecast rate of growth when quizzed by Botswana Guardian afterwards. Earlier this year, Finance and Economic Development minister, Kenneth Matambo said the economy is expected to have grown by 2, 9 percent in 2016, after contracting by 1, and 7 percent the year before. Fresh data from Statistics Botswana shows that real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) expanded by 4,3 percent in 2016. Khan, who is Standard Chartered Africa economist, stated that the economy will expand more this year due to several factors. Chief among others will be diamonds sales, which have started the year on a high note. Sales from De Beers, a company that sells Botswana diamonds have jumped notably since the year commenced. Last week, the world’s No. 1 diamond producer achieved a marginal increase in sales in the third sales cycle of this year to $580million (about P5, 8billion), from the $545million (P5, 4billion) in sales in the second sales cycle. There is also ‘a lot of optimism’ from major economies where Botswana diamonds are consumed.
United States of America’s economy is also picking up, after much uncertainty post Donald Trump’s election as the 45th President of the world’s biggest economy last year. Copper prices have also jumped. This will however not benefit Botswana since its biggest copper producer, BCL mine is undergoing a liquidation process. In the Asian region, consumer confidence has also jumped, a plus for Botswana which is looking at the area to expand its diamond sales, away from traditional US market. Despite Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU), the region’s economic prospects look promising. Domestically, the Botswana’s economic fortunes will be boosted by the impact of Economic Stimulus Programme which was introduced two years ago. The programme, which is in its last year, has been budgeted at well over P3bilion for three years. Its target sectors are projects that can prop-up the economy within a short time. On other matters, Khan cautioned that, while public spending is important to drive economic growth in any country, it is also critical to have a vibrant private sector which can stand on its own. Botswana’s private sector depends on government expenditure for survival, a trend which does not sit well with analysts such as Khan as this cannot be sustained in the long run.
Public spending cannot sustain the economy, she stressed. “Even communist China realised this in the 1970s,” pointed out Khan. For the private sector to thrive there is need for government to provide conducive environment. More and more companies in Botswana have complained about the ‘ease of doing business’. It takes quite a considerable amount of days to register a company, let alone to be issued a trading certificate. Some South African companies in the retail sector are having it tough when they seek trading licences. Government has tightened the criterion used to allow foreign citizens to work in Botswana. BITC Acting Chief Executive, Meshack Tshekedi told attendants of the forum that they are working with government to address numerous areas that are found to be negatively affecting the ease of doing business in the country which turned 50 years last September. Hotel and Tourism Association Botswana’s Chief Executive, Lilly Korong expressed disappointment that, government has been slow to come up with new ways of improving ease of doing business which also affects the hospitality and tourism industry. “There is too much talk, but there is no action,” she said worriedly. During the Standard Chartered/BITC forum, there were renewed calls for Botswana to diversify its economy away from mining, whose performance is affected mainly by external factors.
President Ian Khama says the recently signed European Union –Southern African Development Community Economic Partnership Agreement makes Botswana a potential centre for trade and investment.
Khama who was presenting his state of the nation address in Parliament this week stated that the deal accords Botswana’s exports duty and quota-free access to the EU market. The long awaited European Union-Southern African Development Community Economic Partnership Agreement (EU-SADC EPA) was sealed mid this year in Kasane after years of negotiations. The EU-SADC EPA negotiations commenced in 2004 and were only concluded in 2014. The delay has been associated with the complexity of negotiations and were said to have covered a broad array of issues, which required not only lengthy discussions but also intense and in-depth consideration of issues in a holistical manner.
President Khama in his address this week revealed that under this Agreement, “our infant industries can be protected against EU imports from established industries.” He stated that the Agreement also provides for transitional safeguard measures for Botswana’s sensitive products. “To support industrial development, provision has been made for the application of export taxes on up to eight products from Botswana for a period not exceeding 12 years from entry into force of the Agreement. In addition to benefiting from sourcing inputs for production within the SADC and EU regions, Botswana industries have been also accorded the opportunity to source raw materials and intermediate inputs from Africa, Caribbean and Pacific countries as well as EU overseas countries and Territories,” he said.Khama added that the Agreement further supports the objectives of the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan of poverty eradication and specifically the industrial pillar where Member States envisage transformation of the region through value addition.
Government, he said, is considering the enactment of an Investment Facilitation Law, which will establish an investment code for Botswana and stipulate service standards and turnaround times for facilitating investors.
The signing of the EU-SADC EPA is said to have marked the beginning of a new relationship, a transformation from the old regime of unilateral preferences and quota systems. The EPA however, recognises asymmetries between the EU and SADC EPA States and supports the development agenda for the SADC EPA Group of States. This Agreement is premised on the objectives of supporting the long-term vision of economic growth, diversification and transformation for the region, which extends beyond the SADC EPA Group to cover wider SADC Member States as well as the tripartite agenda.