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.

Published in Business

Cameras of Cable News Network (CNN) were back in the country recently to shoot a documentary about the master of the brush and canvas, Wilson Ngoni for the African Voices programme.


The documentary will air in the coming months. This was the third time that Ngoni was being interviewed by CNN. In 2015, the crew came to Botswana to document the story of Ngoni. Last year in Berlin, he also got to be interviewed by the international media organisation. Ngoni says this is proof that he is doing something right and that they love his work. He hosted the crew at Thapong Visual Arts Centre for a preview and shared the limelight with other local artists last Thursday.
In total, he shared the platform with 10 upcoming artists that include Omphile Segaku, Goemeone Modisane, Naledi Maifala and Isaac Marumo.

He explains that the documentary covered his works, his philosophies and the local visual arts. He further says that by sharing the platform with others it was his way of growing someone’s else journey, with the hope that one day they too would make it big.
I hope that one day when I am gone, someone will paint flowers on my grave,” he says. Breaking it down, he says that he hopes that artists that he is mentoring will use the platform and the advice that they get from him to grow and take their art to the next level.
“I hope that they will prosper,” he notes.

He also added that the CNN team being in the country to document his works means a great deal as it shows that he is doing something right. It means that I have built a solid artistic foundation,” says Ngoni, adding that this was not only about him but a celebration for the country as well.

Published in Style
Monday, 07 May 2018 15:57

In the spirit of sportsmanship

Now that the dust has settled around the local 2018 Commonwealth Games medalists, I think it is time to address the elephant in the room. The past weeks saw pomp and fanfare as the nation celebrated and hailed of the local track and field heroes from the recently concluded 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.  

The Commonwealth Games is a competition comprising of 71 nations and territories which once formed part of the British Empire. The Games which are now on their ninth decade were staged in Australia and   graced by 28 participants from Botswana. The athletes who secured podium finishes at these games have been hailed by different private entities for making the nation proud. The question now is what does making the nation proud mean and what does it not entail? How do we get to differentiate those who did and did not represent the nation well? If Botswana sent 28 athletes why was it that everyone now wanted to rub shoulders with only eight athletes and most importantly, why now when they are back from Gold Coast and not prior to that? 

Where have these organizations been? Where were these private enterprises during the team send- off ceremony or did they miss the memo because it seems they only received the news about the medals at the end of the competitions. The national team was made up of athletes from lawn bowls, boxing, weight lifting, swimming and athletics. Why do we now see only a portion of the athletics squad being crowded by good Samaritans if Botswana was represented by 28 athletes? What message were these entities trying to communicate to the rest of the team that went to Gold Coast as well as to the upcoming athletes? If we can boldly say we are proud of the team that represented the country in Australia and in the same breath only call upfront eight athletes, I think we then have a serious problem. I am not saying reward everyone with the same token of appreciation as those that had podium finish but their participation and non-participation should not be overlooked nor belittled in any way. Instead all the team should be fully acknowledged, appreciated and celebrated. They made up the team and that helped to increase the numbers therefore we should be proud of them for reaching such a high level of participation and standing in the gap for our nation. 

Their presence there even made Botswana to look good as compared to other African nations such as Tanzania, Lesotho and Malawi that had a small representation. If the country did not have for example, weight lifting or boxing delegation, there would not have been a mention of the name Botswana at the weight lifting or boxing events. Well, of course the athletes did not bring home medals, but they did represent the country in different sports and events and that on its own carries weight. Not just everyone gets to participate at the mega sports events or elite levels as there are certain standards that needs to be met, therefore the hard work that the athletes had invested in order to represent the nation at these events should not be taken for granted. We cannot now sideline those who did not bring home the medals and glorify the medalists only. 

On the same breath, I wish to commend Orange Botswana for their solidarity gesture of acknowledging the effort of all the 28 athletes by awarding tokens of appreciations to all of them. This here is a symbol of true sportsmanship spirit as it capsulate the spirit of unity, team work and mutual interest.  In track and field events, we see athletes giving each other a pat on the back or a hand shake after completing a race to signify solidarity and sportsmanship. Even the athlete who finished first would wait to congratulate the athlete who came last.  That is what sports is all about and if companies are to jump in they should dance to the music of sports. 

The athletes live to inspire and to be of good example to others, leading a life shaped by the spirit of Olympus. If we are to sing their song, we should sing it right. We cannot now divide the team because others did not bring home medals. That is not setting up a good example to up and athletes. Not only does it put pressure but it is also make representing the country a dreadful and daunting endeavor. We were represented by Team Botswana and it should remain thus and be acknowledged as thus. The other disturbing element is the overall silence of the private entities during the training and team send -off stages. The athletes are left to struggle alone during training and then crowded when they bring home   medals. These athletes work tirelessly with nothing when preparing for major events and local private companies don’t come forth and jump on board to acknowledge they are preparing for such an event and provide tokens of assistance as they are on the way to represent the country.  

The lack of support during training symbolizes a lack of confidence on the capabilities of the athletes and a lack of allegiance. Sharing in the glory of the athletes when they now come with medals is like wanting a share of profits in a business that you refused to invest in. If they are representing us as a nation as we claim in these international competitions, why not walk the journey with them? Why not partner with them all the way up to the medal stages and not only when there is a medal and then treat those who didn’t bring home medals like they have leprosy? Are we saying only those who brought medals were the ones representing the country? It seems that we don’t want to do the dirty job and only want where the job has been done for us, we only want to associate with those who are shinning yet we don’t want to do the dirty work of polishing them. If companies could have stepped up and invested in the training program of the athletes, I believe we could have send even a bigger delegation to the Commonwealth Games as well as bringing home more medals. 

Throughout the season the athletes are left at the mercy of the coaches who sacrifice their personal resources to train the athletes and I think we can do better than awarding the coaches the little pennies that they have been given and to equally give them a befitting VIP treatment during the welcome ceremonies bearing in mind that these coaches offer free services throughout the season using their personal resources. I think we can do better than this as a nation and I hope companies will start now to come forward towards assisting with the preparations for the next edition of the Commonwealth Games and not wait for the athletes to come with the medals. Sports is a business and just like any business endeavor,  for there to be returns there should have been an investment first. The private entities should stop the coward mindset and gain the courage to invest in this viable and lucrative market. 

It is time now for bold decisions. We need to shape the future of Botswana sports that we as Batswana want to see. We cannot let this one pass and slide like other issue. If we want change, deliberate interventions should be made and lest anyone should have an excuses of missing the memo, the next edition of the Commonwealth Games will be in 2022 in Birmingham and I hope in the spirit of true sportsmanship, we shall see companies coming forth now to prepare for this major event and not to wait for 2022 when the athletes return from the Games.


Published in Sports

In this three-part series, Lapologang Caesar Lekoa* explains the pillars that inform Botswana’s foreign policy posture and how these have withstood the test of time.

 Botswana conducts multilateral diplomacy in the context of international organisations like the UN, AU, the Commonwealth as well as regional mechanisms such as SADC (which  Botswana played a critical role in establishing), to promote national interest abroad.

The UN, the largest of these, confers universal legitimacy across the widest possible spectrum of collective human undertakings. Following the perennial instability and bloodshed visited on central Europe by their ancient era leaders “in pursuit of a mixture of  personal, dynastic, imperial, and religious ambitions” (Kissinger, 2014), the Westphalian system (1648) created the nation state as the new source of sovereignty and legitimacy.

The new state system paved the way for liberal institutionalism (cooperation through international institutions using multilateral diplomacy as a modus operandi) as one of the global governance mechanisms of the liberal international order, aimed at enhancing dialogue, cooperation and peace among states.

This multilateral approach is anchored by rule-based international institutions tied together by shared interests of states (Ikenberry, 2011). Multilateralism or liberal institutionalism however has its critics, who strongly maintain that international politics is still primarily driven by individual states’ interests, and disproportionately influenced by the interests of more powerful nations, in these international institutions.

This critique notwithstanding, the opposite institutionalised international cooperation viewpoint, according to Keohane and Nye (1977), firmly holds that states, while primarily motivated by national interest, are also capable of pursuing common interest, where they see mutual benefit.

Pursuit of common endeavours (common security, economic integration e t c), has become even more imperative as a result of increased economic interdependence and globalisation generally. Multilateralism allows in principle, every nation, irrespective of size or resources, the legitimate right to be heard, and an expectation to have its plight addressed, if not resolved.

Having emerged as the antithesis of unilateralism, multilateralism has come to complement bilateralism and regionalism, which remain important channels for advancing interstate interests. For example, if a country did not find redress in bilateral or regional problem solving mechanisms, it could always approach the UN - the embodiment of multilateralism and universal dispenser of international legitimacy - for resolution.

Botswana has had recourse to the UN and other multilateral bodies—not as a substitute for bilateral or regional approaches, which she continues to maintain with her allies, but as the most appropriate tool for a specific purpose under given circumstances - to advance her foreign policy goals.

To make our assessment more comprehensive, we look at achievements in terms of Botswana’s benefits from, and contributions to, the international community, through multilateral diplomacy.I also wish to venture that achievements not be countenanced only in material terms. Indeed many would argue that Botswana’s greatest contribution to international relations, in the last 50 years, was in being a good example on issues of morality and governance, than in quantifiable ways.

Botswana embraced multilateral diplomacy due partly to her belief in a collective approach to international relations, and partly as an international strategy for national development.

The first President Sir Seretse Khama, speaking about the UN, said in September 1969: “The UN offers many advantages to a state like ours. The UN enables us to keep in touch with international opinion and to put our views before the world.... Together with its specialised agencies, it is also a major source of development Botswana’s foreign policy is predicated on multilateralism finance and technical assistance from which Botswana benefits greatly”.

In this, and other policy literature, Botswana’s enduring logic and vision for multilateralism had been firmly laid down. Multilateralism has afforded Botswana a broad array of opportunities political, economic and security on the international stage. First, the concept of peaceful resolution of conflicts in Botswana predates the country’s independence (ntwa kgolo ke ya molomo or we jaw-jaw not war-war). The espousal of this national precept and worldview by established multilateral bodies or international diplomacy, has served as both an inspiration for, and validation of, Botswana’s foreign policy on a major fundamental international principle. Second, Botswana’s resolute political stance on decolonisation and apartheid, earned her international respect on the world stage, including at the UN, OAU, NAM and the Commonwealth.

This stance however also made the country a target for various forms of retribution by the neighbouring minority regimes, including threats to her national sovereignty. But the endorsement and support of Botswana’s political position by these established international bodies, served as a moral deterrence against threats to her sovereignty, as well as a source of international legitimacy for - and moral vindication of - her political values, beliefs and indeed actions in support of human freedom beyond her borders.

Third, international institutions extended to the then poor nation much-needed resources to alleviate various economic challenges associated with her support for decolonisation and democratisation in southern Africa, such as the sustenance and protection of refugees in the country.

Sir Seretse said in 1969, “The financial burden of doing so (maintaining refugees) would have been heavy were it not for the generous assistance we have received from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees”. Fourth, the country benefitted from vital development assistance from the UN system and many other international and regional entities. In those early years, Botswana relied heavily on external financial support just to balance her national budget.

Presenting the first National Development Plan (1968-73), Dr Q K J Masire (as Vice President and Minister of Development Planning), said, “Almost all the expenditure proposed in this Plan is dependent on finance being raised from friendly Governments and agencies abroad....Unless we are successful in securing the assistance required, there is a real danger that Botswana will continue to remain a burden on international charity and without the benefits of real independence which derives from self-sufficiency”.

* Lapologang C. Lekoa is a career diplomat and former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations and currently Botswana’s Ambassador to Australia. He writes in his persona capacity.

Published in News
Tuesday, 16 January 2018 14:59

Are Batswana really a lazy nation?

Since 2008, Global Competitiveness Report has identified poor work ethic in the national force as a major challenge for doing business in Botswana.

To date, poor work ethic remains a distinctive feature of the country. Work ethic, by definition, is a set of moral principles that an employee uses in the performance of his job. Another business definition describes work ethic as ‘the belief in the moral benefit and importance of work and its inherent ability to strengthen character.’

Basically, work ethic can refer to how you feel about your job or career, so it covers one’s attitude and behaviour. It also pertains to how you do your job, or the responsibilities attached to it. The level of respect you show your co-workers and people you come into contact with at work, and how you communicate and interact with them, also defines your work ethic, according to a Harvard study.

Several other sources have expressed this sentiment. In one of his journal articles, University of Botswana history Professor Christian John traces the perception of citizens being lazy back to colonial period. He analyses discourses of poor work ethic in Botswana from the colonial 1930s to the first decade of the new Millennium.  “The traditional Batswana ethos stressed the importance of hard work, but in the early 1930s British colonial administrators had begun to complain about the Batswana chiefs, leading to colonial policy changes intended to address attitudes to work,” he says.  He informs that despite these changes, the issue of poor work ethic remained a critical topic of discussion by the colonial hierarchy in the mid-1940s, and a long-running debate has continued ever since, targeted today at the post-colonial public service. 

The article shows how debates about poor work ethic intensified in the post-colony owing to political patronage, corruption and politicisation of the public service by Botswana's ruling élite. It describes the erosion of a traditional ethos of self-help and self-reliance and decries its replacement by a syndrome of over-dependence on the state by the people.  Meanwhile, numerous attempts by government to address poor work ethic have produced unimpressive results. Although a meaningful quantitative comparison of colonial and post-colonial work productivity would be difficult to achieve, an analysis of the evolution of discourses surrounding work ethic in Botswana can yield insights into changes in attitudes of people and the state towards work and social welfare from the colonial period to the present.

In comparison, in neighbouring Namibia, poor work ethic is identified as the 3rd most problematic factor for doing business, 8th in South Africa and Zambia and only 11th in Zimbabwe. 

Some people like Kebapetse Lotshwao of UB Political and Administrative Studies however feel that Batswana have a good work ethic. His take is that citizens are paid pittances for salaries. “While Botswana is relatively rich (compared to an average African country), workers are underpaid, and it is common to hear the expression ‘ke lekanya tiro le madi,’ meaning I put effort equivalent to what I earn,” he was once quoted.  He says Batswana are hard-workers who are de-motivated by low pay. In response, UB Humanities graduate Mpho Malaka says that he feels the perception that Batswana are lazy is doing graduates injustice. “Since it is stuck on investors’ minds, they come here and prefer hiring foreigners in our own country,” he says. 

But for Gift Molome who has trained as an engineer in Germany, Batswana need to learn from other nations with a good work ethic. “Our youth is spoiled and they want government to do everything for them. Even at work, people are more relaxed than in other countries,” he says. He makes a special mention of Zimbabweans, saying they are not choosy when it comes to work. “The reason they end up beaten in other countries is because they are hard workers and citizens feel they take their jobs,” he says.  Meanwhile, Rand Merchant Bank’s Where to invest in Africa Report 2016/2017 identifies poor work ethic as only the 8th biggest concern for the continent as a whole.

Research consultant at Botswana National Productivity Centre (BNPC), Letsogile Batsetswe last year cautioned against some people in the national labour force whose bad attitude and lack of accountability has immensely contributed to them not conforming to their set work ethics.  Updating stakeholders on Botswana’s competitiveness and the business environment status in Maun, Batsetswe said BNPC has now come up with a work ethic investigation which will allow them to go deeper to see what still needs to be done, since they want to take it upon themselves to develop mindset change, to make people identify with their leadership roles as well as to improve issues of accountability at the work place. 

“As a country we are also challenged as we still have an inadequately educated workforce. We might have institutions in place but there are still concerns of stagnation. These are human related factors and so we will not give up on improving work ethics since we already know some key components,” he said. 

Low pay, less motivation contribute-Rari

In response, Secretary General of Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) Tobokani Rari says that even though he does not dispute the report, one must first ask why ‘Batswana are where they are.’ He does not think that lack of productivity can solely be attributed to Batswana being lazy. “There must be something else that researchers of the study failed to draw, and had they included us as unions and workers, they would have packaged their findings well,” says Rari, stating that conditions of service in Botswana are deplorable. He reveals that their union and the Bargaining Council went on a benchmarking exercise last year to Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Australia to learn on Levels of remuneration and motivation by government and private sector. 

Their findings were that in Botswana, public servants earn low. He mentions the 13th cheque motivational initiative in South Africa in which government rewards its departments that have reached targets. “In Botswana, the issue is not that we are lazy but why we are so,” he concludes. 

Published in News

The election of outgoing Botswana Softball President (BSA) Tirelo Mukokomani to the World Baseball Softball Confederation  (WBSC) ushered in a new era of local sports administrators joining international sports bodies. Botswana is currently experience a renaissance   in sports administrations as a new breed of elite administrators are now making it into the international arena.

Recently, former athletes and local sport administrator France Mabiletsa emphasised the need for elite administrators needed to handle elite athletes. Mabiletsa said this when recently contesting for a position in the Botswana National Olympic Committee. The admission of Mukokomani   into   the WBSC means Botswana will have an influence at the   world stage. The country will also enjoy benefits whether technical, administrative or financial with Mukokomani’s presence in the world committee. Nevertheless, it is not only Mukokomani who is making strides in this regard,  there have been others before him. 

Another recent appointment is Botswana Golf Union (BGU)’s Enoch Mushango who has been elected the Africa Golf Confederation treasurer. Mushango’s appointment proved crucial and strategic for Botswana as the African Golf body is reportedly looking for a home, as they do not have a permanent office in their affiliate countries. Meanwhile, former Botswana Netball Association (BONA) president Tebogo Lebotse Sebego is the current African netball president, which also makes her a member of International Netball Federation board. 

Lebotse Sebego recently used her influence to bring the INF U21 youth world cup to the country. Botswana Volleyball Federation (BVF) president Daniel Molaodi is also the regional president of the Zone 4 body while former Botswana Karate Association Million Masumbika has also been re-elected third vice president at the continental body. Moreover, former Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) president Negroes Kgosietsile is a member of the continental Olympic movement.

Published in Sports
Monday, 18 September 2017 16:06

Export diversification increasing elusive

EConsult Botswana managing director, Dr Keith Jefferis says efforts to diversify Botswana’s exports have dismally failed amid revelations that the country has been exporting largely diamonds for the past 25 years.Dr Jefferis said the country’s exports are predominantly minerals namely diamonds with copper-nickel, gold and soda ash also contributing smaller portion of the exports.

He said about 66 percent of Botswana’s exports in 2016 were diamonds and the economy is largely financed by these mineral exports. “The dominant position of diamond export has not really changed over a 25 year period,” he said. Dr Jefferis said unless exports are also diversified, Botswana will be highly vulnerable to the eventual decline of diamonds.

“Diamond production is not going to grow very much and in fact it has reached a plateau,” he said. 

He however said the country’s economy is diversifying contrary to a common belief that it is not.  

Dr Jefferis stated that export diversification is an area which the country has actually failed to make progress in. “It’s often said the diversification in Botswana has failed and I don’t think that is the case. In the late 1980s, mining was contributing 53 percent of the GDP and in 2016 the GDP contribution of non mining sectors had increased dramatically and there is reasonably a diversified economy,” said Dr Jefferis. About six years ago, the government launched the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD) whose major aim is to diversify the economy into sectors that will continue to grow long after minerals have run out through development of globally competitive private sector as well as diversified exports and export markets. Dr Jefferis stated that over the last 10 years, the economy is changing, and is less dependent on mining and is increasingly services driven. He however revealed that some of the services that are performing well like tourism cannot be exported.

The country still imports virtually everything to satisfy the local market resulting in the import bill standing at a whopping P73 billion in 2015.

Published in News

A leading player in the global diamond and jewellery industry in Botswana, Dalumi Group, has signed a distribution agreement with a giant Chinese company, King One, to sell its well known brand Swana Cut.

Swana managing director, Kobi Itzchaki, told delegates at Wednesday’s signing ceremony at the Diamond Hub in Gaborone, that they were grateful to sign the five-year agreement deal with King One, one of the leading jewellery companies in China with over 2000 distribution stores.

The company aims through the contract to have a minimum sale of over US$120 million (P1,2 billion). Itzchaki thanked King One for choosing Swana among other products to be their leading flagship product. 

“We see this as a great potential for the companies and countries as well. We believe that this is good for the Botswana success story to reach number of customers around the world and we will be committed to tell the story of Botswana. We will also make sure that the diamonds will be the ambassador for the country,” said Itzchaki whose company operates a factory with over 240 workers in Gabane.

 Speaking at the same occasion, King One Vice-Chairman and President, Chen Bao Kang, said he was pleased to sign the agreement between them and Dalumi for the distribution of Swana Cut.“I believe that this cooperation is the best not only for the companies but between Botswana and China. We want to ensure that this product will reach a lot of doors and increase the awareness of the Botswana diamond in China,” said Kang. He stated that the Chinese consumers were inspired by the story behind the Swana diamond and his company is proud to be the exclusive distributors ‘of this unique and beautiful diamond’.Dalumi Diamonds managing director, Rafi Yerushalmi, expressed gratitude for the support they are getting from the Botswana government and De Beers, their main supplier of diamonds. He said the consistent supply of diamonds from local diamond producers has led them to become one of the biggest diamonds producers in Botswana and beyond. 

“We are very proud to be operating here and we are going to continue to globalise the Botswana diamond,” he said. Dalumi is a DTC Sightholder since 1993 and a DTC Botswana Sightholder since 2007. Established in 1960 by Asher Dalumi, the company has earned a reputation as one of the world’s most trusted diamond names and has worldwide distribution operations.

 The Group has manufacturing facilities in Botswana, Israel and India, offices around the globe. Dalumi produces a wide range of diamond products from polished diamonds in various colours and qualities, to innovative, beautifully designed branded jewellery collections.

The company markets its products worldwide through its offices in the United States, Asia and Europe, and its “Online Inventory”.

Published in Business
Tuesday, 15 August 2017 14:30

IMF calls for public sector reforms

Economic policies sound for economic stability 

Privatisation should be accelerated

Botswana should seriously consider reforming its public sector in addition to keeping a close eye on investment made on its education sector to avoid skills mismatch, International Monetary Fund (IMF) advised on Tuesday. 

This suggestion is, but part of a number of recommendations which the Bretton-Woods institution wants the landlocked country to undertake if it is to attain sustained economic recovery and prosperity going forward. 

Botswana, a semi-arid country poised for an expanded budget deficit this current financial year, should urgently proceed with measures to improve the planning, prioritisation and execution of investment programmes which fall under the private sector.

Recently, finance ministry Secretary for Economic and Financial Policy, Dr Taufila Nyamadzabo told the media that IMF has raised concerns over the amount of funds invested in public projects and the return thereof. 

Moreover,  the 50 year-old country should also build capacity in the management of public-private partnerships, improve the financial monitoring and evaluation of state-owned enterprises as well as accelerating the privatisation of key loss-making enterprises. In the past, some of the top officials manning government parastatals have been forced to step down due to allegations of corruption and incompetency, which in the end affected some public corporations adversely. 

Since privatisation was mooted more than 15 years ago, Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTCL) remains the only entity to have partly fallen in private hands through a stock listing last year. Other candidates for privatisation are Air Botswana and National Development Bank (NDB). 

Recently, Air Botswana’s privatisation bid hit a snag after the chosen strategic partner, Wilderness Safari pulled out at the last minute. Initial efforts to privatise the national airline in the early 2000s were also unsuccessful. The Washington-based IMF has also called on government to speed up the establishment of the energy regulator, Botswana Energy Regulator (BERA), review the structure of electricity subsidies and reduce political interference on them. Government recently appointed Rose Seretse as founding CEO of the energy regulator, a development which has set tongues wagging. She is currently head of government’s graft-busting agency, Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC). 

IMF economists, who were in Botswana some weeks ago, have also suggested that government enhance education outcomes and reduce skills mismatch. “The authorities need to accelerate the implementation of the strategic plan aimed at enhancing the quality of instruction and training across education levels,” said IMF which Botswana is a member of. 

Speaking at a consultative meeting with professional bodies recently, Human Resource Development Council’s (HRDC) Human Resource Development Planning (HRDP) Director, Dr.  Ellah Matshediso said they are planning to redirect the needs of the industry to educational institutions so that graduates’ qualifications are aligned to what the workplace needs. 

HRDC is responsible for planning and funding of the education and training as well as advising government on all matters related to human capital development. IMF has also told Botswana to deepen dialogue between the private and public sector to improve the quality of education in the country. 

Granting of work-permits to foreign workers should be made easy. “These actions will ultimately foster private sector development and facilitate the transfer of skills to the domestic labour force,” said IMF. Botswana has over the years been criticised for being rigid on issuance of work permits to foreigners, a development which hampers competitiveness. To boost the country’s ease of doing business, government should also accelerate plans to establish one stop shop to reduce the burden of moving from one office to another. 

Botswana has tried over the years to diversify the economy but with little success. The IMF has provided some advice in its latest report on the mining-rich economy. “Efforts to diversify the economy can usefully focus on removing distortions and improving competitiveness,” said the crisis-lending Fund headed by Christene Lagarde. Capacity constraints, high transport costs, and the risks associated with industrial policies argue for an approach based on removing distortions and investing wisely in key public infrastructure. 

“If industrial policies are pursued, the authorities should undertake careful cost-benefit analysis and ensure minimal government intervention. Furthermore, fiscal incentives and tax concessions (including in economic zones) should also be carefully evaluated and, if granted, be in the form of accelerated depreciation schemes or investment tax credits,” pointed-out IMF.  On a more positive note, the Fund has commended the Ian Khama-led economy for its appropriate macro-economic policies. 

The economy is undergoing a cyclical recovery and the outlook is broadly positive. Supported by a gradual rebound in the global diamond market and public investment, annual real economic growth is projected to approach 5 percent in the near term while prudent financial policies are expected to maintain inflation within the 3–6 percent objective range set by the Bank of Botswana (BoB). In the medium-term, the outlook is also positive and risks are balanced, said the IMF. BoB has kept interest rate at 5, 5 percent, although commercial banks have complained it (rate) has reduced their profitability. The central bank will release its decision on bank rate in less than two weeks from now. 

Published in News
Tuesday, 15 August 2017 14:01

Impact investing in Botswana is possible

In a modern world where one bank’s decision can lead to a domino effect that results in total paralysis of the world’s financial system, times have come for capital markets to make a 180 degree turn-around to introspect. 

It’s a world in which a Murdoch-type Ponzi scheme can rip off billions of US dollars from pension funds and wipe off the savings of thousands, a world where the richest 10 people supposedly hold 90 percent of global wealth. 

Capital markets priorities have traditionally been two fold - risk versus return. Impact investing shifts the capital markets tectonic plates from this conventional school of thought to bring in the aspect of impact -more specifically, “social impact”. This type of model is right at the intersection of philanthropy and for-profit capitalism. 

In earnest, this investor sees himself as contributing to the social good and at the same time still making profit. This type of investing has gained much-needed momentum in the developed world and is slowly spreading towards sub-Saharan Africa. It is estimated that global investors are redirecting capital at the rate of a growth of 19 percent more capital invested in Africa in 2017 and beyond than in 2013, when the model was fairly new. 

According to the 2017 Annual Impact Investor Survey, 208 respondents collectively manage a minimum of US$114 Billion in assets of impact investing. The survey collected data on a large array of institutions that varied from pension fund managers to banks and even foundations. The report goes on to note that 89 percent of investments are below market rate or not adjusted for risk rate. A point which most investors agree, poses a considerable threat to social impact investing. 

Botswana is not classified as an emerging market but a frontier market according to FTSE, Standard & Poor and the Russel lists. An emerging market is a market that mimics or has certain characteristics similar to those of a developed market. On the other hand, frontier market is one that is developing slower than that of an emerging economy, but more than a least developed country or failed states. 

This article attempts to look at different industries which impact investors can consider with a view to possibly improve socio economic indicators in Botswana.

The world over, it is estimated that 34 percent of all corporate giants invested in agriculture invest in sub-Saharan Africa. This on its own is an indication that as food prices continue to soar, investors continue to rake in profits and so does the region become more food secure. Botswana like many other African countries continues to hold vast underdeveloped natural resources like land and surface water bodies. 

With more than half the population being under 65, labour is highly available and cheap but as noted by political pundits, severely underutilised. South Africa in comparison to Botswana is a more industrialised country hence agriculture is highly modernised than in Botswana. In terms of impact investing, the focus is on the use of environmentally friendly equipment. 

South Africa was a victim of political unrest and sanctions which handicapped investments. But the turnaround came in the 90’s when the likes of Ford began seriously reinvesting in the country. These companies, although not Greenfield investments, have the potential to drive impact investing through production of cheaper and environmentally friendly agricultural equipment. 

Hence, Botswana may not be able to attract socially impactful investments in the short term because of the above, in as much as it cannot attract general foreign direct investment compared to more industrialised countries.

Botswana had the second highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the world in 2011 at 23.4 percent just behind Swaziland at 26 percent. This result can be attributed to ARVs which prolong life and increase prevalence rates (Timmrek, 2002). When the disease was first diagnosed on a human, the estimated median survival time was only 12 months, but after the introduction of ARVs, this estimate rose to five years. 

Therefore, the duration of a disease affects prevalence positively. Prevalence will most likely remain higher for longer periods if life years increase and this is bound to have an effect on health expenditure. Therefore, this is a potential impact investment vehicle for investors. In social impact investing, one invests in the improvement of outcomes. 

That is, the more you invest, the more likely those charged with the utilisation of the investment will have freedom to employ their objectives. The higher the investment, the more the disease remedying interventions are put in place. That results in more preventative care than curative, which has been proven to be more effective. Therefore, in terms of health care, impact investing is not far-fetched. What remains are those who stand in between the investor and the recipient to devise the vehicles through which we can invest in these positive outcomes.

These areas are non-exhaustible and include investments in clean energy in solar power, fluorescent paint for our roads and electric intra-city train systems. They include investments in the arts which are proving to be a growing industry with huge potential for profit. A notable contributor in this industry is ThabisoBlakMashaba of “THESE HANDS”, a social enterprise with a focus on the arts. 

Particularly notable is his work with the indigenous people of D’kar. These are investment vehicles that show potential to turn philanthropy into a cash cow. In conclusion, with more focus on climate change by governments, social impact investing will surely grow in the coming decade. The classical question will always be why capital does not flow from developed economies to frontier markets like Botswana today? 

When in these infancy years, capital is still cheap, labour is still cheap. Then of course there is the Lucas paradox (which requires another publication of course). This notes that, contrary to the classical school of thought, capital does not flow to poor countries as expected and factor price equalisation is slower than expected.Whatever the case, the future is in impact investing; finding cold hard profit in doing good.


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