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SEZA sabotaged by land allocation deficiency

Publishing Date : 24 September, 2018


Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) could be far if it was not for this country’s nagging processes of acquiring land and change or transfer of land use.  The Authority’s Director Investor Attractions and Monitoring Joel Ramaphoi raised this complaint during Business Botswana Annual General Meeting on Wednesday.

To enhance competitiveness, economic improvement, ease of doing business and attraction of foreign direct investment, Botswana implemented Special Economic Zones(SEZs) which are guided by the Special Economic Zones policy. SEZs will be regulated by a parastatal called SEZA that will lead in the development, marketing and monitoring of designated Special Economic Zones.

 During this year’s National Business Conference Business Botswana President Gobusamang Keebine said that in 2016, they resolved to “Immediately implement” the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) policy beginning with one commercially viable zone that would be permitted to implement policies within the zone to improve Botswana’s competitiveness and address constraints to investment and doing business.

In the same conference President Mokgweetsi Masisi explained that the special economic zones policy and the cluster development model in critical areas such as tourism, beef, financial services, agriculture and mining were intended to promote economic diversification thus creating the much needed jobs. This SEZs needs land to be used for economic acceleration projects.  This year the International Monetary Fund advised Botswana that initiatives like SEZs should be “given more attention.”

However according to Ramaphoi, the issue of land allocation or availability of land to be zoned prove to be a big impediment before SEZA. “Land acquisition has been a big problem. There are always delays in land acquisition amd it is a big challenge. We need to get enough land which will enable to carry out our mandate,” said SEZA director, Ramaphoi. Ramaphoi gave an example of Lobatse where they struggled to acquire 200hectres for SEZA as “it took too long to get land.”

One participant at the Annual General Meeting asked if SEZA was aware of using land through technology-where even plants can be planted in a small space like a room through the use of technology. Ramaphoi said Botswana is not yet at that stage. He also explained that the biggest problem seems to be the change or transfer of land use; for example changing agricultural land to industrial land.

During the recent National Business Conference President Masisi said his government is working on legislation “that will fast track the processing of applications for the change of land use so that the land owners can benefit from its optimal utilization.” Masisi revealed that the target date for finalization of the legislation will be December this year, something which should be good news for SEZA and Ramaphoi.

Government has zoned seven land spaces to be used as SEZs; Lobatse 70 hectares, Sir Seretse Khama International Airport 780 hectares, Fairgrounds 50 hectares, Palapye 500 hectares, Selibe Phikwe 1100 hectares, Francistown 700 hectares, Tuli Block 400 hectares and Pandamatenga 41000 hectares.

The SEZs has been divided into phases and in the first phase there is Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (added with the Diamond Hub as industrial and business transport zone); Selibe Phikwe(like base metal beneficiation, chemical manufacturing and agro business and Francistown(mining and logistics).   In the second phase there is; Lobatse(meat and leather hub), Palapye(coal benefication), Tuli Block(horticulture), Pandamatenga(agro-business) and Gaborone Fairgrounds(financial services hub).

Assistant Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry Moiseraele Goya told Parliament this year conferring of all the eight SEZs will be finalized during 2018 and land servicing of the seven sites was intended to be completed by December 2018 and March 2020 respectively.
Goya also revealed that the sale and marketing of all sites started in April 2018.

When debating the Special Economic Zones Bill No. 10 of 2015 which “seeks to boost industrialization and Botswana’s competiveness in the global economy”, Sefhare-Ramokgonami legislator Dorcas Makgato lauded the initiative of SEZs would expedite industries competitiveness in the global market, hence strengthening the country’s export earnings.  However, her bubble was busted by the late Mochudi East NP Isaac Davids who said that even though the Bill was a good initiative, it was going to be hampered by shortage of water and power in the country where the SEZs are located. 

Boteti East MP Lelatisitswe Sethomo who supported the bill wanted people in the SEZs to be empowered. Maun East MP Kostantinos Markus complained that his region was left out of the zoning even though it is a tourism attraction area. On Wednesday during Business Botswana AGM, SEZA director Ramaphoi said they have decided to start with 8 zones. He said they have been benchmarking on China which has only 4 SEZs but is successful economically. 



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