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Slight progress on African visa openness

African countries are gradually relaxing their visa requirements and easing up their issuing processes in a bid to foster travel within the continent and enhance intra regional trade; this is according to an observation made by the African Development Bank.

Over the years it has been extremely difficult for Africans to travel within Africa than it was for non Africans to entre and move around the continent, defying African Union regional integration efforts, however recently many African countries have been opening up their immigration laws and easing up travel for fellow African travelers. The Africa Development Bank’s Visa Openness Index for 2019 has found out that for the first time Africans have travel access to 51% of the continent and now only need visas to travel to fewer than half of other African countries.

Of the 51% of countries Africans can access more freely, 26% offer visas on arrival while 25% do not require prior visas from African travelers. Much of the progress is down to several countries on the continent opting for more liberal visa requirements from African travelers.
Ethiopia announced a more liberal visa on arrival policy for African travelers last October and jumped a record 32 places on the Visa Openness index. Senegal, Angola, Ghana, Benin and Gabon are also credited with taking up more open visa policies for Africans over the past year.

Overall, 28% of African countries improved their visa openness scores in the period. There are already signs that liberalization of visa regimes in Africa will continue over the next year as well. Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, has already committed to begin issuing visas on arrival for all African nationals this year. Seychelles an island in the Indian Ocean leads the continent with the most liberal and open Visa requirement system in place. Benin and Senegal come second and third respectfully.

Botswana lagging behind

In the case of Botswana, the landlocked country has declined in the rankings, moving down a spot from number 30 in 2018 to 31 in 2019. Botswana has been cited under the “Countries looking to open up” rank.  In an effort to improve the ease of doing business in the country, Botswana announced in 2018 that it will offer Tourist Visa at point of entry effective 24th November 2018.

This announcement was made by President Mokgweetsi Masisi at the High Level Consultative Conference. Eyed to promote the tourism sector and boost the business environment, government announced this move to liberalize its visa regime by offering tourist visas on arrival. The new visa-on- arrival policy is anticipated to make travel to Botswana easier for African travelers.

Africa Air Travel

While easing visa rules is one thing, smoother air travel for travelers across the continent is quite another. Yet, the African Union has also recorded strong progress in this regard with the launch of the Single Air Transport Market initiative to ensure cheaper and more regular direct flights between African countries. The continent has been advocating and lobbying for an eased up intra continent travel and the free skies for various take homes. The benefits of a continent with more open borders for African travelers’ ranges from increased intra-Africa trade to boosting local tourism industries.

 There’s already evidence of what’s possible as a 2017 report by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development showed Africans accounted for 40% of international tourist arrivals on the continent despite erstwhile visa and travel complications. However experts say despite progress recorded, there is still a long way to go exemplified by Equatorial Guinea, the tiny oil-rich state which ranks low on the Visa Openness index as it still requires pre-acquired visas from all Africans.

Going Forward

African Development Bank Vice President for Regional Development, Intergration and Business Delivery Dr. Khaled F. Sherif observed in the index that in 2019, a record 47 countries improved or maintained their visa openness scores, which on average are rising year-on-year. Today, African travelers no longer need a visa to travel to a quarter of other African countries, whereas visa-free travel was only possible to a fifth of the continent in 2016.

While the top 10 and top 20 continue to champion open visa policies, more countries in all regions are following this model, including most recently Africa’s upper-middle-income countries. To streamline the travelers’ experience, 21 countries Africa-wide now provide eVisa platforms boosting transparency and accessibility.

“Now, as Africa paves a pathway to prosperity with the African Continental Free Trade Area, we are all responsible for accelerating its progress. Integration depends on investments and interconnectivity, and it is imperative that Africa’s population moves with greater freedom,” he said.   

African Development Bank President Akinwumi A. Adesina says Regional integration is crucial for Africa’s accelerated development. “We must connect landlocked countries to ports, we must allow free movement of people , Investors must be able to invest beyond the borders of countries and Africa must trade more with itself, apart and divided, Africa is weakened, Together and united, Africa will be unstoppable,” he said.

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Banking on Your Terms: Exploring the World of Self-Service Banking

23rd February 2024

In today’s digital age, banking is no longer just about visiting a branch during business hours. It’s about putting you, the customer, in the driver’s seat of your financial journey. But what exactly is self-service banking, and how do you stand to benefit from it as a customer?

Self-service banking is all about giving you the power to manage your finances on your terms. Whether you want to check your account balance at midnight, transfer money while on vacation, or deposit cash without waiting in line, self-service banking makes it possible. It’s like having a virtual branch at your fingertips, ready to assist you 24/7.

This shift towards self-service banking was catalyzed by various factors but it became easily accessible and accepted during the COVID-19 pandemic. People of all ages found themselves turning to digital channels out of necessity, and they discovered the freedom and flexibility it offers.

Anyone with a bank account and access to the internet or a smartphone can now bank anywhere and anytime. Whether you’re a tech-savvy millennial or someone who’s less comfortable with technology, you as the customer have the opportunity to manage your finances independently through online banking portal or downloading your bank’s mobile app. These platforms are designed to be user-friendly, with features like biometric authentication to ensure your transactions are secure.

Speaking of security, you might wonder how safe self-service banking really is. Banks invest heavily in encryption and other security measures to protect your information. In addition to that, features like real-time fraud detection and AI-powered risk management add an extra layer of protection.

Now, you might be thinking, “What’s the catch? Does self-service banking come with a cost?” The good news is that for the most part, it’s free. Banks offer these digital services as part of their commitment to customer satisfaction. However, some transactions, like wire transfers or expedited bill payments, may incur a small service fee.

At Bank Gaborone, our electronic channels offer a plethora of services around the clock to cater to your banking requirements. This includes our Mobile App, which doesn’t require data access for Orange and Mascom users. We also have e-Pula Internet Banking portal, available at https://www.bankgaborone.co.bw as well as Tobetsa Mobile Banking which is accessible via *187*247#. Our ATMs also offer the flexibility of allowing you to deposit, withdraw cash, and more.

With self-service banking, you have the reins of your financial affairs, accessible from the comfort of your home, workplace, or while you’re on the move. So why wait? Take control of your finances today with self-service banking.

Duduetsang Chappelle-Molloy is Head: Marketing and Corporate Communication Services

 

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Business

Botswana records over P6 billion trade deficit

7th February 2024

Botswana has recently recorded a significant trade deficit of over P6 billion. This trade deficit, which occurred in November 2023, follows another deficit of P4.7 billion recorded in October of the same year. These figures, released by Statistics Botswana, highlight a decline in export revenues as the main cause of the trade deficit.

In November 2023, Botswana’s total export revenues amounted to P2.9 billion, a decrease of 24.3 percent from the previous month. Diamonds, a major contributor to Botswana’s exports, experienced a significant decline of 44.1 percent during this period. This decline in diamond exports played a significant role in the overall decrease in export revenues. However, diamonds still remained the leading export commodity group, contributing 44.2 percent to export revenues. Copper and Machinery & Electrical Equipment followed, contributing 25.8 percent and 10.1 percent, respectively.

Asia emerged as the leading export market for Botswana, receiving exports worth P1.18 billion in November 2023. The United Arab Emirates, China, and Hong Kong were the top destinations within Asia, receiving 18.6 percent, 14.2 percent, and 3.8 percent of total exports, respectively. Diamonds and Copper were the major commodity groups exported to Asia.

The Southern African Customs Union (SACU) received Botswana’s exports worth P685.7 million, with South Africa being the main recipient within SACU. The European Union (EU) received exports worth P463.2 million, primarily through Belgium. Australia received exports worth P290 million, while the United States received exports valued at P69.6 million, mostly composed of diamonds.

On the import side, Botswana imported goods worth P9.5 billion in November 2023, representing an increase of 11.2 percent from the previous month. The increase in imports was mainly driven by a rise in Diamonds and Chemicals & Rubber Products imports. Diamonds contributed 23.3 percent to total imports, followed by Fuel and Food, Beverages & Tobacco at 19.4 percent and 15.0 percent, respectively.

The SACU region was the top supplier of imports to Botswana, accounting for 77.7 percent of total imports. South Africa contributed the largest share at 57.2 percent, followed by Namibia at 20.0 percent. Imports from Asia accounted for 9.8 percent of total imports, with Diamonds, Machinery & Electrical Equipment, and Chemicals & Rubber Products being the major commodity groups imported. The EU supplied Botswana with imports worth 3.2 percent of total imports, primarily in the form of Machinery & Electrical Equipment, Diamonds, and Chemicals & Rubber Products.

Botswana’s recent trade deficit of over P6 billion highlights a decline in export revenues, particularly in the diamond sector. While Asia remains the leading export market for Botswana, the country heavily relies on imports from the SACU region, particularly South Africa. Addressing the trade deficit will require diversification of export markets and sectors, as well as efforts to promote domestic industries and reduce reliance on imports.

 

 

 

 

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Business

Business sector optimistic about 2024

7th February 2024

The business sector in Botswana is optimistic about the year 2024, according to a recent survey conducted by the Bank of Botswana (BoB). The survey collected information from businesses in various sectors, including agriculture, mining, manufacturing, construction, and finance, among others. The results of the survey indicate that businesses expect trading conditions to improve in the first quarter of 2024 and remain favorable throughout the year.

The researchers found that firms anticipate improvements in investment, profitability, and goods and services exported in the fourth quarter of 2023 compared to the previous quarter. These expectations, combined with anticipated growth in all sectors except construction and real estate, contribute to the overall confidence in business conditions. Furthermore, businesses expect further improvements in the first quarter of 2024 and throughout the entire year.

Confidence among domestic market-oriented firms may decline slightly in the first quarter of 2024, but overall optimism is expected to improve throughout the year, consistent with the anticipated domestic economic recovery. Firms in sectors such as mining, retail, accommodation, transport, manufacturing, agriculture, and finance are driving this confidence. Export-oriented firms also show increased optimism in the first quarter of 2024 and for the entire year.

All sectors, except agriculture, which remains neutral, are optimistic about the first quarter of 2024 and the year ending in December 2024. This optimism is likely supported by government interventions to support economic activity, including the two-year Transitional National Development Plan (TNDP) and reforms aimed at improving the business environment. The anticipated improvement in profitability, goods and services exported, and business investment further contributes to the positive outlook.

Firms expect lending rates and borrowing volumes to increase in the 12-month period ending in December 2024. This increase in borrowing is consistent with the expected rise in investment, inventories, and goods and services exported. Firms anticipate that domestic economic performance will improve during this period. Domestic-oriented firms perceive access to credit from commercial banks in Botswana to be relaxed, while export-oriented firms prefer to borrow from South Africa.

During the fourth quarter of 2023, firms faced high cost pressures due to increased input costs, such as materials, utilities, and transport, resulting from supply constraints related to conflicts in Ukraine-Russia and Israel-Hamas. According to the survey report, the firms noted that cost pressures during the fourth quarter of 2023 were high, mainly attributable to increase in some input costs, such as materials, utilities, and transport arising from supply constraints related to the Ukraine-Russia and Israel-Hamas wars. “However, firms’ expectations about domestic inflation decreased, compared to the previous survey, and have remained within the Bank’s 3 – 6 percent objective range, averaging 5.4 percent for 2023 and 5.4 percent for 2024. This suggests that inflation expectations are well anchored, which is good for maintenance of price stability,” reads the survey report in part.

However, firms’ expectations about domestic inflation decreased compared to the previous survey, and inflation expectations remained within the Bank’s objective range of 3-6 percent. This suggests that inflation expectations are well anchored, which is beneficial for maintaining price stability.

In terms of challenges, most firms in the retail, accommodation, transport, manufacturing, construction, and finance sectors considered the exchange rate of the Pula to be unfavorable to their business operations. This is mainly because these firms import raw materials from South Africa and would prefer a stronger Pula against the South African rand. Additionally, firms in the retail, accommodation, transport, and mining sectors cited other challenges, including supply constraints from conflicts in Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Hamas, as well as new citizen economic empowerment policies that some firms considered unfavorable to foreign direct investment.

On the positive side, firms highlighted factors such as adequate water and electricity supply, a favorable political climate, an effective regulatory framework, the availability of skilled labor, and domestic and international demand as supportive to doing business in Botswana during the fourth quarter of 2023.

Overall, the business sector in Botswana is optimistic about the year 2024. The anticipated improvements in trading conditions, supported by government interventions and reforms, are expected to drive growth and profitability in various sectors. While challenges exist, businesses remain confident in the potential for economic recovery and expansion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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