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Botswana faces colossal trade deficit amid weak diamond trading

Latest released statistics shows Botswana choking at a trade deficit of more than P3 billion. And this current drift is contributed mostly by the dwindling diamond exports, a red flag for the diamond dependent economy.

The latest released International Merchandise Trade Statistics which covers the last quarter of 2019 until now for Statistics Botswana and released in December, shows signs of an economy with a niggling trade deficit. The last time Statistics Botswana compiled information on trade during October 2019, Botswana registered a trade deficit of P3, 425.1 million. During October 2019, Botswana’s total imports were valued P5, 587.0 million, resulting in an increase of 3.8percent compared to the revised September 2019 value of P 5, 383.4 million.

According to Statistics Botswana total exports for the period under review were valued at P2, 161.9 million, registering a decrease of 49.3 percent from the previously revised period which had a value of P4, 260.2 million. During the current period according to the national statistics body Botswana exported Diamond accounting 79.2 percent of total exports. Machinery & Transport Equipment and Meat & Meat Products followed with 5.7 percent and 3.9 percent respectively.

According to Statistics Botswana, India and United Arab Emirates were the major destinations for Botswana exports, having received 28.8 percent and 18.7 percent respectively, of total exports during October 2019. Statistics Botswana says Belgium and South Africa received 14.7 percent and 12.2 percent respectively. The fall of 49.3 percent of exports was mainly attributed to the 54.2 percent (P2, 026.6 million) decline in Diamonds exports during the current month compared to the value recorded for the previous month.

The diamond was not the only culprit to this country’s low export rate, it is lined up with Salt & Soda Ash which dropped by P25 .3 million or 41.6 percent from the previous quarter which is Q3. Salt & Soda Ash had dropped from P60.9 million during September 2019 to P35.6 million during the period under review. In the latest international merchandise trade statistics, Botswana exports P623.2 million worth of diamonds to India which is a leading buyer of Botswana stones.

United Arab Emirates bought diamonds worth P403.5 million while Belgium, Botswana’s biggest EU partner imported rough diamonds worth P317.5 million. The world’s biggest economy USA even trails Israel as it bought P47.2 million of diamond while Israel paid Botswana P178 million for its precious stones. Currently riddled by political protests Hong Kong remains in the top five of Botswana’s top diamond buyers as it imported diamonds worth P83 million.

Botswana’s neighbor and one of Africa’s leading economy is not a big fan of Botswana diamonds as it only bought P10 million worth of the stones in the period under review. South Africa mostly buys machinery and electrical equipment from Botswana which was worth at P104.7 million in the period under review. Most of Botswana’s exports, mostly diamonds, in the just ended quarter of 2019 were transported by air and they were worth P1, 8 billion or 82.6 percent of the entire export bill. Road transport accounted for 16.5 percent (P356.0 million) of total exports during the month under review.

Botswana dogged by trade deficit as it is currently an import dependent economy

The trade deficit of P2 billion which was recorded by Statistics Botswana shows a continue trend of the country living at a negative trade balance. Last year the trade deficit rose from P1 billion in October to P2 billion in December. For October 2019 it was already at P3 billion and trade expects said it is going to soar to more than P4 billion in December 2019 given the bad year that was last year.

In 2017 Botswana’s trade balance has been flip flopping and fluctuating with quarters of the year and months. Botswana ended the first quarter of year 2017 with a trade deficit and continued to the next quarter with a trade balance running at a negative before recovering in the third quarter albeit flip flopping between getting trade surplus and trade deficit.

The story of bad trade balance did not end three years ago, it even continue to 2018, with some months having trade surplus while some experiencing. This trend was inherited by Botswana trade dynamics towards last year where the country only experienced trade surplus only in January and June. In other months Botswana was grappling with a huge trade deficit. Statistics Botswana is yet to release the November and December trade statistics.

According to Statistics Botswana, a trade balance refers to the total value of goods exported minus the total value of goods imported by a given economy in a given period of time. A positive trade balance (trade surplus) indicates that a country is exporting more in value terms than it is importing. A negative trade balance (trade deficit) indicates that the country is importing more than it is exporting.

High import bill

The Botswana imports which were more than exports, causing a huge trade deficit in the year under review amounted to P5.6 billion. This resulted in an increase of 3.8 percent when compared to the previously revised period of 2019 where they were valued at P 5, 383.4 million.

According to Statistics Botswana, Diamonds contributed the most to the total imports, at 24.8 percent (P1, 385.5 million) followed by Food, Beverages & Tobacco and Machinery & Electrical Equipment at 14.6 percent (P813.1 million) and 12.9 percent (P722.2 million) respectively. Fuel contributed 12.4 percent (P693.3 million) while Chemicals & Rubber Products contributed 10.2 percent (P569.2 million) to total imports during the period under review.

Most of the imports from SACU came from South Africa followed by Namibia, accounting for 65.4 percent and 10.5 percent respectively, according to Statistics Botswana. South has a contribution of 65.4 percent (P3, 7 billion) of total imports during the month under review. Botswana is known to be dependent on its southern neighbor for Food, Beverages & Tobacco and Fuel and in the period under review these commodities were the top most imported goods from South Africa, with contributions of 20.8 percent (P759.6 million) and 16.1 percent (P588.1 million) respectively.

A lot of Botswana’s import bill shows that most of the commodities were also sourced from Asia and these main commodities imported from the region were Diamonds and Machinery & Electrical Equipment with contributions of 28.9 percent (P157.5 million) and 17.7 percent (P96.4 million) respectively. According to Statistics Botswana Asia also sold Chemicals & Rubber Products and Vehicles & Transport Equipment made contributions of 14.9 percent (P81.1 million) and 13.9 percent (P75.6 million) respectively. India and China were the main sources of imports from Asia, having supplied 3.1 percent (P175.7 million) and 2.4 percent (P132.2 million) respectively, of total imports during the season under review.

Also seen on Botswana’s import bill is the European Union (EU) which supplied imports valued at P372.5 million, accounting for 6.7 percent of total imports during October 2019. In the region Belgium and the United Kingdom were the main sources of imports from the EU, having contributed 3.0 percent (P165.4 million) and 1.3 percent (P70.6 million) in that order, to total imports during the month under review.

During October 2019, Canada supplied 4.5 percent (P250.5 million) of total imports to Botswana. Most of the imports from Canada were unsorted Diamonds at 98.9 percent (P247.7 million) of total imports from that country, according to Statistics Botswana. Statistician General, Burton Mguni recently said as a result, international merchandise trade statistics remains one of the major contributing indicators of the performance of a country’s economy and its competitiveness on the world market. He said the report is a compilation of the country’s national accounts and balance of payments percent and 12.2 percent respectively.

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African countries call on WHO to increase funding

2nd February 2023

Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti says Africa member states call on World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable resource allocation for 2024-2025. Dr Dikoloti was speaking this week at the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

He said countries agreed that there is need to address the budget and funding imbalances by increasing the programme budget share of countries and regions to 75% for the next year.

“The proposed budget for 2024-2025 marks an important milestone as it is the first in Programme Budget in which country offices will be allocated more than half of the total budget for the biennium. We highly welcome this approach which will enable the organization to deliver on its mandate while fulfilling the expectations for transparency, efficiency and accountability.”

The Botswana Health Minister commended member states on the extension of the General Programme of Work (GPD 13) and the Secretariat work to monitor the progress towards the triple billion targets, and the health-related SDGs.

“We welcome the Director’s general proposed five priorities which have crystalized into the “five Ps” that are aligned with the GPW 13 extension. Impact can only be achieved through close coordination with, and support to national health authorities. As such, the strengthening of country offices is instrumental, with particular focus on strengthening national health systems and on promoting more equitable access to health services.”

According to Dr Dikoloti, the majority of countries with UHC index that is below the global median are in the WHO Africa region. “For that, we call on the WHO to enhance capacity at the regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs both technical and financial support in order to effectively address and support country needs.”

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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