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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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Woman swindled out of P62 000 by fake CID officers

17th June 2021
Motube

Botswana Police Service (BPS) has indicated concern about the ongoing trend where the general public falls victim to criminals purporting to be police officers.

According to BPS Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, the criminals target individuals at shopping malls and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where upon approaching the unsuspecting individual the criminals would pretend to have picked a substantial amount of money and they would make a proposal to the victims that the money is counted and shared in an isolated place.

“On the way, as they stop at the isolated place, they would start to count and sharing of the money, a criminal syndicate claiming to be Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer investigating a case of stolen money will approach them,” said Motube in a statement.

The Commissioner indicated that the fake police officers would instruct the victims to hand over all the cash they have in their possession, including bank cards and Personal Identification Number (PIN), the perpetrators would then proceed to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.

Motube also revealed that they are also investigating a case in which a 69 year old Motswana woman from Molepolole- who is a victim of the scam- lost over P62 000 last week Friday to the said perpetrators.

“The Criminal syndicate introduced themselves as CID officers investigating a case of robbery where a man accompanying the woman was the suspect.’’

They subsequently went to the woman’s place and took cash amounting to over P12 000 and further swindled amount of P50 000 from the woman’s bank account under the pretext of the further investigations.

In addition, Motube said they are currently investigating the matter and therefore warned the public to be vigilant of such characters and further reminds the public that no police officer would ask for bank cards and PINs during the investigations.

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BCP walks out of UDC meeting

15th June 2021
Boko and Saleshando

Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership walked out of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting this week on account of being targeted by other cooperating partners.

UDC meet for the first time since 2020 after previous futile attempts, but the meeting turned into a circus after other members of the executive pushed for BCP to explain its role in media statements that disparate either UDC and/or contracting parties.

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Katlholo wins against DPP

15th June 2021
DCEC DIRECTOR: Tymon Katlholo

The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), Tymon Katlholo’s spirited fight against the contentious transfers of his management team has forced the Office of the President to rescind the controversial decision. However, some insiders suggest that the reversal of the transfers may have left some interested parties with bruised egos and nursing red wounds.

The transfers were seen by observers as a badly calculated move to emasculate the DCEC which is seen as defiant against certain objectionable objectives by certain law enforcement agencies – who are proven decisionists with very little regard for the law and principle.

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