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Dr Matsheka’s Ministry proposes new Direction

“The Mid-Term Review (MTR) of National Development Plan 11 (NDP 11) comes at a critical juncture in the Botswana’s development. The momentum that has carried the country forward following many years of diamond-led growth is now slowing down on the backdrop of challenges in the global economic environment”, reads Mid-Term Review of the National Development Plan 11 Draft prepared by the Ministry Of Finance and Economic Development.

The Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka and his new permanent secretary Dr Wilfred Mandlebe are poised to give the country a new direction to deal with the challenges identified. According to the draft it is widely acknowledged that national social and economic transformation is necessary. “To this end, this MTR has come at an ideal time as it has assisted in identifying and analysing critical issues that need to be addressed, in order to transform Botswana’s economic and social development path going forward.”

NDP 11 is the first of three NDPs that will cover the Vision 2036 period, and hence the draft suggests that it is crucial in setting the growth and development path to be followed through to 2036, and achieving the Vision’s varied objectives for improving social and economic well-being in a sustainable manner.

“It also comes at a time when the world has embarked upon the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with its associated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This MTR is therefore anchored on refining the course set out at the beginning of NDP 11 which was crafted along the pillars of Vision 2036 as well as the SDGs deliverables.”

According to the Ministry of Finance officials Botswana’s main challenge is that of subdued economic growth mainly as a result of impaired global demand for diamonds as its major export commodity. Recent average annual GDP growth rates measured over five-year periods have been around four (4) percent, far below the double-digit growth rates that Botswana enjoyed during the era of rapid diamond-led growth in the first 25 years after independence.

The draft review states that in order to sustain the growth momentum, government spending was increased even as diamond-led growth slowed down. “Such expenditure, was necessary to enhance transforming Botswana’s growth model to one driven by diversified, and export-led goods and services. Such a transformation is essential in unlocking the country’s growth potential while at the same time creating sustainable jobs. Linked to this, is the current shift in Government emphasis towards a knowledge-based economy that encompasses the production of many types of goods and services that can potentially support export-led growth.”

Finance officials posit that the transformation agenda needed to achieve faster economic growth requires that all sectors of the economy actively participate in economic activities. In so doing, it is important that emphasis be put on implementation efficiency and effectiveness.
“This applies to both the choice and implementation of projects, and to operational aspects of public sector service delivery.

Public spending has been high in Botswana over many years, and while there have been some important achievements as a result, there has also been examples of not achieving value for money. Hence, structural changes in the economy associated with the move away from diamond-led growth means that the public sector will be expected to “do more with less”.”

Private sector must come to the party

There are also obligations on the private sector to deliver more and better. In many respects Botswana’s private sector is far too dependent upon government, notes the draft MTR. “It is up to the private sector to demonstrate more initiative, especially with regard to competitiveness and productivity that can underpin a pivot towards export markets rather than mainly servicing domestic demand. This requires a refocusing of domestic investment as well as attracting much higher levels of inward foreign direct investment.”

The MTR comes at a time when expectations amongst Batswana are high. “This is because the country has just successfully had a peaceful general election, and the 12th Parliament is convening with many new Members. In the road to the elections commitments to effective and impactful delivery were made, and it is essential that results are achieved that have a positive and widespread impact on the lives of Batswana. It is also essential that actions are taken that will, on balance, contribute to advancing the overall national transformation and socio-economic development in the longer term.”

The draft further narrates that currently the challenge of transformation is made more difficult by the external environment that in many respects has higher levels of uncertainty than at any time since the global financial crisis and recession a decade ago. Since that time, global growth has been volatile and

The need for Transformation

“The period of mineral-led growth that transformed Botswana from a low-income to an upper-middle income economy is now facing challenges. However, the search for a new, sustainable growth model continues. While the economy has become more diversified over the past two decades, this has not yet reached sustainable diversification levels. The economy is currently characterised by low annual growth rates and not enough opportunities for employment and income-generation for citizens are being created.

The economy also remains too dependent on government spending, and limited foreign direct investment (FDI), that yields a narrow export portfolio. Hence, the transformation to a sustainable post-mineral growth pattern remains a priority in the medium to long-term,” reads the MTR draft.

The draft notes that while the exact nature of sustainable post-mineral growth will evolve over time, a number of pre-requisites and desirable characteristics can be identified for the objectives of higher, more labour-intensive growth to be realised. These include:  Increased openness and greater integration with regional and international markets for goods, services, labour and capital; Improved productivity and efficiency, leading to greater effectiveness and competitiveness; Shifting the drivers of growth towards exports of goods and services, and away from dependence on government and the small domestic market; Making use of Botswana’s high level of investment in education to support the transition to a knowledge-based economy; Improving economic opportunities for citizens; Reversing the decline in inflows FDI; and Improving the business environment to encourage diversified investment portfolios.

The Changing World of Diamonds

“Diamonds have long been central to Botswana’s economy as the largest contributor to; GDP, export earnings and government revenues. However, Botswana is now a mature diamond producer – having been doing so for almost 50 years – which means that diamonds are no longer a major driver of growth, although they continue to play an essential role in providing the foundation for the economy, government spending and the balance of payments. Domestically, the maturing of diamond mining poses challenges in that production is at a plateau, rather than growing, while costs of production are increasing as mines get older and deeper.

The global context for diamond mining is also changing dramatically. Since the global financial crisis (GFC) and recession of 2008-9, diamond prices have been volatile, and on a general downward trend, in contrast to the historical experience whereby diamond prices were expected to trend upwards. The relationship between rough and polished diamond prices has also changed, leading to squeezed margins and instability amongst mid-stream participants (diamond traders, cutters and polishers).

Other key changes involve the availability of finance, and the nature of the consumer and consumer tastes. Perhaps most significantly, the entry of low-cost lab-grown diamonds (LGDs) has transformed the supply-side, and undermined the rarity of (natural) diamonds. Finally, automation and artificial intelligence is affecting all stages of the diamond value chain, covering mining, extraction, sorting, valuing, and cutting and polishing. The diamond industry is going through a period of unprecedented change and disruption, which Botswana has to deal with, states the MTR draft.

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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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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de DĂ©veloppement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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