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Sub-Saharan Africa need to increase fertilizer use to unlock agric potential

According to consulting firm McKinsey, sub-Saharan Africa excluding South Africa, will need to increase the use of fertilisers and improved seeds by eight and six times, respectively, to unlock its full agricultural potential.

At least 8 Billion US Dollars of investment in basic storage and 65 Billion US Dollars spending on irrigation will be necessary in order to boost total irrigated area to 15 per cent from its 2019 level of 5 per cent. Furthermore, additional investment will be needed in basic infrastructure such as roads, ports and power. It is estimated that more than 60 per cent of the sub-Saharan population is comprised of smallholder farmers. Although the number of medium-sized- which span 5 ha to 100 ha- farms is rising, small-scale plantations still account for the vast majority of cultivated land throughout the continent. In Nigeria there are currently fewer than 100 farmers throughout the whole country who operate at least 50 ha of land.

Small-scale commercial farmers, who own cultivated farms bigger than subsistence farming, produce about 85 per cent of Africa’s agricultural output, while the remaining 15 per cent comes from subsistence farmers and large-scale plantations. Though many of Africa’s subsistence farmers live below the poverty line, this is not necessarily the case for small-scale commercial farmers. However, the lack of education, difficulties in gaining access to funding and the low use of inputs can all have a substantial and negative impact on productivity levels.

In many African countries women account for at least half of the labour force. The average age of farmers in Africa is 60 years, according to the FAO. However, this may change in coming years as the increased use of technologies in agriculture on the continent, especially in precision farming, may assist young people and women in moving into farming.

Beyond public investment, according to the report, access to finance is a major issue for most of the continent’s farmers, especially for smallholders. Estimates show that only about 10 per cent of African households in rural areas are connected to formal financial institutions.
However, innovations such as microfinance and mobile banking are opportunities to boost African farmer’s access to loans. As mobile penetration has increased to reach 44 per cent in 2017, local entrepreneurs and international institutions have developed digital financial solutions for Africa’s farmers.

These solutions are wide in scope and variety, including products like e-wallets that can be used as business accounts by farmers or mobile phone apps, such as Farm Drive, that can help farmers to develop much-needed credit history. The report further said mobile applications providing micro-insurance and index-based crop insurance are also being developed across emerging markets, including Africa.

The World Bank, for example, is developing an index-based agricultural insurance in Cote d’Ivoire for Ivorian farmers who are increasingly vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather events. A pilot phase was launched in 2018 for four crops- cocoa, cotton, rice and corn. The World Bank listed index insurance as a good tool to improve the farmers resilience, helping them boost their yields and get access to desirable funding.

Further, the report said Africa has vast swathes of uncultivated area. In 2013 the World Bank said the continent had 200m ha of suitable land that could be used to grow crops, which is almost half of the world’s usable and cultivated land. However, the region faces major issues hindering the development of additional land. It said over 90 per cent of rural land in Africa is undocumented, making it vulnerable to land grabbing. In Cote d’Ivoire, where most of the rural area indeed remains unregistered, the land continues to be extremely fragmented, making it difficult to develop profitable businesses on some of the larger plats of land.

In Egypt, meanwhile, almost 85 000 acres of agricultural land have been lost to illegal construction projects since the 2011 unrest, according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture. This prompted the Egyptian government to crack down on people building illegally on farmland. In some countries, women are also banned from land rights due to customary laws that are regularly enforced.

Recent analysis cited in an article from consulting firm Mckinsey said the majority of the unused land across Africa is located in areas barely reachable due to poor road networks and infrastructure, while some others are located in conflict of forest areas. It is estimated that only approximately 20m to 30m ha of additional land in sub-Saharan Africa- which is mostly located in nine countries and would represent a potential increase of 10 per cent- has the potential to be turned into cultivated area in the shorter-term.

The report said large land deals are also underising scrutiny in Africa. In 2018 India’s Karaturi Global asked for compensation from the Ethiopian government, which had cancelled the company’s lease, saying it failed to reach progress targets. According to McKinsey, 420 large agricultural deals, that each span 10m ha have been signed in Africa during 2000-16, but few of them have yet to be effectively implemented.

It also noted that most countries in Africa have greatly underdeveloped agro-industrial sector. That means that Africa’s exports are mostly comprised of raw products like agricultural commodities, including cocoa and coffee, and that finished goods account for the majority of the continent’s many imports. According to African Development Bank, ‘’little attention has usually been paid to the value chain through which agricultural commodities and products reach the final consumers within the country and abroad.’’ In the areas of Africa that are considered more rural, agro-processing is usually non-existent or quite basic, a fact that can sometimes result in significant harvest losses, the bank said.

Despite the challenges ahead, prospects for Africa’s agricultural sector are relatively positive. UN institutions expect cultivated areas to expand and farmers to increase their use of inputs, such as fertilisers, pesticides, improved seeds, irrigation systems and mechanisation. Innovations and greater access to technologies are expected to aid in developing smart and precision farming techniques and promoting their widespread use.

The report said, despite increased production, food security will continue to depend on global markets and significant imports of finished goods for the medium term. Contributing to this, food consumption is projected to surge as the population is expected to double by 2050 and become increasingly urbanised. At the same time, the continent is facing growing challenges.

Climate change is anticipated to be the most influential and is already directly affecting millions of farmers and households across the continent. In this context, experts have called for African governments to increase investment in the sector, including in infrastructure and agri-business and to continue improving their policies and governance. These challenges, according to the report, would encourage agriculture to truly transform into one of the strongest pillars of Africa’s successful long-term economic development.

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Debswana-Botswana Oil P8 billion fuel partnership to create 100 jobs

18th May 2022
Head-of-Stakeholder-Relations

The partnership between Debswana and Botswana Oil Limited (BOL) which was announced a fortnight ago will create under 100 direct jobs, and scores of job opportunities for citizens in the value chain activities.

In a major milestone, Debswana and BOL jointly announced that the fuel supply to Debswana, which was in the past serviced by foreign companies, will now be reserved for citizen companies. The total value of the project is P8 billion, spanning a period of five years.

“About 88 direct jobs will be created through the partnership. These include some jobs which will be transferred from the current supplier to the new partnership,” Matida Mmipi, Head of Stakeholder Relations at Botswana Oil, told BusinessPost.

“We believe this partnership will become a blueprint for other citizen initiatives, even in other sectors of the economy. Furthermore, this partnership has succeeded in unlocking opportunities that never existed for ordinary citizens who aspire to grow and do business with big companies like Debswana.”

Mmipi said through this partnership, BOL and Debswana intend to impact citizen owned companies in the fuel supply value chain that include transportation, supply, facilities maintenance, engineering, customs clearance, trucks stops and its support activities such as workshop / maintenance, tyre services, truck wash bays among others.

“The number of companies to be on-boarded will be determined by the economics at the time of engagement,” she said. BOL will play a facilitatory role of handholding and assisting emerging citizen-owned fuel supply and fuel transportation companies to supply Debswana’s Jwaneng and Orapa Letlhakane Damtshaa (OLDM) mines with diesel and petrol for their operations.

“BOL expects to increase citizen companies’ market share in the fuel supply and transportation industries, which have over the years been dominated by foreign-owned suppliers. Consequently, the agreement will also ensure security of supply for Debswana operations, which are a mainstay of the Botswana economy,” Mmipi said.

“Furthermore, BOL will, under this agreement, transfer skills to citizen suppliers and transporters during the contract period and ensure delivery of competent and skilled citizen suppliers and transport companies upon completion of the agreement.”

Mmipi said the capacitating by BOL is limited to providing citizen companies oil industry technical capability and capacity to deliver on the requirements of the contract, when asked on helping citizen companies to access funding.

“BOL’s mandate does not include financing citizen empowerment initiatives. Securing funding will remain the responsibility of the beneficiaries. This could be through government financing entities including CEDA or through commercial banks. Further to this, there are financial institutions that have already signed up to support the Debswana Citizen Economic Empowerment Programme (CEEP),” Mmipi indicated.

While BOL is established by government as company limited by guarantee, it will not benefit financially from the partnership with Debswana, as citizen empowerment in the petroleum value chain is core to BOL’s mandate.

“BOL does not pursue citizen facilitation for financial benefit, but rather we engage in citizen facilitation as a social aspect of our mandate. Citizen facilitation comes at a cost, but it is the right thing to do for the country to develop the oil and gas industry,” she said.

Mmipi said supplying fuel to Debswana comes with commercial benefits such as supply margins. These have traditionally been made outside the country when supply was done by multi-nationals for a period spanning over 50 years. With BOL anchoring supply for Debswana, this benefit will accrue locally, and BOL will be able to pay taxes and dividends to the shareholders in Botswana.

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VAT in Africa Guide 2022 – Africa re-emerging

18th May 2022

PwC Africa has presented the eighth edition of the VAT in Africa Guide – Africa re-emerging. This backdrop of renewal informs on the re-emergence of African economies and societies which have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this edition, which has been compiled by PwC Africa’s indirect tax experts, covers a total of 41 African countries. It is geared towards sharing insight with our clients based on the constantly changing tax environments that can have a significant impact on business operations.

Within Africa, governments continue to focus on expanding the tax net by improving revenue collection through efficient compliance systems and procedures. PwC Africa has observed that revenue authorities also continue to take a keen interest in indirect taxes as part of revenue mobilisation initiatives.

Maturing VAT system and upskilling SARS 

“In South Africa, VAT is becoming more relevant as a revenue source for the government,” says Matthew Besanko, PwC South Africa’s Indirect Tax Leader. “Strides have been made to upskill South African Revenue Service (SARS) staff and identify VAT revenue leakages, particularly in respect of foreign suppliers of electronic services to people and businesses in South Africa.”

Broadening the tax base and digital economy

In the past year, South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe saw updates to their VAT legislation, or introduced specific legislation targeting electronically supplied services (ESS), which is in line with the global trend of attempting to tax the digital economy. “The expectation is that Botswana will also introduce VAT legislation in due course, while the National Treasury in South Africa has also made mention of revising the rules to account for further developments in the digital economy,” Besanko says.

South Africa’s National Treasury has also drafted legislation with the intention to introduce a reverse charge on gold, which is expected to come into effect later in 2022. While in Zimbabwe, revenue authorities have introduced a tax on the export of raw medicinal cannabis ranging between 10% and 20%, which came into effect on 1 January 2021.

ESG and carbon tax 

Key strides have also been made within the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) space. “ESG leadership, strategising and reporting is essential now for organisations that wish to flourish and remain relevant,” Kabochi says. He adds that companies need to consider how ESG and tax intersect, since tax is a significant value driver when businesses need to deliver on their ESG goals.

In South Africa, a carbon tax regime, which is being implemented in three phases, has been adopted. The second phase was scheduled to start in January 2023, however phase one was extended by three years until 31 December 2025.

Until then, taxpayers will enjoy substantial tax-free allowances which reduce their carbon tax liability. At the beginning of 2022, the South African government increased the carbon tax rate to R144 (about US$9), which is expected to increase annually to enable South Africa to uphold its COP26 commitments.

With effect from 1 January 2023, carbon tax payers in South Africa will also be required to submit carbon budgets and adhere to the provisions of the carbon budgeting system which will be governed by the Climate Change Bill. Where set carbon budgets are exceeded, the government plans to impose penalties. “At PwC, we are continuously focused on our renewed global strategy, ” The New Equation,” Kabochi says. “Through this strategy, a key focus area for PwC Africa is to support clients in adding value to their ESG ambitions and building trust through sustained outcomes.”

The New Equation is also an acknowledgement of the fundamental changes in the business environment in which PwC’s clients and other stakeholders operate. PwC continues to reinvent and adapt to these changes as a community of problem solvers, combining knowledge and human-led technology to deliver quality services and value.

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Economists project lower economic growth for Botswana

18th May 2022
CBD

Local and international economists have lowered their projections on Botswana’s economic growth for 2022 and 2023, saying the country is highly likely to fail to maintain high growth rate recorded in 2021 hence will not reach initial forecasts.

Economists this week lowered 2022 forecasts for Botswana’s economic growth rate, from the initial 5.3% to 4.8% and added that in 2023 growth could further decline to 4.0%. The lower projections come on the backdrop of an annual economic growth that recovered sharply in 2021 with figures showing that year-on-year real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth increased to 11.4%, up from a contraction of 8.7% in 2020.

Economists from the local research entity, E-consult, this week stated that the 2021 double digit growth that exceeded projections made at the time of the 2022 budget may be short lived due to other developments taking place in the global economy. E-consult Economist Sethunya Kegakgametse stated that the war in Ukraine has worsened supply problems in the global economy and added that before the war, macroeconomic indicators were seen as improving and returning to pre-COVID levels.

According to the economist the global economy was projected to improve in 2022 and 2023. Recent figures show that global growth projections have been revised downwards from the initial forecast of 4.9% in 2022 with the World Bank’s new estimate for global growth in 2022 at 3.2%.

The statistics also shows that International Monetary Fund revised their growth projections for 2022 and 2023 down by 0.8% and 0.2% respectively, falling to 3.6% for both years. “The outbreak of war has severely dampened the global recovery that was under way following the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the economist.

She stated that despite Botswana being geographically removed from the conflict, the country has not and will not be exempt from the disruptions in the global economy. “The disruptions to global supply chains resulting from the war will have a negative effect on both Botswana’s growth and trade activities.

The economic sanctions against diamonds from Russia will add uncertainty to the market which will have knock on effects to Botswana’s growth, exports, and government revenues,” said the economists who added that the disruptions are driving prices up and result with very high inflation in the local economy.

Kegakgametse projected that in an attempt to limit inflation Bank of Botswana will be forced to raise interest rate “Should the sharp increase in both global and local inflation persist, Bank of Botswana much like other central banks around the world will be forced to raise interest rates in a bid to control rising prices. This would mean an end to the expansionary monetary policy stance that had been adopted post COVID-19 to aid economic growth,” she said.

In the latest projections, the UK based economic research entity Fitch Solutions lowered 2022 real GDP growth forecast for Botswana from 5.3% to 4.8% “In 2023, we see economic growth rate decelerating to 4.0%,” said Fitch Solutions economists who also noted that the 2022 and 2023 economic growth projections may come out lower than the current forecasts, as it is possible that new vaccine-resistant virus variants may be identified, which could result in the re-implementation of restrictions. “In such circumstances, we cannot rule out that Botswana’s economy may post weaker growth than our baseline scenario currently assumes,” said the economists.

According to the projections, Fitch Solution stated that there is limited scope for Botswana government to increase diamond production and exports, following the economic sanctions imposed on Russian diamond mining companies operating in Botswana. The research entity added that De Beers is unlikely to scale up diamond output from Botswana in order to prop up diamond prices.

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