Leading rough diamonds producer Debswana, a joint venture between Government of Botswana and De Beers Group, will in the near term to midterm remain focused on solely doing the business of mining diamonds. This was emphasized by De Beers Group Chief Executive Offer and Debswana Board Chair Mr Bruce Cleaver and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mineral Mmetla Masire at a media briefing on the side lines of the 2019 Diamond Conference in Gaborone on Tuesday.
GENESIS OF THE ISSUE
Observers, commentators and some political leaders have opined in various platforms that Debswana as the Botswana ‘s largest private company and one of the most widely celebrated Public Private Partnerships across the world needed to take the lead in Botswana’s economic transformation and diversification agenda. Suggestions has been that in the interest of the national social investment agenda of job creation, economic diversification, and industrialization Debswana should venture into other commercially viable enterprises outside the business of mining diamonds.
Debswana is the largest private sector employer and the second after government, with a total workforce pool of around 5000 direct employees and additional thousands in contractors and service providers. Recently towards the buildup of Government negotiations with De Beers aimed at renewing sales vows it emerged that there were talks within the government enclave calling for the two parties to have a conversation around allowing the partly state owned diamond giant invest in other sectors of the economy.
The argument brought forward by those who believe in this is that Debswana has the necessary capital, technical capacity and shrewd corporate governance to do that “There are discussions that Debswana should lead economic diversification by investing in solar energy, plant and equipment assembly and machinery equipment amongst others” shared a source from the highest corridors of government enclave last month.
Debswana has over the years of its existence invested in other establishments outside diamond mining. Morupule Coal Mine was a wholly owned Debswana operation before it was disposed to government owned Mineral Development Company in 2017. Botswana Accountancy College, the country’s premier business academic institution was established as a joint venture between Debswana, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and the Botswana Institute of Accountants in 1996.Within its fold Debswana also wholly owns Sesiro Insurance Company, a bespoke insurance services outfit for its employees.
During the Presidential Debates of the just passed general Elections President of the Alliance for Progressives Ndaba Gaolathe noted that Debswana one capable company that has grown into a successful business with admirable corporate governance over the years “We should replicate this Debswana DNA across other economic sectors and even other countries, for our benefit as developing country that wants to industrialize and transform its economy,” he said.
GOVERNMENT- DE BEERS RESPONSE
When responding to this suggestions at the media briefing, representing De Beers Group, CEO Bruce Cleaver said the issue was a conversation the two parties would open up to discussing at board level in the long run and coming future “We are open to such conversations because we want to support government as well with economic diversification but for now Debswana is primarily a diamond mining entity that is battling with industry challenges and predominantly expanding its operations which are highly technical and capital intensive,” he said.
Bruce Cleaver further added that the Cut 3 and Cut 9 project s will require Debswana management teams to be completely focused to deliver production peaks and high value return of investment, “Investing in other businesses in other sectors of the economy is not something completely out of the outlook but our priority as of now is rubberstamping the company’s position as a leading rough diamond producer amid industry challenges.”
Bruce Cleaver who is Chairman of Debswana Board said the shareholders would open up to a conversation about this in future” We are currently also focusing on some operating models transformation, building a high performance team with unparalleled capacity and ability to take this company which is the cornerstone of our business to greatest heights that are presented by both the challenges and opportunities we are seeing in the horizon.”
Representing Government, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Mmetla Masire explained that investing in other business outside mining would require serious due diligence and proper assessment to avoid risking the revenue profile of the company, “ Remember Debswana is the cornerstone of our economy so as much as we would be interested in looking around for other ventures under the investment dispatch of Debswana , we would also need to be extra cautious because we don’t want to danger the very entity that is holding our economy as country,” he said.
For his part Country Manager of De Beers Botswana, Neo Moroka who has been a Member of Debswana at various levels shared that the company will continue supporting government efforts through Small Medium Enterprises Development, supporting local suppliers and services providers. “Debswana has a clear Corporate Social Investment policy, Citizen Economic Empowerment windows that we believe are pushing the economic transformation already, dispatching millions of pulas through doing business with local companies that hire our people,” he said.
Newly established wholly indigenous citizen owned retail chain Payless Retail (PTY) Ltd is set to partake in the first session of Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE)’s Tshipidi Mentorship Program (TMP) on Monday June 29th.
The TMP aims to train and capacitate SMEs so they can operate as corporates and eventually list on the local bourse. According to local bourse, BSE, the program aims to provide practical training to potential issuers through a comprehensive and interactive program that covers the key themes necessary to position a company to list on the BSE.
Payless Retail is a newly established supermarket chain whose mission is to become a convenient one-stop shopping destination as it is one of the Botswana oldest retailing brands. It started off as Corner Supermarket in January 1976, and to date boasts of nine stores in, among others, Gaborone, Mochudi, Molepolole and Tlokweng. Payless was recently acquired by Ellis Retail Group, which is led by businessman Elliot Moshoke.
The takeover catapulted Ellis Retail to the envious position of being the first wholly indigenous owned major retail chain. “We jumped at this opportunity because it gave us a chance to prove to Batswana that the retail business is open and lucrative.”
The objective is to create a proudly Botswana retail chain that fully supports our national Vision, economic development and citizen economic empowerment ambitions,” Moshoke told BusinessPost.
He further emphasized that Batswana are capable and able to run large scale businesses hence they need to accept invite foreign investors who will come in to support us not take the business. “Our win as Payless in the Fast Moving Consumer goods (FMCG) industry is a win for Batswana. We need their support in this difficult and challenging journey.
As you are aware, Payless is the only retail chain in the hands of Batswana ba Sekei. We need to take advantage of this to generate employment and create small businesses in retail and Agri businesses,” he explained.
The retailer has also partnered with Botswana Investment & Trade Center (BITC) on their #PushaBW campaign with a view to initiating earnest engagement with local producers to iron out bottlenecks and ensure seamless trading.
“Local producers have to be part of the phenomenal growth of the Payless brand. This will in turn facilitate employment creation and economic growth. We did this because we have the utmost respect for local manufacturers and producers,” he mentioned.
Payless is currently restocking all of its stores; a development that Moshoke says is testament to the retailer’s commitment to growing the brand and ensuring continuity of business. He further revealed that renowned retail suppliers like PST and CA Sales have reignited their trust in Payless, opening their doors for Payless as they have faith in the retailer’s new owners.
The takeover has reportedly saved more than 200 jobs and gave a new lease of life to the previously fledging Payless brand. According to a press release from the management team, the Payless work forces are also extremely excited about what the future holds. The TMP is a comprehensive and interactive program that covers the key themes necessary to position a company to list on the BSE.
The program is administered by experts within the listing ecosystem and seeks to bring the potential issuers closer to the listings advisers, investors and leaders of already listed companies. “As a strategic initiative, the BSE decided to set up this mentorship program in a bid to assist SMEs to strategize, corporatize and acclimatize in order to list to access equity finance and expand operations,” said the BSE.
The TMP will avail to SMEs practical insights, knowledge and feedback from institutional investors, increased awareness of the BSE listing requirements as well as an intimate network of advisors and CEOs of listed companies. After training, Payless will graduate with improve governance structures and better knowledge of articulating its business strategy. The retailer will also gain increased visibility through BSE marketing platforms.
Despite Covid-19 interrupting trade worldwide, exporting companies in Botswana which benefited from the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) services realised P2.96 billion in export earnings during the period from April 2020 to March 2021.
In the preceding financial year, the sale of locally manufactured products in foreign markets had registered export revenue of P2, 427 billion against a target of P3, 211 billion BITC, which celebrates 10 years since establishment, continues to carry out several initiatives targeted towards expanding the Botswana export base in line with Botswana’s desire to be an export led economy, underpinned by a robust export promotion programme in line with the National Export Strategy.
The main products exported were swamp cruiser boats, pvc tanks and pvc pipes, ignition wiring sets, semi-precious stones, veterinary medicines, hair braids, coal, textiles (towels and t-shirts) and automobile batteries. These goods were destined mainly for South Africa, Zimbabwe, Austria, Germany, and Namibia.
With Covid-19 still a problem, BITC continues to roll out targeted virtual trade promotion missions across the SADC region with a view to seeking long-lasting market opportunities for locally manufactured products.
Recently, the Centre facilitated participation for Botswana companies at the Eastern Cape Development Council (ECDC) Virtual Export Symposium, the Botswana-Zimbabwe Virtual Trade Mission, the Botswana-Zambia Virtual Trade Mission, Botswana-South Africa Virtual Buyer/Seller Mission as well as the Botswana-Namibia Virtual Trade Mission.
BITC has introduced an e-Exporting programme aimed at assisting Botswana exporters to conduct business on several recommended e-commerce platforms. Due to the advent of COVID-19, BITC is currently promoting e-trade among companies through the establishment of e-commerce platforms and is assisting local companies to embrace digitisation by adopting e-commerce platforms to reach export markets as well as assisting local e-commerce platform developers to scale up their online marketplaces.
During the 2019/2020 financial year, BITC embarked on several initiatives targeted at growing exports in the country; facilitation of participation of local companies in international trade platforms in order to enhance export sales of local products and services into external markets.
BITC also helped in capacity development of local companies to compete in global markets and the nurturing of export awareness and culture among local manufacturers in order to enhance their skills and knowledge of export processes; and in development and implementation of trade facilitation tools that look to improve the overall ease of doing business in Botswana.
As part of building export capacity in 2019/20, six (6) companies were selected to initiate a process to be Organic and Fair Trade Certified. These companies are; Blue Pride (Pty) Ltd, Motlopi Beverages, Moringa Technology Industries (Pty) Ltd, Sleek Foods, Maungo Craft and Divine Morula.
In 2019 seven companies which were enrolled in the Botswana Exporter Development Programme were capacitated with attaining BOBS ISO 9001: 2015 certification. Three (3) companies successfully attained BOBS ISO 9001:2015 certification. These were Lithoflex (Pty) Ltd, General Packaging Industries and Power Engineering.
BITC’s annual flagship exhibition, Global Expo Botswana (GEB) to create opportunities for trade and strategic synergies between local and international companies. The Global Expo Botswana) is a premier business to business exposition that attracts FDI, expansion of domestic investment, promotion of exports of locally produced goods and services and promotion of trade between Botswana and other countries.
The portal also provides information on; measures, legal documents, and forms and procedures needed by Botswana companies that intend on doing business abroad. BITC continues to assist both potential and existing local manufacturing and service entities to realise their export ambitions. This assistance is pursued through the ambit of the Botswana Exporter Development Programme (BEDP) and the Trade Promotion Programme.
BEDP was revised in 2020 in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with a vision to developing a diversified export-based economy. The programme focuses mostly on capacitating companies to reach export readiness status.
Prices for goods and services in this country continue to increase, with the latest figures from Statistics Botswana showing that in May 2022, inflation rate rose to 11.9 percent from 9.6 percent recorded in April 2022.
According to Statistics Botswana update released this week, the largest upward contributions to the annual inflation rate in May 2022 came from increase in the cost of transport (7.2 percent), housing, water, electricity, gas & other Fuels (1.4 percent), food & non-alcoholic beverages (1.1 percent) and miscellaneous goods & services (0.8 percent).
With regard to regional inflation rates between April and May 2022, the Rural Villages inflation rate went up by 2.5 percentage points, from 9.6 percent in April to 12.1 percent in May 2022, according to the government owned statistics entity.
In the monthly update the entity stated that the Urban Villages inflation rate stood at 11.8 percent in May 2022, a rise of 2.4 percentage points from the April rate of 9.4 percent, whereas the Cities & Towns inflation rate recorded an increase of 1.9 percentage points, from 9.9 percent in April to 11.8 percent in May.
Commenting on the national Consumer Price Index, the entity stated that it went up by 2.6 percent, from 120.1 in April to 123.2 in May 2022. Statisticians from the entity noted that the transport group index registered an increase of 7.3 percent, from 134.5 in April to 144.2 in May, mainly due to the rise in retail pump prices for petrol and diesel by P1.54 and P2.74 per litre respectively, which effected on the 13th of May 2022.
The food & non-alcoholic beverages group index rose by 2.6 percent, from 118.6 in April 2022 to 121.6 in May 2022 and this came as a result of increase in prices of oils & fats, vegetables, bread & cereal, mineral waters, soft drinks, fruits & vegetables juices, fish (Fresh, Chilled & Frozen) and meat (Fresh, Chilled & Frozen), according to the Statisticians.
The Statisticians said the furnishing, household equipment & routine maintenance group index rose by 1.0 percent, from 111.6 in April 2022 to 112.7 in May 2022 and this was attributed to a general increase in prices of household appliances, glassware, tableware & household utensils and goods & services for household maintenance.
The prices for clothing & footwear group index moved from 109.4 to 110.4, registering a rise of 0.9 percent during the period under review. Bank of Botswana has projected higher inflation in the short term, associated with the likelihood of further increases in domestic fuel prices in response to persistent high international oil prices and added that the possible increase in public service salaries could add also upward pressure to inflation in this country.