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African countries too small to establish enough scale to diversify to great extent

Diversification has been a watchword for African economies, but what are they actually doing about it? The 2014 oil price drop was felt by many African economies, which discovered that they were over-reliant on natural resources. The need to avoid a repeat and to find more revenue streams to support industrialization has made diversification a critical objective of these governments.

‘’Historically most African countries have relied on monoculture or at least export of primary products and natural resources’’ says Andrew Skipper, head of Hogans Lovells in this recent report. ‘’The challenge is many countries is to build infrastructure and get power in place for them to implement their universally acclaimed aspirations’’ It is a process that has already begun. Skipper notes that in May 2018, oil-producing Nigeria’s other industries accounted for 91% of its GDP, led by agriculture, and agribusiness is one of the main sectors of interest for countries looking to expand their range, along with entertainment, tourism, education, health and fintech.


The limiting factor is scale, he explains ‘’Most individuals countries in Africa, with obvious exceptions, are too small to establish enough scale to diversify to any great extent’’ The signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement AfCFTA in 2018 in part intended ‘’to provide sufficient scale from intra-Africa trade to encourage diversification’’ says Skipper. ‘’By driving official intra-African trade from its current low base of around 15% to something even approaching the European Union’s 67% this should lead to diversification.

Interest in the education and healthcare sectors are linked due to interest from universities in the United States and elsewhere, says Washington, DC-based Hogan Lovells partner William Ferreira. ‘’This interest in Africa is much greater than simply the nuts and bolts of an education programme,’’ he says, identifying investment in ‘’treatment and care programmes, public health programmes-HIV  and AIDS in particular, clinical trials- because these schools have medical schools- and capacity building programmes’’

That includes public or private sector investors funding the establishment of physical infrastructure, supply chains and providing specialist knowledge. The United States, with its large private education sector, has been a particular player in this regard, including distance education companies selling courses and software. Ferreira has seen particular activity in Nigeria and South Africa, with ‘’a tremendous amount of interest in Zambia’’ and it is a sector which he only expects to grow in the coming years, saying governments are beginning to see ‘’how important it is to have a vibrant education sector, because not only is that important for the vast numbers of youth across Africa, but it has been proved to be an economic engine across many other countries’’

He continues ‘’When there are strong vibrant universities, they have relationships into industry and they have relationships across borders, and there are economic opportunities that come from that’’ Few sectors have generated as much buzz over the past few years as fintech. There has been soaring interest in a wave of start-ups tackling a range of social and business problems, most notably providing banking to people who could not previously access it. Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have led the way on this, followed by South Africa, and corporations including goggle and IBM are investing in the technology.

James Black, Hogan Lovells counsel in London, notes that with the market still dominated by start-ups, the capital in Africa does not yet match the 54 Billion US Dollars in the Americas or 34 billion US Dollars in Europe, according to a recent KPMG report, but ‘’give that a few years and there will be a huge amount of investment from investment banks, from retail banks and angel investors and the like’’

The other main area of interest has been in financial services for small and medium-sized enterprises, explains Amina Boshoff, a partner in Johannesburg, ‘’on boarding costs for banks have increased over the past decade. It has become more and more difficult for traditional financial institutions to finance small borrowers’’ this has created space for new technology-focused banks and alternative lenders to operate.

Professor Angela Itzikowitz, of the University of the Witwatersrand, says the arrival of the digital banks shows the demand for reduced costs and alternative approaches and that banks are now competing with mobile operators. ‘’while consumers do not have bank accounts, unbanked or under banked, they all have cell phones’’. This places a premium on interoperability, a big focus for mobile operators at the moment.

‘’some of the players are on a fairly robust acquisitive drive, acquiring fintechs, says Itzikowitz, highlighting Goldman Sachs’ investment in mobile banking company JUMO, which operates in many countries across Africa. ‘’coupling the fintech activity with the investment driver is the agency banking model, where banks are partnering with non-bank fintech companies and allowing the companies to conduct banking activity on the back of the bank’’


‘’South Africa is really well placed to get a lot of that investment directed towards it’’, says Black, pointing out that it is English-speaking and has a ‘’focus on rule of law and a well-established legal system as well as a fairly stable economy and being fairly stable politically’’
Meanwhile, recent developments have further changed conceptions of what is possible. ‘’Block chain has brought a fresh breath to the whole industry in terms of the transparency of the technology and reducing that costs of operation’’ argues Alice Blazevic, an associate partner with Ugandan firm. The technology is allowing fintech companies to bypass banks for online money and bringing transparency. ‘’taking care of financial inclusion’’ she says

However, unhelpful attitudes from government were pervasive early on this space too, says Blazevic. ‘’It was the private sector companies that were pushing and they received a lot of resistance at first,’’ due to a lack of understanding about what the technology was and fears due to ‘’a misconception between block chain and crypocurrency’’’’. Time shave already begun to change, however, and ‘’there has been a complete turnaround’’ with governments becoming more helpful, particularly in Uganda, which now has block chain associations and academics.

The need for good regulation is not exclusive to this sector, with Skipper pointing out that all industries ‘’need to have well-developed regulatory structures that are sufficiently advanced to deal with the relevant sector’’, with a particular need for ‘’certainty of policy, rule of law and relative stability in security and currency terms’’ ‘’So many of the shareholders who are buying share in this fintechs are actually foreign companies’’, says Blazevic, and she expects to see more growth in the near future.

‘’I t is definitely not going back in terms of the mainstream financial sector, that is now completely gone, because right now the experience people are having in the financial sector, it doesn’t make sense  to go back  to the traditional’’ That need to leave the traditional behind is one which will pervade many industries if they are to flourish and allow African countries to diversify.

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Payless to partake in BSE’s Flagship Tshipidi program

28th June 2022
PAYLESS

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.

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Business

BITC assisted companies rake in P2.96 billion in export earnings

21st June 2022
BITC-CEO-Keletsositse-Olebile

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.

Another tool used for export development by BITC is the Botswana Trade Portal, which has experienced some growth in terms of user acceptance and utilisation globally. The portal provides among others a catalogue of information on international, regional and bilateral trade agreements to which Botswana is a party, including the applicable Rules, Regulations and Requirements and the Opportunities for Botswana Businesses on a product by product basis.

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.

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Inflation up 2.3 percent in May

21st June 2022
Inflation

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.

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