Over 1.1 million people now have access to banking services in the country, translating to 70 percent of the adult population and an increase of 10.7 percent compared to 2017, the Bank of Botswana (BoB) announced in its Banking Supervision Annual Report for 2018.
â€¨â€¨In 2017, the bankable adult population stood at 64.4 percent translating to one million people then.â€¨â€¨"Access to banking services, as measured by the ratio of number of depositors to adult population, improved from 64.4 percent in 2017 to 70 percent in 2018. The number of depositors grew by 10.7 percent from 1 million in 2017 to 1.1 million in 2018, while adult population increased by 2.1 percent from 1.56 million," the BoB said.â€¨â€¨
During the period under review, Botswana had 10 licensed commercial banks and three statutory banks.â€¨â€¨"During 2018, five bureaux de change were licensed, while nine bureaux de change licences were revoked. As a result, the number of licensed bureaux de change decreased from 61 in 2017 to 56 in 2018," BoB said in its review of the banking sector operations in 2018.â€¨â€¨The ongoing restructuring operations by banks resulted in the opening of new branches and closure of some. As a result, banking operations increased from 143 to 147 in 2018.
The number of automated teller machines (ATMs) also increased from 473 to 523.â€¨â€¨"Most of the new ATMs have more functions, including deposit taking capabilities, thus improving convenient access to transactional banking services. With respect to geographical distribution of the branch network, the South East District, which includes the capital city, Gaborone, led the concentration of branches at 64, followed by the Central District at 33.
Central District had an increase of one branch, while the branch network for the other districts was unchanged," BoB said.â€¨â€¨Commercial banks maintained a dominant share of total industry asset , deposits, loans and advances compared to statutory banks. On the other hand, the market shape of statutory banks fell slightly with respect to total assets, deposits, loans and advances, with 6.7 percent, 5.8 percent and 7.7 percent at the end of 2018, respectively, compared to 7.5 percent, 6 percent and 8.1 percent in 2017.â€¨â€¨
"Five banks continued to dominate the banking sector and accounted for 88.7 percent, 87.9 percent and 87.8 percent of total assets, total deposits, and total loans and advances, respectively, in 2018, although slightly lower than the respective proportions of 89.5 percent, 88.5 percent and 88.7 percent reported in 2017."â€¨â€¨On pension fund assets, the ratio fell from 45.5 percent in 2017 to 41.6 percent in 2018, owing to a slight decrease of 3.7 percent in valuation of pension funds.â€¨â€¨"
The aggregate household savings in the banking sector and pension funds was P92.8 billion compared to the household borrowing of P35.1 billion. On this measure, the household sector was, therefore, a net saver in the economy," BoB said.â€¨â€¨It added that total loans and advances were at P58.3 billion compared to P54.2 billion in 2017, while foreign currency dominated loans increased by 19.1 percent.â€¨"As result, the ratio of foreign currency dominated loans to gross loans and advances increased to 7.8 percent in 2018, while it was 7.1 percent in 2018.â€¨â€¨"All banks complied with the Foreign Currency Exposure Directive by maintaining foreign currency exposure to unimpaired capital ratios within the required 15 percent, five percent and 30 percent limits for major, minor and overall foreign currency exposures, respectively."â€¨â€¨
Total credit to the household sector increased by 6.2 percent from P33.1 billion in 2017 to P35.1 billion. The shape of mortgages, however, declined to 27 percent in 2018 compared to 28 percent in 2017, while the proportions for credit cards and motor vehicles were unchanged at three percent and five percent respectively.â€¨â€¨The private sector maintained the highest share of deposits of 71 percent, while the share deposits for the public (Government and Parastatals) and household sector remained at nine percent and 20 percent, respectively, in the same period.â€¨â€¨On employment in the banking sector, BoB said the number of people directly employed increased from 5 176 in 2017 to 5 270, representing a 1.8 percent growth, albeit at a slower pace than the 2.4 percent in 2017.â€¨â€¨"
While there was an increase in staff complement for some banks, there was a decrease with respect to seven banks. The decline in employment at these banks was due to retrenchments, staff resignation and closure or merging of branches by some banks.â€¨â€¨"The number of expatriates employed by the banking industry fell from 66 in 2017 to 60 in 2018. Overall, the staff complement for small banks increased by 3.1 percent, from 485 in 2017 to 500 in 2018, for the large banks, the level of employment rose by 2.2 percent from 4 137 in 2017 to 4 226," the BoB announced.â€¨â€¨Banks also continued to diversify, develop and improve their products and services to meet evolving customer needs and to accommodate and harness industry and market innovation in areas of potential business growth.â€¨â€¨"
During 2018, banks introduced 14 new products and services covering a wide range of banking services, namely, transactional accounts and mobile-banking services were designed to foster growth of customer base and retention of existing ones (thus financial inclusion), hence mainly featured enhancements and lower service fees," it said.â€¨â€¨The BoB also conducted on site examination of 10 bureaux de change to access their compliance with the Bank's regulations.â€¨â€¨"The on-site examination indicated that one bureau de change complied with all the provisions of the regulations, while all others violated various aspects of the provisions of regulations. Six bureaux de change were fined a total of P12 320 for violating regulations.
Two bureaux de change were cautioned for non-compliance, while another had its licence suspended for three months. The suspended bureau de change subsequently ceased operation and voluntarily surrendered its licence," the Bank said.â€¨â€¨It noted that most of the recurring violations by bureaux de change related to failure to take reasonable measures to obtain information about the true identity of persons on whose behalf financial transactions were conducted and failure to continually train employees.
Following a devastating first half of the year 2020 due to COVID-19, the global diamond industry started gaining positive momentum towards the end of the year as key markets entered into thanks giving and holiday season.
However Bruce Cleaver, Chief Executive Officer of De Beers Group cautioned that the industry is not out of the woods yet, citing prevailing challenges ahead into 2021.
The first half of 2020 was characterized by some of the worst challenges in history of global diamond trade.
The midstream, where rough diamonds are traded in wholesale and bulk to cutters and polishers, was for the most part of second quarter 2020, suffocated by international travel restrictions as countries responded to the contagious Corona Virus.
This halted movement of buyers and shipment of the rough goods , resulting in unprecedented decline of sales, in turn ballooning stockpiles as the upstream operations produced with little uptake by the midstream.
The situation was exacerbated by muted demand in the downstream where jewelry industries and tail end retailers closed to further curb the spread of COVID-19.
However towards the end of third quarter getting into the last quarter of the year, demand in both midstream and downstream started to steadily pick up as countries relaxed COVID-19 restrictions.
De Beers, the world’s largest diamond producer by value started reporting significant recovery in sales in the sixth and seventh cycle, figures began to reflect an upswing in sentiment as well as increase in uptake of rough goods by midstream.
Sales for the sixth cycle amounted to $116 Million, following a sharp downturn in the previous cycles, significant jump was realized during the seventh cycle, registering $320 million, an over 175 % upswing when gauged against the proceeding cycle.
De Beers noted that diamond markets showed some continued improvement throughout August and into September as Covid-19 restrictions continued to ease in various locations.
“Manufacturers focused on meeting retail demand for polished diamonds, particularly in certain product areas, accordingly, we saw a recovery in rough diamond demand in the seventh sales cycle of the year, reflecting these retail trends, following several months of minimal manufacturing activity and disrupted demand patterns in all major markets,” said De Beers Chief Executive, Bruce Cleaver in September last year.
The diamond mining behemoth continued to register impressive sales in the eighth and ninth cycle signaling the industry could end the year on a positive note.
The momentum was indeed carried into the last cycle of the year. The value of rough diamond sales (Global Sightholder Sales and Auctions) for De Beers’ tenth sales cycle of 2020 amounted to $440 million, a significant increase from the 2019 tenth sales cycle value.
Against what seemed like a positive year end that would split into the New Year Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group, however warned the industry not to count eggs before they hatch.
“Positive consumer demand for diamond jewellery resulting from the holiday season is supporting the continuation of retail orders for polished diamonds from the diamond industry’s midstream sector. This in turn supported steady demand for De Beers’s rough diamonds at our final sales cycle of 2020,” Cleaver had said in December.
In caution the De Beers Chief noted that “While the diamond industry ends the year on a positive note, we must recognise the risks that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic presents to sector recovery both for the rest of this year and as we head into 2021.”
All segments of the supply chain were severely impacted by the global lockdown measures introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the first half of 2020.
After a strong US holiday season at the end of 2019, the rough diamond industry started 2020 positively as the midstream restocked and sentiment improved.
However, from February 2020, the Covid-19 outbreak began to have a significant impact on diamond jewellery retail sales and supply chain, with many jewelers suspending all polished purchases and/or delaying payments to their suppliers.
Rough diamond sales were materially affected by lockdowns and travel restrictions, delaying the shipping of rough diamonds into cutting and trading centers and preventing buyers from attending sales events.
These resulted in significant decline in total revenue for the business in the first six months of 2020. Total revenue decreased by 54% to $1.2 billion from $2.6 billion registered in the prior half year period ended 30 June 2019.
For the entire first six (6) months of the year 2020 De Beers Rough diamonds sales fell drastically to $1.0 billion from $2.3 billion in the prior H1 period ended 30 June 2019. Sales volumes decreased by 45% to 8.5 million carats compared to 15.5 million carats registered in the prior period.
Next month Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka will face the nation to deliver Botswana‘s first budget speech since COVID-19 pandemic put the world on devastating economic trajectory.
The pandemic that broke out in late 2019 in China has put the entire world on unprecedented chaos ,killing over P1 million people across the globe , shattering economies and almost rendering the year 2020 – a 12 months stretch of complete setback.
The 2021/22 budget speech will come at time when Botswana’s economy is still trying to emerge out of this.
National lockdowns and local travel restrictions have hit small medium enterprises hard, while international travel restrictions halted movement of both good and people, delivering by far some of the heaviest and worst catastrophic blows on the diamond industry and tourism sector, the likes of which this country has never seen before on its largest economic sectors.
As Minister Matsheka faces parliament next month, the reality on the ground is that Botswana’s national current cash resource, the Government Investment Account (GIA) is depleting at lightning speed.
On the other hand the COVID-19 economic mess is prevailing, the virus is reported to have taken a new dangerous shape of a deadly variant, spreading like fueled veld fire and causing some of the world’s super powers back to tough restrictions of lockdown.
According official figures released by Bank of Botswana, in October 2020 the GIA was running at P6 billion compared to the P18.3 billion held in the account in October 2019.
However reports indicate that the account could be currently holding just about P3 billion. The draw down from the GIA has been by exacerbated by declining diamond revenue, the country‘s largest cash cow. The sector was experiencing significant revenue decline even before COVID-19 struck.
When the National Development Plan (NDP) 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at a budget deficits.
This as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.
Cumulatively, since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances.
Taking into account the COVID-19 economic mess in 2020/21 financial year, the budget deficit could add up to P20 billion after revised figures.
Drawing down from government cash balances to finance these budget deficits meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account, hence the near depletion of this buffer.
Meanwhile should Botswana’s revenue streams completely dry up to zero levels; the country would only have 11 months, before calling out for humanitarian aids and international donors, because foreign reserves are also on slow down.
During 2019, the foreign exchange reserves declined by 8.7 percent, from Seventy One Billion, Four Hundred Million Pula (P71.4 billion) in December 2018 to Sixty Five Billion, Three Hundred Million Pula (P65.3 billion) in December 2019.
The reserves declined further in 2020, falling by 2.3 percent to Sixty Three Billion, Seven Hundred Million Pula (P63.7 billion) in July 2020. This was revealed by President Masisi during State of the Nation Address in November last year.
The decrease was mainly due to foreign exchange outflows associated with Government obligations and economy-wide import requirements.
However latest statistics(October 2020) from Bank of Botswana reveal that Botswana’s foreign reserves are estimated at P58.4 billion, with government’s share of these funds significantly low.
Government has since introduced several measures to contain costs and control expenditure with the most recent intervention being the halting of recruitment in government departments and parastatals.
Furthermore, Value Added Tax has been signaled to go up from 12% to 14% in April this year with more hikes and service fees anticipated as government embarks on unprecedented domestic revenue mobilization.
Botswana Stock Exchange listed hotel group Cresta Marakanelo Limited (“CML” or “the Company”) announced the signing of a lease agreement for Phakalane Golf Estate Hotel & Convention Centre, which will see CML extend its footprint by adding the 4 star Gaborone property to its already impressive portfolio. The agreement is subject to regulatory approvals therefore the effective date of the transaction is expected to be 1 February 2021.
CML brings a wealth of expertise to the lease and despite the difficult year for the tourism and hospitality industry, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, CML remains confident in the recovery of the sector and the need to invest in expanding the Company’s footprint.
CML Managing Director, Mr Mokwena Morulane commented: “Our continued efforts to improve our offerings, understand the market dynamics and modern day trends in the face of global challenges, means we are ready for the changing face of tourism and international travel, and this addition to the Cresta portfolio signals our confidence in the future.
“Despite the headwinds faced in 2020, Management has continued to focus on projects that enhance CML’s product offering such as the refurbishments at Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa in the tourism capital Kasane and the ongoing refurbishment of Cresta Marang Residency in Francistown. The signing of the lease for the 4 star Phakalane Golf Estate Hotel & Conference Centre is a great addition to the Cresta portfolio and will unlock shareholder value in the future.
“We remain vigilant to value-enhancing opportunities including acquisitions or leases, after having reconsidered our pipeline against current and expected market conditions.”
Commenting on the lease agreement, the Chief Executive Officer, Mr S Parthiban, speaking on behalf of Phakalane noted; “No hotel chain holds as much expertise in the region, understands our local culture and tastes and what hospitality is about better than Cresta Marakanelo Limited. We believe that the renovations done to the property has made Phakalane Hotel and Convention Centre a unique product in Botswana and at par with international facilities. We believe that this lease will benefit not only us as Phakalane , but the market in general as Cresta has run hotels successfully in Botswana for over 30 years and is therefore expected to bring new offerings that appeal to the local and international markets as well as the residents and visitors to the Golf Estate. We look forward to a long mutually beneficial relationship with Cresta.”
CML like the rest of the tourism and hospitality industry and the entire value chain was hard hit by lockdowns with the surge of COVID-19. By investing during the low period, the company hopes to realise the future value of spending time in preparing for the new consumer dynamics and behaviour. Despite business interruptions as a result of a six-month long state of emergency and several lock-down periods declared by the Government of Botswana to limit the spread of COVID-19, the Company is starting to record an increase in occupancies, which bodes well for the recovery of the industry and the Company’s future prospects.