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The conundrum of State Owned Enterprises

Over the past 10 financial years, Botswana‘s national coffers have been on the receiving end of poorly performing state owned enterprises (SOEs).These quasi- governmental organizations have been returning to authorities’ year and year out to seek more capital investment, some seeking  guarantee to loan facilities offered by commercial banks.

However even up to today the financial performance of these institutions is still very much found wanting. After a series of restructurings, remodeling, and retrenchments, among other things,  state owned enterprises space remains a no go area for Botswana to derive any source of pride from, and  one of the burning issues as the nation goes into national polls next week. Earlier this year, Auditor General reported that almost P1 billion pula of public funds has been drowned by 18 of the biggest state-owned enterprises in the 2018/19 financial year. In total, these businesses have registered combined loss adding to P742, 187, 254.00, with 9 parastatals yet to submit their annual reports as at May this year, signaling possibilities of losses figure going up.


THE BACKDROP

Following the 2008 global financial crises the country’s state owned investment arm Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) was the first to be hit, registering losses and failing to pay dividends to government. BDC then whirled into downward trajectories in the following years, marred with allegations of corruption, poor investment decisions. Some of its investment businesses liquidated and collapsed, such as the Palapye Glass project which was later auctioned at just over P10 million after hundreds of millions of investment.

Another culprit is Botswana Meat Commission (BMC), the once globally celebrated and financial sound meat producer registered a net loss of P229.7 million in 2016, following a net profit of P332.6 million in 2015. The net profit realized in 2015 was due to Government cash injection of P600 million. BMC was recently reported to be in over P40 million debts. National Development Bank has  also in the recent years  drowned into financial crises, failing to service its government loans and failing to retrieve its loans from its clientele, thus making losses year and year out. NDB recorded a net loss of P168.2 million in 2017, compared to a net loss of P21.2 million in 2016. NDB was given P400 million by Ministry of Finance during 2016/17 financial year, while P200 million was disbursed during the 2017/18 year.

National utility outfits in Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) registered a net loss of P140.2 million in 2017; compared to a net loss of P99.6 million in 2016 while Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) on the other hand recorded a net loss of P137.6 million in 2017, from a net profit of P119.4 million in 2016. National commercial flights outfit, Air Botswana registered a net loss of P12.4 million in 2017, compared to a larger net loss of P86.1 million in 2016.In 2018 Air Botswana recorded a loss of P42.10 million while Motor Vehicle Accident Fund recorded a loss  of P126.49 million. Botswana Agriculture Marketing Board BAMB recorded a loss P65.36

On a major highlight, in February 2016 government agreed to guarantee a 1 billion pula loan acquired from Barclays Bank by BCL, a state owned mine, 8 months later the country’s oldest copper and nickel mine was shut down sending over 5000 direct employees to streets. It was reported that 3 weeks before a decision was taken to close BCL , the company’s management had submitted a proposal requesting another P1 billion from the government, and decision makers reached a consensus that enough was enough, no more bail out.

CALLS FOR PRIVATIZATION

Calls have been rife across all walks of political and economic commentary, with observers urging government to exit doing business with a view to give space for private sector. In 2016, while speaking at Grant Thornton Private Growth Business Awards, former cabinet minister and business man, Charles Tibone indicated his lack of faith in the public enterprises in terms of their growth potential owing to their continued non-performance. “What is even more concerning is that the majority of these parastatals businesses are chronically unprofitable, they operate on negative returns on investment or on life support from Government through subsidies,” he said.

Tibone noted that a case can be made for parastatals that provide a social service like Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) or those which regulate sectors such as Botswana Communication Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) or Civil Aviation Authority (CAAB) not investment business, banking and financial services , logistics and airline businesses.
Last year former Member of Parliament for Tati East, Samson Guma Moyo made a public call to government, urging the state to fast track disposing of Botswana Development Corporation (BDC), Local Entrepreneurship Agency (LEA), National Development Bank (NDB), & Citizen Entrepreneurship & Development Agency (CEDA) into one competitive development Bank. Moyo said the aforementioned parastatals were a complete waste of government limited resources as their mandates and purpose of establishment were more or less the same and a duplicate of one another.

RESTRUCTURING, MERGING PRIVITISATION EFFORTS

One of the ministries that house a good number of parastatals is Ministry of Investment, Trade & Industry (MITI). Currently 80 % of MITI total recurrent budget allocation goes to funding its parastatals. MITI houses 8 parastatals and 3 state owned enterprises making a total of 11.In the 2017/18 MITI channeled over P753 million pula on its 9 parastatals which include CEDA, BITC and LEA amongst others compared to P721 563 220 spent in the previous financial year being 2016/17.

Figures indicate that The Citizen Entrepreneurship Development Agency (CEDA) has been receiving the largest share of this money from the past 5 financial years. In 2013/14 CEDA received over P340 million, in 2017/18 the agency received over 298 million pula. CEDA which is a financing agency to promote entrepreureship amongst local’s suggestion were already proposing its merger with BDC and /or NDB. Last year Minister of Investment Trade and Industry Bogolo Kenewendo announced that a process was ongoing to merge some of her ministry parastatals.

In February this year government through PEEPA announced that  state owned airline Air Botswana currently running four operations in house, being passage business, ground handling facilities, engineering and maintenance, as well as cargo services would be restructured.“We want to unbundle it and asses these divisions separately and propose independent operations of this segments so they run efficiently” he said. With BMC, PEEPA CEO said in an interview with WeekendPost in February this year that following government‘s decision to liberalize the beef industry and open up the market with regard to beef oversea exportation , more players will emerge  mirroring the end BMC monopoly.

WE STILL NEED STATE OWNED ENTREPRISES – PROFESSOR LUMUMBA

In this wake of privatization wave, experts and observers however still note that Africa still needs state owned enterprises to realize its developmental goals, transformation of its economies and creation of employment for its people.   Renowned Lawyer, thought leader and international pan African speaker Professor Lumumba is of the view that the African Agenda of high income economies will require significant government participations.

In a interview with local journalists in Gaborone last week Lumumba said African countries should borrow a leaf from Scandinavian countries in the area of successfully combing government participation with private sector for economic growth “I don’t agree with the talk that private sector is the solution to all our problems, we need to combine public ownership and mix it up with private sector DNA, by doing so we ensure that the social investment aspect of the business is take care off” he said.

Observers say non performance of State owned enterprises in Africa and Botswana in particular is an issue of poor management, political interference and corruption. “Norway, Sweden, Demark and other Scandinavian countries have successfully managed to combine commercial interest with best interest of the general population, the private sector comes with good corporate governance and wining business models, and government comes with social investment interest”

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Fighting vulture poisoning in KAZA region.

3rd February 2023
As a response to avert vulture poisoning currently going on in Botswana and KAZA region, Birdlife Botswana has collaborated with three other partners (BirdWatch Zambia, BirdLife International & Birdlife Zimbabwe) to tackle wildlife poisoning which by extension negatively affect vulture populations.

The Director of Birdlife Botswana, Motshereganyi Virat Kootshositse has revealed in an interview that the project which is funded by European Union’s main goal is to reduce poisoning related vultures’ death and consequently other wildlife species death within the KAZA region.

He highlighted that Chobe district in Botswana has been selected as a pilot site as it has experienced rampant incidents of vulture poisoning for the past few months. In August this year at least 50 endangered white backed vultures were reported dead at Chobe National Park, Botswana after feeding on a buffalo carcass laced with poison.  In November this year again 43 white backed vultures were found dead and two alive after feeding on a zebra suspected to have poisoned.  Other selected pilots’ sites are Kafue in Zambia and Hwange in Zimbabwe.

Kootshositse further explained they have established a national and regional Wildlife Poisoning Committee. He added that as for the national committee they have engaged various departments such as Crop Productions, Agro Chemicals, Department of Veterinary Services, Department of Wildlife and National Parks and other NGOs such as Raptors Botswana to come together and find a long-lasting solution to address wildlife poisoning in Botswana. ‘Let’s have a strategy or a plan together to tackle wildlife poisoning,’ he stated

He also decried that there is gap in the availability of data about vulture poisoning or wildlife in general. ‘If we have a central point for data, it will help in terms of reporting and advocacy’, he stated

He added that the regional committee comprises of law enforcement officers such as BDF and Botswana police, village leadership such as Village Development Committee and Kgosi. ‘We need to join hand together and protect the wildlife we have as this will increase our profile for conservation and this alone enhances our visitation and boost our local economy,’ he noted

Kootshositse noted that Birdlife together with DWNP also addressed series of meeting in some villages in the Chobe region recently. The purpose of kgotla meetings was to raise awareness on the conservation and protection of vultures in Chobe West communities.

‘After realizing that vulture poisoning in the Chobe areas become frequent, we realise that we need to do something about it.  ‘We did a public awareness by addressing several kgotla meetings in some villages in the Chobe west,’ he stated

He noted that next year they are going to have another round of consultations around the Chobe areas and the approach is to engage the community into planning process. ‘Residents should be part of the plan of actions and we are working with farmers committee in the areas to address vulture poisoning in the area, ‘he added

He added that they have found out that some common reasons for poisoning wildlife are farmers targeting predators such as lions in retaliation to killing of their livestock. Another common incident cross border poaching in the Chobe area as poachers will kills an elephant and poison its carcass targeting vultures because of their aerial circling alerting authorities about poaching activities.

Kootshositse noted that in the last cases it was disheartening the incidents occurred three months apart. He added that for the first time they found that some of the body parts of some vultures were missing. He added harvesting of body parts of vultures is not a common practice in Botswana, although it is used in some parts of Africa. ‘We suspect that someone took advantage of the availability of carcasses and started harvesting their body parts,’

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Giant in the making: Everton Mlalazi

3rd February 2023

The music industry is at a point where artists are jostling for space because there are so many aspirants trying to get their big break, thus creating stiff competition.

In the music business it’s about talent and positioning. You need to be at the right place at the right time with the right people around you to propel you forward.
Against all odds, Everton Mlalazi has managed to takeover the gospel scene effortlessly.
To him, it’s more than just a breakthrough to stardom, but a passion as well as mission directly appointed by the Lord.

Within a short space of 2 years after having decided to persue a solo career, Mlalazi has already made it into international music scene, with his music receiving considerable play on several gospel television and radio stations in Botswana including other regional stations like Trace Africa, One Gospel, Metro FM in South Africa, Hope FM in Kenya and literally all broadcast stations in Zimbabwe.

It doesn’t only stop there, as the musician has already been nominated 2 times and 2 awards which are Bulawayo Arts Awards (BAA) best Male artists 2022, StarFM listerners Choice Award, Best Newcomer 2021 and ZIMA Best Contemporary Gospel 2022, MLA awards Best Male artist & Best Gospel Artist 2022.

Everton’s inspiration stems from his ultimate passion and desire to lead people into Godly ways and it seems it’s only getting started.
The man is a gospel artist to put on your radar.

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African countries call on WHO to increase funding

2nd February 2023

Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti says Africa member states call on World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable resource allocation for 2024-2025. Dr Dikoloti was speaking this week at the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

He said countries agreed that there is need to address the budget and funding imbalances by increasing the programme budget share of countries and regions to 75% for the next year.

“The proposed budget for 2024-2025 marks an important milestone as it is the first in Programme Budget in which country offices will be allocated more than half of the total budget for the biennium. We highly welcome this approach which will enable the organization to deliver on its mandate while fulfilling the expectations for transparency, efficiency and accountability.”

The Botswana Health Minister commended member states on the extension of the General Programme of Work (GPD 13) and the Secretariat work to monitor the progress towards the triple billion targets, and the health-related SDGs.

“We welcome the Director’s general proposed five priorities which have crystalized into the “five Ps” that are aligned with the GPW 13 extension. Impact can only be achieved through close coordination with, and support to national health authorities. As such, the strengthening of country offices is instrumental, with particular focus on strengthening national health systems and on promoting more equitable access to health services.”

According to Dr Dikoloti, the majority of countries with UHC index that is below the global median are in the WHO Africa region. “For that, we call on the WHO to enhance capacity at the regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs both technical and financial support in order to effectively address and support country needs.”

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