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Global economic growth hits record low since 2008/09 recession

The International Monetary Fund, a global economic think tank based in Washington, United States has projected global economic growth at 3.0 percent for 2019, its slowest pace since the 2008/09 global financial crisis. This according to the World Economic Outlook report released by IMF on Tuesday is a serious climb-down from 3.8 percent in 2017, when the world was in a synchronized upswing.

The subdued growth is attributed to rising trade barriers; elevated uncertainty surrounding trade and geopolitics; idiosyncratic factors causing macroeconomic strain in several emerging market economies; and structural factors, such as low productivity growth and aging demographics in advanced economies. Global growth in 2020 is projected to improve modestly to 3.4 percent, a downward revision of 0.2 percent from the IMF April projection. However the World Economic Outlook states that unlike the synchronized slowdown, this recovery is not broad based and is said to be precarious. Growth for advanced economies is projected to slow to 1.7 percent in 2019 and 2020, while emerging market and developing economies are projected to experience a growth pickup from 3.9 percent in 2019 to 4.6 percent in 2020.

About half of this is driven by recoveries or shallower recessions in stressed emerging markets, such as Turkey, Argentina, and Iran, and the rest by recoveries in countries where growth slowed significantly in 2019 relative to 2018, such as Brazil, Mexico, India, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. A notable feature of the sluggish growth in 2019 is the sharp and geographically broad-based slowdown in manufacturing and global trade.

In depth the IMF says factors driving this are higher tariffs and prolonged uncertainty surrounding trade policy which has dented investment and demand for heavily traded capital goods. The automobile industry is contracting owing also to idiosyncratic shocks, such as disruptions from new emission standards in the euro area and China that have had durable effects.

Consequently, trade volume growth in the first half of 2019 is at 1 percent, the weakest level since 2012. In contrast to weak manufacturing and trade, the services sector across much of the globe continues to hold up; this has kept labor markets buoyant and wage growth healthy in advanced economies.
International Monetary Fund Economist, Gita Gopinath observed in the report that the world economy has been slowing sharply in the last three quarters of 2018 with the pace of global economic activity remaining weak. “Momentum in manufacturing activity, in particular, has weakened substantially, to levels not seen since the global financial crisis,” he said.

Gopinath further notes that rising trade and geopolitical tensions have increased uncertainty about the future of the global trading system and international cooperation more generally, taking a toll on business confidence, investment decisions, and global trade. “A notable shift towards increased monetary policy accommodation through both action and communication has cushioned the impact of these tensions on financial market sentiment and activity, while a generally resilient service sector has supported employment growth, the outlook in the entirety remains precarious,” he said.

The IMF says a projected slowdown in China and the United States, and prominent downside risks, a much more subdued pace of global activity could well materialize, recommending that to forestall such an outcome, policies should decisively aim at defusing trade tensions, reinvigorating multilateral cooperation, and providing timely support to economic activity where needed. “To strengthen resilience, policymakers should address financial vulnerabilities that pose risks to growth in the medium term. Making growth more inclusive, which is essential for securing better economic prospects for all, should remain an overarching goal” advices the US based think tank.

Over the past year, global growth has fallen sharply. Among advanced economies, the weakening has been broad based, affecting major economies, the United States and especially the euro area and smaller Asian advanced economies. The slowdown in activity has been even more pronounced across emerging market and developing economies, including Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and Russia, as well as a few economies suffering macroeconomic and financial stress.  Furthermore the IMF analyses that regional disparities in real output, employment, and productivity in advanced economies have attracted greater interest in recent years against a backdrop of growing social and political tensions.

Regional disparities in the average advanced economy have risen since the late 1980s, reflecting gains from economic concentration in some regions and relative stagnation in others. On average, lagging regions have worse health outcomes, lower labor productivity, and greater employment shares in agriculture and industry sectors than other within country regions. Moreover, adjustment in lagging regions is slower, with adverse shocks having longer lived negative effects on economic performance.

Trade shocks in particular greater import competition in external markets do not appear to drive the differences in labor market performance between lagging and other regions, on average. By contrast, technology shocks proxied by declines in the costs of machinery and equipment capital goods, raise unemployment in regions that are more vulnerable to automation, with more exposed lagging regions particularly hurt.

In recommendation IMF says National policies that reduce distortions and encourage more flexible and open markets, while providing a robust social safety net, can facilitate regional adjustment to adverse shocks, dampening rises in unemployment. “Place based policies targeted at lagging regions may also play a role, but they must be carefully calibrated to ensure they help rather than hinder beneficial adjustment,” advices the World Economic Outlook.

On the reforms fronts the IMF says, the pace of structural reforms in emerging market and developing economies was strong during the 1990s, but it has slowed since the early 2000s. The Washington headquartered economic think  tank says a reform push in such areas as governance, domestic and external finance, trade, and labor and product markets could deliver sizable output gains in the medium term.

The World Economic Outlook posts that a major and comprehensive reform package might double the speed of convergence of the average emerging market and developing economy to the living standards of advanced economies, raising annual GDP growth by about 1 percentage point for some time. “At the same time, reforms take several years to deliver, and some of them easing job protection regulation and liberalizing domestic finance may entail greater short-term costs when carried out in bad times; these are best implemented under favorable economic conditions and early in authorities’ electoral mandate.”

The outlook also observes that reform gains also tend to be larger when governance and access to credit two binding constraints on growth are strong, and where labor market informality is higher because reforms help reduce it. “These findings underscore the importance of carefully tailoring reforms to country circumstances to maximize their benefits,” it says.

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Inflation spike building further upwards

27th October 2020
Inflation spike

In the coming months prices will go up and inflation will shoot sharply above the target of 3 percent to 6 percent towards the third quarter of 2021, the Bank of Botswana on the other hand will continue to withhold its knife on the Bank Rate. This is according to a forecast made by Kgori Capital in its recent Market Watch Segment.

Statistics from Statistics Botswana show that the recent 1.8 percent increase in the September inflation, from 1 percent in August, was a reflection of the upward adjustment in public transport fares (Transport (from -6.9 to -3.9 percent) in September 2020, which is estimated to have increased inflation by approximately 0.64 percentage points.

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Plans to erase Edgars, Jet trademark from Botswana malls underway

27th October 2020
Edgars Jet trademark

Local anti-trust body, Competition and Consumer Authority (CCA), this month received back to back acquisition proposals from South African clothing retailers to wipe out their former rivals, Edcon, from Botswana malls.

Last week BusinessPost was in possession of Merger Notice No 23 of 2020 whereby a South African clothing retailer owner, Retailability Proprietary Limited, through Oclin Proprietary Limited, proposed to acquire parts of the Edgars business conducted by Edcon in Botswana (through Edcon Botswana), as a going concern, consisting of certain assets and identified liabilities.

South African government’s Business Rescue Practitioners earlier this year announced that Retailability will buy Edgars, after the latter filed for a business rescue plan in April after it failed to pay suppliers. This move will see Retailability add Edgars to its portfolio consisting of brands such as; Legit, Beaver Canoe and Style.

Retailability landed on Botswana shores 18 years ago with its flamboyant urban fashion Style which had 17 stores. Style, having almost the same target market as Edgars as it offers men’s and ladies’ contemporary and formal fashion, gave the 91 year old legendary clothing retailer a run for its money, and has won the battle as its parent company has taken over Edgars.

Retailability brands are synonymous with Botswana shopping centres and there are currently five (5) Beaver Canoe stores, 10 Style stores and seven (7) Legit stores across this country. The Beaver Canoe stores sell clothing apparel for men and boys only. The Legit stores have a fashion store format which focuses on the retailing of clothing, footwear, accessories, colour cosmetics and cellular products.

Retailability operates in over 460 stores across South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, and Eswatini. Many observers suggest that because of the deal with Retailability to swallow Edcon, most Edgars stores in Botswana will change their name and be branded Style. A sad tale for religious consumers of the Edgars trademark who got used to love their favourite brand for years.

According to CCA’s Merger Notice No 23 of 2020, Retailability is controlled by Clifford Raymond Lines (through a company which functions solely as a holding company of his interests in Retailability) and Metier Investment and Advisory Services Proprietary Limited (“Metier”). Metier is a private equity enterprise with investments in a number of industries spanning from healthcare, hospitality, FMCGs and telecommunications.

Retailability directors are mostly South Africans; Clifford Raymond Lines, Mark Richard Friday and Norman Victor Drieselmann. Only Nasreen Essack, who was appointed February this year, is a Motswana. He comes after Brian Thuto Tsima left on the same date. Retailability 100 percent owns Oclin Proprietary Limited, the company it is acquiring Edgars with, by a capacity of 3000 shares.

The target business, Edgars, offer textiles, cosmetics and cellular products. Edcon has a Motswana director, Charles Mzwandile Vikisi, a South African, Shane Van Niekerk and Zimbabwean Jethro Kamutsi.

“The Target Business comprises of two (2) Edgars franchise brands and private label stores across Botswana. These stores target middle to upper income customers and are home to a range of private label brands such as Free2BU, Charter Club and Stone Harbour, and a wide range of market label brands (such as Levi’s and Guess) for clothing, footwear and cosmetics.

In addition, the Target Business operates iconic Edgars Home and Edgars Beauty stores as store-in-store formats rounding out the department store offering in Botswana,” said CCA.
Foshini also lines up to take Jet Botswana from Edcon.

The Foschini Group (TFG) released a statement confirming its latest intentions to acquire Edcon assets or Jet for a cash purchase consideration of R480 million. This was after the business rescue practitioners offered TFG to buy Jet by that amount.

CCA is currently mulling on a proposed merger by TFG to take over Jet operations in Botswana. Merger Notice No 21 of 2020 from TFG came a few days before the Retailability proposal. In this merger TFG, acting through Foschini Botswana, want to take over “parts” of the Jet business conducted by Edcon through Jet Supermarkets Botswana.

TFG will be willing to add Jet to its portfolio of 30 retail brands that trade in clothing, footwear, jewellery, sportswear, homeware, cell phones, and technology products from value to upper market segments throughout more than 4085 outlets in 32 countries on five continents. TFG will also get Jet’s distribution centre located in Durban and certain stores in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Eswatini. Also part of this fat deal is that the company is looking to also acquire JET Club and all existing JET stock of no less than R800 million.

Johannesburg listed TGF owns Foschini Retail Group which owns the local operations called Foschini Botswana, the acquiring enterprise according to CCA merger notice. “TFG is not controlled by any enterprise/s and for completeness, the three largest shareholders of TFG holding shares greater than 5% as at 27th March 2020 are: Government Employees Pension Fund (16.2%) Public Investment Corporation (13.2%); Old Mutual Limited (6.7%); and Investec Asset Management (6.3%). The remaining issued share capital in TFG is widely held,” said the merger notice.

Only Abdool Rahim Khan is a Motswana in the Foschini Botswana directorship, the rest; Ganeswari Shani Naidoo, Anthony Edward Thunström and Gustav Jansen (alternate director) are South Africans.

According to the CCA merger, the Jet Business is Edcon’s discount department store division, selling clothing, footwear, homeware and some cosmetics as well as cellular products and targets lower-to-middle income consumers throughout Botswana. The Jet Business does not directly or indirectly control any enterprises, says the notice. CCA seeks any stakeholder views for or against the proposed merger, which may be sent within 10 days from date of this publication to the following address.

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BOCRA, associates to provide broadband internet in schools

27th October 2020

Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority BOCRA signed a memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with the Ministries of Transport and Communications (MTC), Basic Education (MoBE) as well as Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD).

The MoA seeks to continue the collaboration that dates back to 2016 when the three parties first agreed to work together in a project aimed at computerizing and providing broadband Internet to primary schools in remote and underserved areas of Botswana.

The project benefitted 68 primary schools and 9 secondary schools through the construction of Local Area Network (LAN) in each primary school, provision of 5 Mbps dedicated broadband Internet to each Primary School and provision of Wi-Fi enabled tablets, laptops and related peripherals such as printers and copiers.

Further, the project will see the augmentation of computers in 9 Junior Secondary Schools with 30 laptops per identified school and employment of Information Technology (IT) officers at each primary school.

When speaking at the signing ceremony in Gaborone, Chief Executive of BOCRA and Chairperson of Universal Access and Service Fund (UASF) Board of Trustees Martin Mokgware said the project’s ultimate goal is to facilitate pupils in schools and host villages to be able to play a meaningful role in the digital economy.

Mokgware indicated that this necessitates upgrading of existing Telecommunications infrastructure to high capacity broadband that will support delivery of education, accessibility to the quality Internet and usage of ICTs.

The Fund began its inaugural programme by sponsoring the provision of WiFi hotspots in public areas around the country as its first project. Following the successful implementation of public WiFi hotspots, the Fund identified Kgalagadi, Ghanzi and Mabutsane areas for mobile network upgrades, schools computerization and internet provision.

Conscious that the project would not be possible without buy-in and support from MoBE, MTC and MLGRD, the Fund facilitated the signing of the first MoU between the three parties in 2016 for implementation of the project.

BOCRA Chief Executive said the signing of this agreement is aimed at benefitting the Kweneng District, adding that they have already assessed the area and have determined that they will be covering 62 underserved villages and 119 schools, 91 of which are primary schools.

“This is a project for which the partner Ministries need to re-commit for its success. Lessons from the previous schools’ computerization and internet connectivity project require that we increase our involvement and resources dedicated to the project for it to be successful. It is my belief as the project coordinator, that we will not do things the way we did them during the first project, for if we do, then we will not have learnt anything,” he said at the signing ceremony.

The purpose of learning is so that there can be continuous improvement to minimize the length of time and amount of resources utilized, he said expressing confidence that their partners will step up to the plate and ensure they play their part in the implementation of the project and that it will progress smoothly having already tread along a similar path.

UASF’s role lies mainly in funding and project management. According to Mokgware, once the project is completed, the work to integrate ICTs into the classroom begins in earnest. Therefore, he said, the project will not succeed without full cooperation and oversight of partners.

“MoBE will put in place the necessary content and ensure that the curriculum is available to all. MLGRD will provide, among others, the enabling environment by ensuring readiness of the school’s infrastructure and necessary security.”

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