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‘Africa’s income inequality levels a ticking bomb’

The World Economic Forum (WEF), a global non-governmental organization creating a platform for views exchange on investment, economic and developmental issues across the world last week gathered African Head of States, business leaders and think tanks in Cape Town, South Africa for the Africa 2019 Edition.

The Forum came at a time where Africa and the world were still struck by the attacks on foreign nationals by South Africans in Johannesburg, popularly known as Xenophobia or Afrophobia. The attacks were concentrated on middle class commercial outposts, targeting foreign traders and hawkers who according to South Africans were taking up their jobs and trading space.

On Nigerians in particular the horrific burning down of trading facilities, business properties and assets was reported to be fueled by Nigerian alleged dealings on illicit drugs and organized criminal activities in turn eroding community ‘s moral fabric sending South African youngsters to sorry state of addiction and disorganized lives .

Conversations at the forum have attributed these attacks on inequality and inability of African governments to create significant and sustainable means of livelihood for its people. “It is corruption, poor administration, unequal distribution of resources and high levels of poverty that fuels this influx of Nigerians and other nationals out of their home countries in the first place,” said Obiageli Katryn Ezekwesili, former World Bank Africa Vice President during a panel discussion on unemployment.

 The renowned Nigerian scholar, researcher and global think tank further added that it was South African government’s failure to create meaning jobs for its citizens as well that builds up its citizen frustration “Crime is a result of inequality and frustration that comes with clear segregation in resources allocations and the means of production,” she said.

The panel which President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi was part of underscored that remedies to African unemployment crises must focus on the post millennial generation, a crop of youngsters aged between 15 and 25. Current statistics according to the World Economic Forum indicates that South Africa’s unemployment rate is at 29 % with unofficial statistics understood to be at around 40 %. The continent’s largest economy Nigeria is home to around 23 % unemployed citizens, with the figure projected to reach levels of 30 % next year.

This week the World Bank released staggering figures signaling Africa’s largest economy will run short of funds to finance its national budget because of eroded domestic revenue generation base caused by poor and ineffective tax collection mechanism. In Kenya, the largest East African economy unemployment rate is 11 %, one of the continent’s lowest, whereas next door in Ethiopia the figure is well around 20 %.

“In the entirety, on average, in every African population, a quarter is far away from finding a job by any means or whatsoever” underscored the World Economic Forum. In particular Botswana’s high income equality and high unemployment rate was highlighted as a seriously ticking bomb for an economy of just over 2 million people.

Last week during the build of the Cape Town Forum, another global anti-poverty and injustices confederation Oxfam International released African inequality analysis report titled “A Tale of Two Continents”. In the report Oxfam highlights that three African billionaires today have more wealth than the poorest 50% or 650 million people across the continent.

Wealth of the bottom 50% of the African population is 22.98 billion US dollars while wealth for the three richest billionaires in Africa is 28.8 billion US dollars, being Nigerian industrialist Aliko Dangote at USD 14.1 billion, South Africa –British diamond and mining magnet Nicky Oppenheimer at USD 7.7 billion while South Africa’s luxury goods business tycoon and diversified investment magnet Johann Rupert brings USD 7 billion dollars to the trio-elite pie. This is according to Forbes 2019 Billionaires List.

The report also shows how rising and extreme inequality across Africa is undermining efforts to fight poverty. “A Tale of Two Continents” reveals that while the richest Africans fortunes are increasing, extreme poverty is rising in the continent. The report also looks at how unsustainable levels of debt and a rigged international tax system are depriving African governments of billions of dollars in lost revenue each year – money that could otherwise be invested in education, healthcare and social protection.

Oxfam says the continent is rapidly becoming the epicenter of global extreme poverty. While the number of people living on less than $1.90 a day has plummeted in Asia, this number is rising in Africa. The World Bank estimates that 87% of the world’s extreme poor will be in Africa by 2030, if current trends continue.

"Africa is ready to rise – but only once its leaders have the courage to back a more human economy that works for the many and not a few super-rich men. They can achieve this by investing in inequality-busting, universal and quality public services like health and education and by developing truly progressive tax systems. These are particularly powerful for women and girls living in poverty. They can also back a transformation towards decent and dignified work that protects the rights of workers, especially in the age of the African Free Trade Area and the new digital era.” Said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International.

The report features a first-ever ranking of African nations on their commitment to tackling inequality. The Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index, developed by Oxfam and Development Finance International, ranks countries on their policies on social spending, tax, and labor rights – three areas the organizations say are critical to reducing inequality.

South Africa and Namibia take first and second place respectively, with their strong social spending and a progressive tax system. Nigeria meanwhile has an unenviable distinction of being at the bottom of the Africa ranking, as well as the global ranking for two years running.
 In other staggering highlights Oxfam‘s “Tale of Two Continents” shows that the most unequal country in Africa, Swaziland, is home to one billionaire, Nathan Kirsh, who is estimated to have $4.9bn.

If he worked in one of the restaurants that his wholesale company supplies on a worker’s minimum wage, it would take him 5.7 million years to earn his current level of wealth. In Africa’s largest economy the combined wealth of the 5 richest Nigerians is more than enough to end poverty in Nigeria. Nigeria’s girl population makes up 60% of the more than 10 million children who do not go to school.

 Furthermore Oxfam notes that 75% of the wealth of African multi-millionaires and billionaires is held offshore, as result the continent is losing $14billion annually in uncollected tax revenue. Dangerous and unsustainable levels of debt are hurting social spending. In 2018, Angola spent 57% of government revenue on debt repayments while public spending was cut by 19% between 2016 and 2018. Similar trends are present in Ghana, Egypt, Cameroon and Mozambique. In addition the report says African women and girls are also most likely to be poor. They also stand to lose the most when public services like healthcare and education are underfunded.

In Kenya, a boy from a rich family has a one-in-three chance of continuing his studies beyond secondary school. However, a girl from a poor family has a 1-in-250 chance of doing so. Women and girls also bear the brunt of failing healthcare systems, clocking in hours of unpaid care work looking after sick relatives. In Malawi, women spend seven times the amount of time on unpaid care work than men.

"African political and business leaders face a clear choice. They can stay on the path of increasingly extreme inequality, where poverty continues to rise while wealth in the hands of a tiny elite and foreign companies’ spirals. Or they can choose another way: towards a more prosperous and equal Africa that invests in and respects the dignity of its entire people,” added Ms Byanyima

At the Africa World Economic Forum, Karan Bhatia Google Vice President, Global Public Policy and Government Affairs noted that African government needs to invest in the right infrastructure and put in place the right policy and legal frameworks, “African states need to build a digital culture where its young people can tap into technological advancements and the digital revolution, the right regulation climate will also be key in achieving any meaningful results” he said.

 Nigerian Tycoon, Founder and Executive Chairman of Zennith Bank, the country’s largest commercial banking outfit by market capitalization highlighted that it was high time governments and domestic private sector come together to mobilize resources for their economic transformation “The government needs to come up with policies, bespoke for earmarked economic sectors and that can only happen if the private sector itself was part of the policies formulation,” he said.

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Business

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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Business

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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