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BTC strategic focus to 2020 espouses technology

The strategic intent pursued by Botswana Telecommunications is to create shareholder value and gain competitive advantage through the delivery of innovative solutions, increasing mobile and broadband market share, and to fix the basics in order to deliver a superior customer experience.

BTC has identified five broad thematic areas central to execute this intent. These key result areas are innovation, customer experience, efficiency, growth and a high-performance culture. BTC growth will be driven by an improved mobile and broadband customer experience, new products, and new market growth both locally and regionally. Innovation is anticipated to develop new products and lines of business that gives the company a competitive advantage, while at the same time BTC seeks to transform itself into a high performing company that is characterised by superior leadership ability and talented people who are results oriented.

The group’s three-year strategic focus to 2020 remains one of growth and transformation, themed around technology, commercial and culture. As for the technological transformation, BTC is transforming and modernising its network at the same time improving the quality of user experience. The company says it continuously invest in its networks in order to give its customers the widest coverage, fastest speeds and the best network quality, while making its services more affordable. Investing in the latest generation network technology allows the company to lower operating costs while improving their capacity to handle increased traffic volumes.

Further, BTC indicated that its approach to the market is segment based, as it wants to engage with customers and gather essential insights to improve its value proposition and provide a seamless customer experience. BTC has developed an integrated commercial strategy with the intent of growing revenue and gaining its market share and it seeks to transform into a high performing company that is characterised by superior leadership ability as well as results oriented people with the requisite skills.

According to BTC Annual report 2019 released this week, the company has identified strategic programmes to anchor the three transformation pillars. Converged billing being the first strategic programme has seen phase 1 of the platform being implemented in March 2018. Mobile prepaid, mobile post-paid and fixed prepaid platforms were migrated. Migration of fixed post-paid customers was implemented in June 2019.

As part of the BTC digitisation program, Data Centre and IT infrastructure Consolidation project was commercially launched in March 2019, and there has since been an increase in uptake of customers hosted in the Data Centre. Investment in the Mobile Broadband network is achieving the desired results of improved quality of customer experience, and BTC has rolled out 281 sites to date. The deployment of MBB has resulted in BTC 4G being the best in the country, both in terms of coverage footprint and download speed.

This has led to an upsurge in mobile data usage and an increase in 4G subscriptions. The quality of voice service on the mobile network has also improved and exceeded set targets with reductions in network congestion rates and drop call rates. In the Fixed Broadband space, BTC says it has deployed and commissioned a total of 81 Fibre to the Cabinet FTTC nodes in Gaborone, Francistown, Kasane and Maun, and has extended Fibre to the Home FTTH in Phakalane Golf Estate and Gaborone North, providing fibre-based connectivity to hundreds of households.

The FTTx service was launched in major centres and customers are now able to experience high-speed internet connectivity. The company further indicated that it upgraded its VSAT system to a state-of-the-art platform which is capable of delivering high speed and affordable internet connectivity up to 50Mbps. As a result, of improved service quality, BTC noted that it has seen an increase in customer retention. VSAT service, the group claims, has seen increased uptake particularly from farming communities, as well as tourism and hospitality facilities countrywide.

The roll-out of the 4G sites, according to the report, enabled BTC to introduce new mobile data products targeted to different segments of the market. ‘’we launched new propositions such as Live Social bundles, revamped turn up bundles and video bundles. For post-paid we were able to offer customers Pro connect bundles which offers them a range of bundles, voice and an option of 4G high-end device’’ reads the report

Moreover, BTC has launched its money financial service called SMEGA. ‘’this allows customers to deposit or withdraw money, pay bills, buy electricity and airtime from their wallet. The service has a bank to wallet feature and a new innovation called Motshelo group as well as bulk payments. We have also introduced mobile app that gives customer’s convenience to access our services through their phones and online application for services’’.  Efforts to improve customer experience for the company are beginning to bear fruit, a s following an introduction of a day service, customer satisfaction index improved from 66% to 68%. The service is aimed at improving customer service turnaround times.

 BTC continued to enhance the ability of the transmission network to support the radio access network by connecting more base radio stations with fibre and high-speed IP microwave transmission, thus improving the quality of service and extending access. This is according to the company’s Annual Report 2019 released this week.

 The continual enhancement of the telecommunications environment is a basis for competitiveness in the sector and is an important element of improving customer experience and ensuring customer satisfaction. As a customer-centric and proactive mobile network operator, BTC says it has implemented an integrated Fault Management and Performance Management Solution as a strategic initiative of the integrated network management platform. This was done to improve the quality of and ensure overall visibility of the network performance. Continual monitoring of these has helped in guiding the installation of additional capacity to where it is most needed, thereby resolving capacity constraints.

BTC network coverage continues to be the widest in the country and covers over 96% of the population. BTC has significantly increased its LTE coverage footprint, covering urban and semi urban locations and village across the country, with over 365 sites commissioned as at end of the year under review. Additional sites will be deployed during the 2019/2020 financial year to address coverage gaps and for densification in the two cities, Gaborone and Francistown. BTC has also improved its fixed broadband services with fibre to the ‘’X’’ deployed in urban areas. The company stressed that it commissioned its VSAT service that uses a High Throughput Satellite delivery high speed broadband connectivity across the country.

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Mowana Mine to open, pay employees millions

18th January 2022
Mowana Mine

Mowana Copper Mine in Dukwi will finally pay its former employees a total amount of P23, 789, 984.00 end of this month. For over three years Mowana Copper Mine has been under judicial management. Updating members, Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) Executive Secretary Kitso Phiri this week said the High Court issued an order for the implementation of the compromise scheme of December 9, 2021 and this was to be done within 30 days after court order.

“Therefore payment of benefits under the scheme including those owed to Messina Copper Botswana employees should be effected sometime in January latest end of January 2022,” Kitso said. Kitso also explained that cash settlement will be 30 percent of the total Messina Copper Botswana estate and negotiated estate is $3,233,000 (about P35, 563,000).

Messina Copper was placed under liquidation and was thereafter acquired by Leboam Holdings to operate Mowana Mine. Leboam Holdings struck a deal with the Messina Copper’s liquidator who became a shareholder of Leboam Holdings. Leboam Holdings could not service its debts and its creditors placed it under provisional judicial management on December 18, 2018 and in judicial management on February 28, 2019.

A new company Max Power expressed interest to acquire the mining operations. It offered to take over the Mowana Mine from Leboam Holdings, however, the company had to pay the debts of Leboam including monies owed to Messina Copper, being employees benefits and other debts owed to other creditors.

The monies, were agreed to be paid through a scheme of compromise proposed by Max Power, being a negotiated payment schedule, which was subject to the financial ability of the new owners. “On December 9, 2021, Messina Copper liquidator, called a meeting of creditors, which the BMWU on behalf of its members (former Messina Copper employees) attended, to seek mandate from creditors to proceed with a proposed settlement for Messina Copper on the scheme of compromise. It is important to note that employee benefits are regarded as preferential credit, meaning once a scheme is approved they are paid first.”

Negotiated estate is P35, 563,000

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Councilors’ benefits debacle-savingram reveals detail

18th January 2022

A savingram the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development sent to Town Clerks and Council Secretaries explaining why councilors across the country should not have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term has been revealed.

The contents of the savingram came out in the wake of a war of words between counselors and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. The councilors through the Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA) accuse the Ministry of refusing to allow them to have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term.

This has since been denied by the Ministry.  In the savingram to town councils and council secretaries across the country, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development Molefi Keaja states that, “Kindly be advised that the terminal benefits budget is made during the final year of term of office for Honorable Councilors.”  Keaja reminded town clerks and council secretaries that, “The nominal budget Councils make each and every financial year is to cater for events where a Councilor’s term of office ends before the statutory time due to death, resignation or any other reason.”

The savingram also goes into detail about why the government had in the past allowed councilors to have access to their terminal benefits before the end of their term.  “Regarding the special dispensation made in the 2014-2019, it should be noted that the advance was granted because at that time there was an approved budget for terminal benefits during the financial year,” explained Keaja.  He added that, “Town Clerks/Council Secretaries made discretions depending on the liquidity position of Councils which attracted a lot of audit queries.”

Keaja also revealed that councils across the country were struggling financially and therefore if they were to grant councilors access to their terminal benefits, this could leave their in a dire financial situation.  Given the fact that Local Authorities currently have cash flow problems and budgetary constraints, it is not advisable to grant terminal benefits advance as it would only serve to compound the liquidity problems of councils.

It is understood that the Ministry was inundated with calls from some Councils as they sought clarification regarding access to their terminal benefits. The Ministry fears that should councils pay out the terminal benefits this would affect their coffers as the government spends a lot on councilors salaries.

Reports show that apart from elected councilors, the government spends at least P6, 577, 746, 00 on nominated councilors across the country as their monthly salaries. Former Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso once told Parliament that in total there are 113 nominated councilors and their salaries per a year add up to P78, 933,16.00. She added that their projected gratuity is P9, 866,646.00.

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Households spending to drive economic recovery

17th January 2022

A surge in consumer spending is expected to be a key driver of Botswana’s economic recovery, according to recent projections by Fitch Solutions. Fitch Solutions said it forecasts household spending in Botswana to grow by a real rate of 5.9% in 2022.

The bullish Fitch Solutions noted that “This is a considerable deceleration from 9.4% growth estimated in 2021, it comes mainly from the base effects of the contraction of 2.5% recorded in 2020,” adding that, “We project total household spending (in real terms) to reach BWP59.9bn (USD8.8bn) in 2022, increasing from BWP56.5bn (USD8.3bn) in 2021.”  According to Fitch Solutions, this is higher than the pre-Covid-19 total household spending (in real terms) of P53.0 billion (USD7.8bn) in 2019 and it indicates a full recovery in consumer spending.

“We forecast real household spending to grow by 5.9% in 2022, decelerating from the estimated growth of 9.4% in 2021. We note that the Covid-19 pandemic and the related restrictions on economic activity resulted in real household spending contracting by 2.5% in 2020, creating a lower base for spending to grow from in 2021 and 2022,” Fitch Solutions says.

Total household spending (in real terms), the agency says, will increase in 2022 when compared to 2021. In 2021 and 2022, total household spending (in real terms) will be above the pre-Covid-19 levels in 2019, indicating a full recovery in consumer spending, says Fitch Solutions.  It says as of December 6 2021 (latest data available), 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose, while this is relatively low it is higher than Africa average of 11.3%.

“The emergence of new Covid-19 variants such as Omicron, which was first detected in the country in November 2021, poses a downside risk to our outlook for consumer spending, particularly as a large proportion of the country’s population is unvaccinated and this could result in stricter measures being implemented once again,” says Fitch Solutions.

Growth will ease in 2022, Fitch Solution says. “Our forecast for an improvement in consumer spending in Botswana in 2022 is in line with our Country Risk team’s forecast that the economy will grow by a real rate of 5.3% over 2022, from an estimated 12.5% growth in 2021 as the low base effects from 2020 dissipate,” it says.

Fitch Solutions notes that “Our Country Risk team expects private consumption to be the main driver of Botswana’s economic growth in 2022, as disposable incomes and the labour market continue to recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
It says Botswana’s tourism sector has been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the related travel restrictions.

According to Fitch Solutions, “The emergence of the Omicron variant, which was first detected in November 2021, has resulted in travel bans being implemented on Southern African countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Eswatini. This will further delay the recovery of Botswana’s tourism sector in 2021 and early 2022.”  Fitch Solutions, therefore, forecasts Botswana’s tourist arrivals to grow by 81.2% in 2022, from an estimated contraction of 40.3% in 2021.

It notes that the 72.4% contraction in 2020 has created a low base for tourist arrivals to grow from.  “The rollout of vaccines in South Africa and its key source markets will aid the recovery of the tourism sector over the coming months and this bodes well for the employment and incomes of people employed in the hospitality industry, particularly restaurants and hotels as well as recreation and culture businesses,” the report says.

Fitch Solutions further notes that with economies reopening, consumers are demanding products that they had little access to over the previous year. However, manufacturers are facing several problems.  It says supply chain issues and bottlenecks are resulting in consumer goods shortages, feeding through into supply-side inflation.  Fitch Solutions believes the global semiconductor shortage will continue into 2022, putting the pressure on the supply of several consumer goods.

It says the spread of the Delta variant is upending factory production in Asia, disrupting shipping and posing more shocks to the world economy. Similarly, manufacturers are facing shortages of key components and higher raw materials costs, the report says adding that while this is somewhat restricted to consumer goods, there is a high risk that this feeds through into more consumer services over the 2022 year.

“Our global view for a notable recovery in consumer spending relies on the ability of authorities to vaccinate a large enough proportion of their populations and thereby experience a notable drop in Covid-19 infections and a decline in hospitalisation rates,” says Fitch Solutions.
Both these factors, it says, will lead to governments gradually lifting restrictions, which will boost consumer confidence and retail sales.

“As of December 6 2021, 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose. While this is low, it is higher than the Africa average of 11.3%. The vaccines being administered in Botswana include Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac and Johnson & Johnson. We believe that a successful vaccine rollout will aid the country’s consumer spending recovery,” says Fitch Solutions.  Therefore, the agency says, “Our forecasts account for risks that are highly likely to play out in 2022, including the easing of government support. However, if other risks start to play out, this may lead to forecast revisions.”

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