Former cabinet minister and Phakalane Estates proprietor, David Magang once opined that Botswana’s poor manufacturing sector and importation of more than 80 percent of the foodstuffs from South Africa, effectively renders Botswana a neo-colony of the former.
Various stats available indicate that the trade between two countries is a one-sided affair, lending credence to Magang’s view that, “In fact so beholden are we to the South African economy we are effectively its neo-colony.” Both countries are former British colonies and members of the African Union, the Commonwealth of Nations and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The foundation for the trade relationship between South Africa and Botswana dates back to the establishment of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) in 1910.
South Africa’s Economic Strength
South Africa is the 67 most competitive nation in the world out of 140 countries ranked in the 2018 edition of the Global Competitiveness Report published by the World Economic Forum. Mauritius and SA rank first and second as most competitive economies in Africa. Meanwhile ranks Botswana 90th most competitive economy out of 140 countries.
South Africa’s greatest competitive advantages are its financial system (ranked 18th), market size (35th) and level of innovation (46th) and sound infrastructure with a road connectivity ranking of 5 out of 140 countries, efficiency of clearance policies (34th) meanwhile Botswana fares badly in same areas, due to inadequate infrastructure, for ICT adoption and innovation among others.
According to Ernest Mahlaule, Group Chairman of Gauteng Growth and Development Agency, who is also former President of Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry, between 2014 and 2018, South Africa and Botswana traded R291.9 billion (about P212.2 billion) with Botswana receiving R 263.8 billion (P191.8 billion) worth of goods and services from South Africa, whilst South Africa received R 28.2 billion (P20.5 billion) worth of goods and services from Botswana.
“During the period under review South Africa enjoyed a trade surplus of R 235.7 billion. However, trade between the two countries has been muted, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 1.1 per annum since 2014,” Mahlaule told conference delegates at South Africa-Botswana Business Forum, which was part of the just ended Global Expo.
“Over the same period, 2014 and 2018, Gauteng and Botswana traded R169.4 billion. Botswana received R 152.0 billion worth of goods and services from Gauteng, whilst the City region received R 17.4 billion worth of goods and services form its SACU neighbour.” During the period under review Gauteng enjoyed a trade surplus of R 134.6 billion. However, trade between the two regions has been muted, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 1.3 percent per annum since 2014, according to Mahlaule.
“It is worth noting that the Gauteng city region accounts for 62.1 percent of all Botswana bound SA exports and similarly 57.6 percent of Botswana sourced imports are bound for Gauteng. Gauteng exports mainly Mineral Fuels, advanced machinery and vehicles to Botswana. Botswana exports mainly Precious stones and inorganic chemicals to Gauteng.
Mahlaule stated that, since 2014, South African companies have invested R 2.1 billion (P1.5 billion) in Botswana generating 497 direct jobs. Gauteng accounts for 81 percent of SA FDI into Botswana. Notable companies who have invested in Botswana since 2014 include Carrick Wealth, Standard Bank, and Open House Management. While Botswana has mandated Botswana International Trade Centre (BITC) to lure investors to set-up in Botswana, another mandate entails promoting and facilitating the promotion of locally manufactured goods to foreign markets.
Mahlaule believes Gauteng present a better business climate for Botswana ventures to set-up in South Africa. Already, owing mainly to the proximity of the Gauteng to Botswana, and its economic strength, Botswana has developed a good trade relationship with the region. The Gauteng province is home Pretoria, the capital city of South Africa, as well as Johannesburg, the country’s largest city. Gauteng City Region is home to a quarter of South Africa’s population and generates 35 percent of the country’s GDP.
The concentration of national population and growth makes the Gauteng City Region pivotal to the national agenda of Transformation, Modernisation and Re- Industrialisation. Between 2014 and 2018 exports of goods and services from Gauteng, accounted for 55 percent of total exports into South Africa. Over the same period Imports amounted to 65 percent of total goods and services imported into South Africa. Total trade in the province was approximately 87 percent of the total provincial GDP. Highlighting more accentuated trade openness relative to the whole country.
During the Global Expo, Botswana’s Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Bogolo Kenewendo indicated that Botswana wants to work closely with the Emerging Markets as they want to learn from them strategies of economic transformation which is Botswana’s aspiration for the next 10 years. “We also want to industrialise our economy and leap-frog into Fourth Industrial Revolution, which will require new markets for our new products and sourcing of intermediate inputs and raw materials. Emerging Markets will provide us with such opportunities,” said Kenewendo.
Kenewendo, who assumed the reins as Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry last year at the beginning of April in 2018, indicated that as part of efforst to lure investors to Botswana, government has made efforts to improve its doing business environment through reforms of business processes and legal framework. “We are also in the process of improving our regulatory framework through the implementation of the Better Regulation Strategy to introduce Impact Analysis that will ensure that laws introduced have positive impact rather than introduce bottlenecks,” she said.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.