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Botswana: South Africa’s trade partner or economic neo-colony?

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. 

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Masisi to dump Tsogwane?

28th November 2022

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and some senior government officials are abuzz with reports that President Mokgweetsi Masisi has requested his Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane not to contest the next general elections in 2024.

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African DFIs gear to combat climate change

25th November 2022

The impacts of climate change are increasing in frequency and intensity every year and this is forecast to continue for the foreseeable future. African CEOs in the Global South are finally coming to the party on how to tackle the crisis.

Following the completion of COP27 in Egypt recently, CEOs of Africa DFIs converged in Botswana for the CEO Forum of the Association of African Development Finance Institutions. One of the key themes was on green financing and building partnerships for resource mobilization in financing SDGs in Africa

A report; “Weathering the storm; African Development Banks response to Covid-19” presented shocking findings during the seminar. Among them; African DFI’s have proven to be financially resilient, and they are fast shifting to a green transition and it’s financing.

COO, CEDA, James Moribame highlighted that; “Everyone needs food, shelter and all basic needs in general, but climate change is putting the achievement of this at bay. “It is expensive for businesses to do business, for instance; it is much challenging for the agricultural sector due to climate change, and the risks have gone up. If a famer plants crops, they should be ready for any potential natural disaster which will cost them their hard work.”

According to Moribame, Start-up businesses will forever require help if there is no change.

“There is no doubt that the Russia- Ukraine war disrupted supply chains. SMMEs have felt the most impact as some start-up businesses acquire their materials internationally, therefore as inflation peaks, this means the exchange rate rises which makes commodities expensive and challenging for SMMEs to progress. Basically, the cost of doing business has gone up. Governments are no longer able to support DFI’s.”

Moribame shared remedies to the situation, noting that; “What we need is leadership that will be able to address this. CEOs should ensure companies operate within a framework of responsible lending. They also ought to scout for opportunities that would be attractive to investors, this include investors who are willing to put money into green financing. Botswana is a prime spot for green financing due to the great opportunity that lies in solar projects. ”

Technology has been hailed as the economy of the future and thus needs to be embraced to drive operational efficiency both internally and externally.

Executive Director, bank of Industry Nigeria, Simon Aranou mentioned that for investors to pump money to climate financing in Africa, African states need to be in alignment with global standards.

“Do what meets world standards if you want money from international investors. Have a strong risk management system. Also be a good borrower, if you have a loan, honour the obligation of paying it back because this will ensure countries have a clean financial record which will then pave way for easier lending of money in the future. African states cannot just be demanding for mitigation from rich countries. Financing needs infrastructure to complement it, you cannot be seating on billions of dollars without the necessary support systems to make it work for you. Domestic resource mobilisation is key. Use public money to mobilise private money.” He said.

For his part, the Minster of Minister of Entrepreneurship, Karabo Gare enunciated that, over the past three years, governments across the world have had to readjust their priorities as the world dealt with the effects and impact of the COVID 19 pandemic both to human life and economic prosperity.

“The role of DFIs, during this tough period, which is to support governments through countercyclical measures, including funding of COVID-19 related development projects, has become more important than ever before. However, with the increasingly limited resources from governments, DFIs are now expected to mobilise resources to meet the fiscal gaps and continue to meet their developmental mandates across the various affected sectors of their economies.” Said Gare.

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TotalEnergies Botswana launches Road safety campaign in Letlhakeng

22nd November 2022

Letlhakeng:TotalEnergies Botswana today launched a Road Safety Campaign as part of their annual Stakeholder Relationship Management (SRM), in partnership with Unitrans, MVA Fund, TotalEnergies Letlhakeng Filling Station and the Letlhakeng Sub District Road Safety Committee during an event held in Letlhakeng under the theme, #IamTrafficToo.

The Supplier Relationship Management initiative is an undertaking by TotalEnergies through which TotalEnergie annually explores and implements social responsibility activities in communities within which we operate, by engaging key stakeholders who are aligned with the organization’s objectives. Speaking during the launch event, TotalEnergies’ Operations and HSSEQ,   Patrick Thedi said,  “We at TotalEnergies pride ourselves in being an industrial operator with a strategy centered on respect, listening, dialogue and stakeholder involvement, and a partner in the sustainable social and economic development of its host communities and countries. We are also very fortunate to have stakeholders who are in alignment with our organizational objectives. We assess relationships with our key stakeholders to understand their concerns and expectations as well as identify priority areas for improvement to strengthen the integration of Total Energies in the community. As our organization transitions from Total to Total Energies, we are committed to exploring sustainable initiatives that will be equally indicative of our growth and this Campaign is a step in the right direction. ”

As part of this campaign roll out, stakeholders  will be refurbishing and upgrading and installing road signs around schools in the area, and generally where required. One of the objectives of the Campaign is to bring awareness and training on how to manage and share the road/parking with bulk vehicles, as the number of bulk vehicles using the Letlhakeng road to bypass Trans Kalahari increases. When welcoming guests to Letlhakeng, Kgosi Balepi said he welcomed the initiative as it will reduce the number of road incidents in the area.

Also present was District Traffic Officer ASP, Reuben Moleele,  who gave a statistical overview of accidents in the region, as well as the rest of the country. Moleele applauded TotalEnergies and partners on the Campaign, especially ahead of the festive season, a time he pointed out is always one with high road statistics. The campaign name #IamTrafficToo, is a reminder to all road users, including pedestrians that they too need to be vigilant and play their part in ensuring a reduction in road incidents.

The official proceedings of the day included a handover of reflectors and stop/Go signs to the Letlhakeng Cluster from TotalEnerigies, injury prevention from tips from MVA’s Onkabetse Petlwana, as  well as  bulk vehicle safety tips delivered from Adolf Namate of Unitrans.

TotalEnergies, which is committed to having zero carbon emissions by 2050,  has committed to rolling out the Road safety Campaign to the rest of the country in the future.

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