Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority BOCRA indicated that in 2018, the commercial postal market recorded a total mail volume of 867 566 postal items compared to 1 279 093 postal items registered during the 2016/17 financial year.
This reflected a significant decline of 32.2% in mail volumes from the previous financial year. The decline in mail volumes has been associated with diversion to electronic communication by the public at large as well as private and public institutions. Some commercial postal operators and even the public postal operator indicated that the decline in mail volume was due largely to electronic subscription. They indicated that institutions such as banks and insurance companies shifted to communicate with their customers electronically rather than by physical mail.
The commercial postal market shares as measured by mail volumes for both domestic and international mail indicates that as of March 2018, Sprint Couriers was the market leader with 49.8% of the market share, which represented a 9.12% growth from the 40.75% recorded in the previous year. DHL International Botswana was the second leading company with 12.83% followed by Botswana Couriers and Logistics with 10.19% respectively.
Botswana Post with 8.24% and FedEx Express Botswana in fifth spot with 4.19%. At the bottom of the pyramid, seven companies registered a very low market share, each accounting for less than 1.00% of the market share. First Connections Couriers and S. Couriers had the smallest market share, accounting for 0.2% and 0.7% respectively.
The postal market recorded a total of 13 668 791 postal items as of March 2018. Ordinary mail was the main focus for the postal market accounting for 94% of the total mail volume in Botswana, while value-added or express mail services accounted for 6% of the total mail volume. Moreover, the sector recorded more domestic express mail volumes of 617 301 postal items compared to international express mail volumes which registered 250 265 postal items.
Meanwhile, mobile subscriptions registered a decline of 1.4% from 3, 226 389 in the previous year to 3,181 591 in 2018. Mobile tele density declined from 159% in March 2017 to 157% as at March 2018. The decrease in active mobile subscriptions in the review period was attributed mainly to a high churn rate experienced during the festive season of 2017 by the three operators which had not been fully recovered until March 2018.
The market share measured by the number of active mobile subscriptions is as follows: Mascom Wireless continues to be the leader at 53% followed by Orange at 31% and BTC Mobile at 16%. In the previous year, Mascom had market share of 55% followed by Orange with 30% and BTC with 15%.
The number of mobile subscriptions grew by 85% from 1.874 101 in March 2009, to 3,460 331 in March 2016. Uptake of subscriptions then declined by 7% in March 2017 and further declined in March 2018. PTOs explain the decline as natural churn as market reaches maturity. It is expected that uptake of subscriptions would lessen in future, unless there is a strategic intervention by the industry aimed at increasing demand for new subscriptions. Such interventions may involve introduction of totally new and innovative products that address as unserved market need.
This century is always looking at improving new super high speed technology to make life easier. On the other hand, beckoning as an emerging fierce reversal force to equally match or dominate this life enhancing super new tech, comes swift human adversaries which seem to have come to make living on earth even more difficult.
The recent discovery of a pandemic, Covid-19, which moves at a pace of unimaginable and unpredictable proportions; locking people inside homes and barring human interactions with its dreaded death threat, is currently being felt.
Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo has cautioned Government against excessive borrowing and poorly managed debt levels.
He was speaking in Parliament on Tuesday delivering Parliament’s Finance Committee report after assessing a motion that sought to raise Government Bond program ceiling to P30 billion, a big jump from the initial P15 Billion.
Government Investment Account (GIA) which forms part of the Pula fund has been significantly drawn down to finance Botswana’s budget deficits since 2008/09 Global financial crises.
The 2009 global economic recession triggered the collapse of financial markets in the United States, sending waves of shock across world economies, eroding business sentiment, and causing financiers of trade to excise heightened caution and hold onto their cash.
The ripple effects of this economic catastrophe were mostly felt by low to middle income resource based economies, amplifying their vulnerability to external shocks. The diamond industry which forms the gist of Botswana’s economic make up collapsed to zero trade levels across the entire value chain.
The Upstream, where Botswana gathers much of its diamond revenue was adversely impacted by muted demand in the Midstream. The situation was exacerbated by zero appetite of polished goods by jewelry manufacturers and retail outlets due to lowered tail end consumer demand.
This resulted in sharp decline of Government revenue, ballooned budget deficits and suspension of some developmental projects. To finance the deficit and some prioritized national development projects, government had to dip into cash balances, foreign reserves and borrow both externally and locally.
Much of drawing was from Government Investment Account as opposed to drawing from foreign reserve component of the Pula Fund; the latter was spared as a fiscal buffer for the worst rainy days.
Consequently this resulted in significant decline in funds held in the Government Investment Account (GIA). The account serves as Government’s main savings depository and fund for national policy objectives.
However as the world emerged from the 2009 recession government revenue graph picked up to pre recession levels before going down again around 2016/17 owing to challenges in the diamond industry.
Due to a number of budget surpluses from 2012/13 financial year the Government Investment Account started expanding back to P30 billion levels before a series of budget deficits in the National Development Plan 11 pushed it back to decline a decline wave.
When the National Development Plan 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at budget deficits.
This as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.
Cumulatively since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances. Drawing down from government cash balances meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account.
The Government Investment Account (GIA) was established in accordance with Section 35 of the Bank of Botswana Act Cap. 55:01. The Account represents Government’s share of the Botswana‘s foreign exchange reserves, its investment and management strategies are aligned to the Bank of Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves management and investment guidelines.
Government Investment Account, comprises of Pula denominated deposits at the Bank of Botswana and held in the Pula Fund, which is the long-term investment tranche of the foreign exchange reserves.
In June 2017 while answering a question from Bogolo Kenewendo, the then Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Mathambo told parliament that as of June 30, 2017, the total assets in the Pula Fund was P56.818 billion, of which the balance in the GIA was P30.832 billion.
Kenewendo was still a back bench specially elected Member of Parliament before ascending to cabinet post in 2018. Last week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, when presenting a motion to raise government local borrowing ceiling from P15 billion to P30 Billion told parliament that as of December 2019 Government Investment Account amounted to P18.3 billion.
Dr Matsheka further told parliament that prior to financial crisis of 2008/9 the account amounted to P30.5 billion (41 % of GDP) in December of 2008 while as at December 2019 it stood at P18.3 billion (only 9 % of GDP) mirroring a total decline by P11 billion in the entire 11 years.
Back in 2017 Parliament was also told that the Government Investment Account may be drawn-down or added to, in line with actuations in the Government’s expenditure and revenue outturns. “This is intended to provide the Government with appropriate funds to execute its functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently” said Mathambo, then Minister of Finance.
Acknowledging the need to draw down from GIA no more, current Minister of Finance Dr Matsheka said “It is under this background that it would be advisable to avoid excessive draw down from this account to preserve it as a financial buffer”
He further cautioned “The danger with substantially reduced financial buffers is that when an economic shock occurs or a disaster descends upon us and adversely affects our economy it becomes very difficult for the country to manage such a shock”