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Botswana is at a critical juncture in its Development – ADB

African Development Bank’s Country Strategy Paper (CSP) 2015-2019 says Botswana is at a critical juncture in its development. CSP indicated that this has led to a rethinking of the country’s development strategy, saying that Botswana needs to accelerate economic transformation from the primary sector to advanced manufacturing and services in order to reduce its vulnerability to shock in the diamond trade.  

The global financial crisis of 2009 exposed the country’s vulnerability to external shocks due to its reliance on one commodity. Real Gross Domestic Product contracted by 7.8 percent from an annual average growth of 10 percent experienced over the previous four decades. In addition, Botswana’s economy will face a difficult challenge in the medium term with the depletion of its diamond resources.

 ‘’The country needs to revive the growth of private sector investments and increase the productivity of economic investments. To achieve this, the government needs to invest in high impact infrastructure to improve competitiveness, provide a sound regulatory environment that is friendly to business, and further enhance skills development,’’ reads CSP.

Further, it noted that Botswana has made huge strides socioeconomic development over the past four decades, transforming itself from an underdeveloped country into a middle-income economy. However, a striking feature of the Botswana economy is the rather limited economic transformation.

“The structure of production has changed very little since the 1990s, minerals still dominate the economy, while labor-intensive manufacturing, which normally absorbs unskilled laborers who exit traditional agriculture, has not developed. As a result, the economy has high levels of unemployment and inequality. The 2009 global economic downturn exposed the country’s vulnerability to external shocks due to reliance in one commodity. At the same time, growth in the non-mining sector softened.”

To reduce unemployment and inequality, CSP notes that the country will need to accelerate growth of private sector investments and increase the productivity of economic investments. The CSP, which is anchored on the Bank’s ten-year strategy responds to the need to transform the Botswana economy in accordance with its national development agenda, outlined in the government’s 10th National Development Plan NDP10 covering the period 2009-2016.

The CSP is aligned with the priorities of the NDP10 that intersect with those of the ten-year strategy and focuses on the Bank’s core areas of competence. It is organized around two strategic and complementary pillars, infrastructure development to increase productivity and private sector development. The CSP calls for increased productivity and achieving high, inclusive and sustainable growth in Botswana, which is the shared goal of the ten-year strategy and the NDP10.

CSP continued to note that the structure of production of the Botswana economy has changed very little since the 1990s. The Strategy paper says the economic base remains narrow and the economy is still dominated by mining and government. The mining sector constitutes between 30 and 35 percent of the gross domestic product and government contributes around 16 percent of the GDP. These percentages have not changed significantly over the last decade.

The fastest growing sector has been services and its overall contribution to GDP has increased mainly due to the slowdown in mining as a result of the global economic slowdown. Within the sector, the fastest growing subsectors such as government services, banking, insurance and construction are al linked to revenue from the mining sector.

It also stated that agriculture, especially cattle farming is the dominant source of livelihood, saying more than half of Botswana’s population live in rural areas and are dependent on subsistence farming. However, domestic agriculture production meets only a small proportion of the nation’s food needs. The contribution of the agriculture sector to the GDP has continued to decline and is now under2.5 percent from a peak of 3.4 percent in the 1990s. The limited contribution of agriculture to GDP is mainly due to the severe water shortage and inadequate rain.

The share of the manufacturing sector in GDP has remained limited in the range of 5 to 6 percent since the 1990s. Unlike in many MICs, non-mining manufacturing has not been a dynamic absorber of labor. Rather, its share in GDP has been declining. Some attempts were made in the past to boost the textile industry and take advantage of access to the US market under the African Growth and Opportunity AGOA, but this has now become difficult due to strong competition from other developing countries.

Furthermore, CSP highlighted that Botswana continues to rank low with regard to important determinants of private investment. It says non-price competitiveness indicators suggest that Botswana has been moving steadily downwards in global rankings. Between 2008 and 2013, the country slipped 18 positions from 56 to 74 in the Global Competitiveness Index and 21 positions from 38th to 59th in the World Bank’s Ding Business ranking. The decline is explained largely by the absence of improvements rather than worsening policies.

According to the 2014/15 Global Competitiveness Index, Botswana’s primary weaknesses continue to include technological readiness, small market size and efficiency, as well as inadequate basic health and education. The country is rated highly in macroeconomic environment, reliable and legitimate institutions, and a well-developed financial market. In the World Bank’s Doing Business indicators, Botswana ranks poorly in trading across borders, dealing with construction permits and starting business.

Protection of intellectual property rights has improved and the legal system is sufficient to ensure commercial dealings. While access to credit has not emerged as a major concern, available evidence points to the need to improve access to credit by small and medium enterprises as they play a critical role towards the actualization of economic diversification.

The domestic banking system has remained profitable, liquid and well capitalized, although recently there have been increases in nonperforming loans to households. CSP indicated that the robustness of the financial sector is demonstrated by a number of prudential indicators pertaining to asset composition and portfolio quality.

Access to financial services remains low and it is estimated that about 33 percent of adults do not have access to such services. Non-Bank Financial Institutions have been growing rapidly in recent years, resulting in closer linkages with commercial banks. This has increased the probability of contagion with implications to the financial system and the economy. However, there has been a notable progress on supervision of the non-banking financial sector, including the establishment of a Non-Bank Financial Institutions Authority NBFIRA. NBFIRA has benefited from efforts to enhance its capacity and to develop a legal and regulatory infrastructure.

Greater challenges are coming from the high concentration of bank loans to households and the rapid growth of unsecured lending. The growth of household indebtedness has the potential of creating stress in the financial sector, and is a liability to the macroeconomic environment. Striking an appropriate balance between financial inclusion and stability is therefore emerging as a policy challenge for Botswana.

Meanwhile, the country’s capital markets have developed over the past two decades, but both the stock and bond markets are characterized by low liquidity which undermines their ability to provide price signals to the market. Capital market operations are largely conducted through Botswana Stock Exchange which operates and regulates equities and fixed interest securities market. While market capitalization is reasonably high at about 28 percent of GDP, there is a dearth of long tenured assets.

The government is the main issuer, however, the issuance is limited to only twice a year and currently the longest issuance has a 17-year tenor. To address the shortcomings in the financial sector, the government has launched a financial sector development strategy aimed at maintaining a robust framework for financial access for the underserved, and deepening financial markets and supporting intermediation of long-term financing, mainly by strengthening key institutions such as Botswana Stock Exchange and the Botswana Development Corporation.

HIGH LEVELS OF INEQUALITY

Inequality in Botswana is among the highest in the world despite the sharp decline in poverty, CSP added. It said income inequality as measured by the Gini coefficient is in excess of 0.55. This reflects the disparities in the quality of economic opportunities and services and underlines the need to ensure a more inclusive development.

The persistent high inequality level mainly emanates from the limited economic diversification and the dominance of minerals extraction in the country’s GDP and exports. Because mining absorbs only a small proportion of the workforce, long-term policies for poverty reduction have not been complemented by effective absorption of the poor into the productive economy.

Inequality also stems from the fact that Botswana’s vast size and thinly spread and small population make the provision of economic infrastructure and social services extremely expensive and present daunting challenges for the government. As a result, public support programmes have not generated significant growth in employment, and hence poverty reduction.

In conclusion, the CSP noted that the Kalahari Desert occupies 77 percent of Botswana’s land mass, leaving the country with limited supplies of arable land and fresh water. Erratic rain and drought are the country’s most frequent natural disasters. The country is also faced with land degradation due to overgrazing and diversification. Climate change is expected to adversely impact agricultural production and water resources.

The government has put in place a national environmental policy framework that covers all the relevant sectors. Conservation and sustainable management of natural resources are fully integrated in the development planning process. Over a third of the country’s total land area is under some form of conservation, with 17 percent designated as national parks and game reserves, 20 percent as wildlife management areas and 1 percent as forest reserves. Participation of communities in natural resource conservation is ensured through a community-based natural resources management programme.

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MD, Board in BBS battle for supremacy

12th April 2021

Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) moved swiftly this week to suspend BBS Limited from trading its securities following a brawl between Board of Directors and Managing Director, Pius Molefe, which led to corporate governance crisis at the organisation.

In an interesting series of events that unfolded this week, incumbent board Chairperson, Pelani Siwawa-Ndai moved to expel Molefe together with board Secretary, Sipho Showa, who also doubles up as Head of Marketing and Communications.  It is reported that Siwawa-Ndai in her capacity as the board Chairperson wrote letters of dismissals to Molefe and Showa.

Following receipt of letters, the duo sought and was furnished with legal opinion from Armstrong Attorneys advising them that their dismissals were unlawful hence they were told to continue to report to work and carry out their duties.

Documents seen by BusinessPost articulate that in the meeting which was held on the 1st of April, the five outgoing board members, unlawfully took resolutions to extend their contracts by a further 90 days after April 30 2021 as they face tough competition from five other candidates who had expressed interest to run for the elections.

Moreover, at the said meeting, management explained that neither management nor the board have the authority to decline nominations submitted by shareholders or the interested parties which is in line with Companies Act and also BBS Limited constitution.

Molefe also revealed that as management they cautioned the board that it was conflicted and it would be improper for it to influence the election process as it seems they intended to do so.
“Nonetheless, in a totally unprecedented move in the history of BBSL, the board then collectively passed the unlawful resolutions below. Leading to the illegitimate decisions, the board had brazenly directed that its discussions on the Board elections should not be recorded totally violating sound corporate governance,” reads the statement released by management this week.

When giving their legal advice, Armstrong Attorneys noted that notice for the AGM should state individuals proposed to be elected to the board and directors have no legal authority to prevent the process.

Armstrong Attorneys also noted that, “due process” cited by board members are simply to ensure that the five retiring Directors avoid competition from interested candidates to be appointed to the BBS Limited board.  The law firm further opined that the resolution of the 90 day extension of term of the five directors pending re-election or election was unlawful.

Molefe expressed with regret that BBS has been suspended from trading by BSE until the current matter has been resolved. “I am concerned by this development and other potentially harmful actions on the business. As management, we are engaging with stakeholders to mitigate any negative impact on BBS Limited,” expressed a distressed Molefe.

He assured shareholders and the rest of Management that they are working very hard to ensure that the issues are being dealt with in a mature manner.  BBS which hopes to become the first indigenous commercial bank has seen its shares halted barely four months after BSE lifted the trading suspension of shares for BBS following submission of their published 2019 audited financial statements.

According to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the local bourse, Thapelo Tsheole said the halting of shares of BBSL is to maintain fair, efficient and orderly securities trading environment. “The securities have been suspended to allow BBS to provide clarity to the market concerning the recent allegations which have been brought to the attention of the BSE relating to the company’s Board of Directors and senior management,” said Tsheole.

Meanwhile in their audited financial statements for the year ended 31 December 2020, BBS recorded a loss of P14.6 million as at 31 December 2020 compared to the loss of P35.7 million for the comparative year ended 31 December 2019. According to Molefe the year under review was the most challenging for the bank, its shareholders and customers endured the difficult economic environment and the negative impact of the coronavirus.

He revealed that as the bank, they were forced to put in place several measures to ensure that the business withstands the impact of coronavirus and also to cushion mortgage customers from the effects of the pandemic. “Since April 2020 up to the end of December 2020, BBS assisted 555 mortgage customers with a payment holiday,’’ he said.

This is the bank whose total balance sheet declined by 12 percent from P4, 626 billion for the year ended. 31 December 2019 to P4, 088 billion as at 31 December 2020. As if things were not bad enough, total savings and deposits at the bank declined by 14 percent from a balance of P2, 885 billion as at 31 December 2019 to P2, 494 billion as at 31 December 2020.

On a much brighter side, BBSL mortgage loans and advances improved from P3, 401 billion to P3.408 billion with impairment allowance significantly improving to P78, 648 million from P102, 532 million for the year under review, representing a positive variance of 23 percent. BBS maintained a strong capital base with capital adequacy ratios of 26.32% for the year ended 31 December 2020.

Molefe was optimistic and anticipated a positive outcome during the implementation of the new BBS corporate strategy, whose main drive is commercialization of operations, which is in full force.
“It will be spurred on by the positive results we have achieved for the year ended 31 December 2020, and our planned submission of our banking license application to Bank of Botswana which we anticipate to operate as a commercial bank in the third quarter of 2021,” he alluded.

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Mphathi promises people centred, environmentally sensitive new BCL

12th April 2021
CEO of Premium Nickel Resources Botswana: Montwedi Mphathi

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Premium Nickel Resources Botswana (PNRB), Montwedi Mphathi, has said his company will resuscitate the formerly owned BCL assets and deliver a new, sustainable and cutting edge mining operation.

The new mine which will leverage on modern and next generation technology, will be environmentally sensitive and cognisant of the needs of its people and that of the communities around the area of influence.

In a statement last week, Premium Nickel Resources Botswana and its parent company, the Canadian headquartered Premium Nickel Resources announced that they have now completed the Exclusivity Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Liquidator.

The MOU will govern a six-month exclusivity period to complete its due diligence and related purchase agreements on the Botswana nickel-copper-cobalt (Ni-Cu-Co) assets formerly operated by BCL Limited (BCL), that are currently in liquidation.

On February 10, 2021, Lefoko Moagi, the Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security of Botswana, affirmed in Parliament a press release by the Liquidator for the BCL Group of Companies, stating that PNR was selected as the preferred bidder to acquire assets formerly owned by BCL.

“This is encouraging for the company and for Botswana. Our ambition in this new project dubbed “Tsholofelo” is to redevelop the former BCL assets into a modern, environmentally sensitive, efficient NI-Cu-Co-water producer where sustainability and the people are at the forefront of the decisions we make,” said Mphathi in a statement last Thursday.

“We also understand that no matter how successful we are at building the “New BCL” , our success will only be measured at our ability to create local wealth , skills and support the continued transition of local economy to a longer term sustainable base.”

The next step during the exclusivity period will be the completion of the definitive agreement. Simultaneous to this the PNRB will be conducting additional investigative work on site to further its understanding of the potential of these assets.

Specifically the company will complete an environmental assessment, a metallurgical study, a review of legal and social responsibilities, a review of the mine closure and rehabilitation plans and an on-site inspection of the legacy mining infrastructure and equipment that has been under care and maintenance.

Mphathi said they continue to monitor the global Covid-19 developments noting that they are committed to working with health and safety authorities as a priority and in full respect of all government and local Covid-19 protocol requirements. PNRB has developed Covid-19 travel, living and working protocols in anticipation of moving forward to on site due diligence.

“We will integrate these protocols with the currently applicable protocols of Ministry of Health & Wellness as well as District Health Management Team ( DHMT) and surrounding communities,” reads a statement released by the Gaborone based Premium Nickel Resources team.

PNRB is looking to become a catalyst in participating and building a strong economy for Botswana, with a purpose where respect and trust are core to every single step that will be taken. “Our success will mean following international best-in-class practices for the protection of Botswana’s environment and the focus on its people, building partnerships and earning respect, through cooperation and collaboration,” explains PNRB on its website.

“We are committed to Governance through transparent accountability and open communication within our team and with all our stakeholders.” Mphathi, a former BCL Executive, is widely celebrated for achieving unprecedented profitability at the mine during his tenure as General Manager.

The Serowe-born mining guru obtained a Diploma in Mining Technology from Haileybury School of Mines in Canada. He later obtained a B.Eng. Mining degree from the Technical University of Nova Scotia. Mphathi went on to City University in London, UK and obtained a M.Sc. in Industrial and Administrative Sciences.

Before ascending to the top country managerial role of Premium Nickel Resources. Mphathi was General Manager of Botswana Ash (Botash), Southern Africa’s leading salt and soda ash producer.
He was at some point linked to Debswana top post, which is still to date not substantively filled following the death of Managing Director, Albert Milton, in August 2019.

With Mphathi out of the race and now leading the rebuilding of his former employer, the top post at De Beers- Botswana joint venture is likely to be filled by current acting Managing Director Lynette Armstrong, a seasoned finance executive with unparalleled experience in the extractive industry.

“We are happy to hear that former General Manager of BCL, Mr Montwedi Mphathi, has a relationship with the new Company that intends to resuscitate the mine, he is an experienced Mining Executive who knows BCL better, we want the mine to be brought back to life so that our people can be employed ” said Dithapelo Keorapetse Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West recently in Parliament.

BCL was liquidated in October 2016 following a series of losses and government bailout occasioned by low Copper prices and allegedly poor Investment decisions and maladministration. Recently PNR CEO, Keith Morrison said his team of seasoned experts both from Canada and Botswana are committed to resuscitate the BCL assets and deliver a high performance mining operation.

“The World, Botswana and the mining industry have changed dramatically since mining first started at the former BCL assets in the early 1970s. The nickel-copper-cobalt resources remaining at these mines are now critical metals, required for the continued development of a decarbonized and electrified global economy,” he said.

Morrison added: “As we move forward, it is our goal to demonstrate the potential economics of re-developing a combination of the former BCL assets to produce Ni-Cu-Co and water in a manner that is inclusive of modern environmental, social and corporate governance responsibilities.”

He explained that to attain this, extensive upgrades to infrastructure will be required with an emphasis on safety, sustainability and the application of new technologies to minimize the environmental impact and total carbon footprint for the new operations.

“Our team remains committed to working with the local communities and all of the stakeholders throughout this period and we encourage anyone with questions or feedback to reach out to us directly,” he noted.

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Lucara extends sales deal with Belgian diamond cutter

12th April 2021
Lucara extends HB Antwerp’s contract Signum technologies

Lucara Diamond Corporation, the Canadian 100% owners of iconic Karowe mine, this week announced the extension of its supply deal with Belgian diamond midstream giant HB Antwerp.

The definitive supply agreement is in respect of all diamonds produced in excess. of 10.8 carats in size from its rare gem producing Karowe diamond mine located in the Boteti district of Botswana.
Large, high value diamonds in excess of 10.8 carats in size account for approximately 70% of Lucara’s annual revenue.

Though the Karowe mine has remained fully operational throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Lucara made a deliberate decision not to tender any of its +10.8 carat inventory after early March 2020 amidst the uncertainty caused by the global crisis.

Under the terms of this novel supply agreement with HB, extended to December 2022, the purchase price paid for each +10.8 carat rough diamond is based on the estimated polished outcome, determined through state of the art scanning and planning technology, with a true up paid on actual achieved polished sales thereafter, less a fee and the cost of manufacturing.

“Lucara is beginning to see the benefits of this strategy in accessing a broader marketplace and delivering regular cash flow based on final polished sales,” said Lucara CEO, Eira Thomas on Wednesday.

“We believe these early results warrant an extension of the arrangement for at least 24 months to determine if superior pricing and market stability for our large, high-value diamonds can be sustained longer term.”

The Canadian junior miner initiated a supply agreement with HB for large stones from its Botswana Karowe mine in July 2020, after pausing its tenders shortly after the Covid-19 pandemic began.
The deal enables Lucara to sell the rough diamonds to HB at a price based on an estimate of the polished outcome, which the companies determine using diamond scanning and planning technology.
Once HB sells the goods, it adjusts the price that Lucara receives based on the actual selling price of the polished, minus a fee and manufacturing costs.

The extended supply deal will follow the same payment terms as the initial agreement, and will be in effect through to December 2022. Lucara said in a statement this week that the agreement also provides increased tax revenue and beneficiation opportunities for the government of Botswana, and creates a streamlined supply chain for Karowe’s rough.

“More than a supply agreement, this collaboration structurally embeds a new transparent and sustainable way of working in the diamond-value chain,” said HB CEO, Oded Mansori.
“For the first time, different partners of the value chain are fully aligned, sharing data and information throughout the process from mine to consumer.”

Mansori added: “We are truly proud with this innovative and straightforward collaboration that has proven itself through the volatile and uncertain reality of 2020. We are confident to achieve even better results during the term of this new contract and demonstrate the power of a true partnership.”

Lucara, which early this year secured extension of Karowe mining license to 2040, announced over P2.4 billion funding for Karowe underground mining expansion project a fortnight ago. The Vancouver headquartered top large diamond producer says this supply agreement deal extension with HB will bring about regular cash flow for Lucara using polished pricing mechanism. Furthermore, the company says the deal has potential revenue upside, particularly suited for Lucara’s large, exceptional diamonds.

In the main, Botswana will benefit increased tax revenue and additional beneficiation opportunities for the Government and communities around Karowe mine. A streamlined supply chain that achieves alignment between Lucara and HB to maximize the value of each +10.8 carat diamond produced at Karowe.

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