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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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Banking on Your Terms: Exploring the World of Self-Service Banking

23rd February 2024

In today’s digital age, banking is no longer just about visiting a branch during business hours. It’s about putting you, the customer, in the driver’s seat of your financial journey. But what exactly is self-service banking, and how do you stand to benefit from it as a customer?

Self-service banking is all about giving you the power to manage your finances on your terms. Whether you want to check your account balance at midnight, transfer money while on vacation, or deposit cash without waiting in line, self-service banking makes it possible. It’s like having a virtual branch at your fingertips, ready to assist you 24/7.

This shift towards self-service banking was catalyzed by various factors but it became easily accessible and accepted during the COVID-19 pandemic. People of all ages found themselves turning to digital channels out of necessity, and they discovered the freedom and flexibility it offers.

Anyone with a bank account and access to the internet or a smartphone can now bank anywhere and anytime. Whether you’re a tech-savvy millennial or someone who’s less comfortable with technology, you as the customer have the opportunity to manage your finances independently through online banking portal or downloading your bank’s mobile app. These platforms are designed to be user-friendly, with features like biometric authentication to ensure your transactions are secure.

Speaking of security, you might wonder how safe self-service banking really is. Banks invest heavily in encryption and other security measures to protect your information. In addition to that, features like real-time fraud detection and AI-powered risk management add an extra layer of protection.

Now, you might be thinking, “What’s the catch? Does self-service banking come with a cost?” The good news is that for the most part, it’s free. Banks offer these digital services as part of their commitment to customer satisfaction. However, some transactions, like wire transfers or expedited bill payments, may incur a small service fee.

At Bank Gaborone, our electronic channels offer a plethora of services around the clock to cater to your banking requirements. This includes our Mobile App, which doesn’t require data access for Orange and Mascom users. We also have e-Pula Internet Banking portal, available at https://www.bankgaborone.co.bw as well as Tobetsa Mobile Banking which is accessible via *187*247#. Our ATMs also offer the flexibility of allowing you to deposit, withdraw cash, and more.

With self-service banking, you have the reins of your financial affairs, accessible from the comfort of your home, workplace, or while you’re on the move. So why wait? Take control of your finances today with self-service banking.

Duduetsang Chappelle-Molloy is Head: Marketing and Corporate Communication Services

 

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Botswana records over P6 billion trade deficit

7th February 2024

Botswana has recently recorded a significant trade deficit of over P6 billion. This trade deficit, which occurred in November 2023, follows another deficit of P4.7 billion recorded in October of the same year. These figures, released by Statistics Botswana, highlight a decline in export revenues as the main cause of the trade deficit.

In November 2023, Botswana’s total export revenues amounted to P2.9 billion, a decrease of 24.3 percent from the previous month. Diamonds, a major contributor to Botswana’s exports, experienced a significant decline of 44.1 percent during this period. This decline in diamond exports played a significant role in the overall decrease in export revenues. However, diamonds still remained the leading export commodity group, contributing 44.2 percent to export revenues. Copper and Machinery & Electrical Equipment followed, contributing 25.8 percent and 10.1 percent, respectively.

Asia emerged as the leading export market for Botswana, receiving exports worth P1.18 billion in November 2023. The United Arab Emirates, China, and Hong Kong were the top destinations within Asia, receiving 18.6 percent, 14.2 percent, and 3.8 percent of total exports, respectively. Diamonds and Copper were the major commodity groups exported to Asia.

The Southern African Customs Union (SACU) received Botswana’s exports worth P685.7 million, with South Africa being the main recipient within SACU. The European Union (EU) received exports worth P463.2 million, primarily through Belgium. Australia received exports worth P290 million, while the United States received exports valued at P69.6 million, mostly composed of diamonds.

On the import side, Botswana imported goods worth P9.5 billion in November 2023, representing an increase of 11.2 percent from the previous month. The increase in imports was mainly driven by a rise in Diamonds and Chemicals & Rubber Products imports. Diamonds contributed 23.3 percent to total imports, followed by Fuel and Food, Beverages & Tobacco at 19.4 percent and 15.0 percent, respectively.

The SACU region was the top supplier of imports to Botswana, accounting for 77.7 percent of total imports. South Africa contributed the largest share at 57.2 percent, followed by Namibia at 20.0 percent. Imports from Asia accounted for 9.8 percent of total imports, with Diamonds, Machinery & Electrical Equipment, and Chemicals & Rubber Products being the major commodity groups imported. The EU supplied Botswana with imports worth 3.2 percent of total imports, primarily in the form of Machinery & Electrical Equipment, Diamonds, and Chemicals & Rubber Products.

Botswana’s recent trade deficit of over P6 billion highlights a decline in export revenues, particularly in the diamond sector. While Asia remains the leading export market for Botswana, the country heavily relies on imports from the SACU region, particularly South Africa. Addressing the trade deficit will require diversification of export markets and sectors, as well as efforts to promote domestic industries and reduce reliance on imports.

 

 

 

 

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Business sector optimistic about 2024

7th February 2024

The business sector in Botswana is optimistic about the year 2024, according to a recent survey conducted by the Bank of Botswana (BoB). The survey collected information from businesses in various sectors, including agriculture, mining, manufacturing, construction, and finance, among others. The results of the survey indicate that businesses expect trading conditions to improve in the first quarter of 2024 and remain favorable throughout the year.

The researchers found that firms anticipate improvements in investment, profitability, and goods and services exported in the fourth quarter of 2023 compared to the previous quarter. These expectations, combined with anticipated growth in all sectors except construction and real estate, contribute to the overall confidence in business conditions. Furthermore, businesses expect further improvements in the first quarter of 2024 and throughout the entire year.

Confidence among domestic market-oriented firms may decline slightly in the first quarter of 2024, but overall optimism is expected to improve throughout the year, consistent with the anticipated domestic economic recovery. Firms in sectors such as mining, retail, accommodation, transport, manufacturing, agriculture, and finance are driving this confidence. Export-oriented firms also show increased optimism in the first quarter of 2024 and for the entire year.

All sectors, except agriculture, which remains neutral, are optimistic about the first quarter of 2024 and the year ending in December 2024. This optimism is likely supported by government interventions to support economic activity, including the two-year Transitional National Development Plan (TNDP) and reforms aimed at improving the business environment. The anticipated improvement in profitability, goods and services exported, and business investment further contributes to the positive outlook.

Firms expect lending rates and borrowing volumes to increase in the 12-month period ending in December 2024. This increase in borrowing is consistent with the expected rise in investment, inventories, and goods and services exported. Firms anticipate that domestic economic performance will improve during this period. Domestic-oriented firms perceive access to credit from commercial banks in Botswana to be relaxed, while export-oriented firms prefer to borrow from South Africa.

During the fourth quarter of 2023, firms faced high cost pressures due to increased input costs, such as materials, utilities, and transport, resulting from supply constraints related to conflicts in Ukraine-Russia and Israel-Hamas. According to the survey report, the firms noted that cost pressures during the fourth quarter of 2023 were high, mainly attributable to increase in some input costs, such as materials, utilities, and transport arising from supply constraints related to the Ukraine-Russia and Israel-Hamas wars. “However, firms’ expectations about domestic inflation decreased, compared to the previous survey, and have remained within the Bank’s 3 – 6 percent objective range, averaging 5.4 percent for 2023 and 5.4 percent for 2024. This suggests that inflation expectations are well anchored, which is good for maintenance of price stability,” reads the survey report in part.

However, firms’ expectations about domestic inflation decreased compared to the previous survey, and inflation expectations remained within the Bank’s objective range of 3-6 percent. This suggests that inflation expectations are well anchored, which is beneficial for maintaining price stability.

In terms of challenges, most firms in the retail, accommodation, transport, manufacturing, construction, and finance sectors considered the exchange rate of the Pula to be unfavorable to their business operations. This is mainly because these firms import raw materials from South Africa and would prefer a stronger Pula against the South African rand. Additionally, firms in the retail, accommodation, transport, and mining sectors cited other challenges, including supply constraints from conflicts in Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Hamas, as well as new citizen economic empowerment policies that some firms considered unfavorable to foreign direct investment.

On the positive side, firms highlighted factors such as adequate water and electricity supply, a favorable political climate, an effective regulatory framework, the availability of skilled labor, and domestic and international demand as supportive to doing business in Botswana during the fourth quarter of 2023.

Overall, the business sector in Botswana is optimistic about the year 2024. The anticipated improvements in trading conditions, supported by government interventions and reforms, are expected to drive growth and profitability in various sectors. While challenges exist, businesses remain confident in the potential for economic recovery and expansion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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