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Base metals, solar power take centre state

Botswana will remain a mining country, alongside efforts to address over dependence on mineral revenue, the country is also moving steadily to diversify within the mining industry itself.

This position emerged at the recent Botswana Resources Sector Conference organized by Capital Conferences in Gaborone this week. The event gathered investors, experts and leading personalities and entrepreneurs from Banking, Mining, Assert & Fund Managers, and other financial institutions.

Delivering the keynote address Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security – Eric Molale said in addition to Botswana’s economic transformation strategies for revenue diversification the intention is to derive value and economic growth from beneficiation of base metals and refocusing exploration of solar power and storage battery minerals such as nickel, cobalt, manganese, and rare earth minerals.

“These minerals puts Botswana in a lucrative and better position of taking  advantage of the emerging electric vehicles and other renewable technologies utilizing battery storage” he said Molale said Government commitment to developing base metals mining sector has been evident from various facilitation projects such as the 1.4 billion pula North West Power Grid undertaken to resources various copper & nickel mining projects along the Kalahari Copper belt in Ghanzi and Ngamiland districts.

He further cited the Mmamabula –Lephalele railway project which intends to unlock regional market for Botswana’s coal by providing a logistic corridor. Minister Molale went on to note that Government has earmarked broader beneficiation in the mining sector as one of its key area of action to drive job creation and to unlock other value chain business opportunities. “Our particular attention will be on diamonds, we will be opening up to vibrant polishing and cutting industries as well as jewelry making,” he said.

He shared that the failure of the national economic growth to reach the vision 2016 target of the 7.5% was mainly due to the low performance of the mining sector as a result of global uncertainties faced during NDP 10 period. “We are now midway through NDP 11 and lessons learned during the NDP 10 period must have made us wiser in navigating the challenges associated with this industry, the average rate of growth target for Vision 2036 is set at six percent.

This time we must not miss the mark. All eyes will be on the mineral resources sector to play a leading role in assisting the country to achieve the Vision 2036,” he said. Speaking on behalf of Debswana, the event’s main sponsor and key component of Botswana‘s mining industry Lead Engineer, Puso Mooketsi said that it was  befitting for Debswana to sponsor this collaborative conference as the company believes that it is one of the forums where the future is carved.

"The nation will also require baton carriers by the time Debswana resources get exhausted, so in the best interest of the future of this country as a company that has led its economic transformation we want to take part in development on other industries within the mining sector," he said. Also key to the conversation at the conference were the national power concern which has been underscored as an impediment to development of manufacturing and processing industries which requires high voltage factories to run.

The two industries are also earmarked for creation of much needed jobs especially for young people who are currently unemployed in large numbers. Attendants at the conference highlighted that with its high number of clear days in a year, Botswana provides an excellent solar resource, noting that a logical conclusion is that solar could provide a meaningful contribution to Botswana's energy demands.

The increasing cost and unreliability of power from Eskom in South Africa provided the impetus for the Botswana government to research renewable energy, with the most obvious contender being solar. In early 2017, Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) decided to start a programme to procure 100MW of solar energy and exploit the plentiful natural resource. Wayne Kingwill, Managing Director of Vivo Energy said solar power solutions have also become far more affordable and commercially viable over the past few years. “Many issues that plagued solar have also been resolved.


The introduction of hybrid systems using more sophisticated battery technology and diesel generation to store energy and boost production at peak times has resolved a constraint that solar power could only be generated during the day” he said
The Vivo Energy Boss shared that his company is currently taking up interest in development of solar energy as an alternative source of power.

"We have donated so far over 2000 solar lamps to students in communities that are off the national electricity grid line to give them an opportunity to study after hours. We have since discovered that the pass rate in those areas went up,” said Wayne Kingwill explaining how his company also leverage on Solar Energy to empower local communities and shape the future of young.

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Gambling Authority tender dangles as a jittery lottery quandary

30th November 2020
SEFALANA MD: CHANDRA CHAUHAN

Lucrative and highly anticipated national lottery tender that saw several Batswana businessmen partnering to form a gambling consortium to pit against their South African counterparts, culminates into a big power gamble.

WeekendPost has had a chance to watch lottery showcase even before the anticipated and impending national lottery set-up launches. A lot has been a big gamble from the bidding process which is now set for the courts next year January following a marathon legal brawl involving the interest of the gambling fraternity in Botswana and South Africa.

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The uncertainty of getting the next meal in Botswana

30th November 2020
uncertainty of getting the next meal

Households representing more than half of Botswana’s population-mostly residing in rural areas- do not know where their next meal will come from, but neither do they take into consideration the quality and/or quantity of the food they consume.

This is according to the latest Prevalence of Food Insecurity in Botswana report which was done for the 2018/19 period and represents the state of food insecurity data even to this time.
The Prevalence of Food Insecurity was released by Statistics Botswana and it released results with findings that the results show that at national level 50.8 percent of the population in Botswana was affected by moderate to severe food insecurity in 2018/19, while 22.2 percent of the population was affected by severe food insecurity only.

According to the report, this translates to 27 percent of the population being food secure that is to say having adequate access to food in both quality and quantity. According to Statistician General, Burton Mguni, when explaining how the food data was compiled, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), is custodian of the “Prevalence of Undernourishment (PoU)” and “Prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity in the population based on the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES)” SDG indicators, for leading FIES data analysis and the resultant capacity building.

“The FIES measures the extent of food insecurity at the household or individual level. The indicator provides internationally comparable estimates of the proportion of the population facing moderate to severe difficulties in accessing food. The FIES consists of eight brief questions regarding access to adequate food, and the questions are answered directly with a yes/no response. It (FIES) complements the existing food and nutrition security indicators such as Prevalence of Undernourishment.

According to the FIES, with increasing severity, the quantity of food consumed decreases as portion sizes are reduced and meals are skipped. At its most severe level, people are forced to go without eating for a day or more. The scale further reveals that the household’s experience of food insecurity may be characterized by uncertainty and anxiety regarding food access and compromising the quality of the diet and having a less balanced and more monotonous diet,” says Mguni.

The 50.8 percent of the population in Botswana which was affected by moderate to severe food insecurity are characterized as people experiencing moderate food insecurity and face uncertainties about their ability to obtain food. These people have been forced to compromise on the quality and/or quantity of the food they consume according to the report on food insecurity.

Those who experience severe food insecurity, the 22.2 percent of the population, are people who have typically run out of food and, at worst, gone a day (or days) without eating. According to the statistics, rural area population experienced moderate to severe food insecurity at 65 percent while urban villages were at 46.60 percent and cities/town were at 31.70 percent. Those experiencing the most extreme and severe insecurity were at rural areas making 33.10 percent while urban villages and towns were at 11.90 percent and 17.50 respectively.

According to a paper compiled by Sirak Bahta, Francis Wanyoike, Hikuepi Katjiuongua and Davis Marumo and published in December 2017, titled ‘Characterization of food security and consumption patterns among smallholder livestock farmers in Botswana,’ over 70 percent of Botswana’s population reside in rural areas, and majority (70%) relies on traditional/subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods.

The study set out to characterize the food security situation and food consumption patterns among livestock keepers in Botswana. “Despite the policy change, challenges still remain in ensuring that all persons and households have access to food at all times. For example, during an analysis of the impacts of rising international food prices for Botswana, BIDPA reported that food prices tended to be highest in the rural areas already disadvantaged by relatively low levels of income and high rates of unemployment,” said the study.

According to the paper, about 9 percent of households were found to be food insecure and this category of households included 6 percent of households that ranked poorly and 3 percent that were on the borderline according to the World Food Programme’s (WFP) definition of food security.

Media reports state that the World Bank has warned that disruption to production and supply chains could ‘spark a food security crisis’ in Africa, forecasting a fall in farm production of up to 7 percent, if there are restrictions to trade, and a 25 percent decline in food imports.

Food security in Botswana or food production was also attacked by the locust pandemic which swept out this country’s vegetation and plants. The locust is said to have contributed to 25 percent loss in production.

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Solid demand for diamonds towards the ‘gift’ season

30th November 2020
Diamonds

Global lockdown have been a thorn in diamonds having shiny sales, but a lot of optimism shows with the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, the precious stones will be bought with high volumes towards festive season. The diamond market is however warned of the resurgence of Covid-19 in key markets presents ongoing risks amid the presence and optimist about the new Covid-29 vaccines.

The latest findings published as De Beers Group’s latest Diamond Insight ‘Flash’ Report, which looks at the impact of the pandemic on relationships and engagements, has revealed that in the US that more couples than ever are buying diamond engagement rings. Bridal sales is mostly the primary source of diamond jewellery demand in recent months, De Beers said.

According to De Beers, interviews with independent jewellers around the US revealed that the rate of couples getting engaged has increased compared with the period when Covid-19 first had an impact in the US in the spring.

“In addition, despite challenging economic times, consumers were spending more than ever on diamond engagement rings – often upgrading in colour, cut and clarity, rather than size. Several jewellers speculated that with consumers spending less on elaborate weddings and/or honeymoons in the current environment, they had more to spend on choosing the perfect ring,” said De Beers.

According to De Beers, a national survey of 360 US women in serious relationships, undertaken in late October in collaboration with engagement and wedding website, The Knot. This survey is said to have found that the majority of respondents (54%) were thinking more about their engagement ring than the wedding itself (32%) or the honeymoon (15%), supporting jewellers’ hypothesis that engagement ring sales were benefiting from reduced wedding and travel budgets in light of Covid-19 restrictions.

When it came to researching engagement rings, online was by far the predominant channel for gaining ideas/inspiration at 86% of consumers surveyed, with 85% saying they had saved examples of styles they liked, according to De Beers. According to the survey, only a uarter of respondents said they had looked in-store at a physical location for design inspiration.

“For many couples, the pandemic has brought them even closer together, in some instances speeding up the path to engagement after forming a deeper connection while experiencing lockdown and its associated ups and downs as a partnership. Engagement rings are taking on even greater symbolism in this environment, with retailers reporting couples are prepared to invest more than usual, particularly due to budget reductions in other areas,” De Beers CEO Cleaver said.

According to De Beers Group, its Diamond Insight Flash Report series is focused on understanding the US consumer perspective in light of Covid-19 and monitoring how it evolves as the crisis evolves. Also, the company said, it is augmenting its existing research programme with additional consumer, retailer and supply chain touch-basis to understand the pain points and the opportunities for stakeholders across the diamond pipeline.

Demand for diamonds is as hard and resilient as the precious stone itself. De Beers pocketed US$ 450 million in its recently held ninth rough diamond sales cycle, and the company says it is more flexible approach to rough diamond sales during the ninth sales cycle of 2020, with the Sight event extended beyond its normal week-long duration.

“Steady demand for De Beers Group’s rough diamonds continued in the ninth sales cycle of the year, reflecting stable consumer demand for diamond jewellery at the retail level in the US and China, and expectations for reasonable demand to continue throughout the holiday season. However, the resurgence of Covid-19 infections in several consumer markets presents ongoing risks,” said De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver recently.

High expectations are on diamonds being a sentimental gift for holiday season or as the most fetished gift. However the ninth cycle was lower than the eighth which registered US$ 467 million. For the last year period which corresponds with the current one, De Beers managed to raise US$ 400.

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