In bid to transform the economy from upper middle income to high income, one which is diversified and private sector led, Botswana continues to put up structures and investment acceleration reforms to enable such a metamorphosis.
One of the country‘s best shot at archiving this remains embedded in opening up foreign market window to export Botswana manufactured goods and services. This in turn has been underscored as a critical path towards unlocking other value chain business opportunities such as transport and logistics as well as creating much needed jobs for the youth, especially unemployed graduates.
Last week Ministry of Investment, Trade & Industry (MITI) launched Botswana Revised National Strategy 2019-2024, a document that will direct the country’s quest towards unlocking global markets for local products and services. Developed in Collaboration with Commonwealth secretariat, the strategy is updated every 6 years to align with evolving global market trends and international trade demands.
At the launch which was attended by Government representative led by Minister of Investment & Trade Centre Bogolo Kenewendo, private sector representatives and other economic strategic partners such as European Union, it was noted the major aim of the National Export Strategy (NES) is to make Botswana globally competitive with a view to expanding current levels of exports and placing new product lines in the international markets.
Ushering in official proceedings MITI Deputy Permanent Secretary in charge of Trade Ms. Ontlametse Ward revealed that key priority sectors that have been identified as strategic deliverables in this new paths includes; arts and crafts, glass products, jewellery and semi-precious stone, leather and leather products, meat and meat products, garment and textile, light manufacturing and indigenous products amongst others.
Minister Kenewendo noted that the National Export Strategy recognizes the need to broaden existing initiatives aimed at export market development such as the export development program. She further highlighted that strategic export development and promotion is seen at a national level as a crucial element for the diversification process.
Kenewendo said because of its population of just over 2 million people which is often considered too small for business, Botswana is left with no much options but to explore international markets for business and trade, highlighting that the country’s Southern African Central location and inter boarder trade arrangements oils up its ability to penetrate the over 500 million people SADC market and consequently the continental and African consumer space.
To create the much needed jobs Kenewendo observed the need for mass industrialization outputting competitive goods and export ready products that can be absorbed by the international market. She also borrowed her ministry road map which was launched in early 2018, highlighting Export Development which is one of the three key Apexes compositing her Ministry‘s new path, explaining Botswana intends to explore export-led growth by promoting export of goods for which the country has a comparative advantage.
Under the new road map the Export Development basket encompasses creation of market access through negotiation of trade agreements with strategic partners, identifying priority sectors according to export readiness and capacity as well as implementation of rigorous development strategies of export incentives.
Kenewendo explained that the new strategy speaks exactly to that, “the National Export Strategy (2019-2024) intends to transform Botswana into a developed economy, built upon a sustainable, competitive export base” she said. Overall, the strategy aims to maximize the export sector's contribution to employment creation, rural development and poverty reduction, to increase production, productivity and value addition in specific targeted sectors; to improve the business environment; to diversify the range of export products, enhance human skills capacity as well as export competency and ensure the exporters have a well-supported access to lucrative international markets; to improve exporters' access to finance, trade information and quality management; to ensure that strategy support network is effectively coordinated by a public private sector partnership. The strategy provides a precise implementation framework with a detailed action plan and resource allocation.
Amongst other key highlights in Botswana‘s export development quest is the need to ensure that there are adequate resources available for capacity building of exporters, ensure that the volume and value of exports grow, new markets, and new export products are developed, provide Strategic leadership to the various stakeholders involved in exporting, monitor and ensure continuous improvement, swell as develop and increase the pool of export-ready companies.
Deliberating on the strategy experts say amongst other challenges impeding Botswana’s export development efforts is that the country is far from large rich markets ,the inland shipping cost to South African ports, low production capacity as well as lack of access to working capital just to name but a few. To address the challenges the strategy speaks to initiatives such as creating awareness and intensifying training on export Marketing Plans, Market segmentation and product pricing.
Trade & export promotion experts further noted that there is need to determine target groups with growth potential and where the company has competitive advantage. Also highlighted at the launch was the need to put in place Quality Management Systems (QMS) and product quality, development, documentation and implementation of QMS to ensure product quality thereby enhancing market competiveness.
Minister Kenewendo noted that the new revised strategy comes at an opportune time where Botswana is currently embarking on various drives to diversify the economy. "This Strategy is a product and market specific, designed targeted specifically for the priority sectors that has been identified,” she said. It was noted that to archive this, Botswana has to build export ready companies that have at a minimum, the drive, experience, financial resources, and capacity to successfully meet demand for its product in a foreign market.
The recent study on youth entrepreneurship in Botswana has identified difficult access to funding, land, machinery, lack of entrepreneurial mindset and proper training as serious challenges that continue to hamper youth entrepreneurship development in this country.
The study conducted by Alliance for African Partnership (AAP) in collaboration with University of Botswana has confirmed that despite the government and private sector multi-billion pula entrepreneurship development initiatives, many young people in Botswana continue to fail to grow their businesses into sustainable and successful companies that can help reduce unemployment.
University of Botswana researchers Gaofetege Ganamotse and Rudolph Boy who compiled findings in the 2022 study report for Botswana stated that as part of the study interviews were conducted with successful youth entrepreneurs to understand their critical success factors.
According to the researchers other participants were community leaders, business mentors, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Youth, Gender, Sport and Culture, financial institutions, higher education institutions, non-governmental institutions, policymakers, private organizations, and support structures such as legal and technical experts and accountants who were interviewed to understand how they facilitate successful youth entrepreneurship.
The researchers said they found that although Botswana government is perceived as the most supportive to businesses when compared to other governments in sub-Saharan Africa, youth entrepreneurs still face challenges when accessing government funding. “Several finance-related challenges were identified by youth entrepreneurs. Some respondents lamented the lack of access to start-up finance, whereas others mentioned lack of access to infrastructure.”
The researchers stated that in Botswana entrepreneurship is not yet perceived as a field or career of choice by many youth “Participants in the study emphasized that the many youth are more of necessity entrepreneurs, seeing business venturing as a “fall back. Other facilitators mentioned that some youth do not display creativity, mind-blowing innovative solutions, and business management skills. Some youth entrepreneurs like to take shortcuts like selling sweets or muffins.”
According to the researchers, some of the youth do not display perseverance when they are faced with adversity in business. “Young people lack of an entrepreneurial mindset is a common challenge among youth in business. Some have a mindset focused on free services, handouts, and rapid gains. They want overnight success. As such, they give up easily when faced with challenges. On the other hand, some participants argue that they may opt for quick wins because they do not have access to any land, machinery, offices, and vehicles.”
The researchers stated that most youth involved in business ventures do not have the necessary training or skills to maintain a business. “Poor financial management has also been cited as one of the challenges for youth entrepreneurs, such as using profit for personal reasons rather than investing in the business. Also some are not being able to separate their livelihood from their businesses.
Lastly, youth entrepreneurs reported a lack of experience as one of the challenges. For example, the experience of running a business with projections, sticking to the projections, having an accounting system, maintaining a clean and clear billing system, and sound administration system.”
According to the researchers, the participants in the study emphasized that there is fragmentation within the entrepreneurial ecosystem, whereby there is replication of business activities without any differentiation. “There is no integration of the ecosystem players. As such, they end up with duplicate programs targeting the same objectives. The financial sector recommended that there is a need for an intermediary body that will bring all the ecosystem actors together and serve as a “one-stop shop” for entrepreneurs and build mentorship programs that accommodate the business lifecycle from inception to growth.”
Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) is said to have recorded an operating surplus of P61 Million, an improvement compared to the previous year. The housing, office and other building needs giant met with stakeholders recently to share how the business has been.
The P61 million is a significant increase against the P6 million operating loss realized in the prior year. Profit before income tax also increased significantly from P2 million in the prior year to P72 million which resulted in an overall increase in surplus after tax from P1 million prior year to P64 million for the year under review.
Chief of Finance Officer, Diratsagae Kgamanyane disclosed; “This growth in surplus was driven mainly by rental revenue that increased by 15% from P209 million to P240 million and reduction in expenditure from P272 million to P214 million on the back of cost containment.” He further stated that sales of high margin investment properties also contributed significantly to the growth in surplus as well as impairment reversals on receivables amounting to P25 million.
It is said that the Corporation recorded a total revenue of P702 million, an 8% decrease when compared to the P760 million recorded in the prior year. “Sales revenue which is one of the major revenue streams returned impressive margins, contributing to the overall growth in the gross margin,” added Kgamanyane.
He further stated professional fees revenue line declined significantly by 64% to P5 million from P14 million in the prior year which attributed to suspension of planned projects by their clients due to Covid-19 pandemic. “Facilities Management revenue decreased by P 24 million from P69 million recorded in prior year to P45 million due to reduction in projects,” Kgamanyane said.
The Corporation’s strength is on its investment properties portfolio that stood at P1.4 billion at the end of the reporting period. “The Corporation continues its strategy to diversify revenue streams despite both facilities management income and professional fees being challenged by the prevailing economic conditions that have seen its major clients curtailing spending,” added the CEO.
On the one hand, the Corporation’s Strategic Performance which intended to build 12 300 houses by 2023 has so far managed to build 4 830 houses under their SHHA funding scheme, 1 240 houses for commercial or external use which includes use by government and 1 970 houses to rent to individuals.
BHC Acting CEO Pascaline Sefawe noted that; BHC’s planned projects are said to include building 336 flat units in Gaborone Block 7 at approximately P224 million, 100 units in Maun at approximately P78 million, 13 units in Phakalane at approximately P26 million, 212 units in Kazungula at approximately P160 million, 96 units at approximately P42 million in Francistown and 84 units at approximately P61 million in Letlhakane. Emphasing; “People tend to accuse us of only building houses in Gaborone, so here we are, including other areas in our planned projects.”
Researchers from some government owned regulatory institutions in the financial sector have projected that the banking sector’s profitability could increase, following Bank of Botswana Monetary Policy Committee recent decision to increase monetary policy rate.
In its bid to manage inflation, Bank of Botswana Monetary Policy Committee last month increased monetary policy rate by 0.50 percent from 1.65 percent to 2.15 percent, a development which resulted with commercial banking sector increasing interest rate in lending to household and companies. As a result of BoB adjustment of Monetary Policy Rate, from 1.65 percent to 2.15 percent commercial banks increased prime lending rate from 5.76 percent to 6.26 percent.
Researchers from Bank of Botswana, the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority, the Financial Intelligence Agency and the Botswana Stock Exchange indicated that due to prospects of high inflation during the second half of 2022, there is a possibility that the Monetary Policy Committee could further increase monetary policy rate in the next meeting in August 25 2022.
Inflation rose from 9.6 percent in April 2022 to 11.9 percent in May 2022, remaining above the Bank of Botswana medium-term objective range of 3 – 6 percent. According to the researchers inflation could increase further and remain high due to factors that include: the potential increase in international commodity prices beyond current forecasts, logistical constraints due to lags in production, the economic and price effects of the ongoing Russia- Ukraine conflict, uncertain COVID-19 profile, domestic risk factors relating to possible regular annual administered price adjustments, short-term unintended consequences of import restrictions resulting with shortages in supplies leading to price increases, as well as second-round effects of the recent increases in administered prices “Furthermore, the likelihood of further increases in domestic fuel prices in response to persistent high international oil prices could add upward pressure to inflation,” said the researchers.
The researchers indicated that Bank of Botswana could be forced to further increase monetary policy rate from the current 2.15 percent if inflation rises persistently. “Should inflation rise persistently this could necessitate an upward adjustment in the policy rate. It is against this background that the interest rate scenario assumes a 1.5 percentage points (moderate scenario) and 2.25 percentage points (severe scenario) upward adjustment in the policy rate,” said the researchers.
The researchers indicated that while any upward adjustment on BoB monetary policy rate and commercial banks prime lending rate result with increase in the cost of borrowing for household and compnies, it increase profitability for the banking sector. “Increases in the policy rate are associated with an overall increase in bank profitability, with resultant increases in the capital adequacy ratio of 0.1 percentage points and 0.2 percentage points for the moderate and severe scenarios, respectively,” said the researchers who added that upward adjustment in monetary policy rate would raise extra capital for the banking sector.
“The increase in profit generally reflects the banking industry’s positive interest rate gap, where interest earning assets exceed interest earning liabilities maturing in the next twelve months. Therefore, an increase of 1.5 percentage points in the policy rate would result in industry gains of P71.7 million (4.1 percent increase), while a 2.25 percentage points increase would lead to a gain of P173.9 million (6.1 percent increase), dominated by large banks,” said the researchers.