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UB, BGI partner for innovative research

Botswana Geosciences Institute (BGI) and the country‘s premier institution of learning, University of Botswana (UB) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to facilitate a collaborative working relationship towards fulfilling their mandates.

At a signing ceremony held in Lobatse recently, it was announced that the purpose of the MoU is to foster a partnership geared towards seeing the two organisations conducting innovate and impactful research that can address the needs of different stakeholders and promote the growth of technical expertise in Botswana. Furthermore the two organisations seek to promote stakeholders engagement in areas of training, consulting and research for the benefit of Batswana, by promoting use of technology on mineral resources exploration as well involving technical expertise that a housed by both BGI and UB in formulating policy frameworks towards transformation of Botswana economy. 

Speaking at the signing ceremony BGI Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Tiyapo Ngwisanyi said one of the urgent areas earmarked as a start point for collaboration as one of the MoU deliverables is the provision of geosciences information to the two institutions clients throughout the world. “With Botswana history of over  75 years in  collecting  of geosciences data, it is evident that these data is yet to be properly  documented and managed, this requires specific set of skills in data mining, perhaps this will form the first project specifics in our  agreement” he said.

Ngwisanyi said BGI as a technical expertise organisation is looking at leveraging on UB’s academia knowledge to document and properly manage the acquired geosciences data. “We deal with mineral exploration and the composition of the earth, UB has the expertise in terms of modelling that which BGI can use, if we complement each other we can give products and services that are of high standards, that our communities and customers can benefits on,” he said 

Furthermore it was noted that UB can use the relationship to better support their mandate of developing fully baked and globally competitive and industry ready graduates. “We can be of service to University of Botswana’s mandate by influencing what UB delivers to the industry, because we want students that are industry ready which in turn benefits our economy” added BGI chief. For his part UB Vice Chancellor, Professor David Norris said the research that academic institutions do must have societal impact.

“Whatever we do must be based on the needs of these stakeholders that we work with as an institution of learning, most of the time universities are taken to task, questioned on what value they are adding to the economy, visions and aspiration of a country,” he said explaining that UB was not an exception. “Those are the questions that we also as University of Botswana are asked as the highest institution of learning in the land, to say what contribution are we bringing? What return of investment are we bringing to the table as the host of premier academic and research minds? So we are saying let’s change course and make sure that whatever we do has impact on the livelihoods of our people,” Norris argued. 

The UB provost observed that the relationship between his institution and BGI will stand to benefit the former more as students are expected to be the main beneficiary. “This will be a reciprocal collaboration, however it stands to benefit us more as our students will leverage on the technical expertise provided by BGI,” Norris contended. UB is of the view that for a very long time earth sciences have been a host of Botswana’s economic nucleus in the area of mining and mineral exploration, which contributed significantly to the country revenue and development. “Looking at our national aspiration, in terms of National Development Plan 11 & 12 we are looking into vision 2036 and this vision speaks to complete transformation of  our economy  from a resource base to a knowledge based with more diversified revenue streams  increased job creation output,” he said.

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Botswana on high red alert as AML joins Covid-19 to plague mankind

21st September 2020

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.

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Finance Committee cautions Gov’t against imprudent raising of debt levels

21st September 2020
Finance Committe Chairman: Thapelo Letsholo

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.

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Gov’t Investment Account drying up fast!  

21st September 2020
Dr Matsheka

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”

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