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Another second hand jet ready to land on Air Botswana shores

An 8.6 months year old Embraer ERJ 170 jet with serial number 17000319 currently bearing registration code N735A lies in store and unused at UK aviation company waiting for Air Botswana to take it home, BusinessPost has established. Fresh information is that this airmachine which is currently owned by UK leading professional aircraft registration company, Southern Aircraft Consultancy, is expected to descend upon Botswana in June this year.

Recently Minister of Transport and Communications Dorcas Makgato also confirmed that government has approached the funding facility of Public Service Debt Fund (PSDF) for acquiring of two jets and the first one has arrived in last day of 2018. The PSDF loan, according to the minister, is P230 million payable over a period of seven years at an interest of 5 percent for the two jets. Before the minister released a hint, there have been sketchy details on the two aircrafts; how they were paid for and whether one or two were acquired.

BusinessPost has established the kind of the second jet which is coming to Air Botswana shores in a space of two months. The aircraft which was manufactured in 2010,m the Brazilian plane maker Embraer is currently stored at the Southern Aircraft Consultancy like her fellow sister Embraer ERJ170 (c/n 17000318), A2-ABM, formerly registered N734A which was delivered on the New Year’s Eve of 2018. The two aircrafts were both kept on the storeroom before the other was delivered to Botswana.

 This publication understands that before being delivered to UK the coming Embraer jet was formerly part of the three jets (including the one that is already in Botswana) owned by Saudi Arabia’s state owned oil company Saudi Aramco. Unconfirmed reports are that both jets were part of the aircraft sales bribery matter that rocked the Asian country. They are alleged to have been part of the three jets bought from Brazilian aircraft maker Embraer SA by Saudi Aramaco linked to a huge scandal where a former executive of Embraer pleaded guilty in October 2016 to USA charges that he arranged a bribe to an employee of the Saudi company.

In early 2010 Saudi Aramco had awarded Embraer a $93 million contract for three new aircraft. Saudi Aramco named the aircraft that is now owned by Air Botswana Damman, the other one which was bought by this country and coming was named Shaybah while the third jet which was bought by the Saudi company named al-Hasa’s whereabouts are unclear.

It is reported that after the bribery scandal Saudi Aramaco’s relationship with Embraer suffered as all the three jets were never seen on the Saudi skies again before taken by Southern Aircraft Consultancy in 2018. Some reports allege that al-Hasa might still be “stored” at Saudi Arabia waiting for it to be sold. Investigations shows that ever since the 2016 scandal Saudi Aramco ‘grounded” all the Embraer aircrafts and since then the Saudi company has not flew any aircraft made by the Brazilian jet maker.

In 2016 after the bribery allegations Saudi Aramco confirmed publicly that it had “suspended all business dealings with Embraer since the incident and excluded it from any future business.” This is despite Embraer in October 2016, the same year, agreeing to pay $205.5 million to settle a six year corruption investigation by US and Brazilian authorities-a spirited attempt to resuscitate its disgraced mammoth image. During that time Embraer was involved in similar corruption scandals in Mozambique, India and Dominican Republic.
    

How Air Botswana settled for “cheaper” second hand jets

Further allegations reveal that the two jets which are now on Air Botswana’s books never touched the sky for a long time and were “stored” at Southern Aircraft Consultancy before being acquired at “a cheaper price” by Air Botswana. Further unconfirmed reports suggest that the N735A which is expected to come to Botswana is currently still residing at Toronto Lester B. Pearson International Airport pending its fate.

This publication can authoritatively reveal that in 2016, the same year when Embraer was hit by myriad corruption scandals involving the sale of their jets Botswana government had toyed with the idea of buying an airmachine from it. The same year a P2.6 billion refleeting tender was put forth for purchase of two jets (from Embraer) and two turbo-propellers. It was the same time when the then Minister of Tourism Tshekedi Khama was said to be taking Air Botswana from the transport ministry to his portfolio- a move that failed and so was the lucrative tender.

Three companies Embraer of Brazil, Bombadier of Canada and ATR of France were on government’s mind during that seemingly lucrative refleeting tender. A source revealed this week to the publication that the refleeting was dealt a huge blow and delayed because of disagreement of a task team that lead the project. In 2016 it also emerged that a sub-committee for privatization of Air Botswana visited countries like the US, Brazil and Canada in a bid to buy new fleet. The then minister of transport Kitso Mokaila “was not in any way going to break a bank for government to buy the new fleet” hence the disagreements, said a source.

It is reported further that government officials which were part of the negotiating team for refleeting agreed that “cheaper”, “affordable”, “sustainable” and “durable” second hand aircrafts were ideal for the hence the move to buy the two used jets.
“Therefore, Botswana Government decided to buy two second hand jets for P230 million. Government officials were advised that it is affordable and sustainable. If you watch very carefully, government was advised by a consultant to buy these kind of brands which are trusted internationally and it was believed even the second hand Embraer jets or ATR turbo-propellers,” said a source.

Okavango joined by younger sister as privatization remains on the horizon

Born in 22 November and renamed Okavango by Air Botswana, Embraer ERJ170 (c/n 17000318), A2-ABM, formerly registered N734Awas acquired from Regional One last year December, but it is yet to take on the skies. It is expected to take on Lusaka and Harare routes which will be opened on next week Tuesday.

With the additional N734 which was made on 15 December 2010 coming in June, Okavango will not be a lonely jet on the Botswana skies. The coming new jet yet to be named by Air Botswana upon arrival is expected to get a brand name after being ‘born again’ to the local airliner and it is expected to traverse the long routes of Gaborone-Durban and Gaborone-Maputo in few months to come. The new jet will add to Air Botswana’s fleet of five aircrafts.

The same month when the new jet arrives, International Air Transport Association (IATA) will conduct a biennial Operational Safety Audit. The last audit which was carried in 2017 cleared Air Botswana as fit and safe. Meanwhile the national airline has been taken up by PEEPA for privatization, the process started last year December. Minister Makgato revealed recently before parliament that PEEPA has appointed Deloitte Consulting as a “Transaction Advisor”

“The key deliverable would be strategic options available to Government on how the airline could be privatized thereby enabling the shareholder to make strategic choices in line with other national strategic objectives,” said Makgato to parliament.

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Business

Payless to partake in BSE’s Flagship Tshipidi program

28th June 2022
PAYLESS

Newly established wholly indigenous citizen owned retail chain Payless Retail (PTY) Ltd is set to partake in the first session of Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE)’s Tshipidi Mentorship Program (TMP) on Monday June 29th.

The TMP aims to train and capacitate SMEs so they can operate as corporates and eventually list on the local bourse. According to local bourse, BSE, the program aims to provide practical training to potential issuers through a comprehensive and interactive program that covers the key themes necessary to position a company to list on the BSE.

Payless Retail is a newly established supermarket chain whose mission is to become a convenient one-stop shopping destination as it is one of the Botswana oldest retailing brands.  It started off as Corner Supermarket in January 1976, and to date boasts of nine stores in, among others, Gaborone, Mochudi, Molepolole and Tlokweng. Payless was recently acquired by Ellis Retail Group, which is led by businessman Elliot Moshoke.

The takeover catapulted Ellis Retail to the envious position of being the first wholly indigenous owned major retail chain. “We jumped at this opportunity because it gave us a chance to prove to Batswana that the retail business is open and lucrative.”

The objective is to create a proudly Botswana retail chain that fully supports our national Vision, economic development and citizen economic empowerment ambitions,” Moshoke told BusinessPost.

He further emphasized that Batswana are capable and able to run large scale businesses hence they need to accept invite foreign investors who will come in to support us not take the business.
“Our win as Payless in the Fast Moving Consumer goods (FMCG) industry is a win for Batswana. We need their support in this difficult and challenging journey.

As you are aware, Payless is the only retail chain in the hands of Batswana ba Sekei. We need to take advantage of this to generate employment and create small businesses in retail and Agri businesses,” he explained.

The retailer has also partnered with Botswana Investment & Trade Center (BITC) on their #PushaBW campaign with a view to initiating earnest engagement with local producers to iron out bottlenecks and ensure seamless trading.

“Local producers have to be part of the phenomenal growth of the Payless brand. This will in turn facilitate employment creation and economic growth. We did this because we have the utmost respect for local manufacturers and producers,” he mentioned.

Payless is currently restocking all of its stores; a development that Moshoke says is testament to the retailer’s commitment to growing the brand and ensuring continuity of business. He further revealed that renowned retail suppliers like PST and CA Sales have reignited their trust in Payless, opening their doors for Payless as they have faith in the retailer’s new owners.

The takeover has reportedly saved more than 200 jobs and gave a new lease of life to the previously fledging Payless brand. According to a press release from the management team, the Payless work forces are also extremely excited about what the future holds. The TMP is a comprehensive and interactive program that covers the key themes necessary to position a company to list on the BSE.

The program is administered by experts within the listing ecosystem and seeks to bring the potential issuers closer to the listings advisers, investors and leaders of already listed companies.  “As a strategic initiative, the BSE decided to set up this mentorship program in a bid to assist SMEs to strategize, corporatize and acclimatize in order to list to access equity finance and expand operations,” said the BSE.

The TMP will avail to SMEs practical insights, knowledge and feedback from institutional investors, increased awareness of the BSE listing requirements as well as an intimate network of advisors and CEOs of listed companies. After training, Payless will graduate with improve governance structures and better knowledge of articulating its business strategy. The retailer will also gain increased visibility through BSE marketing platforms.

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Business

BITC assisted companies rake in P2.96 billion in export earnings

21st June 2022
BITC-CEO-Keletsositse-Olebile

Despite Covid-19 interrupting trade worldwide, exporting companies in Botswana which benefited from the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) services realised P2.96 billion in export earnings during the period from April 2020 to March 2021.

In the preceding financial year, the sale of locally manufactured products in foreign markets had registered export revenue of P2, 427 billion against a target of P3, 211 billion BITC, which celebrates 10 years since establishment, continues to carry out several initiatives targeted towards expanding the Botswana export base in line with Botswana’s desire to be an export led economy, underpinned by a robust export promotion programme in line with the National Export Strategy.

The main products exported were swamp cruiser boats, pvc tanks and pvc pipes, ignition wiring sets, semi-precious stones, veterinary medicines, hair braids, coal, textiles (towels and t-shirts) and automobile batteries. These goods were destined mainly for South Africa, Zimbabwe, Austria, Germany, and Namibia.

With Covid-19 still a problem, BITC continues to roll out targeted virtual trade promotion missions across the SADC region with a view to seeking long-lasting market opportunities for locally manufactured products.

Recently, the Centre facilitated participation for Botswana companies at the Eastern Cape Development Council (ECDC) Virtual Export Symposium, the Botswana-Zimbabwe Virtual Trade Mission, the Botswana-Zambia Virtual Trade Mission, Botswana-South Africa Virtual Buyer/Seller Mission as well as the Botswana-Namibia Virtual Trade Mission.

BITC has introduced an e-Exporting programme aimed at assisting Botswana exporters to conduct business on several recommended e-commerce platforms. Due to the advent of COVID-19, BITC is currently promoting e-trade among companies through the establishment of e-commerce platforms and is assisting local companies to embrace digitisation by adopting e-commerce platforms to reach export markets as well as assisting local e-commerce platform developers to scale up their online marketplaces.

During the 2019/2020 financial year, BITC embarked on several initiatives targeted at growing exports in the country; facilitation of participation of local companies in international trade platforms in order to enhance export sales of local products and services into external markets.

BITC also helped in capacity development of local companies to compete in global markets and the nurturing of export awareness and culture among local manufacturers in order to enhance their skills and knowledge of export processes; and in development and implementation of trade facilitation tools that look to improve the overall ease of doing business in Botswana.

As part of building export capacity in 2019/20, six (6) companies were selected to initiate a process to be Organic and Fair Trade Certified. These companies are; Blue Pride (Pty) Ltd, Motlopi Beverages, Moringa Technology Industries (Pty) Ltd, Sleek Foods, Maungo Craft and Divine Morula.

In 2019 seven companies which were enrolled in the Botswana Exporter Development Programme were capacitated with attaining BOBS ISO 9001: 2015 certification. Three (3) companies successfully attained BOBS ISO 9001:2015 certification. These were Lithoflex (Pty) Ltd, General Packaging Industries and Power Engineering.

BITC’s annual flagship exhibition, Global Expo Botswana (GEB) to create opportunities for trade and strategic synergies between local and international companies. The Global Expo Botswana) is a premier business to business exposition that attracts FDI, expansion of domestic investment, promotion of exports of locally produced goods and services and promotion of trade between Botswana and other countries.

Another tool used for export development by BITC is the Botswana Trade Portal, which has experienced some growth in terms of user acceptance and utilisation globally. The portal provides among others a catalogue of information on international, regional and bilateral trade agreements to which Botswana is a party, including the applicable Rules, Regulations and Requirements and the Opportunities for Botswana Businesses on a product by product basis.

The portal also provides information on; measures, legal documents, and forms and procedures needed by Botswana companies that intend on doing business abroad. BITC continues to assist both potential and existing local manufacturing and service entities to realise their export ambitions. This assistance is pursued through the ambit of the Botswana Exporter Development Programme (BEDP) and the Trade Promotion Programme.

BEDP was revised in 2020 in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with a vision to developing a diversified export-based economy. The programme focuses mostly on capacitating companies to reach export readiness status.

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Business

Inflation up 2.3 percent in May

21st June 2022
Inflation

Prices for goods and services in this country continue to increase, with the latest figures from Statistics Botswana showing that in May 2022, inflation rate rose to 11.9 percent from 9.6 percent recorded in April 2022.

According to Statistics Botswana update released this week, the largest upward contributions to the annual inflation rate in May 2022 came from increase in the cost of transport (7.2 percent), housing, water, electricity, gas & other Fuels (1.4 percent), food & non-alcoholic beverages (1.1 percent) and miscellaneous goods & services (0.8 percent).

With regard to regional inflation rates between April and May 2022, the Rural Villages inflation rate went up by 2.5 percentage points, from 9.6 percent in April to 12.1 percent in May 2022, according to the government owned statistics entity.

In the monthly update the entity stated that the Urban Villages inflation rate stood at 11.8 percent in May 2022, a rise of 2.4 percentage points from the April rate of 9.4 percent, whereas the Cities & Towns inflation rate recorded an increase of 1.9 percentage points, from 9.9 percent in April to 11.8 percent in May.

Commenting on the national Consumer Price Index, the entity stated that it went up by 2.6 percent, from 120.1 in April to 123.2 in May 2022. Statisticians from the entity noted that the transport group index registered an increase of 7.3 percent, from 134.5 in April to 144.2 in May, mainly due to the rise in retail pump prices for petrol and diesel by P1.54 and P2.74 per litre respectively, which effected on the 13th of May 2022.

The food & non-alcoholic beverages group index rose by 2.6 percent, from 118.6 in April 2022 to 121.6 in May 2022 and this came as a result of increase in prices of oils & fats, vegetables, bread & cereal, mineral waters, soft drinks, fruits & vegetables juices, fish (Fresh, Chilled & Frozen) and meat (Fresh, Chilled & Frozen), according to the Statisticians.

The Statisticians said the furnishing, household equipment & routine maintenance group index rose by 1.0 percent, from 111.6 in April 2022 to 112.7 in May 2022 and this was attributed to a general increase in prices of household appliances, glassware, tableware & household utensils and goods & services for household maintenance.

The prices for clothing & footwear group index moved from 109.4 to 110.4, registering a rise of 0.9 percent during the period under review. Bank of Botswana has projected higher inflation in the short term, associated with the likelihood of further increases in domestic fuel prices in response to persistent high international oil prices and added that the possible increase in public service salaries could add also upward pressure to inflation in this country.

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