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Friday, 19 April 2024

Strive to offer Batswana 20% of Mascom

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Strive Masiyiwa, the chairman of Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, a subsidiary of pan African telecommunications giant wants to list 20 percent of Mascom shares on the Botswana Stock Exchange Limited (BSEL) as soon as the deal to purchase 53 percent of MTN shares in telecom entity is completed.

Africa’s newest billionaire, Masiyiwa will increase his company’s stake in Botswana’s leading mobile network service provider, Mascom Wireless from 7 percent to 60 percent. Executives at Econet Group confirmed to this publication that their chairman wants to push for a more expanded Botswana ciotizen involvement in the company.

“He wants the listing to be done before July this year. The intention is to lobby the Botswana Public Officers’ Pension Fund (BPOPF) to release 10 percent of their shares to the stock exchange and we do the same on the Econet side,” said an Econet executive in a brief interview.  The executive further shared that they are only left with regulatory issues and requirements to satisfy but the sale deal is almost done. Econet representatives in Botswana have already met the Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) to start the process of dealing with regulatory matters.

Econet was favoured by the Mascom shareholding setup, through the Mobile Botswana Limited (MBL), a vehicle that is made of MTN at 53% and Econet at 7%. The MBL gives Econet pre-emptive rights to buy from MTN ahead of BPOPF. South African conceived  MTN Group , now Africa’s leading telecommunication conglomerate announced last week that it will exit Mascom boardroom, selling off its stake for P3 billion.

MTN announced it will be selling its entire stake to Econet, making the Zimbabwean conceived company a major shareholder in Botswana leading mobile network services brand. MTN  has agreed to sell its 53 percent stake in Botswana’s Mascom to Econet Wireless Zimbabwe for $300 million (P3 billion) “We are simplifying the group, we are reducing risk, and improving returns,"  says  MTN CEO Rob Shuter . “That will generate some returns that will be helpful for our gearing and other priorities."

Currently as things stand before the transaction MTN is Mascom’s largest shareholder while the Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) owns 40 percent, and the remaining 7 percent is held by Econet. WeekendPost understands that BPOPF as the second biggest shareholder had the first right of refusal, but decided not to exercise its right to purchase shares on offer. As a result, the minor shareholder, Econet, will now become a major shareholder with 60 percent, while BPOPF remains with 40 percent. Econet is a major mobile network operator in Zimbabwe, founded by Strive Masiyiwa, the Zimbabwe born billionaire who was one of the founders of Mascom.

MTN first became a shareholder in Mascom in 2005, scooping about 44 percent of Mascom for $128 million, which was about P704 million at the time, with Mascom valued at P1.7 billion. Mascom is currently valued at P5.6 billion, which means MTN’s 53 percent shares in Mascom are worth P3 billion.MTN says it is disposing the shares held in Mascom due to “lack of control position and MTN branding which meant that the group is not able to execute on its BRIGHT strategy.”

The lack of control MTN alludes to stems from Mascom’s complex shareholding structure. While MTN is the major shareholder of Mascom, the South African telecommunication giant does not have management control over Mascom. In 1998, when Mascom became one of the country’s first wireless carrier, it was owned by Deci Holdings at 36 percent, Portuguese Telecommunications (25 percent), Strive Masiyiwa (14 percent), Debswana Pension Fund (15 percent), International Finance Corporation (5 percent) and Southern African Enterprises Development Fund (5 percent).

By 2004, Mascom’s shareholding had drastically changed: Portuguese Telecoms was now the majority shareholder with a 50.1 percent stake, followed by Deci (30 percent) and Strive Masiyiwa (19.99percent). Still in 2004, Mascom became a majority citizen owned company after Portuguese Telecoms decided to sell its entire shares in Mascom.

The shares were acquired by DECI and Masiyiwa, with DECI owning 60 percent and Masiyiwa had 40 percent. DECI at the time was owned by BPOPF and Botswana Insurance Fund Management (BIFM), placing Mascom in the hands of citizen shareholders. However, there was a catch to Portugal Telecoms offloading its shares: on top of money paid for its shares, the Portugal Company was given a lucrative management contract for Mascom running for 10 years. The deal expired in 2014, and it was extended by another 10 years. The management contract is the reason why Mascom has never had a citizen CEO.

When MTN became a 44 percent shareholder in Mascom back in 2005, the management contract deal was already in place. Although MTN later raised its stake from 44 percent to 60 percent in 2007, the complex holding structure still prevented it from taking over management of Mascom. MTN later reduced its stake to the current 53 percent.

WeekendPost further understands that the management contract continues to rub off MTN the wrong way as the South African company says it cannot implement some of its strategies. The BRIGHT strategy which MTN is pursuing is focused on growth of its financial services, digital, wholesale and enterprise businesses. It became clear last year that MTN was ready to divest from Mascom, after the South African mobile operator and Orange Group announced a joint venture, on Mowali project a mobile wallet interoperability wave.

MTN and Orange Group partnered to enable interoperable payments across the continent. Mowali makes it possible to send money between mobile money accounts issued by any mobile money provider, in real time and at low cost. Orange Group happens to be a major shareholder in Orange Botswana, a main competitor to Mascom.

The decision by MTN to dispose its entire shares in Mascom to a Econet comes less than six months after Econet, tried last year to sell the remaining shares for $50 million (P500 million) but the deal faced stiff resistance, with other shareholders indicating it was way too much. Econet had put the value of Mascom at P7 billion, while BPOPF argued Botswana’s top carrier was worth between P4.8 billion and P5.2 billion.

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Nigerians, Zimbabweans apply for Chema Chema Fund

16th April 2024

Fronting activities, where locals are used as a front for foreign-owned businesses, have been a long-standing issue in Botswana. These activities not only undermine the government’s efforts to promote local businesses but also deprive Batswana of opportunities for economic empowerment, officials say. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has warned of heavy penalties for those involved in fronting activities especially in relation to the latest popular government initiative dubbed Chema Chema.

According to the Ministry, the Industrial Development Act of 2019 clearly outlines the consequences of engaging in fronting activities. The fines of up to P50,000 for first-time offenders and P20,000 plus a two-year jail term for repeat offenders send a strong message that the government is serious about cracking down on this illegal practice. These penalties are meant to deter individuals from participating in fronting activities and to protect the integrity of local industries.

“It is disheartening to hear reports of collaboration between foreigners and locals to exploit government initiatives such as the Chema Chema Fund. This fund, administered by CEDA and LEA, is meant to support informal traders and low-income earners in Botswana. However, when fronting activities come into play, the intended beneficiaries are sidelined, and the funds are misused for personal gain.” It has been discovered that foreign nationals predominantly of Zimbabwean and Nigerian origin use unsuspecting Batswana to attempt to access the Chema Chema Fund. It is understood that they approach these Batswana under the guise of drafting business plans for them or simply coming up with ‘bankable business ideas that qualify for Chema Chema.’

Observers say the Chema Chema Fund has the potential to uplift the lives of many Batswana who are struggling to make ends meet. They argue that it is crucial that these funds are used for their intended purpose and not siphoned off through illegal activities such as fronting. The Ministry says the warning it issued serves as a reminder to all stakeholders involved in the administration of these funds to ensure transparency and accountability in their disbursement.

One local commentator said it is important to highlight the impact of fronting activities on the local economy and the livelihoods of Batswana. He said by using locals as a front for foreign-owned businesses, opportunities for local entrepreneurs are stifled, and the economic empowerment of Batswana is hindered. The Ministry’s warning of heavy penalties is a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to eliminate fronting activities and promote a level playing field for local businesses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s warning of heavy penalties for fronting activities is a necessary step to protect the integrity of local industries and promote economic empowerment for Batswana. “It is imperative that all stakeholders comply with regulations and work towards a transparent and accountable business environment. By upholding the law and cracking down on illegal activities, we can ensure a fair and prosperous future for all Batswana.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.

 

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