Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, a subsidiary of pan African telecommunications giant owned by Africa’s newest billionaire, Strive Masiyiwa will increase its stake in Botswana’s leading mobile network service provider, Mascom Wireless from 7 percent to 60 percent.
South African conceived MTN Group , now Africa’s leading telecommunication conglomerate announced this 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.
International reports state that 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.
BusinessPost 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.
BusinessPost 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.
BPOPF as a custodian of pensioners’ money is not allowed to own more than 50 percent of a company, especially an unlisted company like Mascom. However observers say in the case of Mascom which is a lucrative profit making company BPOPF should have bought MTN’s shares then list the company on the BSE, and dispose some of the shares to citizens.
The partnership between Debswana and Botswana Oil Limited (BOL) which was announced a fortnight ago will create under 100 direct jobs, and scores of job opportunities for citizens in the value chain activities.
In a major milestone, Debswana and BOL jointly announced that the fuel supply to Debswana, which was in the past serviced by foreign companies, will now be reserved for citizen companies. The total value of the project is P8 billion, spanning a period of five years.
“About 88 direct jobs will be created through the partnership. These include some jobs which will be transferred from the current supplier to the new partnership,” Matida Mmipi, Head of Stakeholder Relations at Botswana Oil, told BusinessPost.
“We believe this partnership will become a blueprint for other citizen initiatives, even in other sectors of the economy. Furthermore, this partnership has succeeded in unlocking opportunities that never existed for ordinary citizens who aspire to grow and do business with big companies like Debswana.”
Mmipi said through this partnership, BOL and Debswana intend to impact citizen owned companies in the fuel supply value chain that include transportation, supply, facilities maintenance, engineering, customs clearance, trucks stops and its support activities such as workshop / maintenance, tyre services, truck wash bays among others.
“The number of companies to be on-boarded will be determined by the economics at the time of engagement,” she said. BOL will play a facilitatory role of handholding and assisting emerging citizen-owned fuel supply and fuel transportation companies to supply Debswana’s Jwaneng and Orapa Letlhakane Damtshaa (OLDM) mines with diesel and petrol for their operations.
“BOL expects to increase citizen companies’ market share in the fuel supply and transportation industries, which have over the years been dominated by foreign-owned suppliers. Consequently, the agreement will also ensure security of supply for Debswana operations, which are a mainstay of the Botswana economy,” Mmipi said.
“Furthermore, BOL will, under this agreement, transfer skills to citizen suppliers and transporters during the contract period and ensure delivery of competent and skilled citizen suppliers and transport companies upon completion of the agreement.”
Mmipi said the capacitating by BOL is limited to providing citizen companies oil industry technical capability and capacity to deliver on the requirements of the contract, when asked on helping citizen companies to access funding.
“BOL’s mandate does not include financing citizen empowerment initiatives. Securing funding will remain the responsibility of the beneficiaries. This could be through government financing entities including CEDA or through commercial banks. Further to this, there are financial institutions that have already signed up to support the Debswana Citizen Economic Empowerment Programme (CEEP),” Mmipi indicated.
While BOL is established by government as company limited by guarantee, it will not benefit financially from the partnership with Debswana, as citizen empowerment in the petroleum value chain is core to BOL’s mandate.
“BOL does not pursue citizen facilitation for financial benefit, but rather we engage in citizen facilitation as a social aspect of our mandate. Citizen facilitation comes at a cost, but it is the right thing to do for the country to develop the oil and gas industry,” she said.
Mmipi said supplying fuel to Debswana comes with commercial benefits such as supply margins. These have traditionally been made outside the country when supply was done by multi-nationals for a period spanning over 50 years. With BOL anchoring supply for Debswana, this benefit will accrue locally, and BOL will be able to pay taxes and dividends to the shareholders in Botswana.
PwC Africa has presented the eighth edition of the VAT in Africa Guide – Africa re-emerging. This backdrop of renewal informs on the re-emergence of African economies and societies which have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this edition, which has been compiled by PwC Africa’s indirect tax experts, covers a total of 41 African countries. It is geared towards sharing insight with our clients based on the constantly changing tax environments that can have a significant impact on business operations.
Within Africa, governments continue to focus on expanding the tax net by improving revenue collection through efficient compliance systems and procedures. PwC Africa has observed that revenue authorities also continue to take a keen interest in indirect taxes as part of revenue mobilisation initiatives.
Maturing VAT system and upskilling SARS
“In South Africa, VAT is becoming more relevant as a revenue source for the government,” says Matthew Besanko, PwC South Africa’s Indirect Tax Leader. “Strides have been made to upskill South African Revenue Service (SARS) staff and identify VAT revenue leakages, particularly in respect of foreign suppliers of electronic services to people and businesses in South Africa.”
Broadening the tax base and digital economy
In the past year, South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe saw updates to their VAT legislation, or introduced specific legislation targeting electronically supplied services (ESS), which is in line with the global trend of attempting to tax the digital economy. “The expectation is that Botswana will also introduce VAT legislation in due course, while the National Treasury in South Africa has also made mention of revising the rules to account for further developments in the digital economy,” Besanko says.
South Africa’s National Treasury has also drafted legislation with the intention to introduce a reverse charge on gold, which is expected to come into effect later in 2022. While in Zimbabwe, revenue authorities have introduced a tax on the export of raw medicinal cannabis ranging between 10% and 20%, which came into effect on 1 January 2021.
ESG and carbon tax
Key strides have also been made within the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) space. “ESG leadership, strategising and reporting is essential now for organisations that wish to flourish and remain relevant,” Kabochi says. He adds that companies need to consider how ESG and tax intersect, since tax is a significant value driver when businesses need to deliver on their ESG goals.
In South Africa, a carbon tax regime, which is being implemented in three phases, has been adopted. The second phase was scheduled to start in January 2023, however phase one was extended by three years until 31 December 2025.
Until then, taxpayers will enjoy substantial tax-free allowances which reduce their carbon tax liability. At the beginning of 2022, the South African government increased the carbon tax rate to R144 (about US$9), which is expected to increase annually to enable South Africa to uphold its COP26 commitments.
With effect from 1 January 2023, carbon tax payers in South Africa will also be required to submit carbon budgets and adhere to the provisions of the carbon budgeting system which will be governed by the Climate Change Bill. Where set carbon budgets are exceeded, the government plans to impose penalties. “At PwC, we are continuously focused on our renewed global strategy, ” The New Equation,” Kabochi says. “Through this strategy, a key focus area for PwC Africa is to support clients in adding value to their ESG ambitions and building trust through sustained outcomes.”
The New Equation is also an acknowledgement of the fundamental changes in the business environment in which PwC’s clients and other stakeholders operate. PwC continues to reinvent and adapt to these changes as a community of problem solvers, combining knowledge and human-led technology to deliver quality services and value.
Local and international economists have lowered their projections on Botswana’s economic growth for 2022 and 2023, saying the country is highly likely to fail to maintain high growth rate recorded in 2021 hence will not reach initial forecasts.
Economists this week lowered 2022 forecasts for Botswana’s economic growth rate, from the initial 5.3% to 4.8% and added that in 2023 growth could further decline to 4.0%. The lower projections come on the backdrop of an annual economic growth that recovered sharply in 2021 with figures showing that year-on-year real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth increased to 11.4%, up from a contraction of 8.7% in 2020.
Economists from the local research entity, E-consult, this week stated that the 2021 double digit growth that exceeded projections made at the time of the 2022 budget may be short lived due to other developments taking place in the global economy. E-consult Economist Sethunya Kegakgametse stated that the war in Ukraine has worsened supply problems in the global economy and added that before the war, macroeconomic indicators were seen as improving and returning to pre-COVID levels.
According to the economist the global economy was projected to improve in 2022 and 2023. Recent figures show that global growth projections have been revised downwards from the initial forecast of 4.9% in 2022 with the World Bank’s new estimate for global growth in 2022 at 3.2%.
The statistics also shows that International Monetary Fund revised their growth projections for 2022 and 2023 down by 0.8% and 0.2% respectively, falling to 3.6% for both years. “The outbreak of war has severely dampened the global recovery that was under way following the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the economist.
She stated that despite Botswana being geographically removed from the conflict, the country has not and will not be exempt from the disruptions in the global economy. “The disruptions to global supply chains resulting from the war will have a negative effect on both Botswana’s growth and trade activities.
The economic sanctions against diamonds from Russia will add uncertainty to the market which will have knock on effects to Botswana’s growth, exports, and government revenues,” said the economists who added that the disruptions are driving prices up and result with very high inflation in the local economy.
Kegakgametse projected that in an attempt to limit inflation Bank of Botswana will be forced to raise interest rate “Should the sharp increase in both global and local inflation persist, Bank of Botswana much like other central banks around the world will be forced to raise interest rates in a bid to control rising prices. This would mean an end to the expansionary monetary policy stance that had been adopted post COVID-19 to aid economic growth,” she said.
In the latest projections, the UK based economic research entity Fitch Solutions lowered 2022 real GDP growth forecast for Botswana from 5.3% to 4.8% “In 2023, we see economic growth rate decelerating to 4.0%,” said Fitch Solutions economists who also noted that the 2022 and 2023 economic growth projections may come out lower than the current forecasts, as it is possible that new vaccine-resistant virus variants may be identified, which could result in the re-implementation of restrictions. “In such circumstances, we cannot rule out that Botswana’s economy may post weaker growth than our baseline scenario currently assumes,” said the economists.
According to the projections, Fitch Solution stated that there is limited scope for Botswana government to increase diamond production and exports, following the economic sanctions imposed on Russian diamond mining companies operating in Botswana. The research entity added that De Beers is unlikely to scale up diamond output from Botswana in order to prop up diamond prices.