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Integrity of financial sector under attack – Governor

The ongoing reported mismanagement or abuse of public funds and money laundering scandals ensnaring local fund managers who handle public assets worth billions of Pula has far reaching implications which can nosedive the reputation of Botswana’s financial sector, this is much to the chagrin of Bank of Botswana (BoB) Governor Moses Pelaelo.

This week Pelaelo stopped short of calling fund managers accused of financial scandals criminals. When addressing the media just after unveiling the Monetary Policy Statement on Tuesday, Pelaelo complained of illicit activities that seem to have currently dogged the financial sector. Even though he did not mention names or any case in particular, the governor stated the Bank is gravely concerned by apparent criminal activities in the financial sector by those mandated by the public or institutions to look after their funds.

Pelaelo said such criminals should be uprooted and removed for the sake of the financial sector integrity. “We need to take out the people from the system. How do you allow mice to look after seeds….monkeys can’t look after bananas. We must remove the bad apples,” Pelaelo said. Answering media questions on whether the Bank has conducted any study or research on illicit activities by some players in the financial sector, Pelaelo said the central bank is not able to trace them due to them being illegal.

Pelaelo said the Bank would not even have figures because they are not traceable. The governor said the Bank’s job would be limited only to supervisory duties and working in collaboration with other institutions. Pelaelo’s disapproval for bad apples in the financial industry came at the same time with the launch of the Financial Stability Council. This council, according to Pelaelo, was begat after the Bank found the need for a prospective Financial Stabilty Council as articulated by the central bank in the 2018 Monetary Policy Statement.

Pelaelo said the Bank and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development Working Group, the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA) and the Financial Intelligence Agency (FIA) together approved the formation of the Council. The Council is formed by BoB, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, NBFIRA and the FIA. However the Financial Stability Council is not established to usurp or dilute the role of the respective institutions which is neither feasible nor desirable according to the Bank.

According to BoB, rather it is to share information and where, desirable, facilitate collective and coordinated approach to financial sector monitoring frameworks and crisis resolution. The Financial Stability Council which was launched this week after the first Monetary Policy Committee Meeting of the year is said by the Bank to be a step towards facilitating collaboration, cooperation and communication amongst the four government agencies for the purpose of implementing macro-prudential policy.

“The other important facet relates to national contingency planning for a financial sector crisis, anchored on proactive macro-prudential assessments, stress testing and a deeper understanding of cross-sectoral interactions of firms and financial markets. Given the nature and construct of financial intermediation and, in particular, the structure of balance sheets of banks, things will and often go wrong.

For these reasons, the strengthening of financial sector safety nets, encompassing effective crisis management, recovery and resolution plans as well as a proposal for the establishment of a deposit insurance scheme in Botswana, will form part of the agenda of the Financial Stability Council in 2019,” said Pelaelo when making the Monetary Policy Statement this week.

When making the Monetary Policy Statement this week Pelaelo said the Bank of Botswana is gravely concerned by the incipient personal greed and reported governance failures in some segments of the financial sector, which has the potential to erode fiduciary responsibilities and, consequently, undermine public confidence in financial markets.

When making his parting remarks during the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the bank and the concerned institutions in the Financial Stability Council Pelaelo said the Council’s main mandate is “to decisively address the incipient misconduct and governance challenges in the financial sector, deriving from greed and/or misunderstanding or incompetence with respect to fiduciary responsibilities, as well as opportunistic crime and fraud.”

Pelaelo told journalists that the just signed MoU is just the beginning as there will be consultation during this year. He said 2019 will also involve consideration of a deposit protection scheme for the country, to guarantee access to deposits up to a specified threshold, in the event of bank failure. Speaking at the signing of the MoU, NBFIRA CEO Oaitse Ramasedi agreed to work in partnership with BoB on the Council to protect the institution which is overlooking assets over P123 billion.

For his part, FIA Director Dr Abraham Sethibe said in the financial sector, “a fall of one will impact the other” hence the collaboration of all concerned parties in the Financial Stability Council. According to the BoB Governor other institutions which are expected to work with the Council is the Botswana Unified Revenue Services as Botswana continue to lose billions of Pula in tax evasion.

The latest Global Financial Integrity Report states that Botswana has lost P6.4 billion worth of exports in trade misinvoicing.  On the other hand the same report suggest that deceit was used to under-invoice imports in order to hide around P9.2 billion(US$885 million) from the tax man’s eye.

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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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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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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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