As the recently re-branded Air Botswana launches and re-introduces routes, passengers, including tourists and business people, who wish to travel by the national flag carrier to and fro Kasane-Johannesburg will have to wait for a little longer for the flight to take off.
The much anticipated Kasane-Johannesburg route will “re-introduce the route later this year,” as part of the national airliner ambition to expand regionally with introduction of new routes. Air Botswana has not announced the exact date of the route, but confirmed it will be re-introduced after several years. Kasane is Botswana’s tourism hub while Johannesburg is Africa’s key area for commercial, industrial and entire business activities.
The route which many see as lucrative as it may cost a fare of P5 000 is expected to swap passengers who either wish to have a near first world feel of Johannesburg and those who want the touch of wild aroma while gazing at wildlife. After a long hiatus due to Air Botswana’s cancellation of the Gaborone- Cape Town flight which was operated on lease by Cemair, the national airliner will soon bring back the route. The Cemair-leased flight was grounded by the South African airline regulator.
The national flag carrier is expected to pierce through the air sky heading to the north next month in what Air Botswana called “support of increased commercial activities and movements of people between Botswana and its northern neighbours, Zimbabwe and Zambia.” Air Botswana in this case will re-introduce flights from Gaborone to Harare and Lusaka. In a press release, the national airliner explained that this will be a triangular operation starting off from Gaborone to Harare and onwards to Lusaka.
Reports state that Air Botswana is set to hit the Zambian skies with a maiden flight scheduled for 31 March. This flight comes back after a two-year pause and reports says the new twin-engine Embraer E-170 jet will operate on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Air Botswana ceased the flights operation between Gaborone and Lusaka and Harare in 2016 in what the national flag carrier called “rationalization exercise to reduce operational costs on non-profitable routes.”
This was the time when the national airliner was incurring operational losses and was almost financially unsustainable leading it to a brink of collapse. Air Botswana has failed attempts to have it privatized and was almost sold for a song to in 2017. Also next month, the national airliner will beef up its Botswana-Zimbabwe link by a Gaborone-Bulawayo flight. Air Botswana Marketing Manager Tebogo Zebe said the national airliner’s endeavour is to improve its business strategy following its re-fleeting exercise of last year
While traversing regional skies may seem to be Air Botswana’s main target this year, the local routes will also be increasing as according to the national airliner. Locally, Air Botswana is also expected to introduce a link between Francistown and Kasane which will shortly be followed by Francistown and Maun.
Almost all the new routes will commence on the 2019/20 financial year. Air Botswana General Manager Agnes Khunwana said: “We are pleased to be able to reintroduce additional routes and we’re especially, excited that now Batswana will have improved domestic connectivity with an upgraded aircraft fleet that is faster, and more reliable.”
Air Botswana reduces fare by 25 percent
Coming with the latest developments Air Botswana has decided to decrease domestic flight fares by 25 percent. Zebe said these routes are for Gaborone Kasane, Maun Kasane, Francistown Gaborone and Gaborone-Cape Town flight. Zebe said the reduced fees were introduced to encourage Batswana to use Air Botswana and promotion of local tourism.
“This route expansion is being supported by a revised fares structure which has been borne out of increased efficiency per seat cost due to the airline now operating bigger capacity aircraft. We have discounted some of our fares by up to 25 percent on certain routes, more especially our domestic routes,” said, Khunwana.
Re-fleeting and re-branding
Air Botswana continues to thrive for full privatization and in the last quarter of 2018 the national airliner bought a twin-engine Embraer 70 seater jet which was delivered last year in December. When re-fleeting, adding to the jet, Air Botswana also got delivery of two ATR 72-600s which came between November and December 2018. Re-branding followed re-fleeting where a new logo was unleashed inspired by Botswana diamonds which are represented by the three shapes that make up the tail of the logo grouped to suggest the shape of Southern Africa. The ‘Going your way’ tagline was retained.
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.
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.
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.
In the latest June 2022 global economic prospects, released last week the World Bank has warned that low global economic growth and economic activity in global commodity markets such as China and Europe could negatively affect export revenues for Botswana and other Sub Saharan countries.
Recent data from Statistics Botswana show that Botswana’s exports destined to the global markets such as Asia and the European Union (EU) on monthly basis accounts for around 60.1 percent and 20.1 percent respectively.
The World Bank last week lowered its 2022 projections of global economic growth and indicated that the new forecasts could be bad news for countries like Botswana who are dependent on export mineral revenues. The Bank noted that just over two years after COVID-19 caused the deepest global recession since World War II, the world economy is again in danger and stated that this time it is facing high inflation and slow growth at the same time.
In the recent June projections, the bank lowered its forecast of global economic growth from the January 4.1 percent to 2.1 percent. “Our June forecasts reflect a sizable downgrade to the outlook: global growth is expected to slow sharply from 5.7 percent in 2021 to 2.9 percent this year. This also reflects a nearly one-third cut to our January 2022 forecast for this year of 4.1 percent,” a team of World Bank economists noted in the June 2022 Global Economic Prospects.
The World Bank indicated that exports from Botswana and other Sub Saharan countries could suffer from a substantial deceleration of activity in China and Europe. The Bank noted that exporters of industrial metals, crude oil, and ores such as Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, South Africa, and Zambia could suffer from a substantial deceleration of activity in China.
On the other hand a sharp contraction of growth in the euro area could hurt exporters of agricultural products such as beef, coffee, tea, tobacco, cotton, and textiles from Botswana, Ethiopia, Madagascar and Malawi. “The faster-than-expected deceleration of the global economy and increased volatility of commodity prices could hurt many SSA commodity exporters,” said World Bank President David Malpass.
Malpass indicated that subdued growth in the global markets for Botswana and other Sub Saharan exports will likely persist throughout the decade because of weak investment in most of the world.
He noted that with inflation now running at multi-decade highs in many countries and supply expected to grow slowly, inflation could remain higher for longer than currently anticipated. “Even if a global recession is averted, the pain of stagflation could persist for several years— unless major supply increases are set in motion. Amid the war in Ukraine, surging inflation, and rising interest rates, global economic growth is expected to slump in 2022. Several years of above-average inflation and below-average growth are now likely,” said Malpass.