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Sefalana rakes in P103 million in H1 profits

Botswana’s first home grown trader and Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG)  retailer Sefalana Holdings Limited presented another impressive set of results for their half year period ended October 2018, announcing  25 percent growth in profits before tax.

The group which operates in five Southern African countries raked in P103.6 million in profits during the period. When presenting the financials this Friday, Sefalana executives told its shareholders that the H1 results are a spillover from another impressive performance by the company during the 2017/18 financial year.

“At the April 2018 year end, we reported to our Shareholders, our best ever results to date. We had focused on cost saving initiatives and identified ways in which to extract additional value from our existing businesses. We had also benefited from the first tranche of returns from our South African investment following over 18 months of refining our model of investment,” said Sefalana Group Managing Director CD Chauhan when giving a background of the group‘s performance .

Chauhan highlighted that Sefalana’s focus during the period under review was very much aligned with the previous financial year’s approach. “We further progressed with overhead cost saving programs and improved processes and structures within the Group, streamlining operations so as to maximize return from these businesses,” he said.

When interpreting the figures, Sefalana Chief Financial Officer Mohamed Osman highlighted that on overall the group exceeded the P2.5 billion turnover threshold, and generated the impressive profit before tax of P103.6 million.  The Group’s revenue grew by 13 percent to P2.6 billion dispatching into 9 percent increase in Gross profits to end the period P152.5 million.  Earnings before interest, tax and amortization (EBITA) ended the six month period under review at P85.5 million, mirroring 21 percent increase when compared to 2017 H1.

Zooming into the Group’s geographical segments and business divisions, Sefalana Cash & Carry Limited under the Botswana basket contributed 55 percent and 23 percent of the Group’s total revenue and profit before tax for the reporting period, respectively. The division turnover amounted to just over P1.4 billion, up by 16 percent when compared to the previous period.  “We experienced increased pressure on margins in both our wholesale and retail operations as we strive to remain competitive and increase market share,” explained Osman.

The Group’s overall profitability for the Botswana division recorded a hike of 2 percent compared to the prior period.  Osman said the slight increase follows a period where the company experience reduction in profitability as a result of heightened competition. In Namibia, one of Sefalana’s emerging market the business under Sefalana Metro banner contributed 31 percent and 24 percent of the total revenue and profit before tax for the period, respectively. Turnover amounted to P797 million, indicating a growth of 9 percent on the prior period. Profit before tax amounted to P25 million, up 13 percent from the prior period.

 “Our operations in Namibia continue to grow despite sluggish economic conditions,” he said. Figures received from Lesotho businesses where  Sefalana has been operating for two years ,  turnover closed the six months period at P191 million mirroring an increase of  14 percent  when gauged against previous period  , contributing just over 7 percent of total Group revenue.

 Sefalana report noted that  margins are however, very slim and the segment achieved a break even EBITA of P0.3 million for the period, and a loss before tax of P3.9 million after taking into account finance charges. “We are delighted to have built a strong presence in the market in a very short space of time however we are disappointed with performance from this unit and look to improve in the second half of the year.” Noted Osman.

Sefalana’s other Trading segments which consist of Commercial Motors and Mechanized Farming Limited contributed 3 percent and 7 percent to Group turnover and profit before tax, respectively. Under the Manufacturing business, Foods Botswana Limited contributed 5 percent and 7 percent to Group turnover and profit before tax for the period respectively. A lower level of profitability was achieved as compared to the prior period, mainly due to timing of orders placed by Government in respect of the various feeding schemes.

The Botswana Stock Exchange listed Group also operates property businesses in Botswana and Zambia. Botswana property portfolio continued on a positive note contributing 1 percent and 14 percent to Group revenue and profit before tax respectively.  Sefalana’s Zambian property business is still struggling with occupancy after significant increase in supply of warehouse and office space in Lusaka over the last few years which resulted in two of the company’s largest tenants moving to alternative premises in April 2017.

 “Since then we have been in search of replacement tenants and have now managed to secure an occupancy rate of around 70%. We will continue to look for suitable tenants for the remaining space. Performance by this segment has therefore slightly improved compared to the previous period,” explained Osman. Going forward Sefalana Group which has been in existence for over 40 years says it will be entering the lucrative catering services business in the next few months.

 “This division will focus on serving the large hospitality industry with frozen foods in wholesale size units. We will continue to pursue process improvements and efficiencies to maximize returns from our existing businesses and look at providing our customer base with a wider product and service offering,”  said Chauhan ,Sefalana Group MD

The Board of Directors of Sefalana Holding Company Limited declared an interim gross dividend of 10 thebe per ordinary share.  “We will also explore and evaluate other neighbouring regions as part of our Regional expansion drive. This will however, continue to be a cautious and measured approach.” He said

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Understanding the US Electoral College and key election issues 

28th October 2020
Mark J Rozell

The United States (US) will on the 3rd of November 2020 chose between incumbent Donald Trump of the Republicans and former Vice President Joe Biden of the Democrats amid the coronavirus pandemics, which has affected how voting is conducted in the world’s biggest economy.

Trump (74) seeks re-election after trouncing Hillary Clinton in 2016, while Biden (77) is going for his first shot as Democratic nominee after previous unsuccessful spells.

US Presidents mostly succeed in their re-election bid, but there have been nine individuals who failed to garner a second term mandate, the latest being George W H. Bush, a Republican who served as the 41st US President between 1989 and 1993.

Dr Mark Rozell, a Dean of  the School of Policy and Government at George Mason University  in  Arlington, Virginia describes the complex US electoral system that will deliver the winner at the 3rd November elections.

“The founders of our Republic de-centralised  authority  significantly  in  creating  our  constitutional  system,  which  means that  they  gave  an  enormous  amount  of  independent  power  and  authority  to  State  and  local governments,” Dr Rozell told international media on Elections 2020 Virtual Reporting Tour.

Unlike  parliamentary  democracies, like Botswana the  United  States  does  not  have  all  of  the  national government elected in one year. They do not have what is commonly called mandate elections where  the  entire  federal  government  is  elected  all  in  one  election  cycle  giving  a  “mandate”  to  a particular political party to lead, and instead US have what are called staggered elections, elections over time.

The two house Congress, members of the House of Representatives have two-year long terms of office. Every two years the entire House of Representatives is up for re-election, but senators  serve  for  six  years  and  one  third  of  the  Senate is elected every  two  years.

For this election cycle, US citizens will be electing the President and Vice

President, the entire House of Representatives and one third of the open or contested seats in the Senate, whereas two thirds are still fulfilling the remainder of their terms beyond this year.

An  important  facet  of  US electoral  system  to  understand  given  the  federalism  nature  of  the republic, the US elect presidents State by State, therefore they do not have a national popular vote for the presidency.

“We have a national popular vote total that says that Hillary Clinton got three million more votes than Donald Trump or in Year 2000 that Al Gore got a half million more votes than George W. Bush, but we have what is called a State by State winner takes all system where each State  is  assigned  a  number  of  electors  to  our  Electoral  College  and  the  candidate  who  wins  the popular vote within each State takes 100 percent of the electors to the Electoral College,” explained Dr Rozell.

“And that is why mathematically, it is possible for someone to win the popular vote but lose the presidency.”

Dr Rozell indicated that in 2016, Hillary Clinton won very large popular majorities in some big population States like California, but the system allows a candidate to only have to  win  a  State  by  one  vote  to  win  a  100 percent of  its  electors,  the  margin  does  not  matter.

“Donald  Trump  won  many  more  States  by  smaller  margins,  hence  he  got  an  Electoral  College majority.”

Another interesting features by the way of US constitutional system, according to Dr Rozell, but extremely rare, is what is called the faithless elector.

“That’s the elector to the Electoral College who says, ‘I’m not going to vote the popular vote in my State, I think my State made a bad decision and I’m going  to  break  with  the  popular  vote,’’ Dr Rozell said.

“That’s constitutionally a very complicated matter in our federalism system because although the federal constitution says electors may exercise discretion, most States have passed State laws making it illegal for any elector to the Electoral College to break faith with the popular vote of that State, it is a criminal act that can be penalized if one is to do that. And we just had an important Supreme Court case that upheld the right of the states to impose and to enforce this restriction”

There are 538 electors at the Electoral College, 270 is the magic number, the candidate who gets 270 or more becomes President of the United States.

If however there are more candidates, and  this  happens  extremely  rarely,  and  a  third  candidate  got  some electors  to  the  Electoral  College  denying  the  two  major  party  candidates,  either  one  getting  a majority, nobody gets 270 or more, then the election goes to the House of Representatives and the House of Representatives votes among the top three vote getters as to who should be the next President.

“You’d have to go back to the early 19th century to have such a scenario, and that’s not going to happen this year unless there is a statistical oddity, which would be a perfect statistical tie of 269 to 269 which could happen but you can just imagine how incredibly unlikely that is,” stated Dr Rozell.

BLUE STATES vs RED STATES

Since the 2000 United States presidential election, red states and blue states have referred to states of the United States whose voters predominantly choose either the Republican Party (red) or Democratic Party (blue) presidential candidates.

Many  states  have  populations  that  are  so  heavily  concentrated  in  the  Democratic party or the Republican party that there is really no competition in those states.

California is a heavily Democratic State, so is New York and Maryland. It is given that Joe Biden will win those states. Meanwhile Texas, Florida and Alabama are republicans. So, the candidates will spent no time campaigning in those states because it is already a given.

However there are swing  states, where  there is a competition between about five and 10 states total in each election cycle that make a difference, and that is where the candidates end up spending almost all of their time.

“So  it  ends  up  making  a  national  contest  for  the  presidency  actually  look  like  several  state-wide contests with candidates spending a lot of time talking about State and local issues in those parts of the country,” said Dr Rozell.

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Masisi to make things right with Dangote

26th October 2020

High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.

Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana.  “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.

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Dow wants GBV culprits isolated

26th October 2020
Unity Dow

As murder cases and violent incidents involving couples and or lovers continue to be recorded daily, Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow has called for more funding of non-governmental organizations and accelerated action from government to come up with laws that could inhibit would-be perpetrators of crimes related to Gender Based Violence (GBV).

Just after Dr Dow had deposited her views on this subject with this reporter, a young man in Molepolole opened fire on a married woman he was having an affair with; and ended her life instantly. While it is this heinous cases that get projected to the public space, the former minister argues that the secrecy culture is keeping other real GBV cases under wraps in many spaces in the country.

The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said there is GBV all the time in all kinds of places. “We have become accustomed to stories of rapes, marital rapes, defilement of children, beatings and psychological violence and even killings,” she said.

Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, Dow is worried that there is absolutely no social punishment for perpetrators; they will continue to have the same friends, jobs, wives, homes, as before. Yet another factor, she said, is that there is little or no “justice” for victims of GBV.

The renowned activist said justice for GBV victims is not just the jailing of the perpetrator. “Justice for victims means an agile, victim-friendly, accessible (time, money and procedures) and restorative justice system.”

Asked what could be leading to a spike in Gender Based Violence cases or incidents, she observed that there is no one factor to which this spike can be attributed. “The most obvious factor is stress as a result of economic distress and or poverty. Poverty makes one vulnerable and open to compromises that they would otherwise not make. For perpetrators with anger management issues, economic stress leads to lashing out to those closest to them. Another factor is the disintegration of families and family values,” she opined.

According to Dow, no government anywhere in the world is doing enough, period. “We know the places and spaces where women and girls are unsafe. We know the challenges they face in their attempts to exit those spaces and places.” The former Judge of the High Court said GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in the culture of silence.

Asked what could be done to arrest GBV cases, Dow said it is critical to involve and fund civil society organizations. She observed that much of the progress done in the area of women’s human rights was during the time when Botswana had strong and funded civil society organizations.

“The funding dried up when Botswana was declared a middle-income country but unfortunately external funding was not replaced by local funding,” she acknowledged.

Further Dow said relevant government institutions must be funded and strengthened.

“Thirdly, create a society in which it is not okay to humiliate, rape, beat or kill women. You create this by responding to GBV the same way we have responded to livestock theft. We need to create agile mechanisms that hear cases quickly and allow for the removal of suspected perpetrators from their homes, work places, boards, committees, etc.”

The former Minister said the much anticipated Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Gender Based Violence will have its work cut out for it. According to Dow, GBV is not just a justice issue, it’s not just a gender issue, but rather an issue that cuts across health, education, labour, economic, housing and politics. “As long as any one believes it is someone else’s problem, we will all have the problem,” she said.

In her view, Dow said every work, educational and other place must have a GBV Policy and/or Code of Conduct. “It is important that we acknowledge that the majority of men are law-abiding. The problem is their silence, in the face of injustice,” she observed.

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