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Botswana Railways courts investors for P15 billion mega rail projects

Botswana Railways (BR) in collaboration with Business Botswana and the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) held an interactive session with potential investors, where it was revealed that the country’s railway line is looking P15 billion worth of investment in its ambitious infrastructure development plan.

As Botswana yearns to advance into high income economy by taking advantage of available natural resources and exploring possible partnerships models to develop industrial and labour-intensive sectors that can absorb many of its unemployed citizenry, infrastructures registers as one of the key missing factors that are desperately imperative in connecting the puzzle in realising the nations ‘s economic aspirations. Infrastructure facilitates trade, linking production sites to regions of demand and the market, in the process unlocking other value chain business opportunities and support industries.

 Among investors which BR engaged were also experts and leading personalities and entrepreneurs from Banking, Mining, Assert and Property Management, Fund Managers, Construction and Railway Lines from neighbouring countries and abroad to engage on key national rail projects that Botswana seeks to embark on.

 It emerged at this Breakfast briefing held in Masa Square, Central Business District (CBD) Gaborone that these multibillion-pula projects if undertaken and effectively delivered would go a long way into unlocking various economic sectors, deliver higher GDP value and create much needed employment for Batswana especially the youth.

The two projects are the Mosetse –Kazungula and Mmamabula –Lephalale railways links. These projects which are estimated at P15 billion stands to push amongst others Botswana Coal industry which is currently at infant stage despite increasing global demand. The coal resources in Botswana are estimated at over 200 billion tonnes of deposits underground. Currently not even a quarter is unearthed as only Morupule Coal mine is an operating mine with salable coal reaching the market.

 When giving an overview of Botswana Railways’ ambition with these projects, Chief Executive Officer Leonard Makwinja   reiterated that adequate physical rail Infrastructure is instrumental to the growth and competitiveness of Botswana given its strategic geographical location at the Centre of Southern Africa.  “By developing enabling infrastructure, the Government can achieve the goal of transforming the country into a regional hub for Foreign Direct Investment by tapping into both neighbouring and international markets” he said.

P13 billion Mosetse –Kazungula rail project

The Mosetse-Kazungula project is positioned to provide a railway line from Mosetse in Botswana, connecting to Zambia and beyond through the Kazungula bridge. The rail line is part of the North South Corridor (NSC) with numerous benefits such as being gate-way to North African markets promoting inter regional trade, connecting North African region to maritime ports in South Africa, reduction of haulage traffic on roads amongst others.

Botswana railways chief added that the project cultivates an opportunity for tourism industry by providing for tourist trains as it runs through a wildlife rich area with various attractive landscapes and natural beauty of Chobe region. “This also provides alternative transport mode for Agricultural products from Pandamatenga Farms, remember agriculture also comes as one of the sectors we intend to develop as a country to diversify from the mineral revenue dependence,” added Makwinja

He explained that Botswana Railways is open to partner with potential investors noting that the recent State Visit to China by President Masisi has indicated capacity and willingness to participate by Chinese Government. On November 12th Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Kenneth Matambo together with Vice Chairman of China International Development Cooperation Agency signed the letter of Exchange on the technical Survey for projects submitted during the state visit to China by His Excellency President Masisi.

It was explained that as part of the assessment for the projects submitted, it is a requirement to undertake a technical Survey that will guide on the feasible projects after which negotiations for funding will commence between the two Governments. The Mosetse-Kazungula Railway line is one of the earmarked projects under consideration with others including Francistown- Nata Road, Nata-Gweta-Sehithwa-Gumare-Etsha-Mohembo roads.

At the singing of letters of exchange Minister Matambo reiterated that no commitment of funding of these projects was yet sealed, explaining that discussions will ensue once the technical Surveys have been completed for projects deemed feasible. Botswana Railways Chief revealed at the investor briefing that Chinese government might avail only a certain percentage of the total estimated cost considering the fact that there are a number of other key earmarked projects of high imperative competing for the funds such as the Francistown-Nata road which is currently in a poor state.

The Mosetse–Kazungula railway project is estimated to P 13 billion excluding rolling stock requirements with estimated initial tonnage at 2 million tons and is expected to grow to 4 million tons. Makwinja explained that 14 locomotives will be required with traffic geared to mostly be transit with wagons supplied from point of origin. “Line is designed as cape gauge, heavy haul at 26 ton/axle for 367 Km, the line goes through wildlife and agricultural areas and stations will be at Mosetse, Nata, Pandamatenga and Kazungula” he explained.

Mmamabula-Lephalale Rail Link Project

Estimated at P 2 billion to erect, the 56 km Mmamabula Lephalale Rail Link which will connect Mmamabula/Dibete in Botswana to Lephalale in South Africa aims to link Botswana’s over 200 billion coal deposits to South African’s  heavy haul lines.  One key feature of the project is a bridge across Limpopo River of Chief Executive Makwinja revealed that Botswana Railways and its South African counterparts are to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate progress of the project.

 He further explained that the railway line would be a gate way to South African ports for the coal market providing for a shorter route for North South Corridor coupled with Mosetse-Kazungula line. The rail way line which will be designed as cape gauge, heavy haul at 26 ton/axle with two years initial tonnage estimated at 10.5 MTPA will link the Masama coal fields which are currently explored by Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) listed Minergy to South African market.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Communication, Kabelo Ebineng shared that the earmarked undertakings are capital intensive projects that needed Government to think outside the box and approach the private sector so as synergies and areas of collaboration can be identified. “You are all aware that the Kazungula Bridge which has both the road and rail components is nearing completion hence the need for us to give impetus to the Mosetse-Kazungula Rail Line construction,”he said.

“These projects are central to us as a government. I am also aware of the high appetite for Mmamabula- Lephalale within the coal mining entities as this will represent the shortest route for the North South Corridor. As Botswana government we consider all these projects  very strategic  to our  quest for regional integration as a country.”

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Business

Inflation spike building further upwards

27th October 2020
Inflation spike

In the coming months prices will go up and inflation will shoot sharply above the target of 3 percent to 6 percent towards the third quarter of 2021, the Bank of Botswana on the other hand will continue to withhold its knife on the Bank Rate. This is according to a forecast made by Kgori Capital in its recent Market Watch Segment.

Statistics from Statistics Botswana show that the recent 1.8 percent increase in the September inflation, from 1 percent in August, was a reflection of the upward adjustment in public transport fares (Transport (from -6.9 to -3.9 percent) in September 2020, which is estimated to have increased inflation by approximately 0.64 percentage points.

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Plans to erase Edgars, Jet trademark from Botswana malls underway

27th October 2020
Edgars Jet trademark

Local anti-trust body, Competition and Consumer Authority (CCA), this month received back to back acquisition proposals from South African clothing retailers to wipe out their former rivals, Edcon, from Botswana malls.

Last week BusinessPost was in possession of Merger Notice No 23 of 2020 whereby a South African clothing retailer owner, Retailability Proprietary Limited, through Oclin Proprietary Limited, proposed to acquire parts of the Edgars business conducted by Edcon in Botswana (through Edcon Botswana), as a going concern, consisting of certain assets and identified liabilities.

South African government’s Business Rescue Practitioners earlier this year announced that Retailability will buy Edgars, after the latter filed for a business rescue plan in April after it failed to pay suppliers. This move will see Retailability add Edgars to its portfolio consisting of brands such as; Legit, Beaver Canoe and Style.

Retailability landed on Botswana shores 18 years ago with its flamboyant urban fashion Style which had 17 stores. Style, having almost the same target market as Edgars as it offers men’s and ladies’ contemporary and formal fashion, gave the 91 year old legendary clothing retailer a run for its money, and has won the battle as its parent company has taken over Edgars.

Retailability brands are synonymous with Botswana shopping centres and there are currently five (5) Beaver Canoe stores, 10 Style stores and seven (7) Legit stores across this country. The Beaver Canoe stores sell clothing apparel for men and boys only. The Legit stores have a fashion store format which focuses on the retailing of clothing, footwear, accessories, colour cosmetics and cellular products.

Retailability operates in over 460 stores across South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, and Eswatini. Many observers suggest that because of the deal with Retailability to swallow Edcon, most Edgars stores in Botswana will change their name and be branded Style. A sad tale for religious consumers of the Edgars trademark who got used to love their favourite brand for years.

According to CCA’s Merger Notice No 23 of 2020, Retailability is controlled by Clifford Raymond Lines (through a company which functions solely as a holding company of his interests in Retailability) and Metier Investment and Advisory Services Proprietary Limited (“Metier”). Metier is a private equity enterprise with investments in a number of industries spanning from healthcare, hospitality, FMCGs and telecommunications.

Retailability directors are mostly South Africans; Clifford Raymond Lines, Mark Richard Friday and Norman Victor Drieselmann. Only Nasreen Essack, who was appointed February this year, is a Motswana. He comes after Brian Thuto Tsima left on the same date. Retailability 100 percent owns Oclin Proprietary Limited, the company it is acquiring Edgars with, by a capacity of 3000 shares.

The target business, Edgars, offer textiles, cosmetics and cellular products. Edcon has a Motswana director, Charles Mzwandile Vikisi, a South African, Shane Van Niekerk and Zimbabwean Jethro Kamutsi.

“The Target Business comprises of two (2) Edgars franchise brands and private label stores across Botswana. These stores target middle to upper income customers and are home to a range of private label brands such as Free2BU, Charter Club and Stone Harbour, and a wide range of market label brands (such as Levi’s and Guess) for clothing, footwear and cosmetics.

In addition, the Target Business operates iconic Edgars Home and Edgars Beauty stores as store-in-store formats rounding out the department store offering in Botswana,” said CCA.
Foshini also lines up to take Jet Botswana from Edcon.

The Foschini Group (TFG) released a statement confirming its latest intentions to acquire Edcon assets or Jet for a cash purchase consideration of R480 million. This was after the business rescue practitioners offered TFG to buy Jet by that amount.

CCA is currently mulling on a proposed merger by TFG to take over Jet operations in Botswana. Merger Notice No 21 of 2020 from TFG came a few days before the Retailability proposal. In this merger TFG, acting through Foschini Botswana, want to take over “parts” of the Jet business conducted by Edcon through Jet Supermarkets Botswana.

TFG will be willing to add Jet to its portfolio of 30 retail brands that trade in clothing, footwear, jewellery, sportswear, homeware, cell phones, and technology products from value to upper market segments throughout more than 4085 outlets in 32 countries on five continents. TFG will also get Jet’s distribution centre located in Durban and certain stores in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Eswatini. Also part of this fat deal is that the company is looking to also acquire JET Club and all existing JET stock of no less than R800 million.

Johannesburg listed TGF owns Foschini Retail Group which owns the local operations called Foschini Botswana, the acquiring enterprise according to CCA merger notice. “TFG is not controlled by any enterprise/s and for completeness, the three largest shareholders of TFG holding shares greater than 5% as at 27th March 2020 are: Government Employees Pension Fund (16.2%) Public Investment Corporation (13.2%); Old Mutual Limited (6.7%); and Investec Asset Management (6.3%). The remaining issued share capital in TFG is widely held,” said the merger notice.

Only Abdool Rahim Khan is a Motswana in the Foschini Botswana directorship, the rest; Ganeswari Shani Naidoo, Anthony Edward Thunström and Gustav Jansen (alternate director) are South Africans.

According to the CCA merger, the Jet Business is Edcon’s discount department store division, selling clothing, footwear, homeware and some cosmetics as well as cellular products and targets lower-to-middle income consumers throughout Botswana. The Jet Business does not directly or indirectly control any enterprises, says the notice. CCA seeks any stakeholder views for or against the proposed merger, which may be sent within 10 days from date of this publication to the following address.

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Business

BOCRA, associates to provide broadband internet in schools

27th October 2020

Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority BOCRA signed a memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with the Ministries of Transport and Communications (MTC), Basic Education (MoBE) as well as Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD).

The MoA seeks to continue the collaboration that dates back to 2016 when the three parties first agreed to work together in a project aimed at computerizing and providing broadband Internet to primary schools in remote and underserved areas of Botswana.

The project benefitted 68 primary schools and 9 secondary schools through the construction of Local Area Network (LAN) in each primary school, provision of 5 Mbps dedicated broadband Internet to each Primary School and provision of Wi-Fi enabled tablets, laptops and related peripherals such as printers and copiers.

Further, the project will see the augmentation of computers in 9 Junior Secondary Schools with 30 laptops per identified school and employment of Information Technology (IT) officers at each primary school.

When speaking at the signing ceremony in Gaborone, Chief Executive of BOCRA and Chairperson of Universal Access and Service Fund (UASF) Board of Trustees Martin Mokgware said the project’s ultimate goal is to facilitate pupils in schools and host villages to be able to play a meaningful role in the digital economy.

Mokgware indicated that this necessitates upgrading of existing Telecommunications infrastructure to high capacity broadband that will support delivery of education, accessibility to the quality Internet and usage of ICTs.

The Fund began its inaugural programme by sponsoring the provision of WiFi hotspots in public areas around the country as its first project. Following the successful implementation of public WiFi hotspots, the Fund identified Kgalagadi, Ghanzi and Mabutsane areas for mobile network upgrades, schools computerization and internet provision.

Conscious that the project would not be possible without buy-in and support from MoBE, MTC and MLGRD, the Fund facilitated the signing of the first MoU between the three parties in 2016 for implementation of the project.

BOCRA Chief Executive said the signing of this agreement is aimed at benefitting the Kweneng District, adding that they have already assessed the area and have determined that they will be covering 62 underserved villages and 119 schools, 91 of which are primary schools.

“This is a project for which the partner Ministries need to re-commit for its success. Lessons from the previous schools’ computerization and internet connectivity project require that we increase our involvement and resources dedicated to the project for it to be successful. It is my belief as the project coordinator, that we will not do things the way we did them during the first project, for if we do, then we will not have learnt anything,” he said at the signing ceremony.

The purpose of learning is so that there can be continuous improvement to minimize the length of time and amount of resources utilized, he said expressing confidence that their partners will step up to the plate and ensure they play their part in the implementation of the project and that it will progress smoothly having already tread along a similar path.

UASF’s role lies mainly in funding and project management. According to Mokgware, once the project is completed, the work to integrate ICTs into the classroom begins in earnest. Therefore, he said, the project will not succeed without full cooperation and oversight of partners.

“MoBE will put in place the necessary content and ensure that the curriculum is available to all. MLGRD will provide, among others, the enabling environment by ensuring readiness of the school’s infrastructure and necessary security.”

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