“Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity,” Mark Zuckerberg
The Biblical story of David and Goliath played itself out in Zimbabwe in 1998 when a fledgling, intelligent and ambitious telecoms engineer took on the colossal might of government monopoly and repression to bring the mobile phone revolution to the country. Born in what was Southern Rhodesia in 1961, the enterprising man’s cosmopolitan family had succumbed to the bright lights effect of the socio-economic and technologically advanced infrastructure of industrialized Europe earlier in his life only to return home to the newly independent Zimbabwe in 1984.
Educated in Scotland and trained at the University of Wales where he obtained his degree in electrical and electronic engineering (Cum Laude) he took a job with the state-owned telephone company upon his return to his native country. He however soon grew frustrated with the bureaucracy and excesses of Zimbabwe’s post-colonial ruling elite and formed his own engineering company. His battles with the Zimbabwean government began when he was denied a license for the country's first mobile phone operation. The intense legal battles that ensured went all the way up to the country’s supreme court before he could ultimately connect his first subscribers in 1998.
Financially wounded by the bruising fight with the state, the determined and highly ambitious entrepreneur sought to expand his business into neighbouring Botswana whose flourishing economy, democratic credentials, peace and stability appealed to investors at the time. The West had imposed economic sanctions on Zimbabwe for its failed land reform programme and recurring political flareups. Once the breadbasket of Africa, with an impressive human development index (HDI), effective health care system, the country was now teetering on the brink of political unrest and economic collapse.
Out of pocket, our modern-day industrious David, initiated what could perhaps be counted amongst the country’s first major crowdfunding (motshelo) initiative to establish Botswana’s first mobile phone service provider. The establishment of this cutting-edge technology was however not easy, very few gave him a chance, many could not grasp the inordinate disruptive power of the mobile technology and its imminent evolution from a two-way pager to a GPS navigation device, web browser, hand held game console, and its continued surge into spheres of mobile computing and wireless networking.
At the time the public was accustomed to the landline, fax machine and postal services for long distance social and business communication. Skeptics poured scorn on the investment and business opportunities presented by the emerging wireless communication technology. Our protagonist’s business proposal was called a scam, farfetched and something only possible in a science fiction movie. Compounding public resentment to the brilliant business idea was the fact that it was championed by a Zimbabwean. A man whose country was ravaged by economic sanctions. The low regard with which Zimbabwe was viewed owing to public perception of its, ‘despotic government, moribund economy and high crime rate among its citizens,’ did not help.
Notwithstanding what seemed like a hard sell, those that were bold enough to take the risk and invested the asking price of P24 thousand in 1998 received handsome dividends of P7 million each five years later. The man who initiated all this, risked it all to ensure his fellow Africans benefitted form the technological advances that swept across the world at the time was none other than, Strive Masiyiwa and the company that ushered mobile communication services to Botswana in 1998 is Mascom, derived from Masiyiwa Communications.
History is replete with stories like this one. In 2004, 20-year-old Mark Zuckerberg invited five of his friends to his dormitory at Harvard University to discuss a business opportunity. It is said only two showed up and invested, and shortly after that Facebook was launched. Today, Facebook is a household name and Mark’s estimated net worth is US$61.4 billion while his partners Dustin Moskovitz and Eduardo Saverin command a net worth of US$9.8 billion and US$9.1 billion respectively.
Reflecting on the windfall Facebook presented him and his two co-founders, as well as the missed opportunity for the friends that failed to show up at the dormitory meeting and take up the business proposal, Mark would say, “Nothing is more expensive than a closed mind, and a missed opportunity. ‘Thinking about it’ for too long can cost you a whole lot of money and time. Taking action now can earn you a whole lot, its your choice, your life, its up to you to make the decision today…”
Fast forward to 2018. Today the world stands at the cusp of radical and rapid technological changes brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). The advent of these nascent technologies has witnessed the evolution of the internet from the internet of information to the internet of value. In its initial state, the internet transmitted information through emails but the technology has since evolved and is entering its second era where it now transmits value and assets through digitization.
Like the first generation of the internet, the second era of the internet signals the emergence of technological breakthroughs that promise to disrupt business models and transform industries through the elimination of middlemen and intermediaries in the exchange of money, intellectual property and other rights and assets.
The World Bank states that the breadth and depth of these rapid and profound technological changes heralds the transformation of entire systems of production, management and governance. “The Fourth Industrial Revolution is marked by emerging technology breakthroughs in a number of fields, including robotics; artificial intelligence (AI); nanotechnology; quantum computing; biotechnology; the Internet of Things (IoT); 3D printing; autonomous vehicles; blockchain; smart contracts and even technology in our bodies, allowing more people to participate in the economy, create wealth, and improve the state of the world.”
In today’s digital age, banking is no longer just about visiting a branch during business hours. It’s about putting you, the customer, in the driver’s seat of your financial journey. But what exactly is self-service banking, and how do you stand to benefit from it as a customer?
Self-service banking is all about giving you the power to manage your finances on your terms. Whether you want to check your account balance at midnight, transfer money while on vacation, or deposit cash without waiting in line, self-service banking makes it possible. It’s like having a virtual branch at your fingertips, ready to assist you 24/7.
This shift towards self-service banking was catalyzed by various factors but it became easily accessible and accepted during the COVID-19 pandemic. People of all ages found themselves turning to digital channels out of necessity, and they discovered the freedom and flexibility it offers.
Anyone with a bank account and access to the internet or a smartphone can now bank anywhere and anytime. Whether you’re a tech-savvy millennial or someone who’s less comfortable with technology, you as the customer have the opportunity to manage your finances independently through online banking portal or downloading your bank’s mobile app. These platforms are designed to be user-friendly, with features like biometric authentication to ensure your transactions are secure.
Speaking of security, you might wonder how safe self-service banking really is. Banks invest heavily in encryption and other security measures to protect your information. In addition to that, features like real-time fraud detection and AI-powered risk management add an extra layer of protection.
Now, you might be thinking, “What’s the catch? Does self-service banking come with a cost?” The good news is that for the most part, it’s free. Banks offer these digital services as part of their commitment to customer satisfaction. However, some transactions, like wire transfers or expedited bill payments, may incur a small service fee.
At Bank Gaborone, our electronic channels offer a plethora of services around the clock to cater to your banking requirements. This includes our Mobile App, which doesn’t require data access for Orange and Mascom users. We also have e-Pula Internet Banking portal, available at https://www.bankgaborone.co.bw as well as Tobetsa Mobile Banking which is accessible via *187*247#. Our ATMs also offer the flexibility of allowing you to deposit, withdraw cash, and more.
With self-service banking, you have the reins of your financial affairs, accessible from the comfort of your home, workplace, or while you’re on the move. So why wait? Take control of your finances today with self-service banking.
Duduetsang Chappelle-Molloy is Head: Marketing and Corporate Communication Services
Botswana has recently recorded a significant trade deficit of over P6 billion. This trade deficit, which occurred in November 2023, follows another deficit of P4.7 billion recorded in October of the same year. These figures, released by Statistics Botswana, highlight a decline in export revenues as the main cause of the trade deficit.
In November 2023, Botswana’s total export revenues amounted to P2.9 billion, a decrease of 24.3 percent from the previous month. Diamonds, a major contributor to Botswana’s exports, experienced a significant decline of 44.1 percent during this period. This decline in diamond exports played a significant role in the overall decrease in export revenues. However, diamonds still remained the leading export commodity group, contributing 44.2 percent to export revenues. Copper and Machinery & Electrical Equipment followed, contributing 25.8 percent and 10.1 percent, respectively.
Asia emerged as the leading export market for Botswana, receiving exports worth P1.18 billion in November 2023. The United Arab Emirates, China, and Hong Kong were the top destinations within Asia, receiving 18.6 percent, 14.2 percent, and 3.8 percent of total exports, respectively. Diamonds and Copper were the major commodity groups exported to Asia.
The Southern African Customs Union (SACU) received Botswana’s exports worth P685.7 million, with South Africa being the main recipient within SACU. The European Union (EU) received exports worth P463.2 million, primarily through Belgium. Australia received exports worth P290 million, while the United States received exports valued at P69.6 million, mostly composed of diamonds.
On the import side, Botswana imported goods worth P9.5 billion in November 2023, representing an increase of 11.2 percent from the previous month. The increase in imports was mainly driven by a rise in Diamonds and Chemicals & Rubber Products imports. Diamonds contributed 23.3 percent to total imports, followed by Fuel and Food, Beverages & Tobacco at 19.4 percent and 15.0 percent, respectively.
The SACU region was the top supplier of imports to Botswana, accounting for 77.7 percent of total imports. South Africa contributed the largest share at 57.2 percent, followed by Namibia at 20.0 percent. Imports from Asia accounted for 9.8 percent of total imports, with Diamonds, Machinery & Electrical Equipment, and Chemicals & Rubber Products being the major commodity groups imported. The EU supplied Botswana with imports worth 3.2 percent of total imports, primarily in the form of Machinery & Electrical Equipment, Diamonds, and Chemicals & Rubber Products.
Botswana’s recent trade deficit of over P6 billion highlights a decline in export revenues, particularly in the diamond sector. While Asia remains the leading export market for Botswana, the country heavily relies on imports from the SACU region, particularly South Africa. Addressing the trade deficit will require diversification of export markets and sectors, as well as efforts to promote domestic industries and reduce reliance on imports.
The business sector in Botswana is optimistic about the year 2024, according to a recent survey conducted by the Bank of Botswana (BoB). The survey collected information from businesses in various sectors, including agriculture, mining, manufacturing, construction, and finance, among others. The results of the survey indicate that businesses expect trading conditions to improve in the first quarter of 2024 and remain favorable throughout the year.
The researchers found that firms anticipate improvements in investment, profitability, and goods and services exported in the fourth quarter of 2023 compared to the previous quarter. These expectations, combined with anticipated growth in all sectors except construction and real estate, contribute to the overall confidence in business conditions. Furthermore, businesses expect further improvements in the first quarter of 2024 and throughout the entire year.
Confidence among domestic market-oriented firms may decline slightly in the first quarter of 2024, but overall optimism is expected to improve throughout the year, consistent with the anticipated domestic economic recovery. Firms in sectors such as mining, retail, accommodation, transport, manufacturing, agriculture, and finance are driving this confidence. Export-oriented firms also show increased optimism in the first quarter of 2024 and for the entire year.
All sectors, except agriculture, which remains neutral, are optimistic about the first quarter of 2024 and the year ending in December 2024. This optimism is likely supported by government interventions to support economic activity, including the two-year Transitional National Development Plan (TNDP) and reforms aimed at improving the business environment. The anticipated improvement in profitability, goods and services exported, and business investment further contributes to the positive outlook.
Firms expect lending rates and borrowing volumes to increase in the 12-month period ending in December 2024. This increase in borrowing is consistent with the expected rise in investment, inventories, and goods and services exported. Firms anticipate that domestic economic performance will improve during this period. Domestic-oriented firms perceive access to credit from commercial banks in Botswana to be relaxed, while export-oriented firms prefer to borrow from South Africa.
During the fourth quarter of 2023, firms faced high cost pressures due to increased input costs, such as materials, utilities, and transport, resulting from supply constraints related to conflicts in Ukraine-Russia and Israel-Hamas. According to the survey report, the firms noted that cost pressures during the fourth quarter of 2023 were high, mainly attributable to increase in some input costs, such as materials, utilities, and transport arising from supply constraints related to the Ukraine-Russia and Israel-Hamas wars. “However, firms’ expectations about domestic inflation decreased, compared to the previous survey, and have remained within the Bank’s 3 – 6 percent objective range, averaging 5.4 percent for 2023 and 5.4 percent for 2024. This suggests that inflation expectations are well anchored, which is good for maintenance of price stability,” reads the survey report in part.
However, firms’ expectations about domestic inflation decreased compared to the previous survey, and inflation expectations remained within the Bank’s objective range of 3-6 percent. This suggests that inflation expectations are well anchored, which is beneficial for maintaining price stability.
In terms of challenges, most firms in the retail, accommodation, transport, manufacturing, construction, and finance sectors considered the exchange rate of the Pula to be unfavorable to their business operations. This is mainly because these firms import raw materials from South Africa and would prefer a stronger Pula against the South African rand. Additionally, firms in the retail, accommodation, transport, and mining sectors cited other challenges, including supply constraints from conflicts in Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Hamas, as well as new citizen economic empowerment policies that some firms considered unfavorable to foreign direct investment.
On the positive side, firms highlighted factors such as adequate water and electricity supply, a favorable political climate, an effective regulatory framework, the availability of skilled labor, and domestic and international demand as supportive to doing business in Botswana during the fourth quarter of 2023.
Overall, the business sector in Botswana is optimistic about the year 2024. The anticipated improvements in trading conditions, supported by government interventions and reforms, are expected to drive growth and profitability in various sectors. While challenges exist, businesses remain confident in the potential for economic recovery and expansion.