Botswana remains stuck in European Union (EU)’s grey-list of tax havens and it is closely monitored by Brussels as it promised to reform its tax structures since last year. Furthermore, Botswana is still an uncooperative tax territory in France mind as it is placed high on the blacklist of ‘Uncooperative Territories and French Tax Consequences of the Blacklisting.’
Being grey-listed by EU means a country will be under constant monitoring and checkups from Brussels. But it is better than being in the blacklist where a country faces EU sanctions as well as getting a dent in international reputation. The tax haven tag on Botswana was first placed by France President Nicholas Sarkozy in 2011 who then declared that the international community should shun Botswana as it is a tax haven.
The IFSC burden
The Minister of Finance and Economic Development Kenneth Matambo in July this year said government will constantly engage EU to remove the perception of tax haven on its neck. In a commitment letter written by Matambo to EU November last year, the minister suggested that the EU’s Forum on Harmful Tax Practices (FHTP) raised a red flag on this country’s tax regulations, especially the controversial International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) tax incentive framework under which IFSC accredited and qualifying firms enjoy a 15% corporate tax rate while other companies face the normal 22 % tax. Tax experts concluded that IFSC regime is one of the sources of Botswana’s tax haven tag.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) also warned since last year that Botswana should remove its many tax incentives and IFSC was the main culprit. This prompted Matambo to tell the EU in a recent letter this year that Botswana is working on introducing legislative amendment to address the harmful effects of IFSC. “We undertake to complete the necessary legislative actions to amend the regime by December 2018 as agreed by the Forum on Harmful Tax Practices,” wrote Matambo to EU.
While tax pundits and the IMF advises that IFSC should be abolished, Matambo remains unmoved on the tax initiative, telling reporters July this year that, “the IFSC framework basically provides a lower level of tax to companies under the mandate of the IFSC. For us it is an incentive to grow the financial sector. The purpose of this lower level of tax is to provide an incentive but the OECD countries for their own reasons look at it differently, we disagreed with them that we are not a tax haven. We do tax companies that make an income in this country.”
In the 2018/19 Budget Speech, Matambo promised that government will review IFSC in order to remove any perception that Botswana is a tax haven. “The review will be undertaken as part of the Income Tax (Amendment) Bill scheduled for presentation to Parliament during 2018,” he said.
Secrecy another source of EU blacklisting
According to Tax Justice Network Africa’s Financial Secrecy Index 2018, Botswana is one of the most secretive tax jurisdictions. It says “information sharing remains limited, enabling companies and wealthy foreigners to get away with tax avoidance and evasion by avoiding detection in their home countries or where business activity takes place.
According to Tax Justice Narrative on Botswana, this country comes in at 103rd place in 2018 Financial Secrecy Index. It further states that the country has a relatively high secrecy score of 68, but has an insignificant market for offshore financial services. “There may be limited information on the way Botswana’s IFSC is used for illicit and criminal practice,” said the Tax Justice Network.
In February this year in his 2018/19 Budget Speech, Matambo said to deal with issues of secrecy the Financial Intelligence Act and Regulations which will address the shortcomings identified by the Mutual Evaluation Review for Botswana by the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group in May 2017 will be dealt with this year.
Botswana walking at a snail’s pace in tax regime amendments
However the tax structure amendment by Botswana which was promised to be done this year has since been deferred to next year leaving the country’s tax haven label stuck on its neck. In a recent interview Ministry of Finance and Economic Development Spokesperson Fenny Letshwiti revealed that the ministry is working on amending the Income Tax Act and the Value Added Tax Act and to enact a new Tax Administration Act. He further revealed that the Bills will be presented to the February 2019 Parliament for approval.
While Botswana wrote to EU November last year committing to Brussels that it will work on its tax regime or all the tax reforms this year December, it appeared to be a pipeline dream as the ministry recently revealed that the amendments are slated for next year. This means this country will have to wait for a while to be removed from any blacklist or grey-list.
Botswana not a tax haven – just an EU Big Brother perception?
Some pundits and politicians make the tax haven tag on Botswana appear as a mere neocolonial or Western big brother body check on this country. But EU remains the biggest player in the international trade market as it is the major exporter of Botswana’s beef. Botswana also exports diamonds to Europe. On the other hand Botswana imports manufactured goods, transport equipment, machinery, electrical machinery and pharmaceuticals or chemicals.
Local tax expert Jonathan Hore in an interview with BusinessPost said Botswana is not technically a tax haven but it is just that the EU has strict standards regarding the disclosure and sharing of information with other countries. “The tax haven tag was first placed on the country in 2011 when Nicholas Sarkozy first publicly declared that the international community should shun tax havens. In that year, the country did not have any information disclosure arrangements with other countries. The country has also made many information disclosure agreements with many countries in order to comply with international transparency rules.
Despite Botswana’s bad reputation of being among the bad boys of the international arena, this country has been defensive of its tax administration and dismissed the notion of it being a tax haven. Last year during the 19th meeting of the African the then Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry Vincent Seretse said Botswana is not a tax haven and does not deserve to be in any blacklist. Seretse attacked France’s constant “unsolicited” blacklisting of this country. He said Botswana complies with all the international tax standards and has a transparent tax jurisdiction.
Minister of Finance and Economic Development Matambo also rejects the tax haven brand on Botswana and in his Budget Speech he suggested calling Botswana a tax haven is just a mere perception by Europe. In the July press conference he said “we disagree with them, that we are not a tax haven.”
Recently, Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry Bogolo Kenewendo was confident that this country being called a tax haven is a thing of the past. Caribbean Pacific –European Union, the then Minister of Trade Vincent Seretse rejected France’s notion that Botswana is a tax haven. Botswana adopted a seemingly sovereign and bold stance through Seretse who called the EU blacklisting “unsolicited.”
Parliament last week adopted the new National Energy Policy, a blueprint crafted to catapult Botswana to an industrial hub of alternative and renewable energy.
Presented by Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Lefoko Maxwell Moagi, the policy was hailed by lawmakers from both the ruling party and opposition ranks as long overdue.
Moagi, who is also Member of Parliament for Ramotswa, explained that the National Energy Policy (NEP) is intended to guide the management and development of Botswana’s energy sector, especially the penetration of new and renewable energy sources into the country’s energy mix in order to attain energy self-sufficiency and increased security of supply.
“The NEP is expected to create a conducive environment that will not only facilitate investment in the energy sector but also add value to export revenues, facilitate production in other sectors of the economy and create employment within the energy sector,” he said.
Moagi said that the new policy will set a foundation that will steer the utilization of locally available energy resources optimally and efficiently to ensure that Botswana attains a sustainable and low carbon economic development.
Botswana has experienced some constraints in the energy sector in recent years, which to some extent have negatively impacted the country’s economic development prospects.
A devastating power supply and demand mismatch was encountered between the years 2008 and 2014, and this breached the country’s power supply security even to date.
Moagi noted that this encounter, and other such misfortunes have motivated the new policy to outline the principles, prospects and choices that are required to optimise the role of energy in the economy and maximise Botswana’s potential for the desired economic growth in line with the country’s Vision 2036.
Commenting on the Policy Vice President Slumber Tsogwane said the new energy roadmap would contribute towards achievement of national prosperity and economic diversification.
“This envisages Botswana’s transition from being a net energy importer to being self-sufficient and having surplus energy for export into the region, we applaud the minister for bringing this important document,” Tsogwane said.
Botswana has abundant coal resources, estimated at about 212 billion tonnes. Estimates of 196 trillion cubic feet of coal bed methane (CBM) have also been recorded and there is ongoing exploration of this resource.
Most of the coal extracted goes to power generation at Morupule power plant and the remaining small percentage is shared between local industrial use and export.
For CBM, commercially viable gas exploration is required to firm up resource quantification and associated development programs around this resource.
Botswana receives over 3,200 hours of sunshine per year, with an average insolation on a flat surface of 21MJ/m2.
Satellite images have revealed that Botswana has abundant countrywide irradiation presenting the highest values of direct normal irradiance (DNI) and global horizontal irradiance (GHI) the western and south-western regions, with a slight decrease towards the east.
The lowest values of irradiation are in a range of about 2,000 kWh/m²/annum (~5, 5 kWh/m²/day) DNI and GHI on average. This amount of insolation is among the highest in the world, making solar energy a promising renewable energy resource for Botswana.
Reasonable wind speeds exist within the country with the highest wind resources potential located in the South-West, Central and Eastern parts of the country, with averaging wind speeds above 7m/s, wind power density above 200W/m2 and annual energy production above 4.5 GWh/year.
The wind potential has not been fully explored and has primarily been used on windmills for water pumping by farmers.
Botswana has theoretical biomass energy potential of 32 million GJ per year, estimated from a considerable biomass potential of 20 million tonnes per year.
The use of livestock residues (cow-dung) seems to offer the highest practical opportunity for energy production in Botswana, while municipal solid waste (MSW) can also contribute to the improvement of energy generation, especially at the city level.
Other residues such as crop and agro-industrial residues, only offer a limited energy potential that could be tapped by rural communities.
Botswana is highly reliant on imports of refined petroleum products to meet the liquid fuels demand since the country does not have any proven crude oil reserves/refineries.
By far, a large amount of liquid fuels supply comes from South Africa. As at 2018, the local consumption of petroleum products stood at about 1.2 billion litres per annum for petrol, diesel and illuminating paraffin combined, and about 20 million litres of aviation fuels per annum.
Commenting on the National Energy Policy, opposition members of parliament said effective implementation of the policy would require a legislation and/or regulations for robust development of the new and renewable energy subsector.
Moagi reiterated that the provision of energy services is capital intensive and heavily reliant on technology. “It is thus important to come up with innovative ways of delivering these services”
Currently, there is no research institution dedicated to carrying out energy research and development (R&D) to inform policy.
However, there exists various institutions or think tanks that carry out energy research from various perspectives.
These include Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation (BITRI), the University of Botswana (UB), Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN), and Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH).
Moagi shared that however regrettably, there is neither a clearly defined collaboration among and/or between these researchers nor is there any between the researchers, the industry and the policy makers.
Recognising that coordination of efforts in R&D is key to promoting innovation, technology application and development for deployment of appropriate modern energy services; the NEP seeks to aid coordination of research activities in the energy sector as well as facilitate development and establishment of academic/industry strategic research alliances.
Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) moved swiftly this week to suspend BBS Limited from trading its securities following a brawl between Board of Directors and Managing Director, Pius Molefe, which led to corporate governance crisis at the organisation.
In an interesting series of events that unfolded this week, incumbent board Chairperson, Pelani Siwawa-Ndai moved to expel Molefe together with board Secretary, Sipho Showa, who also doubles up as Head of Marketing and Communications. It is reported that Siwawa-Ndai in her capacity as the board Chairperson wrote letters of dismissals to Molefe and Showa.
Following receipt of letters, the duo sought and was furnished with legal opinion from Armstrong Attorneys advising them that their dismissals were unlawful hence they were told to continue to report to work and carry out their duties.
Documents seen by BusinessPost articulate that in the meeting which was held on the 1st of April, the five outgoing board members, unlawfully took resolutions to extend their contracts by a further 90 days after April 30 2021 as they face tough competition from five other candidates who had expressed interest to run for the elections.
Moreover, at the said meeting, management explained that neither management nor the board have the authority to decline nominations submitted by shareholders or the interested parties which is in line with Companies Act and also BBS Limited constitution.
Molefe also revealed that as management they cautioned the board that it was conflicted and it would be improper for it to influence the election process as it seems they intended to do so. “Nonetheless, in a totally unprecedented move in the history of BBSL, the board then collectively passed the unlawful resolutions below. Leading to the illegitimate decisions, the board had brazenly directed that its discussions on the Board elections should not be recorded totally violating sound corporate governance,” reads the statement released by management this week.
When giving their legal advice, Armstrong Attorneys noted that notice for the AGM should state individuals proposed to be elected to the board and directors have no legal authority to prevent the process.
Armstrong Attorneys also noted that, “due process” cited by board members are simply to ensure that the five retiring Directors avoid competition from interested candidates to be appointed to the BBS Limited board. The law firm further opined that the resolution of the 90 day extension of term of the five directors pending re-election or election was unlawful.
Molefe expressed with regret that BBS has been suspended from trading by BSE until the current matter has been resolved. “I am concerned by this development and other potentially harmful actions on the business. As management, we are engaging with stakeholders to mitigate any negative impact on BBS Limited,” expressed a distressed Molefe.
He assured shareholders and the rest of Management that they are working very hard to ensure that the issues are being dealt with in a mature manner. BBS which hopes to become the first indigenous commercial bank has seen its shares halted barely four months after BSE lifted the trading suspension of shares for BBS following submission of their published 2019 audited financial statements.
According to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the local bourse, Thapelo Tsheole said the halting of shares of BBSL is to maintain fair, efficient and orderly securities trading environment. “The securities have been suspended to allow BBS to provide clarity to the market concerning the recent allegations which have been brought to the attention of the BSE relating to the company’s Board of Directors and senior management,” said Tsheole.
Meanwhile in their audited financial statements for the year ended 31 December 2020, BBS recorded a loss of P14.6 million as at 31 December 2020 compared to the loss of P35.7 million for the comparative year ended 31 December 2019. According to Molefe the year under review was the most challenging for the bank, its shareholders and customers endured the difficult economic environment and the negative impact of the coronavirus.
He revealed that as the bank, they were forced to put in place several measures to ensure that the business withstands the impact of coronavirus and also to cushion mortgage customers from the effects of the pandemic. “Since April 2020 up to the end of December 2020, BBS assisted 555 mortgage customers with a payment holiday,’’ he said.
This is the bank whose total balance sheet declined by 12 percent from P4, 626 billion for the year ended. 31 December 2019 to P4, 088 billion as at 31 December 2020. As if things were not bad enough, total savings and deposits at the bank declined by 14 percent from a balance of P2, 885 billion as at 31 December 2019 to P2, 494 billion as at 31 December 2020.
On a much brighter side, BBSL mortgage loans and advances improved from P3, 401 billion to P3.408 billion with impairment allowance significantly improving to P78, 648 million from P102, 532 million for the year under review, representing a positive variance of 23 percent. BBS maintained a strong capital base with capital adequacy ratios of 26.32% for the year ended 31 December 2020.
Molefe was optimistic and anticipated a positive outcome during the implementation of the new BBS corporate strategy, whose main drive is commercialization of operations, which is in full force. “It will be spurred on by the positive results we have achieved for the year ended 31 December 2020, and our planned submission of our banking license application to Bank of Botswana which we anticipate to operate as a commercial bank in the third quarter of 2021,” he alluded.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Premium Nickel Resources Botswana (PNRB), Montwedi Mphathi, has said his company will resuscitate the formerly owned BCL assets and deliver a new, sustainable and cutting edge mining operation.
The new mine which will leverage on modern and next generation technology, will be environmentally sensitive and cognisant of the needs of its people and that of the communities around the area of influence.
In a statement last week, Premium Nickel Resources Botswana and its parent company, the Canadian headquartered Premium Nickel Resources announced that they have now completed the Exclusivity Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Liquidator.
The MOU will govern a six-month exclusivity period to complete its due diligence and related purchase agreements on the Botswana nickel-copper-cobalt (Ni-Cu-Co) assets formerly operated by BCL Limited (BCL), that are currently in liquidation.
On February 10, 2021, Lefoko Moagi, the Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security of Botswana, affirmed in Parliament a press release by the Liquidator for the BCL Group of Companies, stating that PNR was selected as the preferred bidder to acquire assets formerly owned by BCL.
“This is encouraging for the company and for Botswana. Our ambition in this new project dubbed “Tsholofelo” is to redevelop the former BCL assets into a modern, environmentally sensitive, efficient NI-Cu-Co-water producer where sustainability and the people are at the forefront of the decisions we make,” said Mphathi in a statement last Thursday.
“We also understand that no matter how successful we are at building the “New BCL” , our success will only be measured at our ability to create local wealth , skills and support the continued transition of local economy to a longer term sustainable base.”
The next step during the exclusivity period will be the completion of the definitive agreement. Simultaneous to this the PNRB will be conducting additional investigative work on site to further its understanding of the potential of these assets.
Specifically the company will complete an environmental assessment, a metallurgical study, a review of legal and social responsibilities, a review of the mine closure and rehabilitation plans and an on-site inspection of the legacy mining infrastructure and equipment that has been under care and maintenance.
Mphathi said they continue to monitor the global Covid-19 developments noting that they are committed to working with health and safety authorities as a priority and in full respect of all government and local Covid-19 protocol requirements. PNRB has developed Covid-19 travel, living and working protocols in anticipation of moving forward to on site due diligence.
“We will integrate these protocols with the currently applicable protocols of Ministry of Health & Wellness as well as District Health Management Team ( DHMT) and surrounding communities,” reads a statement released by the Gaborone based Premium Nickel Resources team.
PNRB is looking to become a catalyst in participating and building a strong economy for Botswana, with a purpose where respect and trust are core to every single step that will be taken. “Our success will mean following international best-in-class practices for the protection of Botswana’s environment and the focus on its people, building partnerships and earning respect, through cooperation and collaboration,” explains PNRB on its website.
“We are committed to Governance through transparent accountability and open communication within our team and with all our stakeholders.” Mphathi, a former BCL Executive, is widely celebrated for achieving unprecedented profitability at the mine during his tenure as General Manager.
The Serowe-born mining guru obtained a Diploma in Mining Technology from Haileybury School of Mines in Canada. He later obtained a B.Eng. Mining degree from the Technical University of Nova Scotia. Mphathi went on to City University in London, UK and obtained a M.Sc. in Industrial and Administrative Sciences.
Before ascending to the top country managerial role of Premium Nickel Resources. Mphathi was General Manager of Botswana Ash (Botash), Southern Africa’s leading salt and soda ash producer. He was at some point linked to Debswana top post, which is still to date not substantively filled following the death of Managing Director, Albert Milton, in August 2019.
With Mphathi out of the race and now leading the rebuilding of his former employer, the top post at De Beers- Botswana joint venture is likely to be filled by current acting Managing Director Lynette Armstrong, a seasoned finance executive with unparalleled experience in the extractive industry.
“We are happy to hear that former General Manager of BCL, Mr Montwedi Mphathi, has a relationship with the new Company that intends to resuscitate the mine, he is an experienced Mining Executive who knows BCL better, we want the mine to be brought back to life so that our people can be employed ” said Dithapelo Keorapetse Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West recently in Parliament.
BCL was liquidated in October 2016 following a series of losses and government bailout occasioned by low Copper prices and allegedly poor Investment decisions and maladministration. Recently PNR CEO, Keith Morrison said his team of seasoned experts both from Canada and Botswana are committed to resuscitate the BCL assets and deliver a high performance mining operation.
“The World, Botswana and the mining industry have changed dramatically since mining first started at the former BCL assets in the early 1970s. The nickel-copper-cobalt resources remaining at these mines are now critical metals, required for the continued development of a decarbonized and electrified global economy,” he said.
Morrison added: “As we move forward, it is our goal to demonstrate the potential economics of re-developing a combination of the former BCL assets to produce Ni-Cu-Co and water in a manner that is inclusive of modern environmental, social and corporate governance responsibilities.”
He explained that to attain this, extensive upgrades to infrastructure will be required with an emphasis on safety, sustainability and the application of new technologies to minimize the environmental impact and total carbon footprint for the new operations.
“Our team remains committed to working with the local communities and all of the stakeholders throughout this period and we encourage anyone with questions or feedback to reach out to us directly,” he noted.