Botswana ‘s private sector mouth piece Business Botswana(BB) in collaboration Government will next month host the annual NBC(NBC) in Francistown. The Conference is Botswana‘s major meet between government policy makers, stakeholders, business community and the entire private sector.
The high level event provides a platform for interactive dialogue, views exchange and policy review on the country‘s economic transformation agenda. When briefing the media this week, Business Botswana (BB) revealed that the conference will spark conversations around pushing Botswana’s High income economy dream. Going into its second year in partnership with Botswana’s leading bank First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) the conference brings a revamped and charged platform for transformative engagement.
Bigger, better and more interactive the event will be held under the theme “Breakthrough a High-Income Botswana- the Role of the Private Sector in Charting the Path.” The organizers In addition to the usual officiating and address by President Mokgweetsi Masisi, one of the new exciting features in this year’s conference is an intimate interactive session with president Maisi titled “A Conversation with the President” which will provide an opportunity for the business sector to hear President Masisi’s thoughts on the growth of business in Botswana.
When giving a brief overview of event organizing committee chairman of the NBC Tobake Kobedi said presentations and views exchanges will be deliberate on identifying economic paths to move Botswana from an upper middle income to a high income economy in line with Vision 2036. He said the conference will bring together top government officials and business leaders under one roof to formulate new ideas and craft new innovative paths that endeavor to transform Botswana‘s economy to export and private sector led
“The aim is to see broaden domestic investment and see Botswana businesses compete on global scale, “he said. Kobedi explained that the conference’s deliberation and discussions will be anchored around three key topics being Innovation, human Capital and the Small Medium Enterprises Sector.
He observed that the NBC was alive to the private sector’s role in gearing the country towards a high income economy and by giving the business community the platform reflect and facilitates their participatory role and contribution towards the national Vision 2036. The conference has attracted a number of other partnerships and sponsorship such as Air Botswana and Botswana Railways as both entered in an agreement with Business Botswana to offer transportation for delegates and participants at tailor made packages.
Kobedi also highlighted that Bank of Botswana will host the participants to a cocktail dinner on the sidelines of the conference at which De Beers Botswana Director and Vision 2036 Chairman Neo Moroka will deliver Key note address in a informal interactive discussion over meals and drinks.
Marketing and Communication Director at FNBB Obonye Malope noted that it was compelling for the bank to join forces with Business Botswana again this year because FNB as a financial institution was alive to efforts of propelling the country from middle income to a high income. “We as FNBB are proud official partners of NBC, for the second time as we want to provide the private sector with innovative business solutions and want to be drivers of transformative economic development in the country," she said.
Malope reiterated that the conference theme was also speaking to FNBB's strategic commitment to foster growth and economic diversity from which all Batswana can and should benefit. Malope also noted that, "As the leading Bank in Botswana, we recognize the key role that we play in facilitating the growth of a more diverse economy. This is why we have partnered with the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development to introduce a Youth Value Proposition that provides youth funded businesses with a solution that includes Transactional, Investment, Insurance and Lending products.
Malope further noted that FNBB as a business stands to benefit from a more developed, vibrant and high income economy that Botswana seeks to archive. “We are committed to using all of our spheres of influence to contribute to this dream and this partnership with Business Botswana and Botswana Government to bring you this impactful event is one of a number of initiatives to this effect ,We also recognize that youth businesses have great and untapped potential to create employment and drive economic diversification and it is our responsibility as Botswana’s largest bank to help drive this” She said.
NBC Chairperson Kobedi also noted that other interesting features will be that of Representatives from World Bank & Switzerland to share with Botswana on key areas and transformative go-how in archiving a high income economy. “We will have presentations from the World Bank to lead us in unpacking the concepts of a high-income economy. Discussions around youth business and small to medium enterprise will also take the spotlight, as we explore how these can be mobilized to incorporate greater economic diversity for the country", said Mr Kobedi.
This century is always looking at improving new super high speed technology to make life easier. On the other hand, beckoning as an emerging fierce reversal force to equally match or dominate this life enhancing super new tech, comes swift human adversaries which seem to have come to make living on earth even more difficult.
The recent discovery of a pandemic, Covid-19, which moves at a pace of unimaginable and unpredictable proportions; locking people inside homes and barring human interactions with its dreaded death threat, is currently being felt.
Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo has cautioned Government against excessive borrowing and poorly managed debt levels.
He was speaking in Parliament on Tuesday delivering Parliament’s Finance Committee report after assessing a motion that sought to raise Government Bond program ceiling to P30 billion, a big jump from the initial P15 Billion.
Government Investment Account (GIA) which forms part of the Pula fund has been significantly drawn down to finance Botswana’s budget deficits since 2008/09 Global financial crises.
The 2009 global economic recession triggered the collapse of financial markets in the United States, sending waves of shock across world economies, eroding business sentiment, and causing financiers of trade to excise heightened caution and hold onto their cash.
The ripple effects of this economic catastrophe were mostly felt by low to middle income resource based economies, amplifying their vulnerability to external shocks. The diamond industry which forms the gist of Botswana’s economic make up collapsed to zero trade levels across the entire value chain.
The Upstream, where Botswana gathers much of its diamond revenue was adversely impacted by muted demand in the Midstream. The situation was exacerbated by zero appetite of polished goods by jewelry manufacturers and retail outlets due to lowered tail end consumer demand.
This resulted in sharp decline of Government revenue, ballooned budget deficits and suspension of some developmental projects. To finance the deficit and some prioritized national development projects, government had to dip into cash balances, foreign reserves and borrow both externally and locally.
Much of drawing was from Government Investment Account as opposed to drawing from foreign reserve component of the Pula Fund; the latter was spared as a fiscal buffer for the worst rainy days.
Consequently this resulted in significant decline in funds held in the Government Investment Account (GIA). The account serves as Government’s main savings depository and fund for national policy objectives.
However as the world emerged from the 2009 recession government revenue graph picked up to pre recession levels before going down again around 2016/17 owing to challenges in the diamond industry.
Due to a number of budget surpluses from 2012/13 financial year the Government Investment Account started expanding back to P30 billion levels before a series of budget deficits in the National Development Plan 11 pushed it back to decline a decline wave.
When the National Development Plan 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at budget deficits.
This as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.
Cumulatively since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances. Drawing down from government cash balances meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account.
The Government Investment Account (GIA) was established in accordance with Section 35 of the Bank of Botswana Act Cap. 55:01. The Account represents Government’s share of the Botswana‘s foreign exchange reserves, its investment and management strategies are aligned to the Bank of Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves management and investment guidelines.
Government Investment Account, comprises of Pula denominated deposits at the Bank of Botswana and held in the Pula Fund, which is the long-term investment tranche of the foreign exchange reserves.
In June 2017 while answering a question from Bogolo Kenewendo, the then Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Mathambo told parliament that as of June 30, 2017, the total assets in the Pula Fund was P56.818 billion, of which the balance in the GIA was P30.832 billion.
Kenewendo was still a back bench specially elected Member of Parliament before ascending to cabinet post in 2018. Last week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, when presenting a motion to raise government local borrowing ceiling from P15 billion to P30 Billion told parliament that as of December 2019 Government Investment Account amounted to P18.3 billion.
Dr Matsheka further told parliament that prior to financial crisis of 2008/9 the account amounted to P30.5 billion (41 % of GDP) in December of 2008 while as at December 2019 it stood at P18.3 billion (only 9 % of GDP) mirroring a total decline by P11 billion in the entire 11 years.
Back in 2017 Parliament was also told that the Government Investment Account may be drawn-down or added to, in line with actuations in the Government’s expenditure and revenue outturns. “This is intended to provide the Government with appropriate funds to execute its functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently” said Mathambo, then Minister of Finance.
Acknowledging the need to draw down from GIA no more, current Minister of Finance Dr Matsheka said “It is under this background that it would be advisable to avoid excessive draw down from this account to preserve it as a financial buffer”
He further cautioned “The danger with substantially reduced financial buffers is that when an economic shock occurs or a disaster descends upon us and adversely affects our economy it becomes very difficult for the country to manage such a shock”