In an major milestone in career-based and vocational tertiary education in Botswana, the Choppies Group has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the local campus of the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, part of its international outreach network.
The MoU represents an educational and training partnership between the two parties in the area of tertiary retail coursework and qualifications. Limkokwing currently offers a selection of academic course study options for students interested in working towards a retail management career and this new partnership will enable students to engage with the hugely successful Choppies group to gain highly specialised, practical experience as they learn, through vacation and term-time sandwich placements, guest lectures and international learning assignments throughout the continental Choppies branch network.
The partnership was cemented in an informal ceremony at the Choppies Commerce Park headquarters with Choppies Investor Relations Executive Mrs. Vidya Sanooj signing on behalf of Chopppies and Mr. Cipack Mbakisano Maphosa, Director, Academic Quality Assurance, for Limkokwing.
Choppies CEO, Mr. Ramachandran Ottapathu , explained that for some time he had been concerned over the lack of suitable graduate candidates able to be fast-tracked through his Group’s management system. Many tertiary students in the country who had set their post-graduation sights on the retail industry were forced to seek employment at entry-level, learning the ropes from the bottom up.
This option retarded their career and earning prospects and consequently many would-be candidates were put off joining the sector. From the retailer’s standpoint, it was cumbersome and time-consuming to have to train up new graduate staff who had achieved paper qualifications but with no corresponding practical experience.
This situation was further crystallised in 2016 when the Group took on around 220 graduates for retail training with offers of future employment where vacancies existed for those whose probationary period proved successful. It was at this point that Mr. Ottapathu took the bold decision to seek out an educational partner to offer students a fast-tracked option to their retail end-goal. Familiar with the Walmart Group’s graduate programmes in the United States, he was determined to offer local students similar opportunities.
According to Walmart CEO Greg Foram :
“Investing in the personal and professional success of our associates is vital to Walmart’s future success. We know training and learning opportunities empower associates to deliver for customers while growing and advancing in their careers”. This same philosophy has now been embraced by Mr. Ottapathu who explained that students will have the opportunity for more pertinent curriculum coursework supplemented with hands-on, in-store training during their vacations.
In this way, Choppies will gain access to a pool of junior management graduates, fully conversant with corporate operating methodology and general retail best practice. It is hoped that through this new Town and Gown co-operative initiative, Botswana will be able to turn out talented, rounded retail management trainees who will take the local retail sector to new levels of service, standards and profitability.
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”