In an effort to accelerate the sluggish implementation of the Selebi Phikwe Revitalisation Strategy, Government has moved to advance the implementation by setting up a special Cabinet Committee to identify hurdles that impedes the successful execution of the strategy.
Addressing a full council meeting in Selebi Phikwe last week, the Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Bogolo Kenewendo said the recovery of the economy of Selebi Phikwe and the SPEDU region remains a priority hence Government’s continued efforts aimed at finding a lasting solution that will make Selebi Phikwe achieve full economic sustainability.
Kenewendo noted that the cabinet committee will address all shortcomings and fast-track all processes to ensure that the implementation of the strategy moves with speed. Kenewendo underscored President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s pronouncement regarding the re-birth of Selebi Phikwe which he made in his maiden speech as president on April 1st.
The committee is expected to address issues of regulatory delays like the Environmental Impact Assessment which councillors said often hold up projects thereby stalling progress and negatively affecting strategic growth plan. Echoing the president’s sentiments, Kenewendo reiterated that Government will particularly intensify its efforts to revitalise the economy of the SPEDU region to effectively respond to the closure and liquidation of BCL. She stated that Government through her ministry will continue with promoting investor fiscal and non-fiscal incentives that include low general tax rates as part of the revitalisation strategy in order to attract investors.
“The incentive packages are preliminary. Investors are looking for more, particularly a more enabling environment for business. The special cabinet committee that has been put together will look into the overall Phikwe business environment,” she said. The Minister also pointed out that Government will expedite the implementation of the Special Economic Zone through the Special Economic Zone Authority (SEZA). She revealed that the Investment ministry will work hard to service the land allocated to SEZA so as to make the environment enabling for business.
She commended SPEDU for its effort, noting that progress has been made albeit being slow. She pointed out that an accelerated pace of progress is anticipated once everything takes shape. She outlined targeted investment shows and strengthened collaborations and proper implementation of the Economic Revitalisation Programme as key in realising an increased pace of progress.
The Selebi Phikwe Revitalisation Programme is headed by former Bank Governor, Linah Mohohlo as Coordinator. Kenewendo added that a successful resuscitation of the Selebi Phikwe economy need full support of the local authority to facilitate investment promotion by making the environment conducive for business for thrive to be able to create employment.
“We must all work together to transform the country for the better. We must be active participants in supporting the National Transformation Agenda. We have a transformation agenda as ministry so as to improve our services,” said the minister who was in Selebi Phikwe on retreat with the leadership of the ministry and of all parastatals under the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry. Councillors hailed setting up of the special Cabinet committee as a welcome development as it proves Government’s sincerity of commitment to hasten the process of reviving the economy of Selebi Phikwe and the SPEDU region. However, they were sceptical of delivery as they bemoaned lack of delivery on the many promises made by Government ever since the closure of the mine.
Councillor Evelyn Kgodungwe of Thakadiwa Ward said that despite the many promises, there is nothing to show of Government’s commitment to deliver on all promises made. Kgodungwe noted that SEZA existed before the mine closure and wondered whether it has been expanded to cater for the sad realities of the mine closure.
Nominated councillor and former Mayor of Selebi Phikwe, Leonard Mojuta requested the minister to consider assisting resilient companies that have remained in Selebi Phikwe despite the closure of the mine which similarly affected their revenue. He said these loyal investors if assisted, can also help in creating sustainable jobs for the people of Selebi Phikwe. Mojuta emphasised the importance of not only looking for foreign investors while neglecting local ones that may have the potential to turn around the economy of the town.
Investment Land under SPEDU
Meanwhile, out of the 74 industrial plots under the authority of SPEDU, 15 plots have been allocated to investors. The plots were allocated in April 2017 through a tender process after consultation with the SPEDU Board. Additional 20 plots are under review to be recommended for direct allocation by end of June 2018. The allocated plots are not fully developed and there is no industrial activity as yet. The developments of these allocated plots are at different stages of development which include de-bushing, fencing and design. Construction for at least 50% is estimated to start by June 2019.
SPEDU’s Director for Strategic Projects, Jazenga Uezesa revealed in a correspondence to council that there are no jobs created by the 15 companies that have been allocated land except for those who were engaged during the preparation of the plots. SPEDU continues to engage these 15 developers to encourage them to develop the plots according to their development agreements.
SPEDU’s correspondence was addressing questions raised by Councillor Evelyn Kgodungwe of Thakadiwa Ward who had wanted to know how may plots out of the 74 plots under the authority of SPEDU have been allocated to investors, how many have been developed and with industrial activity taking place, the total number of people employed by the companies allocated plots and if SPEDU had any corrective measures to ensure development of the plots.
SPEDU is currently engaged with 41 companies that have expressed interest in establishing in the SPEDU region. These companies are at different stages of progression. Fifteen (15) companies are at Expression of Interest stage, six companies being one for Thune Irrigation Scheme, Botoka Temo, Urban Agriculture, Aviation Investment and Development Company, SK Group and AD-Infinitum Consultants-Blue Energy Africa are all at assessment and due diligence stage.
Two companies are at request for land allocation stage. The companies are Higher Motors and Silkroad. Another two are at Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) stage. These two companies are for Truck Stop and Bulk Fuel Station and Refurbishment of Bus terminal as well as development of a commercial centre.
Five companies for the Farm Electrification along Motloutse River project, Platjan Bridge Construction, Pula Dynes Pharmaceutical Plant, Cabling Data Centre and Oxygen Gas Air Separation Plant are at the stage of factory shells renovation. Four companies, Almaz, Asante Tech, Bulb World and Better Service Group are currently at the stage of installation of equipment while only seven companies are at operational stage. The seven companies in operation are Kwenantle and Tsarona for Lotsane Irrigation Project, NaPro, Dinesh Textiles, Allegiant, Nitaz Collection and FIL-AM Textiles.
According to SPEDU, one of the challenges hindering the development is insufficient strategic infrastructure that include inadequate number of factory shells and serviced land. The development, approval and implementation of the SPEDU incentives is one way that the Government is being supportive in facilitating SPEDU companies and investors.
Councillor Kgodungwe had also wanted to know the progress with SPEDU companies or investors who want to set up businesses in Selebi Phikwe, the challenges hindering envisaged development as well as Government’s commitment to facilitating SPEDU companies.
Former Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Member of Parliament for Gaborone North, Haskins Nkaigwa has confirmed his departure from opposition fold to re-join the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
Nkaigwa said opposition is extremely divided and the leadership not in talking terms. “They are planning evil against each other. Nothing much will be achieved,” Nkaigwa told WeekendPost.
“I believe my time in the opposition has come to an end. It’s time to be of value to rebuilding our nation and economy of the country. Remember the BDP is where I started my political journey. It is home,” he said.
“Despite all challenges currently facing the world, President Masisi will be far with his promises to Batswana. A leader always have the interest of the people at heart despite how some decisions may look to be unpopular with the people.
“I have faith and full confidence in President Dr Masisi leadership. We shall overcome as party and nation the current challenges bedevilling nations. BDP will emerge stronger. President Masisi will always have my backing.”
Nkaigwa served as opposition legislator between 2014-2019 representing Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) under UDC banner. He joined BMD in 2011 at the height public servant strike whilst Gaborone City Deputy Mayor. He eventually rose to become the mayor same year, after BDP lost majority in the GCC.
Nkaigwa had been a member of Botswana National Front (BNF), having joined from Alliance for Progressives (AP) in 2019.
Botswana has received assistance worth over P100 million from Japanese government since 2019, making the latter of the largest donors to Botswana in recent years.
The assistance include relatively large-scale grant aid programmes such as the COVID-19 programme (to provide medical equipment; P34 million), the digital terrestrial television programme (to distribute receivers to the underprivileged, P17 million), the agriculture promotion programme (to provide agricultural machinery and equipment, P53million).
“As 2020 was a particularly difficult year, where COVID-19 hit Botswana’s economy and society hard, Japan felt the need to assist Botswana as our friend,” said Japan’s new Ambassador to Botswana, Hoshiyama Takashi.
“It is for this reason that grants of over P100 million were awarded to Botswana for the above mentioned projects.”
Japan is now the world’s fourth highest ranking donor country in terms of Official Development Assistance (ODA).
From 1991 to 2000, Japan continued as the top donor country in the world and contributed to Asia’s miracle economic development.
From 1993 onwards, the TICAD process commenced through Japan’s initiative as stated earlier. Japan’s main contribution has been in the form of Yen Loans, which are at a concessional rate, to suit large scale infrastructure construction.
“In Botswana, only a few projects have been implemented using the Yen Loan such as the Morupule “A” Power Station Rehabilitation and Pollution Abatement in 1986, the Railway Rolling Stock Increase Project in 1987, the Trans-Kalahari Road Construction Project in 1991, the North-South Carrier Water Project in 1995 and the Kazungula Bridge Construction Project in 2012,” said Ambassador Hoshiyama.
“In terms of grant aid and technical assistance, Japan has various aid schemes including development survey and master planning, expert dispatch to recipient countries, expert training in Japan, scholarships, small scale grass-roots program, culture-related assistance, aid through international organizations and so on.”
In 1993, Japan launched Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) to promote Africa’s development, peace and security, through the strengthening of relations in multilateral cooperation and partnership.
TICAD discuss development issues across Africa and, at the same time, present “aid menus” to African countries provided by Japan and the main aid-related international organizations, United Nations (UN), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank.
“As TICAD provides vision and guidance, it is up to each African country to take ownership and to implement her own development following TICAD polices and make use of the programmes shown in the aid menus,” Ambassordor Hoshiyama noted.
“This would include using ODA loans for quality infrastructure, suited to the country’s own nation-building needs. It is my fervent hope that Botswana will take full advantage of the TICAD process.”
Since then, seven conferences where held, the latest, TICAD 7 being in 2019 at Yokohama. TICAD 7’s agenda on African development focused on three pillars, among them the first pillar being “Accelerating economic transformation and improving business environment through innovation and private sector engagement”.
“Yes, private investment is very important, while public investment through ODA (Official Development Assistance) still plays an indispensable role in development,” the Japanese Ambassador said.
“For further economic development in Africa, Japan recognizes that strengthening regional connectivity and integration through investment in quality infrastructure is key.”
Japan has emphasized the following; effective implementation of economic corridors such as the East Africa Northern Corridor, Nacala Corridor and West Africa Growth Ring; Quality infrastructure investment in line with the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment should be promoted by co-financing or cooperation through the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Japan.
Japan also emphasized the establishment of mechanisms to encourage private investment and to improve the business environment.
According to the statistics issued by Japan’s Finance Ministry, Japan invested approximately 10 billion US dollars in Africa after TICAD 7 (2019) to year end 2020, but Japanese investment through third countries are not included in this figure.
“With the other points factored in, the figure isn’t established yet,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
The next conference, TICAD 8 will be held in Tunisia in 2022. This will be the second TICAD summit to be held on the African continent after TICAD 6 which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2016.
According to Ambassador Hoshiyama, in preparation for TICAD 8, the TICAD ministerial meeting will be held in Tokyo this year. The agenda to be discussed during TICAD 8 has not yet been fully deliberated on amongst TICAD Co-organizers (Japan, UN, UNDP, the World Bank and AU).
“Though not officially concluded, given the world situation caused by COVID-19, I believe that TICAD 8 will highlight health and medical issues including the promotion of a Universal Health Coverage (UHC),” said Hoshiyama.
“As the African economy has seriously taken a knock by COVID-19, economic issues, including debt, could be an item for serious discussion.”
The promotion of business is expected to be one of the most important topics. Japan and its partners, together with the business sector, will work closely to help revitalize private investment in Africa.
“All in all, the follow-up of the various programs that were committed by the Co-Organizers during the Yokohama Plan of Actions 2019 will also be reviewed as an important item of the agenda,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
“I believe that this TICAD follow-up mechanism has secured transparency and accountability as well as effective implementation of agreed actions by all parties. The guiding principle of TICAD is African ownership and international partnership.”
Directorate on Intelligence Services (DIS) Director General, Brigadier Peter Magosi is said to be hell-bent and pushing President Mokgweetsi Masisi to reshuffle his cabinet as a matter of urgency since a number of his ministers are conflicted.
The request by Magosi comes at a time when time is ticking on his contract which is awaiting renewal from Masisi.
This publication learns that Magosi is unshaken by the development and continues to wield power despite uncertainty hovering around his contractual renewal.