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‘Jobs President’ tag must come alive

In 2009 there were 17 284 work permit holders, fast track to 2016 – the number had drastically dropped to 5293. The latest labour report from Statistics Botswana indicates that in June 2017, a total of 12,166 (3.0 percent) employees were non-citizens. Out of this total, Private and Parastatal sectors recorded 11,009 employees. Construction industry was the major employer of non-citizens (19.3 percent), followed by Education industry (18.5 percent) and Manufacturing industry (14.7 percent).


To several observers from various industries this is what partly contributed to job losses in different industries because company owners were denied the right to recruit skilled personnel who could help keep companies operational hence they relocated or closed down.
At the centre of the controversial decisions to decline work permits applications were former DISS Director General Isaac Kgosi and former Labour Minister, Edwin Batshu. They have since left the scene, will the situation be reversed?

Clearly President Mokgweetsi Masisi is busy overwriting some elements which were unpopular but synonymous with his predecessors’ legacy like the notable purging of former Immigration Minister Edwin Batshu and intelligence boss Isaac Kgosi-a move seen by many as a way to enhance Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as the two were seen as bogeymen for foreign investors and expatriates.


A clear sign from Government Enclave and the Office of the President is that Masisi is pushing to be a ‘Jobs President’ and he would not allow anything to stand on his way. He has been seen to be going around calling in foreign investment and trying to find means for job creation.

In former president Ian Khama’s regime there was Kgosi, a former military man and a member of the BDF commando unit who was made a feared director general of the state intelligence unit, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), which was responsible for vetting visas and residence and work permit applications.

Before Kgosi was fired, sources allege that work and residence permits approval, rejections stood at around 20 percent and the numbers had potential to grow. Since 2008 when Khama took over, a lot of foreigners were declared prohibited immigrants and there were many haste deportations.

Two years ago, former Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) CEO Letsebe Sejoe said FDI was mostly blocked by confusions, complications and delays associated with Visa and work permit applications. Sejoe’s sentiments were also echoed by former President Festus Mogae who said foreigners no longer find this country hospitable as they can be deported anytime without explanations.

BITC, an institute tasked with FDI facilitation and performance improvement took a nosedive three months before Masisi took power. According to the institution’s annual report released in January, BITC, a 16 % overall performance decline for their operational year 2016/17. BITC registered an overall performance of 74 percent compared to the 90 percent registered in the previous year. In the same report FDI registered only 948 jobs. As if that was not enough, Botswana also continues to perform dismally in ‘Doing Business’ Index.  According to the World Bank, in 2017 Botswana was number 71 in the world and in the latest ratings, it dropped drastically to number 81.

Also, last year legislators across the political divide took advantage of the Appropriation Bill debate time for the Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs and expressed concern at the manner in which the Khama regime was handling visa applications and residence and work permits. The legislators were mostly of the view that the rejections would not help Botswana FDI. The MPs said the foreigners were ill treated by security officers and this would not help Botswana economically.

The Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama also accused Kgosi’s brigade of scaring away tourists if not blocking them from entering through Botswana borders sometimes. However Batshu, a former chief of police, defended the DIS’s style of enforcing immigration laws saying it is within its mandate. The immigration laws of Botswana also give a minister to exercise his discretion in blocking visas and work permits of foreigners.

A pundit of Public Administration Kaelo Molefhe said he hopes that the removal of Batshu and Kgosi is not just changing of furniture, as practical decisions have to be taken. Molefhe said, so far, Masisi looks exemplary as he is meeting other leaders internationally and in the region-possibly it could mean he has seen the need to improve the country’s FDI. “He has shown much and seems to be departing from tradition and the past administration,” said Molefhe.

President Masisi has so far squeezed 7500 jobs in the civil service and FDI reception will mean more jobs from the private sector too. According to business news publication Bloomberg, on Tuesday Masisi said he is “dead determined” to produce more jobs. Jobs are top of Masisi’s campaign card as he will be leading the ruling party to next year’s elections.

He has even met new Anglo American top shareholder, Indian billionaire Anil Agarwal twice to discuss about him making sure more diamonds be cut and polished in Botswana, according to Bloomberg.  Anglo American owns 85% of De Beers which owns Debswana, a diamond company partly owned by the Botswana government. Masisi said there should be a way of achieving a win-win for both where De-Beers cuts diamonds in Botswana and there are jobs created.

Labour activist Johnson Motshwarakgole encourages Masisi’s move of trying to address the concerns of the people. He said he applauds Masisi, who seems to be going around looking for investors and making sure the country competes for investors. Motshwarakgole said Batshu and Kgosi should not be blamed alone as they were acting on the orders of a dictator of a president.

The labor activist also wants Masisi to make sure he improves the minimum wage and makes the salaries of young people cutting diamonds precious like the stones they sort. He said in the past diamonds workers had been paid poorly. “So far Masisi is doing many things right and should be applauded,” said Motshwarakgole.

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Business

Payless to partake in BSE’s Flagship Tshipidi program

28th June 2022
PAYLESS

Newly established wholly indigenous citizen owned retail chain Payless Retail (PTY) Ltd is set to partake in the first session of Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE)’s Tshipidi Mentorship Program (TMP) on Monday June 29th.

The TMP aims to train and capacitate SMEs so they can operate as corporates and eventually list on the local bourse. According to local bourse, BSE, the program aims to provide practical training to potential issuers through a comprehensive and interactive program that covers the key themes necessary to position a company to list on the BSE.

Payless Retail is a newly established supermarket chain whose mission is to become a convenient one-stop shopping destination as it is one of the Botswana oldest retailing brands.  It started off as Corner Supermarket in January 1976, and to date boasts of nine stores in, among others, Gaborone, Mochudi, Molepolole and Tlokweng. Payless was recently acquired by Ellis Retail Group, which is led by businessman Elliot Moshoke.

The takeover catapulted Ellis Retail to the envious position of being the first wholly indigenous owned major retail chain. “We jumped at this opportunity because it gave us a chance to prove to Batswana that the retail business is open and lucrative.”

The objective is to create a proudly Botswana retail chain that fully supports our national Vision, economic development and citizen economic empowerment ambitions,” Moshoke told BusinessPost.

He further emphasized that Batswana are capable and able to run large scale businesses hence they need to accept invite foreign investors who will come in to support us not take the business.
“Our win as Payless in the Fast Moving Consumer goods (FMCG) industry is a win for Batswana. We need their support in this difficult and challenging journey.

As you are aware, Payless is the only retail chain in the hands of Batswana ba Sekei. We need to take advantage of this to generate employment and create small businesses in retail and Agri businesses,” he explained.

The retailer has also partnered with Botswana Investment & Trade Center (BITC) on their #PushaBW campaign with a view to initiating earnest engagement with local producers to iron out bottlenecks and ensure seamless trading.

“Local producers have to be part of the phenomenal growth of the Payless brand. This will in turn facilitate employment creation and economic growth. We did this because we have the utmost respect for local manufacturers and producers,” he mentioned.

Payless is currently restocking all of its stores; a development that Moshoke says is testament to the retailer’s commitment to growing the brand and ensuring continuity of business. He further revealed that renowned retail suppliers like PST and CA Sales have reignited their trust in Payless, opening their doors for Payless as they have faith in the retailer’s new owners.

The takeover has reportedly saved more than 200 jobs and gave a new lease of life to the previously fledging Payless brand. According to a press release from the management team, the Payless work forces are also extremely excited about what the future holds. The TMP is a comprehensive and interactive program that covers the key themes necessary to position a company to list on the BSE.

The program is administered by experts within the listing ecosystem and seeks to bring the potential issuers closer to the listings advisers, investors and leaders of already listed companies.  “As a strategic initiative, the BSE decided to set up this mentorship program in a bid to assist SMEs to strategize, corporatize and acclimatize in order to list to access equity finance and expand operations,” said the BSE.

The TMP will avail to SMEs practical insights, knowledge and feedback from institutional investors, increased awareness of the BSE listing requirements as well as an intimate network of advisors and CEOs of listed companies. After training, Payless will graduate with improve governance structures and better knowledge of articulating its business strategy. The retailer will also gain increased visibility through BSE marketing platforms.

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BITC assisted companies rake in P2.96 billion in export earnings

21st June 2022
BITC-CEO-Keletsositse-Olebile

Despite Covid-19 interrupting trade worldwide, exporting companies in Botswana which benefited from the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) services realised P2.96 billion in export earnings during the period from April 2020 to March 2021.

In the preceding financial year, the sale of locally manufactured products in foreign markets had registered export revenue of P2, 427 billion against a target of P3, 211 billion BITC, which celebrates 10 years since establishment, continues to carry out several initiatives targeted towards expanding the Botswana export base in line with Botswana’s desire to be an export led economy, underpinned by a robust export promotion programme in line with the National Export Strategy.

The main products exported were swamp cruiser boats, pvc tanks and pvc pipes, ignition wiring sets, semi-precious stones, veterinary medicines, hair braids, coal, textiles (towels and t-shirts) and automobile batteries. These goods were destined mainly for South Africa, Zimbabwe, Austria, Germany, and Namibia.

With Covid-19 still a problem, BITC continues to roll out targeted virtual trade promotion missions across the SADC region with a view to seeking long-lasting market opportunities for locally manufactured products.

Recently, the Centre facilitated participation for Botswana companies at the Eastern Cape Development Council (ECDC) Virtual Export Symposium, the Botswana-Zimbabwe Virtual Trade Mission, the Botswana-Zambia Virtual Trade Mission, Botswana-South Africa Virtual Buyer/Seller Mission as well as the Botswana-Namibia Virtual Trade Mission.

BITC has introduced an e-Exporting programme aimed at assisting Botswana exporters to conduct business on several recommended e-commerce platforms. Due to the advent of COVID-19, BITC is currently promoting e-trade among companies through the establishment of e-commerce platforms and is assisting local companies to embrace digitisation by adopting e-commerce platforms to reach export markets as well as assisting local e-commerce platform developers to scale up their online marketplaces.

During the 2019/2020 financial year, BITC embarked on several initiatives targeted at growing exports in the country; facilitation of participation of local companies in international trade platforms in order to enhance export sales of local products and services into external markets.

BITC also helped in capacity development of local companies to compete in global markets and the nurturing of export awareness and culture among local manufacturers in order to enhance their skills and knowledge of export processes; and in development and implementation of trade facilitation tools that look to improve the overall ease of doing business in Botswana.

As part of building export capacity in 2019/20, six (6) companies were selected to initiate a process to be Organic and Fair Trade Certified. These companies are; Blue Pride (Pty) Ltd, Motlopi Beverages, Moringa Technology Industries (Pty) Ltd, Sleek Foods, Maungo Craft and Divine Morula.

In 2019 seven companies which were enrolled in the Botswana Exporter Development Programme were capacitated with attaining BOBS ISO 9001: 2015 certification. Three (3) companies successfully attained BOBS ISO 9001:2015 certification. These were Lithoflex (Pty) Ltd, General Packaging Industries and Power Engineering.

BITC’s annual flagship exhibition, Global Expo Botswana (GEB) to create opportunities for trade and strategic synergies between local and international companies. The Global Expo Botswana) is a premier business to business exposition that attracts FDI, expansion of domestic investment, promotion of exports of locally produced goods and services and promotion of trade between Botswana and other countries.

Another tool used for export development by BITC is the Botswana Trade Portal, which has experienced some growth in terms of user acceptance and utilisation globally. The portal provides among others a catalogue of information on international, regional and bilateral trade agreements to which Botswana is a party, including the applicable Rules, Regulations and Requirements and the Opportunities for Botswana Businesses on a product by product basis.

The portal also provides information on; measures, legal documents, and forms and procedures needed by Botswana companies that intend on doing business abroad. BITC continues to assist both potential and existing local manufacturing and service entities to realise their export ambitions. This assistance is pursued through the ambit of the Botswana Exporter Development Programme (BEDP) and the Trade Promotion Programme.

BEDP was revised in 2020 in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with a vision to developing a diversified export-based economy. The programme focuses mostly on capacitating companies to reach export readiness status.

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Business

Inflation up 2.3 percent in May

21st June 2022
Inflation

Prices for goods and services in this country continue to increase, with the latest figures from Statistics Botswana showing that in May 2022, inflation rate rose to 11.9 percent from 9.6 percent recorded in April 2022.

According to Statistics Botswana update released this week, the largest upward contributions to the annual inflation rate in May 2022 came from increase in the cost of transport (7.2 percent), housing, water, electricity, gas & other Fuels (1.4 percent), food & non-alcoholic beverages (1.1 percent) and miscellaneous goods & services (0.8 percent).

With regard to regional inflation rates between April and May 2022, the Rural Villages inflation rate went up by 2.5 percentage points, from 9.6 percent in April to 12.1 percent in May 2022, according to the government owned statistics entity.

In the monthly update the entity stated that the Urban Villages inflation rate stood at 11.8 percent in May 2022, a rise of 2.4 percentage points from the April rate of 9.4 percent, whereas the Cities & Towns inflation rate recorded an increase of 1.9 percentage points, from 9.9 percent in April to 11.8 percent in May.

Commenting on the national Consumer Price Index, the entity stated that it went up by 2.6 percent, from 120.1 in April to 123.2 in May 2022. Statisticians from the entity noted that the transport group index registered an increase of 7.3 percent, from 134.5 in April to 144.2 in May, mainly due to the rise in retail pump prices for petrol and diesel by P1.54 and P2.74 per litre respectively, which effected on the 13th of May 2022.

The food & non-alcoholic beverages group index rose by 2.6 percent, from 118.6 in April 2022 to 121.6 in May 2022 and this came as a result of increase in prices of oils & fats, vegetables, bread & cereal, mineral waters, soft drinks, fruits & vegetables juices, fish (Fresh, Chilled & Frozen) and meat (Fresh, Chilled & Frozen), according to the Statisticians.

The Statisticians said the furnishing, household equipment & routine maintenance group index rose by 1.0 percent, from 111.6 in April 2022 to 112.7 in May 2022 and this was attributed to a general increase in prices of household appliances, glassware, tableware & household utensils and goods & services for household maintenance.

The prices for clothing & footwear group index moved from 109.4 to 110.4, registering a rise of 0.9 percent during the period under review. Bank of Botswana has projected higher inflation in the short term, associated with the likelihood of further increases in domestic fuel prices in response to persistent high international oil prices and added that the possible increase in public service salaries could add also upward pressure to inflation in this country.

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