The energy sector regulator, Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority (BERA) has rejected an application by the state owned Oil Company – Botswana Oil Limited through which it sought to be awarded an exclusive license that will see it importing 50 percent of the national petroleum requirements.
The recently enacted BERA Act allows for an entity to be issued with an exclusive license as long as the Authority is satisfied with the application. In order to process BOL’s application for such a license, BERA conducted public hearings to allow the public to express their view.
Botswana Oil Limited Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Willie Mokgatlhe had explained that his organization is fully capable to handle the exclusive import license which they had applied for, but BERA has since made a determination that the license application will not be acceded to for now based on technical, skills and financial constraints.
Despite efforts by Botswana Oil to sell their case to industry players, the public and stakeholders in the energy sector, BERA decided against them and rejected the application on the grounds that BOL failed to make out a case to demonstrate the necessity of the exclusive license. During the public proceedings, the CEO had highlighted that unlike other strongly contending companies in the sector they have the capacity to oversee the whole importing of petroleum in the sector.
The Botswana Oil Limited CEO further explained that the application for the exclusive import license which is in line with the section 38 of the 2016 Botswana Regulatory Act allows for the parastatal to hold such a license, to which the authority crashed the claim with another section in which there should be a submission of certain documents to aid the approval for such. The decision of the Authority is further noted to be based on the failure of BOL to meet the requirements as stated in Section 32 (9) (d).
According to BERA the section requires the applicant to present their financial and technical capability, a requirement that Mokgatlhe’s organisation could not satisfy. This contributed immensely to the final decision made by BERA. The Authority was not in a position to do an assessment because the requisite evidence was not availed and there was no explanation to what changes would effect in the importing of petroleum products should the license be granted to BOL.
They cited that such an important decision could not be taken on the basis of speculation because they were not afforded documented plans on the costs and benefits of the proposal. Although Botswana Oil Limited CEO made a case of job creation and sustainability as benefits to the public when presenting to during the public hearing, BERA failed to establish the said benefits of the import license because there was no documentation to support the assertions of the Botswana Oil Limited’s CEO.
On Technical Capability, it was established that Botswana Oil Limited does not have the capacity to handle the licensing. This is one of the core requirements when applying for the exclusive license. The requirement is such that Botswana Oil Limited should have stakeholders in place to work with but at the time of the hearing Botswana Oil Limited indicated that they have no one place yet but there are efforts to engage them.
In preparation for the changes in its role, Botswana Oil Limited was said to be looking at a partnership with a Middle East company – Oman Trading International for the procurement of petroleum and petroleum products. During the hearing, Mokgatlhe explained that the Government of Botswana currently owns two depots which can hold up to 62 million litres (l) of petroleum in Gaborone and Francistown. Currently Botswana Oil Limited imports 10 percent of petroleum product of the market and also have access to government storage facilities of close to 60 million litres for commercial sales which also serves to sweeten the strategic stock.
Furthermore the decision to reject the exclusive import license was based on the realization that although Botswana Oil Limited has access to storage facilities they do not have sufficient storage to store the goods for 60 days uninterrupted. This was supported by a finding by the Authority that the Government planned bulk petroleum products storage programme indicates that the expansion of the Francistown Depot and the Tshele Hills construction project and development of the new storage depot will only fulfill the 60 day stock capacity by 2022.
Despite Botswana Oil Limited having the support of a number of organizations, BERA explained that while Botswana Oil Limited had applied for 50 percent of the exclusive importing licensing, they had agreed and were aware that the awarding of the license would entitle them to 100 percent share of the import market. Mokgatlhe had stated that when BOL procures, they will deliver product for multinationals directly at their current 18.8 litres depots as they would not be importing for themselves.
During the hearing the Botswana Oil Limited CEO admitted that it is risky for one entity to be given 100 percent mandate for fuel supply. Mokgatlhe had said their fuel importation implementation of the product should be done overtime and they wanted to import 50 percent of the fuel volumes while the other 50 percent should be left to citizens companies.
He said they want Batswana to also participate in the value chain and the idea is not for BOL to play in the retail or commercial space. Botswana Oil Limited has been given a 30 day period to appeal the decision at the High Court. Mokgatlhe is adamant the move is a strategic one meant to ensure consistent fuel supply in the country.
In today’s digital age, banking is no longer just about visiting a branch during business hours. It’s about putting you, the customer, in the driver’s seat of your financial journey. But what exactly is self-service banking, and how do you stand to benefit from it as a customer?
Self-service banking is all about giving you the power to manage your finances on your terms. Whether you want to check your account balance at midnight, transfer money while on vacation, or deposit cash without waiting in line, self-service banking makes it possible. It’s like having a virtual branch at your fingertips, ready to assist you 24/7.
This shift towards self-service banking was catalyzed by various factors but it became easily accessible and accepted during the COVID-19 pandemic. People of all ages found themselves turning to digital channels out of necessity, and they discovered the freedom and flexibility it offers.
Anyone with a bank account and access to the internet or a smartphone can now bank anywhere and anytime. Whether you’re a tech-savvy millennial or someone who’s less comfortable with technology, you as the customer have the opportunity to manage your finances independently through online banking portal or downloading your bank’s mobile app. These platforms are designed to be user-friendly, with features like biometric authentication to ensure your transactions are secure.
Speaking of security, you might wonder how safe self-service banking really is. Banks invest heavily in encryption and other security measures to protect your information. In addition to that, features like real-time fraud detection and AI-powered risk management add an extra layer of protection.
Now, you might be thinking, “What’s the catch? Does self-service banking come with a cost?” The good news is that for the most part, it’s free. Banks offer these digital services as part of their commitment to customer satisfaction. However, some transactions, like wire transfers or expedited bill payments, may incur a small service fee.
At Bank Gaborone, our electronic channels offer a plethora of services around the clock to cater to your banking requirements. This includes our Mobile App, which doesn’t require data access for Orange and Mascom users. We also have e-Pula Internet Banking portal, available at https://www.bankgaborone.co.bw as well as Tobetsa Mobile Banking which is accessible via *187*247#. Our ATMs also offer the flexibility of allowing you to deposit, withdraw cash, and more.
With self-service banking, you have the reins of your financial affairs, accessible from the comfort of your home, workplace, or while you’re on the move. So why wait? Take control of your finances today with self-service banking.
Duduetsang Chappelle-Molloy is Head: Marketing and Corporate Communication Services
Botswana has recently recorded a significant trade deficit of over P6 billion. This trade deficit, which occurred in November 2023, follows another deficit of P4.7 billion recorded in October of the same year. These figures, released by Statistics Botswana, highlight a decline in export revenues as the main cause of the trade deficit.
In November 2023, Botswana’s total export revenues amounted to P2.9 billion, a decrease of 24.3 percent from the previous month. Diamonds, a major contributor to Botswana’s exports, experienced a significant decline of 44.1 percent during this period. This decline in diamond exports played a significant role in the overall decrease in export revenues. However, diamonds still remained the leading export commodity group, contributing 44.2 percent to export revenues. Copper and Machinery & Electrical Equipment followed, contributing 25.8 percent and 10.1 percent, respectively.
Asia emerged as the leading export market for Botswana, receiving exports worth P1.18 billion in November 2023. The United Arab Emirates, China, and Hong Kong were the top destinations within Asia, receiving 18.6 percent, 14.2 percent, and 3.8 percent of total exports, respectively. Diamonds and Copper were the major commodity groups exported to Asia.
The Southern African Customs Union (SACU) received Botswana’s exports worth P685.7 million, with South Africa being the main recipient within SACU. The European Union (EU) received exports worth P463.2 million, primarily through Belgium. Australia received exports worth P290 million, while the United States received exports valued at P69.6 million, mostly composed of diamonds.
On the import side, Botswana imported goods worth P9.5 billion in November 2023, representing an increase of 11.2 percent from the previous month. The increase in imports was mainly driven by a rise in Diamonds and Chemicals & Rubber Products imports. Diamonds contributed 23.3 percent to total imports, followed by Fuel and Food, Beverages & Tobacco at 19.4 percent and 15.0 percent, respectively.
The SACU region was the top supplier of imports to Botswana, accounting for 77.7 percent of total imports. South Africa contributed the largest share at 57.2 percent, followed by Namibia at 20.0 percent. Imports from Asia accounted for 9.8 percent of total imports, with Diamonds, Machinery & Electrical Equipment, and Chemicals & Rubber Products being the major commodity groups imported. The EU supplied Botswana with imports worth 3.2 percent of total imports, primarily in the form of Machinery & Electrical Equipment, Diamonds, and Chemicals & Rubber Products.
Botswana’s recent trade deficit of over P6 billion highlights a decline in export revenues, particularly in the diamond sector. While Asia remains the leading export market for Botswana, the country heavily relies on imports from the SACU region, particularly South Africa. Addressing the trade deficit will require diversification of export markets and sectors, as well as efforts to promote domestic industries and reduce reliance on imports.
The business sector in Botswana is optimistic about the year 2024, according to a recent survey conducted by the Bank of Botswana (BoB). The survey collected information from businesses in various sectors, including agriculture, mining, manufacturing, construction, and finance, among others. The results of the survey indicate that businesses expect trading conditions to improve in the first quarter of 2024 and remain favorable throughout the year.
The researchers found that firms anticipate improvements in investment, profitability, and goods and services exported in the fourth quarter of 2023 compared to the previous quarter. These expectations, combined with anticipated growth in all sectors except construction and real estate, contribute to the overall confidence in business conditions. Furthermore, businesses expect further improvements in the first quarter of 2024 and throughout the entire year.
Confidence among domestic market-oriented firms may decline slightly in the first quarter of 2024, but overall optimism is expected to improve throughout the year, consistent with the anticipated domestic economic recovery. Firms in sectors such as mining, retail, accommodation, transport, manufacturing, agriculture, and finance are driving this confidence. Export-oriented firms also show increased optimism in the first quarter of 2024 and for the entire year.
All sectors, except agriculture, which remains neutral, are optimistic about the first quarter of 2024 and the year ending in December 2024. This optimism is likely supported by government interventions to support economic activity, including the two-year Transitional National Development Plan (TNDP) and reforms aimed at improving the business environment. The anticipated improvement in profitability, goods and services exported, and business investment further contributes to the positive outlook.
Firms expect lending rates and borrowing volumes to increase in the 12-month period ending in December 2024. This increase in borrowing is consistent with the expected rise in investment, inventories, and goods and services exported. Firms anticipate that domestic economic performance will improve during this period. Domestic-oriented firms perceive access to credit from commercial banks in Botswana to be relaxed, while export-oriented firms prefer to borrow from South Africa.
During the fourth quarter of 2023, firms faced high cost pressures due to increased input costs, such as materials, utilities, and transport, resulting from supply constraints related to conflicts in Ukraine-Russia and Israel-Hamas. According to the survey report, the firms noted that cost pressures during the fourth quarter of 2023 were high, mainly attributable to increase in some input costs, such as materials, utilities, and transport arising from supply constraints related to the Ukraine-Russia and Israel-Hamas wars. βHowever, firmsβ expectations about domestic inflation decreased, compared to the previous survey, and have remained within the Bankβs 3 β 6 percent objective range, averaging 5.4 percent for 2023 and 5.4 percent for 2024. This suggests that inflation expectations are well anchored, which is good for maintenance of price stability,β reads the survey report in part.
However, firms’ expectations about domestic inflation decreased compared to the previous survey, and inflation expectations remained within the Bank’s objective range of 3-6 percent. This suggests that inflation expectations are well anchored, which is beneficial for maintaining price stability.
In terms of challenges, most firms in the retail, accommodation, transport, manufacturing, construction, and finance sectors considered the exchange rate of the Pula to be unfavorable to their business operations. This is mainly because these firms import raw materials from South Africa and would prefer a stronger Pula against the South African rand. Additionally, firms in the retail, accommodation, transport, and mining sectors cited other challenges, including supply constraints from conflicts in Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Hamas, as well as new citizen economic empowerment policies that some firms considered unfavorable to foreign direct investment.
On the positive side, firms highlighted factors such as adequate water and electricity supply, a favorable political climate, an effective regulatory framework, the availability of skilled labor, and domestic and international demand as supportive to doing business in Botswana during the fourth quarter of 2023.
Overall, the business sector in Botswana is optimistic about the year 2024. The anticipated improvements in trading conditions, supported by government interventions and reforms, are expected to drive growth and profitability in various sectors. While challenges exist, businesses remain confident in the potential for economic recovery and expansion.