MPs doubt Govít ICT system can handle Online Business Registration
Despite parliament this week giving a go ahead to the proposed Online Registration bill presented by Minister of Investment, Trade & Industry Bogolo Kenewendo; legislators are sceptical about the readiness of government’s Information Communication Technology (ICT) system.
Kenewendo proposed to law makers’ the Companies Re-Registration Bill of 2018 with one of the major reforms being affording existing companies to migrate accurate and reliable data to a new online system through a seamless and conjoined process. When presenting the bill Kenewendo said the proposed change would among others facilitate the development of the Online Business Registration Systems (OBRS) that aims to improve the overall efficiency in business registration.
Inside the highly anticipated Bill are provisions such as companies’ exemption from paying accumulated outstanding annual return fees during the transition period of the Bill. Further provisions suggest that the minister will have powers to make regulations that will supplement the provisions of the new system as he /she sees fit and as need arises.
This bill comes after the approved ease of doing business reform in 2014. Kenewendo told parliament that the bill was part of a larger legal framework envisioned under the doing business road map. “The objective of the bill is to provide for the re-registration of existing companies under the companies act,” she said. Members of parliament showered the bill with praises saying that it was long overdue for Botswana Company and business registration processes to evolve and catch up with global times and international standards as well as procedures of doing things.
Member of Parliament for Gaborone Bonnington South Ndaba Gaolathe noted that the Bill provisions would effectively govern the migration of existing companies into digitalized framework saying that was a welcome move. Gaolathe cited countries who have successfully put in place effective ease of doing business reforms and progressed to do well with wooing foreign capital including Rwanda and Mauritius. Gaolathe said this particular reform would restore investors and potential business people’s confidence.
Member of Parliament for Sefhare–Ramokgonami who is also Minister of responsible for permits and immigration issues Dorcus Makgatho said migration from manual registration was the way to go as many countries who have long implemented the latter were realizing positive impact on ease of doing business and consequently significant contribution on economic growth.
That notwithstanding, some Members of Parliament are also unconvinced the government ICT system, which is synonymous with ‘being down’ will help the process. The legislators argue that digitization of processes such as registration of data comes with causalities and its own complications.
Takatokwane Lawmaker, Ngaka Ngaka has advised that the Online Business Registration System be developed in a manner that would make it easy for the public to do online business registration rather than complicating things even further. Sharing the same sentiments as Ngaka is Member of Parliament for Ghanzi North, Noah Salakae who expressed concern that the government Information Communications System (ICT) could hamper the effectiveness of OBRS should it not be upgraded.
“I think we should ask the Minister of Transport and Communications to inform us about the state or the readiness of our ICT system to take over this job,” asserted Salakae. Legislators also added to Salakae‘s views, saying that upgrading of the government ICT system to enable successful implementation of e-government across various government departments was vital to proper and effective realization of reforms such as this one.
“If we could ease the registration of companies and company related processes, a lot of young Batswana would find it easier to register companies which would lead to employment creation,” added MP for Nata- Ngweta, Polson Majaga
It was also noted that institutions responsible for the implementation of the successful bill should guard against cyber errors such as duplication of names which might happen during the transition period. Propositions by legislators were that that there should be a contingency plan in place to guard against irregularities such as the aforementioned.
MPs also advised that Ministry of Investment Trade & Industry should invest adequately on raising awareness to Batswana on the changes once the implementation takes off. Meanwhile Companies and Intellectual Property Authority (CIPA) Registrar General Conductor Masena told the media on Monday that online registration of businesses will go live this year, “Our ultimate objective is to adopt modern management systems and practices that facilitate quick and effective decision making with the ideal of assuring service delivery and efficiency to the business community.”
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Grit divests from Letlole La Rona
Grit Services Limited, a member of the pan African real estate group, London Stock Exchange listed Grit Real Estate Income Group is divesting from Letlole La Rona Limited (LLR), a local real estate company established by government investment arm Botswana Development Corporation over a decade ago.
The Board of Directors of Letlole La Rona Limited this week announced in a statement to Unitholders that Grit Services Limited (‚ÄėGrit‚Äô) has informed them of its intention to exit its investment in the company.
Grit has been a material shareholder in LLR since 2019. On 07 March 2023, Grit sold 6 421 000 linked units, representing 2.29% of the Company‚Äôs total securities in issue, at a market value of BWP 22 537 710.
This trade follows previous sales of 6.79% in December 2022, as communicated to Unitholders on 10 January 2023, as well as a further sale of 4.78% (representing 13 347 068 linked units) on 24 February 2023 to various shareholders.
In aggregate, Grit has sold 13.9% shareholding in the Letlole La Rona between December 2022 and March 2023, resulting in current shareholding of 11.25% in the Company.
Letlole La Rona said in the statement that the exit process will take place in an orderly manner so as to maintain stability of the Company‚Äôs share price.
The statement explained that Grit‚Äôs sale of its entire shareholding in LLR is in line with its decision to exit investments where it does not have majority control, or where it has significant exposure to currencies other than US dollar, Euro or hard-currency-pegged revenue streams.
‚ÄúGrit has announced similar decisions pertaining to certain of its hospitality assets in Mauritius recently. The Company would like to advise Unitholders that it remains focused on long-term value delivery to all stakeholders‚ÄĚ LLR said
In July last year as part of their Go-to-Africa strategy Letlole La Rona acquired an initial 30% equity stake in Orbit Africa Logistics, with an option to increase this investment to 50%. OAL is a special purpose vehicle incorporated in Mauritius, owning an industrial asset in a prime industrial node in Nairobi, Kenya.
The co-investment was done alongside a wholly owned subsidiary of London listed Grit. The Orbit facility is situated on a prime industrial site on Mombasa Road, the principal route south of Nairobi center, serving the main industrial node, the port of Mombasa and the industrial town of Athi River and is strategically located 11 kilometers south of the international airport and 9.6 kilometers from the Inland Container Depot.
Grit shareholding in Letlole La Rona was seen as strategic for LLR, for the company to leverage on Grit‚Äôs already existing continental presence and expand its wings beyond Botswana borders as already delivered by Kenya transaction.
Media reports have however suggested that LLR and Grit have since late last year had fundamental disagreements on how to go about the Go-to-Africa strategy amongst other things, fuelled by alleged Botswana government interference on the affairs of LLR.
Government through LLR founding shareholder – Botswana Development Corporation has a controlling stake of around 40 percent in the company. Government is the sole shareholder of Botswana Development Corporation.
Letlole La Rona recently released their financial results for the six months ended December 2022, revenue increased by 4% to P50.2 million from P48.4 million in the prior comparative six months, whilst operating profit was up 8% to P36.5 million. Profit before tax of P49.7 million was reported, an increase of 8% on the prior comparative six months.
‚ÄúWe are encouraged by the strong results, notwithstanding a challenging economic environment. Our performance was mainly underpinned by annual lease escalations, our quality tenant base and below average market vacancy levels, especially in our warehouse portfolio,‚ÄĚ Kamogelo Mowaneng, Letlole La Rona Chief Executive Officer commented.
LLR reported a weighted average lease expiry period of 3.3 years and escalation rates averaging 6.8% per annum for the period ended 31 December 2022.Its investment portfolio value increased by 14% year-on-year to close the period at P1.4 billion, mainly driven by the acquisition of a 30% stake in OAL in July 2022.
The Company also recorded a significant increase in other income, predominantly due to foreign exchange gains on the OAL shareholder loan. ‚ÄúWe continue to explore pipeline opportunities locally, and regionally in line with our Go-to-Africa strategy and our interest remains on value-accretive investments,‚ÄĚ Mowaneng said.
An interim distribution of 9.11 thebe per linked unit was declared on the 6th of February 2023 for the half-year period to 31 December 2022, comprising of a dividend of 0.05 thebe and debenture interest of 9.06 thebe per linked unit which will be paid to linked unit holders registered in the books of the Company at the close of business on 24 February 2023.
Stargems Group establishes Training Center in BW
Internationally-acclaimed diamond manufacturing company StarGems Group has established the Stargems Diamond Training Center which will be providing specialized training in diamond manufacturing and evaluation.
The Stargems Diamond Training Institute is located at the Stargems Group Botswana Unit in Gaborone.
‚ÄúIn accordance with the National Human Resource Development Strategy (NHRDS) which holds the principle that through education and skills development as well as the strategic alignment between national ambitions and individual capabilities, Botswana will become a prosperous, productive and innovative nation due to the quality and efficacy of its citizenry. The Training Centre will provide a range of modules in theory and in practice; from rough diamond evaluation to diamond grading and polishing for Batswana, at no cost for eight weeks. The internationally- recognized certificate offered in partnership with Harry Oppenheimer Diamond Training School presents invaluable opportunities for Batswana to access in the diamond industry locally and internationally. The initiative is an extension of our Corporate Social Investment to the community in which we operate,‚ÄĚ said Vishal Shah, Stargems Group Managing Director, during the launch of the Stargems Diamond Training Center.
In order to participate in this rare opportunity, interested candidates are invited to submit a police clearance certificate and a BGCSE certificate only to the Stargems offices.¬† Students who excel in these programs will have the chance to be onboarded by the Stargems Group. This serves as motivation for them to go through this training with a high level of seriousness.
‚ÄúCommunity empowerment is one of our CSR principles. We believe that businesses can only thrive when their communities are well taken of. We are hoping that our presence will be impactful to various communities and economies. In the six countries that we are operating in, we have contributed through dedicating 10% of our revenues during COVID-19 to facilitate education, donating to hospitals and also to NGOs committed to supporting women and children living with HIV. One key issue that we are targeting in Botswana is the rate of unemployment amongst the youth. We are looking forward to working closely with the government and other relevant authorities to curb unemployment,‚ÄĚ said Shah.
Currently, Stargems Group has employed 117 Batswana and they are looking forward to growing the numbers to 500 as the company grows. Majority of the employees will be graduates from the Stargems Diamond Training Center. This initiation has been received with open arms by the general public and stakeholders. During the launch, the Minister of Minerals and Energy, ¬†Honorable Lefoko Moagi, stated that the ministry fully endorses Stargems Diamond Training and will work closely with the Group to support and grow the initiative.
‚ÄúAs a ministry, we see this as an game changer that is aligned with one of the United Nations’ Six Priority Sustainable Development Goals, which is to Advance Opportunity and Impact for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). What Stargems Group is launching today will have a huge impact on the creation of employment in Botswana. An economy‚Äôs productivity rises as the number of educated workers increases as its skilled workmanship increases. It is not a secret that low skills perpetuate poverty and widen the inequality gap, therefore the development of skills has the potential to contribute significantly to structural transformation and economic growth by enhancing employability and helping the country become more competitive. We are grateful to see the emergence of industry players such as Stargems Group who have strived to create such opportunities that mitigate the negative effects of COVID-19 on the economy,‚ÄĚ said the Minister of Minerals and Energy.