In a bid to woo the international business community and attract global capital to Botswana, Ministry of Investment, Trade & Industry (MITI), Botswana Investment & Trade Centre (BITC) in collaboration with the Embassy of Botswana in Kuwait undertook a targeted investment and trade promotion mission to the United Arab Emirates from the 12th –15th March 2018.
The Botswana delegation was lead by Minister of Investment Trade & Industry Vincent Seretse. According to BITC the rationale of this undertaking was that the United Arab Emirates has over the years successfully transformed its economic landscape and positioned itself as the economic centre of the Middle East, having attracted multiple investments into the region.
BITC Director of Corporate Communication Kutlo Moagi told WeekendPost that over the next decade the UAE is expected to be one of Middle East's economic outperformers. “Its diversified economy and solid operational framework will see exports and investment continue to drive its growth.” Moagi said, adding that the UAE therefore presents potential for Botswana to attract foreign direct investment and take advantage of opportunities for joint venture partnerships and strategic alliances.
She further explained that the main objective of the mission was to explore investment and trade opportunities, position Botswana as an investment destination of choice to the UAE business community, as well as facilitate for possible joint-venture arrangements between interested investors from both countries. Moagi also revealed to this publication that a total delegation of 17 private companies and government institutions with sectors of focus in Agriculture, Manufacturing, Mining, International Financial Services (IFSC), Tourism and Transport and Logistics embarked on the trip to Dubai.
“Engagements with the UAE business community were carried out through a Business Conference in partnership with the UAE Ministry of Economy and Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry. In addition, a series of pre-planned business to business meetings in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi took place for participating companies to explore opportunities for mutually beneficial partnerships with their counterparts in the UAE,” she said.
When delivering a key note address at the Business Conference Botswana Minister Seretse said Botswana stands to learn a lot from the United Arab Emirates, especially in the area of sustainable economic diversification.“We wish to learn how you have successfully managed to diversify your economy, by creating other thriving strategic sectors such as: Tourism, Financial and Business Services, Transport and Logistics, as well as Manufacturing, to name but a few. I have noted the firm resolves of the United Arab Emirates to have 64% of your GDP being derived from non-oil reserves by the year 2030,” Minister Seretse told the business conference.
He also added that given the negative trade balance in favour of Botswana, there were a lot of opportunities for the UAE to export more goods and services to Botswana. He that Botswana currently exported goods worth US$708 million per annum to the United Arab Emirates, mostly diamonds, while the United Arab Emirates exports US$21 million of diamonds and other consumables to Botswana. He encouraged the Arabs to consider locating a production facility in Botswana providing access to multiple preferential trade arrangements, such as the SADC-EU Economic Partnership Agreement, the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA), the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), and Southern African Development Community (SADC).
“We seek stronger strategic and commercial partnerships with a nation that has successfully moved from humble beginnings to become the globally recognized economic powerhouse that the United Arab Emirates clearly is today. Beyond the partnerships, we are keen to see actual investments happening across our two nations.”
Seretse called on United Arab Emirates Investors to collaborate with Botswana companies in the area of manufacturing and services, including ICT, transport & logistics particularly aviation and pharmaceuticals among others. He cited Botswana’s beef industry saying the country already meets the agriculture stringent requirements of the European Union market and that it was compelling for Botswana to explore selling beef and livestock development solutions to the United Arab Emirates.
The minister further promoted the country’s tourist sites, “In the area of tourism, I wish to invite you to Botswana’s UNESSCO listed world heritage sites, the pristine Okavango Delta, and the mystical Tsodilo Hills. Botswana with its diversified tourism offering, presents extensive opportunities for tourists, investors and tour operators in the United Arab Emirates to visit, invest, and explore the peace and tranquillity prevailing in the Botswana environment.”
For his part, Vice President of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry Hassan Al Hashemi underscored that Botswana offered plenty of attractive trade and investment opportunities in a variety of economic sectors. “The country has the potential to leverage its position in the region to serve as a gateway to the southern African market,” he said adding that Botswana has taken a proactive approach to diversifying its economy beyond commodities and attracting foreign direct investment.
He shared that over the last five years, non-oil trade between Dubai and Botswana has nearly tripled to exceed $1 billion in the first nine months of 2017. Bilateral non-oil trade is currently dominated by pearls, precious/semi-precious stones and metals, valued at around $1 billion, followed by machinery and electrical equipment at $6 million, and transport equipment at $1.3 million.
“As one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of diamonds, Botswana can greatly benefit from strengthening its cooperation with the UAE, which has become a major re-export hub for diamonds. In fact, $10 billion worth of diamonds were re-exported through the UAE in the first half of 2017; accounting for 12% of the country’s total re-exports. Yet, we see huge potential to expand the scope of bilateral trade and investment to other key sectors such as tourism, agriculture, healthcare, manufacturing and ICT,” said Al Hashemi.
He said that companies in Botswana can leverage on the UAE’s strategic geographical position between Africa, Asia and Europe, to attract new visitors. “These are all advantages that can help us build on existing ties and take our trade relations to the next level.” He said that Dubai’s strong trade relationship with Botswana was symbolic of Dubai’s strategy of reaching out to promising markets of the world.
Al Hashemi said his organization was committed to protecting the interests of Dubai’s business community and providing all facilities and resources to ensure that that the emirate’s ties with Botswana continue to strengthen and develop. Keletsositse Olebile, the Acting CEO for Botswana Investment and Trade Centre said Botswana was finalizing the implementation of the enablers for investment such as double taxation avoidance both UAE companies in Botswana adding that UAE citizens going into Botswana were not required a Visa.
Olebile noted that a reciprocal arrangement by the UAE was being put in place to allow Botswana Citizens to access UAE without Visa requirements. Botswana Development Corporation Chief Executive Officer Bashi Gaetsaloe and SPEDU Head Dr Makubung Mokubung also presented on existing partnerships and investment opportunities facilitated by their respective organizations.
Marcian Concepts have been contracted by Selibe Phikwe Economic Unit (SPEDU) in a P230 million project to raise the town from its ghost status. The project is in the design and building phase of building an industrial hub for Phikwe; putting together an infrastructure in Bolelanoto and Senwelo industrial sites.
This project comes as a life-raft for Selibe Phikwe, a town which was turned into a ghost town when the area’s economic mainstay, BCL mine, closed four years ago. In that catastrophe, 5000 people lost their livelihoods as the town’s life sunk into a gloomy horizon. Businesses were closed and some migrated to better places as industrial places and malls became almost empty.
However, SPEDU has now started plans to breathe life into the town. Information reaching this publication is that Marcian Concepts is now on the ground at Bolelanoto and Senwelo and works have commenced. Marcian as a contractor already promises to hire Phikwe locals only, even subcontract only companies from the area as a way to empower the place’s economy.
The procurement method for the tender is Open Domestic bidding which means Joint Ventures with foreign companies is not allowed. According to Marcian Concepts General Manager, Andre Strydom, in an interview with this publication, the project will come with 150 to 200 jobs. The project is expected to take 15 months at a tune of P230 531 402. 76. Marcian will put together construction of roadworks, storm-water drains, water reticulation, street lighting and telecommunication infrastructure. This tender was flouted last year August, but was awarded in June this year. This project is seen as the beginning of Phikwe’s revival and investors will be targeted to the area after the town has worn the ghost city status for almost half a decade.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has slashed its outlook the world economy projecting a significantly deeper recession and slower recovery than it anticipated just two months ago.
On Wednesday when delivering its World Economic Outlook report titled “A long difficult Ascent” the Washington Based global lender said it now expects global gross domestic product to shrink 4.9% this year, more than the 3% predicted in April. For 2021, IMF experts have projected growth of 5.4%, down from 5.8%. “We are projecting a somewhat less severe though still deep recession in 2020, relative to our June forecast,” said Gita Gopinath Economic Counsellor and Director of Research.
The struggle of humanity is now how to dribble past the ‘Great Pandemic’ in order to salvage a lean economic score. Botswana is already working on dwindling fiscal accounts, budget deficit, threatened foreign reserves and the GDP data that is screaming recession.
Latest data by think tank and renowned rating agency, Moody’s Investor Service, is that Botswana’s fiscal status is on the red and it is mostly because of its mineral-dependency garment and tourism-related taxation. Botswana decided to close borders as one of the containment measures of Covid-19; trade and travellers have been locked out of the country. Moody’s also acknowledges that closing borders by countries like Botswana results in the collapse of tourism which will also indirectly weigh on revenue through lower import duties, VAT receipts and other taxes.
Latest economic data shows that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the second quarter of 2020 with a decrease of 27 percent. One of the factors that led to contraction of the local economy is the suspension of air travel occasioned by COVID-19 containment measures impacted on the number of tourists entering through the country’s borders and hence affecting the output of the hotels and restaurants industry. This will also be weighed down by, according to Moody’s, emerging markets which will see government losing average revenue worth 2.1 percentage points (pps) of GDP in 2020, exceeding the 1.0 pps loss in advanced economies (AEs).
“Fiscal revenue in emerging markets is particularly vulnerable to this current crisis because of concentrated revenue structures and less sophisticated tax administrations than those in AEs. Oil exporters will see the largest falls but revenue volatility is a common feature of their credit profiles historically,” says Moody’s. The domino effects of containment measures could be seen cracking all sectors of the local economy as taxes from outside were locked out by the closure of borders hence dwindling tax revenue.
Moody’s has placed Botswana among oil importers, small, tourism-reliant economies which will see the largest fall in revenue. Botswana is in the top 10 of that pecking order where Moody’s pointed out recently that other resource-rich countries like Botswana (A2 negative) will also face a large drop in fiscal revenue.
This situation of countries’ revenue on the red is going to stay stubborn for a long run. Moody’s predicts that the spending pressures faced by governments across the globe are unlikely to ease in the short term, particularly because this crisis has emphasized the social role governments perform in areas like healthcare and labour markets.
For countries like Botswana, these spending pressures are generally exacerbated by a range of other factors like a higher interest burden, infrastructure deficiencies, weaker broader public sector, higher subsidies, lower incomes and more precarious employment. As a result, most of the burden for any fiscal consolidation is likely to fall on the revenue side, says Moody’s.
Moody’s then moves to the revenue spin of taxation. The rating agency looked at the likelihood and probability of sovereigns to raise up revenue by increasing tax to offset what was lost in mineral revenue and tourism-related tax revenue. Moody’s said the capacity to raise tax revenue distinguishes governments from other debt issuers. “In theory, governments can change a given tax system as they wish, subject to the relevant legislative process and within the constraints of international law. In practice, however, there are material constraints,” says Moody’s.
‘‘The coronavirus crisis will lead to long-lasting revenue losses for emerging market sovereigns because their ability to implement and enforce effective revenue-raising measures in response will be an important credit driver over the next few years because of their sizeable spending pressures and the subdued recovery in the global economy we expect next year.’’
According to Moody’s, together with a rise in stimulus and healthcare spending related to the crisis, the think tank expects this drop in revenue will trigger a sizeable fiscal deterioration across emerging market sovereigns. Most countries, including Botswana, are under pressure of widening their tax bases, Moody’s says that this will be challenging. “Even if governments reversed or do not extend tax-easing measures implemented in 2020 to support the economy through the coronavirus shock, which would be politically challenging, this would only provide a modest boost to revenue, especially as these measures were relatively modest in most emerging markets,” says Moody’s.
Botswana has been seen internationally as a ‘tax ease’ country and its taxes are seen as lower when compared to its regional counterparts. This country’s name has also been mentioned in various international investigative journalism tax evasion reports. In recent years there was a division of opinions over whether this country can stretch its tax base. But like other sovereigns who have tried but struggled to increase or even maintain their tax intake before the crisis, Botswana will face additional challenges, according to Moody’s.
“Additional measures to reduce tax evasion and cutting tax expenditure should support the recovery in government revenue, albeit from low levels,” advised Moody’s. Botswana’s tax revenue to the percentage of the GDP was 27 percent in 2008, dropped to 23 percent in 2010 to 23 percent before rising to 27 percent again in 2012. In years 2013 and 2014 the percentage went to 25 percent before it took a slip to decline in respective years of 2015 up to now where it is at 19.8 percent.