BITC reports 16 % performance decline
Botswana Investment & Trade Center (BITC) has recorded a 16 % overall performance decline for their operational year 2016/17, the orghanisation’s annual report released last week has revealed.
According to the report, BITC, which operates as a parastatal under the Ministry of Investment Trade & Industry (MITI) registered an overall performance of 74 %, the assessment is predominantly reliant on corporate delivery and return on investment – which takes appreciation of the BITC mandate and purpose. The 74 percent reflects a 16 percent performance decline compared to the 90 % realized in the 2015/16 year.
BITC solicited an excess of 3 billon pula in capital investment for the period under review taking the total of investment capitalization to over P10 billion since inception as reported by President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama in his State of the Nation Address(SONA) in November last year. “Our targeted investment promotion efforts resulted in a total capital investment of P3.08 billion,” reads the report.
According to the investment promotion arm the total capital investment achieved is attributed to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) companies which contributed P1.5 billion, while business expansions injected P618 million; and a domestic investments of P964 million was realized. The Financial and Business Services sector, which is one of priority sectors under BITC investment promotion mandate delivered a whooping P901.5 million, accounting for 29.24% of the total capital investment realized.
Reaffirming President Khama’s SONA words ,BITC states that total employment of 3156 jobs resulted from these investments, which is an increment compared to 1709 jobs recorded in the 2015/16 operating year. “The majority of jobs were created through Domestic Investment and Expansions (2208), while FDI registered 948 jobs,” reveals the report.
To promote an export led economy, the BITC has established an export portfolio which is managed by the export promotion department. This is a very important segment of the BITC mandate as it facilitates and assists Botswana companies with reaching foreign markets which is vital for business growth considering the fact that Botswana only has a population of 2 million people. According to the BITC annual report the portfolio exceeded its target of P2.22 billion, reaching an export revenue totaling P2.23 billion.
“Existing local products were exported to new markets of Zambia, Angola, Zimbabwe, DRC, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Namibia, USA, Hong Kong and the European Union. In addition six (6) newly produced products were added to the export portfolio including forma packs (Namibia), aluminum windows and designs (RSA), latex male condoms (RSA), vinyl floor tiles (RSA), food cans (RSA) and Cellular phones (Mozambique),” reads the Chief Executive officer‘s statement in the annual report.
One of the key milestones last year was the launch of the One Stop Service Center which facilitates all requirements of prospective investors and foreign professionals seeking to established serious businesses in Botswana. Under this year’s review the BITC reveals that there were 381 government authorizations, out of which a total of 307 were approved. “The rejection rate at the BITC One Stop Shop stood at 6.6% in 2016/2017; we have made proposals to Government to create a Business Immigration Selection Board to make our work and residence processes and outcomes more predictable and with greater certainty.”
“We continue to monitor and are alert to the competitiveness of competing African countries. Countries such as Mauritius and Rwanda lead the pack in providing a more conducive business climate and thus competitive environment for attracting investors. The Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry, through the BITC’s advocacy is working on enacting a Business Facilitation Law, which will look to confer a higher degree of predictability and certainty to outcomes with respect to all government authorizations.”
The issue of immigration policies and work and residence permit rejection has been noted by stakeholders and investment as a possible deterrent and sabotaging factor to Botswana‘s FDI efforts. This is so as asserted by speakers in different platforms that Botswana has considerable good economic & political environment but still ranks behind poor governed countries such the DRC and Mozambique in attracting foreign investors.
Chairman of the BITC Board, seasoned investment executive, Victor Senye, now a business man shared that his organization adopted a move towards a new strategic direction to drive performance and efficiency in approach. “This would look towards linking our corporate structure and aligning it to the new strategy, reviewing our on the-ground personnel to ensure that we have the right people with the appropriate skills to engage with our varied investors, as well as considering appointment of specialist private sector advisory counsel to the Board,” he said. Senye revealed that BITC will continue to inspect the markets and review the investment requisites and make well informed recommendations to Government.
Parastatals and government agencies especially those that solely and/or heavily depend on government funding for operation are scrutinized time and again for lavish expenditures and less return on investment. Although the organization declined in performance, BITC has by far surpassed the annually monetary resources injected by taxpayers in the form of subvention funds as over P3 billion worth of business transaction was solicited.
However as of March 2017 BITC realized a deficit of P 20,784,835 which is largely contributed by Investment Property fair value loss amounting to P 29,314,072. According to the report the BITC Gaborone West Industrial factory shells alone realized a loss in value of P 8, 550,000 as a result of the subdued rental market.
“The overall subvention was yet again reduced by 1% during the financial year under review, which was geared towards alleviation of the financial meltdown of BCL. The more integrated approach to financing marketing and promotional activities contributed to the improvement in operational efficiencies and budget utilization was optimized at 95%, with a deficit of P 20,784,835 as at 31st March 2017.”
BITC is reliant on Government funding with an opportunity to generate a target of 15% of its budget requirement from internally generated sources such as the rental of factory shells and global expo income. For the year under review, the center managed to generate 16% from internal sources to meet its budgetary requirements. In the financial year ended March 2017, BITC was allocated a total subvention of P98, 830,560 which was reduced by 1% during the year by Government. BITC spent P52,362,408 on employees’ remuneration and over P8 million on the 2016 Global Expo amongst other expenses.
BITC was established by Government in 2012 as a merger of BEDIA and other business facilitation agencies, the organization is mandated and tasked with investment facilitation, promotion of private sector involvement as well as development of conducive environment for easy of doing business amongst others all in a bid to realize export led, diversified and significantly growing economy.
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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 (‘Grit’) 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’s 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’s share price.
The statement explained that Grit’s 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.
“Grit 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” 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’s 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.
“We 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,” 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. “We continue to explore pipeline opportunities locally, and regionally in line with our Go-to-Africa strategy and our interest remains on value-accretive investments,” 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.
“In 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,” 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.
“Community 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,” 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.
“As 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’s 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,” said the Minister of Minerals and Energy.
Food import bill slightly declines
The latest figures released by Statistics Botswana this week shows that food import bill for Botswana slightly declined from around P1.1 billion in November 2022 to around P981 million in December during the same year.
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