The Botswana Exporters and Manufacturers Association (BEMA) is a member based organisation which advocates for a conducive business environment for local producers and exporters. Established in 1995, the association has through consistent engagement and dialogue with policy makers managed to safeguard the interest of its members throughout the years.
In the last three years, the manufacturing sector has been going through a turbulent period characterised by massive job losses and shut-downs. Many investors have divested from the Botswana economy to seek alternative markets and set-up shop elsewhere. Investor confidence is low and the sector feels that the legislative environment has become somewhat unpredictable. Furthermore, excessive dumping and predatory behaviour from South Africa has placed many industries under existential threat.
With the size of the Botswana market, it is evident that growth opportunities for the sector can be realised through exports. It is difficult however, even with a good set of policies in place to support local producers, to capture even the local market, let alone secure export opportunities.
BEMA believes that for manufacturer to master and reach the level of competitiveness required for long term sustainability in exports, they must have mastered the art of satisfying their own domestic market. A population of 2 million people is a good practice run for those with aspirations big enough to play in the global or even regional space.
The 2 million people however, must be serviced with good quality, competitive pricing and consistency. It is absolutely crucial that local producers are allowed sufficient access to the local market if they are to reach an export ready status. Botswana is not necessarily an innovative economy, being a developing country, manufacturers compete primarily on cost as opposed to innovation or technology which is usually the case with more developed economies.
It is therefore critical for the Government to support the growth of the sectors with knowledge of the fact that cost competitiveness is critical for the survival of manufacturing firms in Botswana. We encourage Government to focus its policy reform strategies on subsidising input costs and offering to incentivise manufacturers on that basis. Importers (of raw material) are already at a slight advantage due to the strength of the Pula against the Rand and the basket of currencies of some of its trading partners, but this is not enough.
Government must realise that the persistent lack of implementation which consistently appears on the agenda is a problem that will not go away. This is a major set-back for manufacturers as it renders excellent policies obsolete and therefore there is no benefit to those it was intended to support. Local procurement preference initiatives are not taken seriously and procuring entities continue to ignore and bypass these directives without consequence.
There has to be accountability and consequences for those who choose to circumvent these directives to the detriment of the private sector. More often than not, circumvention of directives intended to support local producers is a fire that is lit by the match of corruption.
Retailers play a big part in the growth and development of manufacturing in any emerging economy. The retail sector however, is often overlooked in conversations around economic diversification and growth in the manufacturing sector. Government must make an effort to encourage more support from the retail sector and attach conditions to their trading license requirements if necessary. BEMA believes that at least 30% of what is on retail shelves should be locally produced, with the exception of those products that are not available locally.
The sector is still recovering from the electricity and water crisis that was experienced in recent years. It is encouraging that this crisis seems to have been averted and that Government efforts to find solutions have borne fruit. The sector recognises Government’s efforts in reducing the cost of doing business, development of SEZ’s, creating a one stop shop platform and recent economic stimulus initiatives that have boosted some sub-sectors.
We are encouraged by the number of excellent policies that have been put in place, we have seen some effective reforms that have indeed benefitted our members. BEMA co-chairs the AGOA Reference Committee tasked with formulating a response strategy for the renewed AGOA initiative to 2025. We are pleased to see that the strategy document has been finalised and are happy with the level of engagement and consultation. Members are confident and encouraged by some of the lessons learned and are confident that the new proposals and approach taken will bear fruit.
We must admit that the manufacturing sector has a lot of work to do, we recognise our responsibility to create employment for the people of Botswana. We take this responsibility seriously and as such we are willing to continue with our open and honest engagements with Government. Manufacturers in Botswana are ready for business.
We have recognised the need for us to focus on quality and consistency in production and will be signing an MOU with BOBS in the next few weeks. We have engaged and developed positive working relationships with those whom we call our enablers and these are critical stakeholders to the sector and include the likes of BITC, PPADB and EDD amongst others.
BEMA is confident that given the opportunity to fully service the local market, both Government and the private sector, local manufacturers will surpass the expectations of buyers and consumers with their service, production and delivery capabilities. With the right mind-set and willingness to buy local, the manufacturing sector in Botswana will see exponential growth within a very short space of time.
Business confidence will be boosted unlocking further investments from both foreign and domestic investors either starting-up or expanding existing businesses. Manufacturing will become more advanced, more innovative and more competitive in exports. Our greatest achievement in this process will be employment creation and economic diversification.
Nkosi Mwaba is President of Botswana Exporters and Manufacturers Association
Prices for cereals or staple foods in Botswana and other Southern African countries continue to rise at a slower pace, following trends in the global markets, according to the latest November 2022 Food Price Monitoring and Analysis by Food Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
Running a digital businessMTN Business Solutions Botswana, popularly known as MTN Business is an Internet Service Provider. We are a subsidiary of MTN Group Limited, a multinational telecommunications Group headquartered in South Africa, which operates in 19 markets across Africa and the Middle East.
More and more, clients are looking for ways to keep their staff productive in a dynamically changing business environment. Whether your people are working from home, the office or abroad, there is a growing recognition that digitising your operations can offer unprecedented commercial value in flexibility, productivity and growth. This new, digital reality means that it is more important than ever to stay agile – if there is anything that can slow a business down, it is being burdened by othatld technology.
Having made substantial investments in fibre technology, high-speed terrestrial and undersea networks and new frequency spectrum across the markets wherein it operates, MTN is perfectly positioned to respond to this shift in the market.
A few years ago, MTN also made the decision to build an IP capable radio network for its mobile services, giving its core network the ability to seamlessly integrate with enterprise IP networks. The mobile towers deliver services to enterprise clients absolutely anywhere it has a network, shortening the last mile and removing complexity and cost.
Now there is increasing demand from clients to connect their remote sites in all areas, including rural and semi- rural. MTN has assisted clients with overcoming this connectivity hurdle, enabling their staff to get the job done wherever they are.
For MTN, the focus has shifted from just being a core telecommunications services provider, towards also becoming a technology solutions provider. The service offering now also includes Unified Communications, Data Hosting and Cloud Solutions, Security-As-A-Service and Managed Network Services. The scope has changed to being client and industry specific, so the requirements and service portfolio vary from one client to the next. The expectation is that a company like MTN must respond to these challenges, helping clients to get business done better as they shift from old to new technologies.
As many businesses continue to grapple with a digitally dynamic world, they face new challenges that have to be solved. This environment will benefit those that are more digitally enabled and agile. It is a brave new world that will favour online over on-site, wireless over wired and fluid over formulaic. Businesses will seek out partners and suppliers that are every bit as flexible and forward-looking as they are.
Ultimately, clients need partners like MTN Business that will invest in infrastructure, deliver the services they require, have market credibility, are financially sound and have a long-term commitment to their market presence.
Botswana Institution Of Engineers (BIE), has last week hosted a gala dinner in which they appreciated engineers who worked tirelessly and with dedication for 10 years from 1983 to steer the BIE to its current status.
The event that was held at the Phakalane Golf Estate had brought together young, experienced and veteran engineers and was held under the theme “Vitalize the dignity and eminence of all professional engineers”.
Explaining the theme, the institution’s treasurer, Thanabalasingam Raveendran said that engineers were looked upon reverentially with respect as the educated but with time it seems to have deteriorated. He indicated that there is a need to change the narrative by all means.
“The BIE exists for the welfare and the betterment of us Botswana engineers, we need to recognize specialised units within our Institution. We Engineers strongly believe in Engineers make it happen” Raveendran said.
He indicated that under the theme they appeal to all engineers to energize, to attain quality of being worthy of honour and respect and to achieve recognized superiority amongst the Society.
Raveendran stated that engineers need to ensure their end product is of good quality satisfying the end users expectations and engineers must be honest in their work.
“Approximately 8000 engineers registered with Engineering Regulatory Board (ERB) are not members of the BIE, engineers need to make every effort to recruit them to BIE” he said.
He alluded that BIE being a society, it currently needs to upgrade itself at par with professional institutions elsewhere like the UK and USA.
He further stated that BIE has to have engineering units of specialised disciplines like Civil/Mechanical/electrical etc
“As President Masisi indicated in his inaugural speech, the young people, who make 60 percent of the population of this country, are the future leaders and therefore investing in them is building the bridge to the future” said Raveendran
Kandima indicated that BIE has a memorandum of Understanding with Engineers Registration Board (ERB), where BIE is a recognised provider of CPD training, mentorship programmes and more importantly IPD undertaking to upgrade the skills and know-how of our engineers.
“For us to achieve our mandate and make worthwhile changes to engineering in Botswana, we have to be totally focused and act with intent” said Kandima.
Furthermore, Stephen Williams, past president of the BIE from 1986-1988 told the engineers that the BIE provides a fertile environment where they can meet, share ideas and grow professionally.
“The BIE is also a nesting place for graduate engineers to learn from their peers and seniors, it also cater for engineering technicians and technologists and so nobody in the technology field is left out” he said.
He further indicated that Botswana Government provides a conductive environment for growth of engineering professionals.
“It must be stated that the Botswana Government recognises the existence of BIE and it can further be stated that the government enables ERB to carry out its mandate as a regulator of engineering professionals” said Williams
He plead with engineering companies to recognize and support BIE as it is the only source of engineering personnel’s for various Industries .
Furthermore, when giving his farewell speech, Michael Pinard , a past president of the institution said how they are viewed as engineers by the general public might be due to some lack of appreciation as to exactly what role they play in the development of the country.
“The BIE slogan is aptly coined-Engineers make it happen, in other words, what man dreams engineers create” Said Pinard.