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Botswana committed to ease of doing business – Masisi

Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi has assured potential international investors and entrepreneurs that his government is committed to making the environment for business in Botswana conducive for business and significant investment.

When officially opening the 12th edition of BITC Global Expo Botswana in Gaborone on Tuesday Masisi said the expo which attracted  over 220 Exhibitors and Delegates from Europe, Asia and the rest of Africa presented an opportunity for all exhibitors, visitors and delegates to meet and discuss business prospects.

He highlighted that Botswana’s key priority as a nation is to achieve an export-led economy that will create sustainable jobs. “As espoused in our national Vision – Vision 2036 and the eleventh National Development Plan (NDP 11), this can only be achieved through development of sectors and industries that will drive sustainable growth and diversification,” he said.

Masisi observed that the vision calls for coordinated efforts and contributions from sectors of the economy, including agriculture, manufacturing, services, resource beneficiation, energy, tourism and the creative industries. “To this end, continuous review of potential growth sectors and improvement of the investment climate has remained a high priority for Botswana,” he noted.

He further observed that Botswana enjoys a distinct and central geographical positioning within Southern Africa, which placed the country as a gateway to regional and global markets and value chains. “Therefore, Botswana as an investment hub for Southern Africa provides the greatest opportunity for companies that wish to re-establish their presence in Africa.”

The Vice president added that regarding sustainable market opportunities, Botswana had entered into bilateral and multilateral trade agreements aimed at opening markets for Botswana manufactured products regionally and globally. Botswana is a member of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) which gives access to sixty two (62) million consumers in South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland.

“We continue to enjoy unfettered market access in the fifteen (15) Southern African Development Community (SADC) Member States, who are signatories to the SADC Trade Protocol.” SADC provides access to a market of around two hundred and eighty (280) million people. Additionally, Botswana along with other African countries enjoys access to the US market for over 6500 product lines. Furthermore, Botswana has duty free and quota free access into the EU. “I therefore wish to encourage all of you to invest in Botswana in order to take advantage of this market access,” added Masisi.

Beside the market opportunities that Botswana poses, according to Masisi, the country has positive policy and regulatory environment for doing business in place. The Ease of Doing Business Report of 2017 ranks Botswana at number 71 out of 190 Countries, above countries such as South Africa and China, amongst others.

Doing Business provides quantitative measures of business regulation in eleven (11) regulatory areas that are critical to the functioning of the private sector. Africa Investment Index 2016 ranked Botswana as the most attractive destination for investments flowing into the African continent. The 2017-2018 Global Competitiveness Report ranks Botswana at number 63 out of 137 countries. Botswana’s competitiveness has slightly improved in the last 3 years from 71 in 2015-2016, to 64 in 2016-2017 and further improved to 63 in 2017-2018 as I already indicated.

The VP further added that Botswana found it in her best interest to carry out initiatives that would continuously improve the business environment through implementation of the Doing Business Reforms Roadmap. “In this regard, we are fast-tracking some of the reforms, including, inter alia, to further streamline business laws and regulations, improve service delivery, reduce paper work, as well as leverage on ICT applications. This will lead to reduction in the cost and time of doing business, thereby improving overall competitiveness.”

Some of the completed reforms include the amendment of the Companies Act which allows applicants to register companies without the facilitation of Company Secretaries; electronic filing and payment for taxes; as well as the online customs management system, which has paved way for the development of the single electronic window to facilitate cross border trade.

Government recently established the Botswana One Stop Service Centre (BOSSC) based at the BITC Head Office in Gaborone at the Central Business District. BOSSC serves as an investment facilitation mechanism where relevant Government agencies have been brought to a single cohesive structure that coordinates and streamlines processes to provide prompt, efficient and transparent services to investors.

The One Stop Service Centre will shorten and simplify administrative procedures and guidelines for issuance of business approvals, permits and licenses, thereby removing bottlenecks faced by investors in establishing and running businesses in Botswana. Amongst the services provided through the Centre are company registration, acquisition of work and residence permits, application for land, opening of bank accounts, and connection to utilities

Masisi also brought to light the fact that his Government had confirmed eight (8) Special Economic Zone sites across the country. Government has however, prioritized the mixed use SEZ at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSKIA), Corporate Headquarters and Financial Services in Gaborone. A Master Plan will be completed in December 2017 for the mixed use SEZ at SSKIA which will be followed by the development of detailed designs for the development of SEZ infrastructure. The Gaborone SEZ offers opportunities in diamond beneficiation, logistics, aircraft maintenance, repair and operation, electronics and pharmaceuticals.

He said the Botswana International Financial Services Centre provides another avenue for investment into Botswana. “We are at the end of the process to refine and revitalize the IFSC framework. This will reposition Botswana as a reputable, regional gateway for financial and capital flows into SADC and the rest of sub-Saharan African. The reforms include streamlining, shortening and simplifying the IFSC certification process by infusing it into regular licensing processing; developing a framework for utilization of Professional Advisory Firms; recognition of Fund structures such as Limited Liability Partnerships and Trusts; as well as amendment of the Income Tax Act to eliminate Framework Ring Fencing Provisions.”

Masisi also encouraged investors to look with keen interest in the Selebi – Phikwe region in North Eastern Botswana, where he said there were tangible opportunities in information technology, agro-processing and horticulture. “Government has put in place a framework of incentives including fiscal and direct Government off take on procurement. I therefore wish to implore you to explore and take advantage of these investment opportunities,” he said.

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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