Brite Star Aviation, an aircraft company from USA is set to establish in Selebi Phikwe and brighten the darkened economic cloud that have been hanging over Selebi Phikwe since the closure of BCL Limited in October last year.
The company, whose owners originate from Hungary signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with six partners being SPEDU, Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB), Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC), Selebi Phikwe Town Council and Ngwato Land Board on Monday in Gaborone to reflect the parties intention to collaborate and together heighten the economic diversification initiatives in Selebi Phikwe and the whole of SPEDU Region.
The President and Chief Executive Officer of Brite Star Aviation, Imre Katona noted at the signing ceremony that the company will be responsible for the establishment of an aircraft manufacturing plant, composite manufacturing plant, aircraft service and maintenance centre, hotel and conferencing facilities, eco-safari centre and research and development centre that will include pilot and flight training academy. He said that the company will be able to create up to 3000 jobs for the region upon completion of its entire project. The manufacturing and assembly plant, the president said will be able to cater for a range of aircrafts from two seater to a 20 sweater plane.
Katona commended BITC and SPEDU for their brilliant presentations about the benefits of investing in Botswana. The presentations by the two entities have persuaded Brite Star Aviation as an investor to make the decision to establish in Botswana, hence the signing of a 10 year MOU with the six contracting partners to cement the collaboration agreements to deliver the project and revive the collapsing economy of Selebi Phikwe. Brite Star Aviation which already has an office in Gaborone has come to Botswana thanks to SPEDU and BITC.
Both BITC and SPEDU will jointly provide the necessary support relating to a One Stop Service Centre and liaise with relevant authorities such as the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to regularise the necessary permits for the company to operate. They two agencies will also assist Brite Star Aviation in obtaining all the approved incentives for investing in the region as well as facilitating the development of the concept and investment in regard to the infrastructure that is required and necessary for the project.
According to the Chief Executive Officer of SPEDU, Dr Mokubung Mokubung the project shall be undertaken within a reasonable period of time and executed in phases with the initial stage comprising of the aircraft manufacturing plant and related infrastructure. SPEDU as the regional economic diversification agency shall provide the necessary support to Bright Star Aviation while also playing the role of Project Coordinator. SPEDU as a company is mandated to carry on the business of a Regional Diversification Agency that facilitates and implements strategic projects to diversify the economy of the region also called SPEDU. The SPEDU Region comprises of Selebi Phikwe being the administrative centre of the region, Bobonong, Mmadinare, and Lerala-Maunatlala political constituencies.
“As project facilitators, SPEDU’s primary role in this project is to link the project developers and all stakeholders in a historic venture to facilitate Brite Star Aviation to set up,” said Dr Mokubung Mokubung, the Chief Executive Officer of SPEDU. Dr Mokubung revealed that Brite Star Aviation “will bring its own funds to construct buildings and install machinery, thus contributing to Foreign Direct Investment in the voluntary.” Dr Mukubung stated that Brite Star Aviation’s venture in Selebi Phikwe stands as supreme demonstration of the fact that SPEDU’s mission of attracting foreign investment has come to fruition.
BITC as the national diversification and investment body is expected to jointly work with SPEDU to liaise with relevant authorities to enable the investor to operate. Speaking at the event, the acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of BITC, Meshack Tshekedi noted that after the closure of BCL Mine, Government called on all relevant stakeholders to respond to the situation in Selebi Phikwe and that his organisation has heeded to the call. Brite Star Aviation is coming to Botswana thanks to BITC and SPEDU.
“We embarked on an automotive and aviation journey to Europe in pour quest to develop specific and customised frameworks for this industry and that is how we met Brite Star Aviation when we visited Hungary,” said Tshekedi. With all the seven contracting partners having a role to play, BIUST shall be responsible for the requisite skills capacity building in the field of Aviation Engineering through its Faculty of Engineering and Technology. The University is expected to facilitate the setting up of an engineering faculty with the view to bridging the skills gap for the aviation industry.
BIUST’s Vice Chancellor, Prof. Otlogetswe Totolo noted at the signing ceremony that the university “intends to use its best efforts to provide teaching, learning and expertise in aviation studies.” He revealed that BIUST recently signed an MOU with Ethiopian Airlines Enterprise concerning collaborations developing programmes geared towards imparting the necessity knowledge and skills in the areas of aviation and aeronautical engineering. In terms of the MOU, CAAB as a civil aviation authority and regulating body in Botswana will endeavour to provide the investor with all the required support including technical support where appropriate.
CAAB will provide the investor with a 10 hectare land at the Selebi Phikwe Airport on mutually agreed terms and conditions. It will also provide aviation resources and associated services, provide usage of air space, aviation personnel to assist with technical issues as may be required by the investor and facilitation of necessary approvals in terms of licensing, regulations, approvals and other services as may be required by the investor.
CAAB is responsible for registration of air transport, providing for air navigation services, managing airports as well as advising Government on matters pertaining to all aspects of civil aviation. CAAB Chief Executive Officer, Geoffrey Moshabesha said that the project has generated interest among the people of Botswana especially in Selebi Phikwe. He called on all the contracting partners to work hard to implement the project and ensure that it produces the intended results. Ngwato Land Board on the other hand as the land authority in the SPEDU region shall be responsible for the allocation of additional land its tribal territory adjacent to the Selebi Phikwe Airport for expansion of the project.
SPTC as the town’s administrative authority is responsible for economic revitalisation of the town and shall create an enabling business environment for Brite Star Aviation through timeous provision of relevant and requisite licences. It must also provide assistance and facilitate the development of the concept and investment in regard to the infrastructure development required for the project.
Following a devastating first half of the year 2020 due to COVID-19, the global diamond industry started gaining positive momentum towards the end of the year as key markets entered into thanks giving and holiday season.
However Bruce Cleaver, Chief Executive Officer of De Beers Group cautioned that the industry is not out of the woods yet, citing prevailing challenges ahead into 2021.
The first half of 2020 was characterized by some of the worst challenges in history of global diamond trade.
The midstream, where rough diamonds are traded in wholesale and bulk to cutters and polishers, was for the most part of second quarter 2020, suffocated by international travel restrictions as countries responded to the contagious Corona Virus.
This halted movement of buyers and shipment of the rough goods , resulting in unprecedented decline of sales, in turn ballooning stockpiles as the upstream operations produced with little uptake by the midstream.
The situation was exacerbated by muted demand in the downstream where jewelry industries and tail end retailers closed to further curb the spread of COVID-19.
However towards the end of third quarter getting into the last quarter of the year, demand in both midstream and downstream started to steadily pick up as countries relaxed COVID-19 restrictions.
De Beers, the world’s largest diamond producer by value started reporting significant recovery in sales in the sixth and seventh cycle, figures began to reflect an upswing in sentiment as well as increase in uptake of rough goods by midstream.
Sales for the sixth cycle amounted to $116 Million, following a sharp downturn in the previous cycles, significant jump was realized during the seventh cycle, registering $320 million, an over 175 % upswing when gauged against the proceeding cycle.
De Beers noted that diamond markets showed some continued improvement throughout August and into September as Covid-19 restrictions continued to ease in various locations.
“Manufacturers focused on meeting retail demand for polished diamonds, particularly in certain product areas, accordingly, we saw a recovery in rough diamond demand in the seventh sales cycle of the year, reflecting these retail trends, following several months of minimal manufacturing activity and disrupted demand patterns in all major markets,” said De Beers Chief Executive, Bruce Cleaver in September last year.
The diamond mining behemoth continued to register impressive sales in the eighth and ninth cycle signaling the industry could end the year on a positive note.
The momentum was indeed carried into the last cycle of the year. The value of rough diamond sales (Global Sightholder Sales and Auctions) for De Beers’ tenth sales cycle of 2020 amounted to $440 million, a significant increase from the 2019 tenth sales cycle value.
Against what seemed like a positive year end that would split into the New Year Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group, however warned the industry not to count eggs before they hatch.
“Positive consumer demand for diamond jewellery resulting from the holiday season is supporting the continuation of retail orders for polished diamonds from the diamond industry’s midstream sector. This in turn supported steady demand for De Beers’s rough diamonds at our final sales cycle of 2020,” Cleaver had said in December.
In caution the De Beers Chief noted that “While the diamond industry ends the year on a positive note, we must recognise the risks that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic presents to sector recovery both for the rest of this year and as we head into 2021.”
All segments of the supply chain were severely impacted by the global lockdown measures introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the first half of 2020.
After a strong US holiday season at the end of 2019, the rough diamond industry started 2020 positively as the midstream restocked and sentiment improved.
However, from February 2020, the Covid-19 outbreak began to have a significant impact on diamond jewellery retail sales and supply chain, with many jewelers suspending all polished purchases and/or delaying payments to their suppliers.
Rough diamond sales were materially affected by lockdowns and travel restrictions, delaying the shipping of rough diamonds into cutting and trading centers and preventing buyers from attending sales events.
These resulted in significant decline in total revenue for the business in the first six months of 2020. Total revenue decreased by 54% to $1.2 billion from $2.6 billion registered in the prior half year period ended 30 June 2019.
For the entire first six (6) months of the year 2020 De Beers Rough diamonds sales fell drastically to $1.0 billion from $2.3 billion in the prior H1 period ended 30 June 2019. Sales volumes decreased by 45% to 8.5 million carats compared to 15.5 million carats registered in the prior period.
Next month Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka will face the nation to deliver Botswana‘s first budget speech since COVID-19 pandemic put the world on devastating economic trajectory.
The pandemic that broke out in late 2019 in China has put the entire world on unprecedented chaos ,killing over P1 million people across the globe , shattering economies and almost rendering the year 2020 – a 12 months stretch of complete setback.
The 2021/22 budget speech will come at time when Botswana’s economy is still trying to emerge out of this.
National lockdowns and local travel restrictions have hit small medium enterprises hard, while international travel restrictions halted movement of both good and people, delivering by far some of the heaviest and worst catastrophic blows on the diamond industry and tourism sector, the likes of which this country has never seen before on its largest economic sectors.
As Minister Matsheka faces parliament next month, the reality on the ground is that Botswana’s national current cash resource, the Government Investment Account (GIA) is depleting at lightning speed.
On the other hand the COVID-19 economic mess is prevailing, the virus is reported to have taken a new dangerous shape of a deadly variant, spreading like fueled veld fire and causing some of the world’s super powers back to tough restrictions of lockdown.
According official figures released by Bank of Botswana, in October 2020 the GIA was running at P6 billion compared to the P18.3 billion held in the account in October 2019.
However reports indicate that the account could be currently holding just about P3 billion. The draw down from the GIA has been by exacerbated by declining diamond revenue, the country‘s largest cash cow. The sector was experiencing significant revenue decline even before COVID-19 struck.
When the National Development Plan (NDP) 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at a budget deficits.
This as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.
Cumulatively, since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances.
Taking into account the COVID-19 economic mess in 2020/21 financial year, the budget deficit could add up to P20 billion after revised figures.
Drawing down from government cash balances to finance these budget deficits meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account, hence the near depletion of this buffer.
Meanwhile should Botswana’s revenue streams completely dry up to zero levels; the country would only have 11 months, before calling out for humanitarian aids and international donors, because foreign reserves are also on slow down.
During 2019, the foreign exchange reserves declined by 8.7 percent, from Seventy One Billion, Four Hundred Million Pula (P71.4 billion) in December 2018 to Sixty Five Billion, Three Hundred Million Pula (P65.3 billion) in December 2019.
The reserves declined further in 2020, falling by 2.3 percent to Sixty Three Billion, Seven Hundred Million Pula (P63.7 billion) in July 2020. This was revealed by President Masisi during State of the Nation Address in November last year.
The decrease was mainly due to foreign exchange outflows associated with Government obligations and economy-wide import requirements.
However latest statistics(October 2020) from Bank of Botswana reveal that Botswana’s foreign reserves are estimated at P58.4 billion, with government’s share of these funds significantly low.
Government has since introduced several measures to contain costs and control expenditure with the most recent intervention being the halting of recruitment in government departments and parastatals.
Furthermore, Value Added Tax has been signaled to go up from 12% to 14% in April this year with more hikes and service fees anticipated as government embarks on unprecedented domestic revenue mobilization.
Botswana Stock Exchange listed hotel group Cresta Marakanelo Limited (“CML” or “the Company”) announced the signing of a lease agreement for Phakalane Golf Estate Hotel & Convention Centre, which will see CML extend its footprint by adding the 4 star Gaborone property to its already impressive portfolio. The agreement is subject to regulatory approvals therefore the effective date of the transaction is expected to be 1 February 2021.
CML brings a wealth of expertise to the lease and despite the difficult year for the tourism and hospitality industry, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, CML remains confident in the recovery of the sector and the need to invest in expanding the Company’s footprint.
CML Managing Director, Mr Mokwena Morulane commented: “Our continued efforts to improve our offerings, understand the market dynamics and modern day trends in the face of global challenges, means we are ready for the changing face of tourism and international travel, and this addition to the Cresta portfolio signals our confidence in the future.
“Despite the headwinds faced in 2020, Management has continued to focus on projects that enhance CML’s product offering such as the refurbishments at Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa in the tourism capital Kasane and the ongoing refurbishment of Cresta Marang Residency in Francistown. The signing of the lease for the 4 star Phakalane Golf Estate Hotel & Conference Centre is a great addition to the Cresta portfolio and will unlock shareholder value in the future.
“We remain vigilant to value-enhancing opportunities including acquisitions or leases, after having reconsidered our pipeline against current and expected market conditions.”
Commenting on the lease agreement, the Chief Executive Officer, Mr S Parthiban, speaking on behalf of Phakalane noted; “No hotel chain holds as much expertise in the region, understands our local culture and tastes and what hospitality is about better than Cresta Marakanelo Limited. We believe that the renovations done to the property has made Phakalane Hotel and Convention Centre a unique product in Botswana and at par with international facilities. We believe that this lease will benefit not only us as Phakalane , but the market in general as Cresta has run hotels successfully in Botswana for over 30 years and is therefore expected to bring new offerings that appeal to the local and international markets as well as the residents and visitors to the Golf Estate. We look forward to a long mutually beneficial relationship with Cresta.”
CML like the rest of the tourism and hospitality industry and the entire value chain was hard hit by lockdowns with the surge of COVID-19. By investing during the low period, the company hopes to realise the future value of spending time in preparing for the new consumer dynamics and behaviour. Despite business interruptions as a result of a six-month long state of emergency and several lock-down periods declared by the Government of Botswana to limit the spread of COVID-19, the Company is starting to record an increase in occupancies, which bodes well for the recovery of the industry and the Company’s future prospects.