The Ministry of Investment Trade & Industry (MITI) has taken a decision to push women and youth into utilizing the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) program, assistant Minister at the ministry Biggie Butale has revealed.
The initiative presents trade opportunities into the elite market of United States of America under a number of sectors from textile and manufacturing. Butale says his ministry recognizes women as critical role players in the transformation of Botswana’s economy from import dependent to manufactured goods export led. He says women make up a vital population of manufactures workforce especially in the textile field.
Speaking during Women in Leadership Breakfast forum in Phakalane last week Saturday Butale noted that the AGOA initiative was meant to offer incentives to African countries to continue their efforts to grow their economies and build free markets. Currently Botswana‘s utilization of AGOA program is very minimal to less, Butale revealed recently in parliament. He told attendants at the breakfast seminar that the AGOA National Response Strategy has been finalized and endorsed by the ministry in consultations with the AGOA National Reference Group, which comprises of stakeholders from Government and the private sector. “The Strategy has identified potential sectors, for export to the United States (US) market under the Act. It also includes an elaborate implementation matrix detailing specific sector based actions and activities to be undertaken for effective implementation of the Strategy,” he said.
The Minister also added that all the activities which are to be undertaken by the different stakeholders have been costed. “It requires detailed technical assessment of each identified export potential sector, in terms of establishing production capacity and competitiveness of the Botswana industry as well as the demand and requirements of the US market,” he explained urging women that once the program beneficiation is ready to roll their world class manufactured goods should be ready as well for American consumption.
According to Butale his Ministry intends to have created over 40 000 new jobs in the next coming 7 years and the AGOA initiative presents a lucrative opportunity to realize that target as it opens up the manufacturing industry which when well nurtured and flourishing can create tens of thousands of sustainable jobs. Butale urged women and manufactures to produce goods and commodities of higher standards as American markets were very particular about the kind, type and standards of products they would pay for. “Your goods and products would enter the United States of America market duty free and quota free,” he said.
Though Botswana hasn’t been utilizing the AGOA program fully trade between Botswana and USA out of the program was going on an upward trend. The Sub Saharan Africa trade data between Botswana and USA indicates that exports from USA to Botswana in 2015 made up US$ 39.04 million which in 2016 increased to US$ 42.31 million. Reports indicate that in 2015 America imported products from Botswana amounting to US$ 211.91 million which in 2016 increased to US$ 434.16 million.
THE AGOA PROGRAM EXPLAINED
The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) program is an Agreement between the African countries and the United States on matters of trade to facilitate penetration of African companies into the United States market. The program targets manufacturing companies in strategic sectors like agriculture and textile. The United States hopes to boost African developing economies with this platform.
The act was enacted into United States Trade Act, on 18 May 2000 as Public Law 106 of the 200th Congress. AGOA has since been renewed to 2025. The legislation significantly enhances market access to the US for qualifying Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries. The intention was to set requirements for local textile fabric sourcing where it was considered that sufficient quantities were available in AGOA-eligible countries; third country fabric (the provisions related only to denim initially) would thus first have to be sourced locally or regionally before third country imports could be utilized for onward exports of denim garments.
Botswana Investment Trade Center (BITC) as MITI’s corporate and expert image will lead Botswana’s employment and economic transformation agenda in the area of business development facilitation, trade and export promotion. Assistant Minister Butale urged women to seek for information at BITC which he said was equipped with all the necessary information women can tap into and ready themselves to penetrate the US market.
The BITC is an organization established by an act of Parliament, to become an integrated Investment and Trade Promotion Authority (ITPA) with an encompassing mandate of investment promotion and attraction, export promotion, and development, including management of the national brand. Through its critical role within Botswana’s economy, BITC further encourages domestic investment and expansion, promotes locally manufactured goods to regional and international markets, contributes towards improvement of the investment climate through policy advocacy, increases citizen participation in the economy and creates sustainable job opportunities.
Currently BITC continues to push its agenda of economic diversification, position Botswana as a globally competitive country as well as promote Botswana as the premier investment destination. In its continued efforts to attract investments into Botswana, this week the organization hosted renowned internal and regional speakers, representatives from government and some of the key stakeholders in the Botswana automotive sector for the Thought Leadership Forum.
The intended purpose of this forum was to present to stakeholders a progress update on the implementation of the Botswana automotive value proposition, feedback from OEM’s in South Africa on how to structure the industry, to discuss the strategies of increasing the sector competitiveness as well as to develop strategies of attracting both OEM’s and auto component manufacturers to Botswana. Last week BITC in collaboration with the Czech Republic Embassy hosted a Business Forum focusing on the defence and security sector to curb any uncertainties and threats, investors between the countries may have concerning issues of security and safety.
In the coming months prices will go up and inflation will shoot sharply above the target of 3 percent to 6 percent towards the third quarter of 2021, the Bank of Botswana on the other hand will continue to withhold its knife on the Bank Rate. This is according to a forecast made by Kgori Capital in its recent Market Watch Segment.
Statistics from Statistics Botswana show that the recent 1.8 percent increase in the September inflation, from 1 percent in August, was a reflection of the upward adjustment in public transport fares (Transport (from -6.9 to -3.9 percent) in September 2020, which is estimated to have increased inflation by approximately 0.64 percentage points.
Local anti-trust body, Competition and Consumer Authority (CCA), this month received back to back acquisition proposals from South African clothing retailers to wipe out their former rivals, Edcon, from Botswana malls.
Last week BusinessPost was in possession of Merger Notice No 23 of 2020 whereby a South African clothing retailer owner, Retailability Proprietary Limited, through Oclin Proprietary Limited, proposed to acquire parts of the Edgars business conducted by Edcon in Botswana (through Edcon Botswana), as a going concern, consisting of certain assets and identified liabilities.
South African government’s Business Rescue Practitioners earlier this year announced that Retailability will buy Edgars, after the latter filed for a business rescue plan in April after it failed to pay suppliers. This move will see Retailability add Edgars to its portfolio consisting of brands such as; Legit, Beaver Canoe and Style.
Retailability landed on Botswana shores 18 years ago with its flamboyant urban fashion Style which had 17 stores. Style, having almost the same target market as Edgars as it offers men’s and ladies’ contemporary and formal fashion, gave the 91 year old legendary clothing retailer a run for its money, and has won the battle as its parent company has taken over Edgars.
Retailability brands are synonymous with Botswana shopping centres and there are currently five (5) Beaver Canoe stores, 10 Style stores and seven (7) Legit stores across this country. The Beaver Canoe stores sell clothing apparel for men and boys only. The Legit stores have a fashion store format which focuses on the retailing of clothing, footwear, accessories, colour cosmetics and cellular products.
Retailability operates in over 460 stores across South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, and Eswatini. Many observers suggest that because of the deal with Retailability to swallow Edcon, most Edgars stores in Botswana will change their name and be branded Style. A sad tale for religious consumers of the Edgars trademark who got used to love their favourite brand for years.
According to CCA’s Merger Notice No 23 of 2020, Retailability is controlled by Clifford Raymond Lines (through a company which functions solely as a holding company of his interests in Retailability) and Metier Investment and Advisory Services Proprietary Limited (“Metier”). Metier is a private equity enterprise with investments in a number of industries spanning from healthcare, hospitality, FMCGs and telecommunications.
Retailability directors are mostly South Africans; Clifford Raymond Lines, Mark Richard Friday and Norman Victor Drieselmann. Only Nasreen Essack, who was appointed February this year, is a Motswana. He comes after Brian Thuto Tsima left on the same date. Retailability 100 percent owns Oclin Proprietary Limited, the company it is acquiring Edgars with, by a capacity of 3000 shares.
The target business, Edgars, offer textiles, cosmetics and cellular products. Edcon has a Motswana director, Charles Mzwandile Vikisi, a South African, Shane Van Niekerk and Zimbabwean Jethro Kamutsi.
“The Target Business comprises of two (2) Edgars franchise brands and private label stores across Botswana. These stores target middle to upper income customers and are home to a range of private label brands such as Free2BU, Charter Club and Stone Harbour, and a wide range of market label brands (such as Levi’s and Guess) for clothing, footwear and cosmetics.
In addition, the Target Business operates iconic Edgars Home and Edgars Beauty stores as store-in-store formats rounding out the department store offering in Botswana,” said CCA. Foshini also lines up to take Jet Botswana from Edcon.
The Foschini Group (TFG) released a statement confirming its latest intentions to acquire Edcon assets or Jet for a cash purchase consideration of R480 million. This was after the business rescue practitioners offered TFG to buy Jet by that amount.
CCA is currently mulling on a proposed merger by TFG to take over Jet operations in Botswana. Merger Notice No 21 of 2020 from TFG came a few days before the Retailability proposal. In this merger TFG, acting through Foschini Botswana, want to take over “parts” of the Jet business conducted by Edcon through Jet Supermarkets Botswana.
TFG will be willing to add Jet to its portfolio of 30 retail brands that trade in clothing, footwear, jewellery, sportswear, homeware, cell phones, and technology products from value to upper market segments throughout more than 4085 outlets in 32 countries on five continents. TFG will also get Jet’s distribution centre located in Durban and certain stores in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Eswatini. Also part of this fat deal is that the company is looking to also acquire JET Club and all existing JET stock of no less than R800 million.
Johannesburg listed TGF owns Foschini Retail Group which owns the local operations called Foschini Botswana, the acquiring enterprise according to CCA merger notice. “TFG is not controlled by any enterprise/s and for completeness, the three largest shareholders of TFG holding shares greater than 5% as at 27th March 2020 are: Government Employees Pension Fund (16.2%) Public Investment Corporation (13.2%); Old Mutual Limited (6.7%); and Investec Asset Management (6.3%). The remaining issued share capital in TFG is widely held,” said the merger notice.
Only Abdool Rahim Khan is a Motswana in the Foschini Botswana directorship, the rest; Ganeswari Shani Naidoo, Anthony Edward Thunström and Gustav Jansen (alternate director) are South Africans.
According to the CCA merger, the Jet Business is Edcon’s discount department store division, selling clothing, footwear, homeware and some cosmetics as well as cellular products and targets lower-to-middle income consumers throughout Botswana. The Jet Business does not directly or indirectly control any enterprises, says the notice. CCA seeks any stakeholder views for or against the proposed merger, which may be sent within 10 days from date of this publication to the following address.
Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority BOCRA signed a memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with the Ministries of Transport and Communications (MTC), Basic Education (MoBE) as well as Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD).
The MoA seeks to continue the collaboration that dates back to 2016 when the three parties first agreed to work together in a project aimed at computerizing and providing broadband Internet to primary schools in remote and underserved areas of Botswana.
The project benefitted 68 primary schools and 9 secondary schools through the construction of Local Area Network (LAN) in each primary school, provision of 5 Mbps dedicated broadband Internet to each Primary School and provision of Wi-Fi enabled tablets, laptops and related peripherals such as printers and copiers.
Further, the project will see the augmentation of computers in 9 Junior Secondary Schools with 30 laptops per identified school and employment of Information Technology (IT) officers at each primary school.
When speaking at the signing ceremony in Gaborone, Chief Executive of BOCRA and Chairperson of Universal Access and Service Fund (UASF) Board of Trustees Martin Mokgware said the project’s ultimate goal is to facilitate pupils in schools and host villages to be able to play a meaningful role in the digital economy.
Mokgware indicated that this necessitates upgrading of existing Telecommunications infrastructure to high capacity broadband that will support delivery of education, accessibility to the quality Internet and usage of ICTs.
The Fund began its inaugural programme by sponsoring the provision of WiFi hotspots in public areas around the country as its first project. Following the successful implementation of public WiFi hotspots, the Fund identified Kgalagadi, Ghanzi and Mabutsane areas for mobile network upgrades, schools computerization and internet provision.
Conscious that the project would not be possible without buy-in and support from MoBE, MTC and MLGRD, the Fund facilitated the signing of the first MoU between the three parties in 2016 for implementation of the project.
BOCRA Chief Executive said the signing of this agreement is aimed at benefitting the Kweneng District, adding that they have already assessed the area and have determined that they will be covering 62 underserved villages and 119 schools, 91 of which are primary schools.
“This is a project for which the partner Ministries need to re-commit for its success. Lessons from the previous schools’ computerization and internet connectivity project require that we increase our involvement and resources dedicated to the project for it to be successful. It is my belief as the project coordinator, that we will not do things the way we did them during the first project, for if we do, then we will not have learnt anything,” he said at the signing ceremony.
The purpose of learning is so that there can be continuous improvement to minimize the length of time and amount of resources utilized, he said expressing confidence that their partners will step up to the plate and ensure they play their part in the implementation of the project and that it will progress smoothly having already tread along a similar path.
UASF’s role lies mainly in funding and project management. According to Mokgware, once the project is completed, the work to integrate ICTs into the classroom begins in earnest. Therefore, he said, the project will not succeed without full cooperation and oversight of partners.
“MoBE will put in place the necessary content and ensure that the curriculum is available to all. MLGRD will provide, among others, the enabling environment by ensuring readiness of the school’s infrastructure and necessary security.”