Subscriptions for fixed telephone are on the decline; posted parcels are also decreasing; and newspaper sales are also on a downward spiral. On the other hand, mobile cellular telephone subscriptions are increasing and internet subscriptions are rising.
Information & Communications Technology Statistics Report 2015 released this month and covers statistics for the year 2015 relating to Telecommunication, Print Media, Broadcasting (radio and television) and Postal Services reveals that the Botswana population especially in urban areas is embracing Information and Communication Technology. The latest report contains series from 2005 to 2015 – which is the latest period covered by Statistics Botswana’s unit of Information & Communications Technology.
According to the report subscriptions for fixed telephone lines decreased by 5.2 percent, from 169,236 in 2014 to 160,490 in 2015. Tele – density (the number of fixed telephone lines per 100 inhabitants) has been almost constant since 2002; it decreased from 8 lines per 100 persons in 2014 to 7 lines per 100 persons in 2015.
However, unlike fixed telephone lines. Mobile cellular telephone subscriptions increased in 2015. They rose from 3,410,507 in 2014 to 3,475,327 in 2015, registering a growth of 1.9 percent. This increase resulted from the rise in pre-paid mobile cellular telephone subscriptions which constituted 97.7 percent of total mobile cellular telephone subscriptions in 2015. Pre-paid mobile cellular telephone subscriptions numbered 3,395,758 while post-paid mobile cellular telephone subscriptions were 79,569. Mobi-density (the number of mobile cellular subscriptions per 100 inhabitants) remained constant in 2015, states the report.
The Statistics Botswana 2015 report published this month shares that telephone traffic is recorded as Domestic calls, International calls and Short Message Service (SMS). It records that during the fourth quarter of 2015, there were 2,067,470,773 fixed telephone to fixed telephone domestic calls recorded as compared to 424,793,378 during the same period in 2014. “This presents higher traffic as compared to the fixed telephone to mobile cellular phones for domestic calls. The traffic from fixed telephone to mobile cellular telephones also grew by 2.4 percent from 390,589,346 recorded during the fourth quarter of 2014 to 399,920,925 over the same period in 2015,” reads the report.
The ICT report also shares developments in relation to On net mobile cellular traffic which declined by 2.4 percent from 538,595,573 recorded in the last quarter of 2014 as compared to 525,492,538 observed in 2015 last quarter. It states that 538,595,573 On net mobile cellular telephone calls were recorded during the last quarter of 2014 as compared to 178,652,457 of Off net mobile cellular telephone of the same period, showing a decline of 66.8 percent. On net mobile cellular telephone calls amounted to 525,492,538 during the last quarter of 2015 against 176,298,042 Off net cellular telephone calls recorded in the same period in 2015. This presents a decline of 66.5 percent.
“International calls traffic of Outgoing from fixed telephones increased by 38.5 percent from 671,227,267 during the fourth quarter of 2014 to 929,767,092 recorded over the same period in 2015. On the outer hand, outgoing calls from mobile cellular telephones decreased by 9.2 percent from 16,990,114 recorded during the last quarter of 2014 to 15,426,446 over the same period in 2015.” The Statistics Botswana report further indicates that the traffic for SMS shows a decline of 7.5 % from 226,930,504 during the last quarter of 2014 to 209,840,809 recorded in the last quarter of 2015 within the On net SMS. Meanwhile the Off Net SMS increased by 8.0 % from 146, 297,194 recorded in the fourth quarter of 2014 to 157,962,098 over the same period in 2015.
According to the report, internet subscriptions rose by 39.2 percent during the period under review, from 2,524,013 subscriptions in 2014 to 3,512,172 in 2015. This increase resulted from the growth of both mobile internet subscriptions (from 2,496,146 subscriptions in 2014 to 3,475,327 in 2015) and fixed internet subscriptions (from 27,867 in 2014 to 36,845 in 2015). Statistics Botswana further assessed the quarters of 2015 with respect to internet subscriptions, Q1 2015 experienced the highest increase while the other quarters experienced marginal growth. In addition Q1 2015 observed an increase of 36.3 percent in internet subscriptions from Q4 2014 while Q2, Q3 and Q4 2015 registered 0.3 percent, 0.7 percent and 1.0 percent respectively.
“Internet subscriptions per 100 inhabitants increased from 117 subscriptions in 2014 to 160 subscriptions in 2015. This growth resulted from the growth of mobile cellular telephones subscriptions per 100 inhabitants of 161 subscriptions in 2015 from 115 subscriptions in 2014,” reads the report.
Mail volume trends
According to the Statistics Botswana ICT report the international mail received increased by 51.2 percent in 2015 while international mail dispatched increased by 23.1 percent. Domestic mail also experienced an increase in 2015 and it registered a growth of 40.3 percent. The report further states that total posted parcels decreased by 1.3 percent in 2015, from 18,571 total parcels dispatched in 2014 to 18,815 parcels in 2015. Foreign received parcels decreased by 56.3 percent in 2015; they reduced from 7,202 parcels in 2014 to 3,148 parcels in 2015.
“Registered items posted decreased by 25.1 percent in 2015, from 319,920 items recorded in 2014 to 400,217 items recorded in 2015. Foreign registered items increased in 2014 by 25.1 percent from 19,230 items in 2014 to 24,057 in 2015. Both dispatched and received EMS items decreased in 2015. Foreign dispatched express mail items decreased by 35 percent while foreign received EMS items decreased by 6.1 percent compared to the previous year,” reads the report. Letter/cards dispatched and received increased by 2.3 percent in 2015, from 8,170,944 items recorded in 2014 to 8,361,903 items in 2015. Printed matter increased by 248 percent in 2015, it recorded 1,547,888 items in 2014 and 5,387,135 items in 2015. On the other hand small packets increased by 23.5 percent in 2015, from 42,860 items recorded in 2014 to 52,930 items in 2015.
Private newspaper net sales
The observation the Statistics Botswana ICT Unit is that there have been fluctuations in net sales of private newspapers from 2006 to 2015. It indicates that the net sales had reached a maximum of P51.5 million in 2010 and a minimum of P4.3 million in 2007. The report says sales started to decrease in 2011 until they reached P26 million in 2015.
Mowana Copper Mine in Dukwi will finally pay its former employees a total amount of P23, 789, 984.00 end of this month. For over three years Mowana Copper Mine has been under judicial management. Updating members, Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) Executive Secretary Kitso Phiri this week said the High Court issued an order for the implementation of the compromise scheme of December 9, 2021 and this was to be done within 30 days after court order.
“Therefore payment of benefits under the scheme including those owed to Messina Copper Botswana employees should be effected sometime in January latest end of January 2022,” Kitso said. Kitso also explained that cash settlement will be 30 percent of the total Messina Copper Botswana estate and negotiated estate is $3,233,000 (about P35, 563,000).
Messina Copper was placed under liquidation and was thereafter acquired by Leboam Holdings to operate Mowana Mine. Leboam Holdings struck a deal with the Messina Copper’s liquidator who became a shareholder of Leboam Holdings. Leboam Holdings could not service its debts and its creditors placed it under provisional judicial management on December 18, 2018 and in judicial management on February 28, 2019.
A new company Max Power expressed interest to acquire the mining operations. It offered to take over the Mowana Mine from Leboam Holdings, however, the company had to pay the debts of Leboam including monies owed to Messina Copper, being employees benefits and other debts owed to other creditors.
The monies, were agreed to be paid through a scheme of compromise proposed by Max Power, being a negotiated payment schedule, which was subject to the financial ability of the new owners. “On December 9, 2021, Messina Copper liquidator, called a meeting of creditors, which the BMWU on behalf of its members (former Messina Copper employees) attended, to seek mandate from creditors to proceed with a proposed settlement for Messina Copper on the scheme of compromise. It is important to note that employee benefits are regarded as preferential credit, meaning once a scheme is approved they are paid first.”
A savingram the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development sent to Town Clerks and Council Secretaries explaining why councilors across the country should not have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term has been revealed.
The contents of the savingram came out in the wake of a war of words between counselors and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. The councilors through the Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA) accuse the Ministry of refusing to allow them to have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term.
This has since been denied by the Ministry. In the savingram to town councils and council secretaries across the country, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development Molefi Keaja states that, “Kindly be advised that the terminal benefits budget is made during the final year of term of office for Honorable Councilors.” Keaja reminded town clerks and council secretaries that, “The nominal budget Councils make each and every financial year is to cater for events where a Councilor’s term of office ends before the statutory time due to death, resignation or any other reason.”
The savingram also goes into detail about why the government had in the past allowed councilors to have access to their terminal benefits before the end of their term. “Regarding the special dispensation made in the 2014-2019, it should be noted that the advance was granted because at that time there was an approved budget for terminal benefits during the financial year,” explained Keaja. He added that, “Town Clerks/Council Secretaries made discretions depending on the liquidity position of Councils which attracted a lot of audit queries.”
Keaja also revealed that councils across the country were struggling financially and therefore if they were to grant councilors access to their terminal benefits, this could leave their in a dire financial situation. Given the fact that Local Authorities currently have cash flow problems and budgetary constraints, it is not advisable to grant terminal benefits advance as it would only serve to compound the liquidity problems of councils.
It is understood that the Ministry was inundated with calls from some Councils as they sought clarification regarding access to their terminal benefits. The Ministry fears that should councils pay out the terminal benefits this would affect their coffers as the government spends a lot on councilors salaries.
Reports show that apart from elected councilors, the government spends at least P6, 577, 746, 00 on nominated councilors across the country as their monthly salaries. Former Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso once told Parliament that in total there are 113 nominated councilors and their salaries per a year add up to P78, 933,16.00. She added that their projected gratuity is P9, 866,646.00.
A surge in consumer spending is expected to be a key driver of Botswana’s economic recovery, according to recent projections by Fitch Solutions. Fitch Solutions said it forecasts household spending in Botswana to grow by a real rate of 5.9% in 2022.
The bullish Fitch Solutions noted that “This is a considerable deceleration from 9.4% growth estimated in 2021, it comes mainly from the base effects of the contraction of 2.5% recorded in 2020,” adding that, “We project total household spending (in real terms) to reach BWP59.9bn (USD8.8bn) in 2022, increasing from BWP56.5bn (USD8.3bn) in 2021.” According to Fitch Solutions, this is higher than the pre-Covid-19 total household spending (in real terms) of P53.0 billion (USD7.8bn) in 2019 and it indicates a full recovery in consumer spending.
“We forecast real household spending to grow by 5.9% in 2022, decelerating from the estimated growth of 9.4% in 2021. We note that the Covid-19 pandemic and the related restrictions on economic activity resulted in real household spending contracting by 2.5% in 2020, creating a lower base for spending to grow from in 2021 and 2022,” Fitch Solutions says.
Total household spending (in real terms), the agency says, will increase in 2022 when compared to 2021. In 2021 and 2022, total household spending (in real terms) will be above the pre-Covid-19 levels in 2019, indicating a full recovery in consumer spending, says Fitch Solutions. It says as of December 6 2021 (latest data available), 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose, while this is relatively low it is higher than Africa average of 11.3%.
“The emergence of new Covid-19 variants such as Omicron, which was first detected in the country in November 2021, poses a downside risk to our outlook for consumer spending, particularly as a large proportion of the country’s population is unvaccinated and this could result in stricter measures being implemented once again,” says Fitch Solutions.
Growth will ease in 2022, Fitch Solution says. “Our forecast for an improvement in consumer spending in Botswana in 2022 is in line with our Country Risk team’s forecast that the economy will grow by a real rate of 5.3% over 2022, from an estimated 12.5% growth in 2021 as the low base effects from 2020 dissipate,” it says.
Fitch Solutions notes that “Our Country Risk team expects private consumption to be the main driver of Botswana’s economic growth in 2022, as disposable incomes and the labour market continue to recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.” It says Botswana’s tourism sector has been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the related travel restrictions.
According to Fitch Solutions, “The emergence of the Omicron variant, which was first detected in November 2021, has resulted in travel bans being implemented on Southern African countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Eswatini. This will further delay the recovery of Botswana’s tourism sector in 2021 and early 2022.” Fitch Solutions, therefore, forecasts Botswana’s tourist arrivals to grow by 81.2% in 2022, from an estimated contraction of 40.3% in 2021.
It notes that the 72.4% contraction in 2020 has created a low base for tourist arrivals to grow from. “The rollout of vaccines in South Africa and its key source markets will aid the recovery of the tourism sector over the coming months and this bodes well for the employment and incomes of people employed in the hospitality industry, particularly restaurants and hotels as well as recreation and culture businesses,” the report says.
Fitch Solutions further notes that with economies reopening, consumers are demanding products that they had little access to over the previous year. However, manufacturers are facing several problems. It says supply chain issues and bottlenecks are resulting in consumer goods shortages, feeding through into supply-side inflation. Fitch Solutions believes the global semiconductor shortage will continue into 2022, putting the pressure on the supply of several consumer goods.
It says the spread of the Delta variant is upending factory production in Asia, disrupting shipping and posing more shocks to the world economy. Similarly, manufacturers are facing shortages of key components and higher raw materials costs, the report says adding that while this is somewhat restricted to consumer goods, there is a high risk that this feeds through into more consumer services over the 2022 year.
“Our global view for a notable recovery in consumer spending relies on the ability of authorities to vaccinate a large enough proportion of their populations and thereby experience a notable drop in Covid-19 infections and a decline in hospitalisation rates,” says Fitch Solutions. Both these factors, it says, will lead to governments gradually lifting restrictions, which will boost consumer confidence and retail sales.
“As of December 6 2021, 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose. While this is low, it is higher than the Africa average of 11.3%. The vaccines being administered in Botswana include Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac and Johnson & Johnson. We believe that a successful vaccine rollout will aid the country’s consumer spending recovery,” says Fitch Solutions. Therefore, the agency says, “Our forecasts account for risks that are highly likely to play out in 2022, including the easing of government support. However, if other risks start to play out, this may lead to forecast revisions.”