The United Kingdom (UK) and members of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) have agreed to continue discussions to explore ways to ensure that the existing trade arrangement between the UK and SACU currently governed by the EU-SADC EPA will not be disrupted by the UK’s departure from the EU.
This effectively means almost all the terms and conditions of SACU’s current trade agreement with the EU – known as the SADC Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) – would be adopted into a new trade arrangement with the UK. According to a statement signed by Botswana’s Minister of Trade Industry and Investment, Vincent Seretse and Minister of State at the Department for International Trade, United Kingdom, The Lord Price CVO, talks are likely to focus on steps to agree an arrangement that replicates the effects of the EPA once the UK has left the EU.
“This would be a technical exercise to ensure continuity in the trading relationship, rather than an opportunity to renegotiate existing terms,” reads the statement. Ministers responsible for Trade Policy in the United Kingdom (UK), the Lord Price; Botswana, V T Seretse; Namibia, I Ngatjizeko; South Africa, Dr. R Davies; Swaziland, J C Mabuza; Lesotho Permanent Secretary of Trade and Industry, Mr F Notoane, representing the Minister of Trade; and the High Commissioner of Mozambique to South Africa, Mr P Macaringue met in Johannesburg on Wednesday 19 July 2017, to discuss the trade relationship between the UK and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) countries, post Brexit.
The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the SADC EPA countries (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland) and the European Union (EU) was signed on 10 June 2016 in Kasane, Botswana. The EU-SADC Economic Partnership Agreement (EU-SADC EPA) provisionally entered into force between the SACU countries and the EU on 10 October 2016. While the UK remains a member of the EU, the EU-SADC EPA will continue to apply to trade between the SADC EPA countries and the UK.
“The UK is in the process of exiting the EU. The SACU Ministers welcomed the UK’s intention to avoid disruption for its trading partners as it withdraws from the EU. The UK re-affirmed its commitment to the trade arrangement under the current EU-SADC EPA and to maintain current market access to the UK following its withdrawal from the EU, and to ensure continuity of the effects of the EU-SADC EPA,” reads Seretse and the Lord Mark Price.
The Brexit discussions officially began this week, amid scepticism by many Britons and others that the UK will in fact leave the EU. After last year’s referendum in favour of leaving, many Britons are believed to have had second thoughts, largely because of the negative impact the prospect of Brexit has already had on the country’s economy.
UK trade minister Mark Price today dismissed the possibility of a reverse on Brexit, noting that in the recent general election, 85% of Britons had voted for parties which supported a divorce from the EU. He added that many people thought Britain’s decision to leave the EU was a sign of an inward-looking and protectionist attitude. The truth was exactly the opposite, he insisted. “We want to use the opportunity of leaving the EU to become Global Britain,” he said. The UK would trade even more with the world, to help lift people from poverty. Once the UK had dealt with the business of leaving the EU, it would seek to negotiate even better trade deals with all its partners, including SACU and SADC.
Implications of Brexit
Gerhard Erasmus writing on ‘Some Implications of Brexit for Southern African Trade Relations’ in the Tralac Trade Brief notes that exit from the EU means that most aspects of secure international agreements, including the multilateral systems of the World Trade Organization (WTO), will now have to be renegotiated.
“Apart from the huge demands on national technical capacity (which is said to be lacking), most of these negotiations will involve unknown territory and will take a long time to complete. There has never been an exit from the EU before. The uncertainty will linger and cause considerable damage to domestic and international markets and commerce.”
Erasmus further states that an exit from the European Union would also have dire consequences for development assistance. In a recent article, Kevin Watkins, a Brookings nonresident senior fellow and executive director of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI)—an international development think tank based in London— highlights the consequences of the Brexit on development assistance.
He notes that the U.K. is one of the biggest contributors to the European Development Fund, the EU’s development assistance arm, which provides funds to developing countries and regions. The U.K. currently contributes £409 million—$585 million— making up 14.8 percent of contributions to the fund (Figure 1). The fund is one of the world’s largest providers of multilateral concessional aid, with disbursements exceeding ones channeled through the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA).
Speaking at an investment symposium on the future of Botswana exports to EU markets post Brexit and implications for trade relations earlier this year, the EU head of delegation to Botswana and SADC, Mr Alexander Baum observed that Botswana’s priority area should be to increase investments in Botswana in non-mining production. Baum noted that the economic implications of the Brexit, for the UK, EU and all third countries were difficult to assess as long as details of the exit agreement were unknown.
According to the EU Head of Delegation, the EU without the UK would contain 445 million consumers and a GDP of 16.6 trillion USD, which still made it the second largest economy after the US. Even without the UK, EU imports US$ 6.7 trillion in goods and services, which made it the largest export market for a larger number of countries. Baum had said the trade statistic for Botswana and the EU was by itself not easy to read.
"Notably many products that come to Botswana through South Africa are not recorded as trade between the EU and Botswana. The current trade flows and notably the exports are also not diversified. Botswana imports from Europe mainly semi-manufactured and manufactured goods, transport equipment and machinery including electrical machinery and chemicals including pharmaceuticals.
Botswana exports essentially diamonds, other mining products and beef. Beef represents by itself only 1.7 per cent of Botswana's exports in 2015 according to Bank of Botswana data and is exported to Europe mainly via the UK and Norway," he concluded. The same case applies for the UK, as Botswana exports mainly diamonds and beef.
The recent study on youth entrepreneurship in Botswana has identified difficult access to funding, land, machinery, lack of entrepreneurial mindset and proper training as serious challenges that continue to hamper youth entrepreneurship development in this country.
The study conducted by Alliance for African Partnership (AAP) in collaboration with University of Botswana has confirmed that despite the government and private sector multi-billion pula entrepreneurship development initiatives, many young people in Botswana continue to fail to grow their businesses into sustainable and successful companies that can help reduce unemployment.
University of Botswana researchers Gaofetege Ganamotse and Rudolph Boy who compiled findings in the 2022 study report for Botswana stated that as part of the study interviews were conducted with successful youth entrepreneurs to understand their critical success factors.
According to the researchers other participants were community leaders, business mentors, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Youth, Gender, Sport and Culture, financial institutions, higher education institutions, non-governmental institutions, policymakers, private organizations, and support structures such as legal and technical experts and accountants who were interviewed to understand how they facilitate successful youth entrepreneurship.
The researchers said they found that although Botswana government is perceived as the most supportive to businesses when compared to other governments in sub-Saharan Africa, youth entrepreneurs still face challenges when accessing government funding. “Several finance-related challenges were identified by youth entrepreneurs. Some respondents lamented the lack of access to start-up finance, whereas others mentioned lack of access to infrastructure.”
The researchers stated that in Botswana entrepreneurship is not yet perceived as a field or career of choice by many youth “Participants in the study emphasized that the many youth are more of necessity entrepreneurs, seeing business venturing as a “fall back. Other facilitators mentioned that some youth do not display creativity, mind-blowing innovative solutions, and business management skills. Some youth entrepreneurs like to take shortcuts like selling sweets or muffins.”
According to the researchers, some of the youth do not display perseverance when they are faced with adversity in business. “Young people lack of an entrepreneurial mindset is a common challenge among youth in business. Some have a mindset focused on free services, handouts, and rapid gains. They want overnight success. As such, they give up easily when faced with challenges. On the other hand, some participants argue that they may opt for quick wins because they do not have access to any land, machinery, offices, and vehicles.”
The researchers stated that most youth involved in business ventures do not have the necessary training or skills to maintain a business. “Poor financial management has also been cited as one of the challenges for youth entrepreneurs, such as using profit for personal reasons rather than investing in the business. Also some are not being able to separate their livelihood from their businesses.
Lastly, youth entrepreneurs reported a lack of experience as one of the challenges. For example, the experience of running a business with projections, sticking to the projections, having an accounting system, maintaining a clean and clear billing system, and sound administration system.”
According to the researchers, the participants in the study emphasized that there is fragmentation within the entrepreneurial ecosystem, whereby there is replication of business activities without any differentiation. “There is no integration of the ecosystem players. As such, they end up with duplicate programs targeting the same objectives. The financial sector recommended that there is a need for an intermediary body that will bring all the ecosystem actors together and serve as a “one-stop shop” for entrepreneurs and build mentorship programs that accommodate the business lifecycle from inception to growth.”
Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) is said to have recorded an operating surplus of P61 Million, an improvement compared to the previous year. The housing, office and other building needs giant met with stakeholders recently to share how the business has been.
The P61 million is a significant increase against the P6 million operating loss realized in the prior year. Profit before income tax also increased significantly from P2 million in the prior year to P72 million which resulted in an overall increase in surplus after tax from P1 million prior year to P64 million for the year under review.
Chief of Finance Officer, Diratsagae Kgamanyane disclosed; “This growth in surplus was driven mainly by rental revenue that increased by 15% from P209 million to P240 million and reduction in expenditure from P272 million to P214 million on the back of cost containment.” He further stated that sales of high margin investment properties also contributed significantly to the growth in surplus as well as impairment reversals on receivables amounting to P25 million.
It is said that the Corporation recorded a total revenue of P702 million, an 8% decrease when compared to the P760 million recorded in the prior year. “Sales revenue which is one of the major revenue streams returned impressive margins, contributing to the overall growth in the gross margin,” added Kgamanyane.
He further stated professional fees revenue line declined significantly by 64% to P5 million from P14 million in the prior year which attributed to suspension of planned projects by their clients due to Covid-19 pandemic. “Facilities Management revenue decreased by P 24 million from P69 million recorded in prior year to P45 million due to reduction in projects,” Kgamanyane said.
The Corporation’s strength is on its investment properties portfolio that stood at P1.4 billion at the end of the reporting period. “The Corporation continues its strategy to diversify revenue streams despite both facilities management income and professional fees being challenged by the prevailing economic conditions that have seen its major clients curtailing spending,” added the CEO.
On the one hand, the Corporation’s Strategic Performance which intended to build 12 300 houses by 2023 has so far managed to build 4 830 houses under their SHHA funding scheme, 1 240 houses for commercial or external use which includes use by government and 1 970 houses to rent to individuals.
BHC Acting CEO Pascaline Sefawe noted that; BHC’s planned projects are said to include building 336 flat units in Gaborone Block 7 at approximately P224 million, 100 units in Maun at approximately P78 million, 13 units in Phakalane at approximately P26 million, 212 units in Kazungula at approximately P160 million, 96 units at approximately P42 million in Francistown and 84 units at approximately P61 million in Letlhakane. Emphasing; “People tend to accuse us of only building houses in Gaborone, so here we are, including other areas in our planned projects.”
Researchers from some government owned regulatory institutions in the financial sector have projected that the banking sector’s profitability could increase, following Bank of Botswana Monetary Policy Committee recent decision to increase monetary policy rate.
In its bid to manage inflation, Bank of Botswana Monetary Policy Committee last month increased monetary policy rate by 0.50 percent from 1.65 percent to 2.15 percent, a development which resulted with commercial banking sector increasing interest rate in lending to household and companies. As a result of BoB adjustment of Monetary Policy Rate, from 1.65 percent to 2.15 percent commercial banks increased prime lending rate from 5.76 percent to 6.26 percent.
Researchers from Bank of Botswana, the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority, the Financial Intelligence Agency and the Botswana Stock Exchange indicated that due to prospects of high inflation during the second half of 2022, there is a possibility that the Monetary Policy Committee could further increase monetary policy rate in the next meeting in August 25 2022.
Inflation rose from 9.6 percent in April 2022 to 11.9 percent in May 2022, remaining above the Bank of Botswana medium-term objective range of 3 – 6 percent. According to the researchers inflation could increase further and remain high due to factors that include: the potential increase in international commodity prices beyond current forecasts, logistical constraints due to lags in production, the economic and price effects of the ongoing Russia- Ukraine conflict, uncertain COVID-19 profile, domestic risk factors relating to possible regular annual administered price adjustments, short-term unintended consequences of import restrictions resulting with shortages in supplies leading to price increases, as well as second-round effects of the recent increases in administered prices “Furthermore, the likelihood of further increases in domestic fuel prices in response to persistent high international oil prices could add upward pressure to inflation,” said the researchers.
The researchers indicated that Bank of Botswana could be forced to further increase monetary policy rate from the current 2.15 percent if inflation rises persistently. “Should inflation rise persistently this could necessitate an upward adjustment in the policy rate. It is against this background that the interest rate scenario assumes a 1.5 percentage points (moderate scenario) and 2.25 percentage points (severe scenario) upward adjustment in the policy rate,” said the researchers.
The researchers indicated that while any upward adjustment on BoB monetary policy rate and commercial banks prime lending rate result with increase in the cost of borrowing for household and compnies, it increase profitability for the banking sector. “Increases in the policy rate are associated with an overall increase in bank profitability, with resultant increases in the capital adequacy ratio of 0.1 percentage points and 0.2 percentage points for the moderate and severe scenarios, respectively,” said the researchers who added that upward adjustment in monetary policy rate would raise extra capital for the banking sector.
“The increase in profit generally reflects the banking industry’s positive interest rate gap, where interest earning assets exceed interest earning liabilities maturing in the next twelve months. Therefore, an increase of 1.5 percentage points in the policy rate would result in industry gains of P71.7 million (4.1 percent increase), while a 2.25 percentage points increase would lead to a gain of P173.9 million (6.1 percent increase), dominated by large banks,” said the researchers.