Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Kenneth Matambo this week inked the dotted line with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) securing a loan deal that will see Botswana extracting a P1.5 billion credit to be used for water security.
IBRD is a World Bank Subsidiary and gives development aid and poverty reduction loans to middle-income developing countries. The loan is intended to be used to address water and sanitation concerns in the country. The deal will see Botswana borrowing US$145.5million for part financing the project which is estimated to cost US$160 million. Meanwhile the government will contribute US$15.5 million from its domestic resources to augment the IBRD injection.
Matambo stated that “government aims to ensure sustainable and optimal use of natural resources, including water resources to transform the economy and uplift the lives of the population.” He further stated that the project is intended at improving access to water for around 460,000 people, mostly in drought affected areas and about 177,000 people will benefit from improved wastewater treatment and sludge management systems.
He also furthered that through its support to policy and regulatory reforms in the water sector, the project is expected to contribute to the strengthening of the country’s resilience to drought conditions and the achievement of water security in the medium to long term. “To this end, the project will contribute to reducing vulnerability of drought affected communities, improve economic opportunity, and contribute to sustainable livelihoods and a better quality of life of Botswana’s population.”Matambo said.
The project is also said to be aligned to new of the three key strategic areas of engagement for World Bank support under the country Partnership Framework (CPF) FY2016-2020The framework was approved by the Bank Board in November 2015,and one of its objectives is to improve efficiency and sustainability of water supply and sanitation services.
Matambo further said that the drought experienced by the country was tone of the worst in the past 34 years. “The period was declared a drought in July 2015 and this declaration was extended for a second year. Persistent drought periods therefore aggravate the water balance. Our current National Development Plan therefore aims to invest considerable resources towards ensuring water security.” he noted.
Even though, the loan financing was approved in April by parliament Matambo described it “as a culmination of many months of work.” It was also not without opposition on the floor of parliament. In the parliamentary debate, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) leader, Duma Boko revealed that if his coalition rises to power in the 2019 general election, it retains the option to wash its hands of debt incurred by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) administration against international lenders as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
Then, it was said that the debt will take a period of 19.5 years to service. At the time, Boko also warned international lenders that when the opposition regime rises to power, under international law as a new government it has the leeway to refuse to acknowledge debts incurred by ‘a corrupt pre-existing regime’.: “I want you to appreciate this thing for the following legal reasons now.
I want whoever you are dealing with to be listening to me now, whether it is the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), whoever that is going to be giving you these loans and whoever you are buying these military equipment from, I am making this statement for them here. Under Public International Law, there is something called tabula rasa; clean slate.”
He further elaborated: “When we take over in 2019, we have a choice whether we can uphold these agreements or we claim that we are a new dispensation, we are starting on a clean slate and we reject them. We can do that.” Boko warned. Boko who is also the president of the Botswana National Front (BNF) further warned the BDP leadership of prosecution and jail time if they assume power. “I am speaking to you now as a lawyer, as a jurist. I say under Public International Law, there is something we call “clausula rebus sic stantibus”.
Write it down so that when I try you someday in the courts, and I tell you about clausula rebus sic stantibus, you will know what I am talking about.” He further highlighted: “What it means is that conditions in 2019 would have changed so drastically because it would be a new regime; corruption free, transparent and open that will say, we reject all the agreements entered into by that corrupt pre-existing regime that we took over from; clausula rebus sic stantibus. I want you to know this. It is a principle of law. It is not politics. This is what is going to get you behind bars someday.”
Francistown West Member of Parliament, Ignatius Moswaane had also stated that in 2019, the new government has to be prepared to accept such debt adding that ‘it is normal practice.’ Francistown South MP Wynter Mmolotsi also stated that when the new government steps in will be hamstrung by massive debt incurred by BDP administration characterizing government’s priorities as misplaced.
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.”