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.
Despite Covid-19 interrupting trade worldwide, exporting companies in Botswana which benefited from the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) services realised P2.96 billion in export earnings during the period from April 2020 to March 2021.
In the preceding financial year, the sale of locally manufactured products in foreign markets had registered export revenue of P2, 427 billion against a target of P3, 211 billion BITC, which celebrates 10 years since establishment, continues to carry out several initiatives targeted towards expanding the Botswana export base in line with Botswana’s desire to be an export led economy, underpinned by a robust export promotion programme in line with the National Export Strategy.
The main products exported were swamp cruiser boats, pvc tanks and pvc pipes, ignition wiring sets, semi-precious stones, veterinary medicines, hair braids, coal, textiles (towels and t-shirts) and automobile batteries. These goods were destined mainly for South Africa, Zimbabwe, Austria, Germany, and Namibia.
With Covid-19 still a problem, BITC continues to roll out targeted virtual trade promotion missions across the SADC region with a view to seeking long-lasting market opportunities for locally manufactured products.
Recently, the Centre facilitated participation for Botswana companies at the Eastern Cape Development Council (ECDC) Virtual Export Symposium, the Botswana-Zimbabwe Virtual Trade Mission, the Botswana-Zambia Virtual Trade Mission, Botswana-South Africa Virtual Buyer/Seller Mission as well as the Botswana-Namibia Virtual Trade Mission.
BITC has introduced an e-Exporting programme aimed at assisting Botswana exporters to conduct business on several recommended e-commerce platforms. Due to the advent of COVID-19, BITC is currently promoting e-trade among companies through the establishment of e-commerce platforms and is assisting local companies to embrace digitisation by adopting e-commerce platforms to reach export markets as well as assisting local e-commerce platform developers to scale up their online marketplaces.
During the 2019/2020 financial year, BITC embarked on several initiatives targeted at growing exports in the country; facilitation of participation of local companies in international trade platforms in order to enhance export sales of local products and services into external markets.
BITC also helped in capacity development of local companies to compete in global markets and the nurturing of export awareness and culture among local manufacturers in order to enhance their skills and knowledge of export processes; and in development and implementation of trade facilitation tools that look to improve the overall ease of doing business in Botswana.
As part of building export capacity in 2019/20, six (6) companies were selected to initiate a process to be Organic and Fair Trade Certified. These companies are; Blue Pride (Pty) Ltd, Motlopi Beverages, Moringa Technology Industries (Pty) Ltd, Sleek Foods, Maungo Craft and Divine Morula.
In 2019 seven companies which were enrolled in the Botswana Exporter Development Programme were capacitated with attaining BOBS ISO 9001: 2015 certification. Three (3) companies successfully attained BOBS ISO 9001:2015 certification. These were Lithoflex (Pty) Ltd, General Packaging Industries and Power Engineering.
BITC’s annual flagship exhibition, Global Expo Botswana (GEB) to create opportunities for trade and strategic synergies between local and international companies. The Global Expo Botswana) is a premier business to business exposition that attracts FDI, expansion of domestic investment, promotion of exports of locally produced goods and services and promotion of trade between Botswana and other countries.
The portal also provides information on; measures, legal documents, and forms and procedures needed by Botswana companies that intend on doing business abroad. BITC continues to assist both potential and existing local manufacturing and service entities to realise their export ambitions. This assistance is pursued through the ambit of the Botswana Exporter Development Programme (BEDP) and the Trade Promotion Programme.
BEDP was revised in 2020 in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with a vision to developing a diversified export-based economy. The programme focuses mostly on capacitating companies to reach export readiness status.
Prices for goods and services in this country continue to increase, with the latest figures from Statistics Botswana showing that in May 2022, inflation rate rose to 11.9 percent from 9.6 percent recorded in April 2022.
According to Statistics Botswana update released this week, the largest upward contributions to the annual inflation rate in May 2022 came from increase in the cost of transport (7.2 percent), housing, water, electricity, gas & other Fuels (1.4 percent), food & non-alcoholic beverages (1.1 percent) and miscellaneous goods & services (0.8 percent).
With regard to regional inflation rates between April and May 2022, the Rural Villages inflation rate went up by 2.5 percentage points, from 9.6 percent in April to 12.1 percent in May 2022, according to the government owned statistics entity.
In the monthly update the entity stated that the Urban Villages inflation rate stood at 11.8 percent in May 2022, a rise of 2.4 percentage points from the April rate of 9.4 percent, whereas the Cities & Towns inflation rate recorded an increase of 1.9 percentage points, from 9.9 percent in April to 11.8 percent in May.
Commenting on the national Consumer Price Index, the entity stated that it went up by 2.6 percent, from 120.1 in April to 123.2 in May 2022. Statisticians from the entity noted that the transport group index registered an increase of 7.3 percent, from 134.5 in April to 144.2 in May, mainly due to the rise in retail pump prices for petrol and diesel by P1.54 and P2.74 per litre respectively, which effected on the 13th of May 2022.
The food & non-alcoholic beverages group index rose by 2.6 percent, from 118.6 in April 2022 to 121.6 in May 2022 and this came as a result of increase in prices of oils & fats, vegetables, bread & cereal, mineral waters, soft drinks, fruits & vegetables juices, fish (Fresh, Chilled & Frozen) and meat (Fresh, Chilled & Frozen), according to the Statisticians.
The Statisticians said the furnishing, household equipment & routine maintenance group index rose by 1.0 percent, from 111.6 in April 2022 to 112.7 in May 2022 and this was attributed to a general increase in prices of household appliances, glassware, tableware & household utensils and goods & services for household maintenance.
The prices for clothing & footwear group index moved from 109.4 to 110.4, registering a rise of 0.9 percent during the period under review. Bank of Botswana has projected higher inflation in the short term, associated with the likelihood of further increases in domestic fuel prices in response to persistent high international oil prices and added that the possible increase in public service salaries could add also upward pressure to inflation in this country.
In the latest June 2022 global economic prospects, released last week the World Bank has warned that low global economic growth and economic activity in global commodity markets such as China and Europe could negatively affect export revenues for Botswana and other Sub Saharan countries.
Recent data from Statistics Botswana show that Botswana’s exports destined to the global markets such as Asia and the European Union (EU) on monthly basis accounts for around 60.1 percent and 20.1 percent respectively.
The World Bank last week lowered its 2022 projections of global economic growth and indicated that the new forecasts could be bad news for countries like Botswana who are dependent on export mineral revenues. The Bank noted that just over two years after COVID-19 caused the deepest global recession since World War II, the world economy is again in danger and stated that this time it is facing high inflation and slow growth at the same time.
In the recent June projections, the bank lowered its forecast of global economic growth from the January 4.1 percent to 2.1 percent. “Our June forecasts reflect a sizable downgrade to the outlook: global growth is expected to slow sharply from 5.7 percent in 2021 to 2.9 percent this year. This also reflects a nearly one-third cut to our January 2022 forecast for this year of 4.1 percent,” a team of World Bank economists noted in the June 2022 Global Economic Prospects.
The World Bank indicated that exports from Botswana and other Sub Saharan countries could suffer from a substantial deceleration of activity in China and Europe. The Bank noted that exporters of industrial metals, crude oil, and ores such as Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, South Africa, and Zambia could suffer from a substantial deceleration of activity in China.
On the other hand a sharp contraction of growth in the euro area could hurt exporters of agricultural products such as beef, coffee, tea, tobacco, cotton, and textiles from Botswana, Ethiopia, Madagascar and Malawi. “The faster-than-expected deceleration of the global economy and increased volatility of commodity prices could hurt many SSA commodity exporters,” said World Bank President David Malpass.
Malpass indicated that subdued growth in the global markets for Botswana and other Sub Saharan exports will likely persist throughout the decade because of weak investment in most of the world.
He noted that with inflation now running at multi-decade highs in many countries and supply expected to grow slowly, inflation could remain higher for longer than currently anticipated. “Even if a global recession is averted, the pain of stagflation could persist for several years— unless major supply increases are set in motion. Amid the war in Ukraine, surging inflation, and rising interest rates, global economic growth is expected to slump in 2022. Several years of above-average inflation and below-average growth are now likely,” said Malpass.