Botswana‘s economic future is persistently put in doubt by some international commentators. As far as national income generation and provision of sustainable jobs are concerned, there are no guarantees.
Currently the mixed structured open economy is largely dependent on mineral revenue mainly from the diamond sector for foreign income generation and the government dominates, coordinates and regulates almost every sector of the middle income economy that Botswana is. This current setup in which the diamond sector alone is responsible for a quarter of the national treasury and is the largest single private sector employer is constantly viewed as an economic danger looming.
This sentiments were echoed again recently at a discussion hosted by the World Bank Group where they also released Botswana Mining Investment & Governance Review report. According to reports from the gathering it was emphasized that Botswana needed to move with speed and unearth other sources of revenue and income generation to breathe life into an economy that could otherwise be lifeless in a decade or two to come.
Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Ms Bogolo Kenewendo weighed on the same, urging that plans for a Botswana beyond Mining need to unfold as soon as yesterday. “We need to plan for a future that has a broader and diverse economy with a variety of sectors contributing significantly to the country‘s revenue pot,” she said. Kenewendo, a shrewd economic expert was also quoted saying that it was no longer a matter of choice to diversify the economy but an obligation.
“We need to find ways for mining revenue to trickle down to the rest of the citizenry and also increase the impact of mining revenues on areas where mines in Botswana are situated. Business linkages and cluster developments need to show evidence at rich mineral areas,” she said.
According to the youngest legislator in parliament, Botswana needs to devise ways in which mining revenues would benefit the rest of citizenry apart from free basic service, she said that would be archived by sharing national wealth with its people and wealth creation at an ordinary individual level.
Though mineral revenue increased by 63 % in 2016 financial year, with government pocketing tens of billions from mineral tax, dividends and mining royalties and recent figures presenting a positive outlook for most companies and stable profitability for Botswana’s largest mining company Debswana, fluctuating market commodity prices and closure of some mining companies raise concern over an uncertain future for Botswana’s economy.
2016 saw liquidation and shut down of some mining companies especially copper and nickel companies due to low commodity prices. BCL Mine, Tati Nickel, Mowana are some of the victims. Meanwhile some have been reported to be on the brink of reopening soon. Debswana’s Damtshaa Mine has been put under care and maintenance. Debswana also reported a fortnight ago that their Letlhakane Mine, popularly known as DK 1, has reached the end of its lifespan with tailings project to take the operations not beyond 20 years to come.
Already prospected kimberlitic and precious deposits at the world’s largest diamond mine by value, Jwaneng Mine place the mine not beyond 2034 (Cut 8). All these factors and others which experts term unforeseen economic circumstances, expose Botswana to be vulnerable to a possible economic crush in a few decades to come unless something major is done to transform the economy and diversify national revenue sources.
At the Mining Investment & Governance Review report, Kenewendo observed that the World Bank Group’s Botswana Mining Investment and Governance Review report was expected to help government improve the sector’s performance and to attract further investment. According to the review by the world economic think tank, even the Mining sector itself is poorly managed here in Botswana.
It was pointed out that ordinary Batswana citizens and remote area settlers were just spectators in the Mining industry wealth creation symposium. The World Bank observes that Mining contractors and big money business partnerships in the mining sector are largely enjoyed by foreign owned enterprises which collect millions and invest them across borders or in their native countries.
The review indicates that Botswana Government regulations and policies are not structured in a way that locals benefit from doing business with mining companies especially in areas of procurement, supplies, as well as human resource as foreign national continues to enjoy preference in highly technical and skilled areas of mining human resource.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Mr Kgomotso Abi agreed with the sentiments adding that Botswana needs to strengthen performance and address issues of concern to investors. “We need to build an environment that will stimulate more investment in mineral extraction,” he said.
World Bank Country Representative, Ms Elene Imnadze said even though the mining sector immensely contributed to the development of Botswana, more still needs to be done to ensure mineral beneficiation, as well as secure a future for Botswana beyond mining. “Other mines, more especially the copper ones, have had to close down due to low commodity prices. The copper mines, including BCL which is under provisional liquidation, remain closed even though base metal prices are beginning to increase slightly,” she continued.
According to the expert, government has to find ways of diversifying the economy and the capital generated from the mining sector should be invested into sectors that would be sustained beyond mining. She said this could be done by employing more people, building local suppliers and strengthening small and medium enterprises. Botswana’s Mining Investment and Governance Review was compiled to help strengthen the mining sector’s governance, investment, environment and development impact in Botswana.
It reviewed sector performance from the perspective of three main stakeholder groups -government, investors in the mining value chain, and civil society and it identifies gaps between declared and actual government policy and practice. In 2015 Government of Botswana established the Mineral Development Company as a wholly state owned independent company to manage Botswana is multibillion Pula mining sector portfolio.
The company which is still undergoing full setting up, resourcing its personnel and defining its area of business is expected to manage all government shares in the mining sector and also transform the sector to fully benefit Batswana and the economy. Since establishment MDCB has being facing challenges of formative obstacles especially in the area of securing prominent personnel for the sensitive mandate it’s geared to deliver. Recently MDCB was reported to have licked out its controversial CEO Paul Smith who is constantly blamed for liquidating Botswana’s oldest copper mining giant BCL Mine.
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.