Small, Micro, and Medium Enterprise (SMMEs) are the new economic language for developing countries. Encompassing small scale business, community cooperatives, hawkers, roadside traders and medium scale businesses, SMMEs give over 30 % of Botswana workforce the breadwinner status.
Currently contributing over 20% to Botswana‘s economy the SMME sector plays an integral role in Botswana’s economic path. This observations emerged at Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA) dinner last week in Gaborone. The same observation has also been registered at different forums.
Renowned entrepreneur and well known former corporate executive Kate Mphage labeled SMEs as a pivotal sector towards moving Botswana ‘to a developed economy status. “There is great potential in SMMES as far as generating much needed employment and economic diversification is concerned” she said.
The former Mascom wireless executive is of the view that the nature of SMEs being businesses that are undertake by perceivably low income citizens and under privileged members of the society posse’s great ability to turn around economic status of the ordinary Batswana. “Imagine Botswana without the braiding, water melon selling, the roadside cooking ladies, the sewing ladies and taxi drivers. Each country in Africa has these buzzing hubs that reflect ordinary people making a living outside the formal sector,” she said.
Mphage underscored the imperative need to develop and resource SMMEs to unleash the great economic potential of the sector. She however highlighted the business challenges that come with the nature of the sector itself: “it is very paramount to always emphasize the benefit that accrue to all other economic industries and sectors in the economy when the SMMEs sector thrives, yet the sector is faced with challenges in the area of finance, poor quality of products, access to bigger markets and simple book keeping,” she explained. Ms Mphage pointed out the need for all stakeholders from government, funders, financial advisors, among others to rally behind contributing to SMMEs flourish, noting that the country and every one stands to benefit from a booming SMME sector.
BICA’s ROLE IN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENTS
Addressing an audience that was dominated by Botswana Institute Chartered of Accountants (BICA) members, Mphage said accountants could play a pivotal role in assisting SMMEs as they were located in important financial institutions and departments and had the necessary skills required in turning small-scale entrepreneurs’ ideas into flourishing businesses.
BICA President, Rudi Binedell said accountants have a big role to play in economic development in Botswana. He said BICA intends to be a reputable stakeholder in government’s efforts to advance economic diversification and sustainable growth. He said the accounting body increased its membership to 3 355 members by the end of December 2016, from 2 085 in 2015. Binedell said they had drawn up a new strategic plan for the years 2017 to 2021.
The plan aims among other objectives to increase the number of qualified, professional citizen chartered accountants. Nametso Latsheng, Head of Capacity Building at BICA observed that the current economic challenges faced by Botswana could be solved by rigorous engagement of the SMME sector. “It is very critical now to come up with innovative ways, strategic blueprints and policy crafts that can change the situation around. We need to fast track employment creation – SMMEs sector can do wonders for our economy,” he said.
SHARING THE EXPERIENCE
In previous likeminded interactive seminars and economic forums, SMMEs have also been underscored as a critical sector for the economy. They could be used to realize the much needed diversification and sustainable growth. Renowned businessman, Dr Tiro Mampane of Boitekanelo Group of Companies which includes Boitekanelo College, observed earlier this year at First National Bank (FNB) 2017/18 Budget review seminar that trade laws and setting up business regulations need to be reviewed to accommodate more SMMEs to enhance economic growth.
He noted that Botswana must introspect on its trade and business laws. He indicated that the ease of doing business locally needed to be improved by rooting out cumbersome procedures which might end up discouraging investors. According to Dr Mampane, SMMEs must be empowered to create wealth and ensure economic survival for rural and low income people. “If you look into other businesses you will realize that they don’t necessarily require, for example a physical office to operate, thus they should be exempted from some trade licenses requirement,” he said.
In its quest to empower Batswana and realize economic diversification while also creating employment and sustainable growth the Government of Botswana has setup various business facilitation arms and also introduced a number of programs and initiatives. The Youth Development Fund under the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Cultural Development intends to finance young people to start up medium enterprises in almost every sector from agriculture, manufacturing and ICT.
Gender Affairs Fund in the Ministry of Gender funds women in groups and partnerships to a tune of up to P350 000 to turn community cooperatives and indigenous small and medium businesses into profit making entities. The Local Enterprise Authority ( LEA) under the Ministry of Investment Trade & Industry is a co-ordinate and focused one-stop shop Authority operating as a parastatal that provides development and support services to the local industry needs of SMMEs. The Authority's key sectors are manufacturing, tourism, agriculture, and any services that support the three business sectors. In particular, LEA targets women, youth, and the unemployed.
LEA also endeavors to build competencies in quality and efficiency, and to encourage import substitution and export oriented products and services. In delivering their mandate and mainly supporting the Small Micro & Medium Enterprises LEA conduct entrepreneurship awareness workshops annually across the country to cultivate the spirit of entrepreneurship in youth and the unemployed. LEA provide capacity building incubation, training and facilitates funding and access to markets.
Adding to these efforts is the Citizen Entrepreneurship Development Agency (CEDA) which operates as an investment arm and financer to viable projects and feasible business ideas. CEDA funds various project to a tune of up to tens of millions, for SMMEs CEDA recently introduced a tailor made funding initiative for small and medium scale businesses called “Mabogo Dinku”.
Through the program, CEDA provides subsidized loans for various micro-entrepreneurs to enable citizen participation in enterprise development. Mabogo-Dinku loan offers micro-enterprises an opportunity and enables citizen participation in enterprise development. The loan provides micro-enterprises with funds for their business needs ranging from working capital to small asset finance. Mabogo Dinku offers short term loans from P500.00 to a maximum of P150, 000.00 per person, payable in 3-12 months to citizens who are micro-entrepreneurs to assist in the growth of their business.
Strive Masiyiwa, a Zimbabwean multimillionaire is of the view that education must be provided to small medium entrepreneurs. He writes that Entrepreneurship should be taught as a subject in all schools across Africa. “By far the biggest employer of people in Africa is what is generally called the "informal sector."
“Whilst most of the people in this sector are generally literate, having been to school, there's very little in our education system that actually prepares them for a life running their own business.” According to Masiyiwa, governments should publicly acknowledge that the "informal sector" is the central activity in their economies. “Whether people are smallholder farmers, street traders, or tradesmen and women, don't be ashamed to acknowledge them as real economic players. They are contributing to the economy just like the biggest businesses that you have in your country,” he says.
Masiyiwa who owns multinational businesses agrees with Mphage’s sentiments that SMMEs importance must be recognized with action. “Acknowledge the importance of this sector by putting in place policies that enable them to prosper. When they prosper, they will grow, employing more,” he says. He is of the view that governments should introduce entrepreneurship training into the formal education curriculum.”By the time someone has completed seven years of school, they should be able to put together a basic profit and loss statement, and a basic balance sheet. They should also be able to read financial statements.
This century is always looking at improving new super high speed technology to make life easier. On the other hand, beckoning as an emerging fierce reversal force to equally match or dominate this life enhancing super new tech, comes swift human adversaries which seem to have come to make living on earth even more difficult.
The recent discovery of a pandemic, Covid-19, which moves at a pace of unimaginable and unpredictable proportions; locking people inside homes and barring human interactions with its dreaded death threat, is currently being felt.
Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo has cautioned Government against excessive borrowing and poorly managed debt levels.
He was speaking in Parliament on Tuesday delivering Parliament’s Finance Committee report after assessing a motion that sought to raise Government Bond program ceiling to P30 billion, a big jump from the initial P15 Billion.
Government Investment Account (GIA) which forms part of the Pula fund has been significantly drawn down to finance Botswana’s budget deficits since 2008/09 Global financial crises.
The 2009 global economic recession triggered the collapse of financial markets in the United States, sending waves of shock across world economies, eroding business sentiment, and causing financiers of trade to excise heightened caution and hold onto their cash.
The ripple effects of this economic catastrophe were mostly felt by low to middle income resource based economies, amplifying their vulnerability to external shocks. The diamond industry which forms the gist of Botswana’s economic make up collapsed to zero trade levels across the entire value chain.
The Upstream, where Botswana gathers much of its diamond revenue was adversely impacted by muted demand in the Midstream. The situation was exacerbated by zero appetite of polished goods by jewelry manufacturers and retail outlets due to lowered tail end consumer demand.
This resulted in sharp decline of Government revenue, ballooned budget deficits and suspension of some developmental projects. To finance the deficit and some prioritized national development projects, government had to dip into cash balances, foreign reserves and borrow both externally and locally.
Much of drawing was from Government Investment Account as opposed to drawing from foreign reserve component of the Pula Fund; the latter was spared as a fiscal buffer for the worst rainy days.
Consequently this resulted in significant decline in funds held in the Government Investment Account (GIA). The account serves as Government’s main savings depository and fund for national policy objectives.
However as the world emerged from the 2009 recession government revenue graph picked up to pre recession levels before going down again around 2016/17 owing to challenges in the diamond industry.
Due to a number of budget surpluses from 2012/13 financial year the Government Investment Account started expanding back to P30 billion levels before a series of budget deficits in the National Development Plan 11 pushed it back to decline a decline wave.
When the National Development Plan 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at budget deficits.
This as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.
Cumulatively since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances. Drawing down from government cash balances meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account.
The Government Investment Account (GIA) was established in accordance with Section 35 of the Bank of Botswana Act Cap. 55:01. The Account represents Government’s share of the Botswana‘s foreign exchange reserves, its investment and management strategies are aligned to the Bank of Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves management and investment guidelines.
Government Investment Account, comprises of Pula denominated deposits at the Bank of Botswana and held in the Pula Fund, which is the long-term investment tranche of the foreign exchange reserves.
In June 2017 while answering a question from Bogolo Kenewendo, the then Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Mathambo told parliament that as of June 30, 2017, the total assets in the Pula Fund was P56.818 billion, of which the balance in the GIA was P30.832 billion.
Kenewendo was still a back bench specially elected Member of Parliament before ascending to cabinet post in 2018. Last week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, when presenting a motion to raise government local borrowing ceiling from P15 billion to P30 Billion told parliament that as of December 2019 Government Investment Account amounted to P18.3 billion.
Dr Matsheka further told parliament that prior to financial crisis of 2008/9 the account amounted to P30.5 billion (41 % of GDP) in December of 2008 while as at December 2019 it stood at P18.3 billion (only 9 % of GDP) mirroring a total decline by P11 billion in the entire 11 years.
Back in 2017 Parliament was also told that the Government Investment Account may be drawn-down or added to, in line with actuations in the Government’s expenditure and revenue outturns. “This is intended to provide the Government with appropriate funds to execute its functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently” said Mathambo, then Minister of Finance.
Acknowledging the need to draw down from GIA no more, current Minister of Finance Dr Matsheka said “It is under this background that it would be advisable to avoid excessive draw down from this account to preserve it as a financial buffer”
He further cautioned “The danger with substantially reduced financial buffers is that when an economic shock occurs or a disaster descends upon us and adversely affects our economy it becomes very difficult for the country to manage such a shock”