Botswana Heads of Diplomatic Missions met this week in Gaborone to introspect and asses Botswana’s international relations status. The conference was meant to interrogate challenges faced by the ministry and all the missions and further come up with solutions of how these challenges could be dealt with.
At the conference attended by Heads of Missions, Permanent Secretary to the President Carter Morupisi, Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi condemned the Diplomats for an outstanding job amidst limited resources and unfavorable circumstances. “Government is aware of the fact that Botswana missions have limited resources yet the envoys continue to do a commendable job despite the challenges,” she said.
She indicated that the meeting would help the representatives carry out their core mandate in their respective countries of coverage. “As Botswana envoys you are encouraged to sell Botswana’s foreign policy in your respective countries of mission,” said Moitoi. The Minister also underscored that this year’s theme “50 years of Botswana’s foreign policy: Celebrate, Reflect and Advance, was befitting as Botswana celebrated 50 years of independence last year.
According to Venson-Moitoi diplomatic missions also have a responsibility to market Botswana and attract foreign investors to come and setup business and employment creation enterprises in Botswana, she noted that with the current water supply challenges and shortage of adequate power locally Botswana foreign missions have a role to play as far as attracting foreign Direct Investment to pump money into the energy sector, solar and other key sectors locally. Dean of Botswana missions abroad Roy Blackbeard noted that the Government needed to resource its foreign missions for them to achieve their mandate, he indicated that the expectations of high commissioners and ambassadors were very diverse and broad adding that government enclave must move quick to address them.
In his remarks, Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi commended the envoys for accepting the national assignment to represent Botswana in their respective consulates. He highlighted that there was need to establish synergies to position Botswana well globally hence envoys have to work hard to ensure this materialized. “You should identify opportunities that can secure Botswana’s future. You should be in the forefront to ensure Botswana forges strategic partnerships with neighbors and the rest of the world.”
The heads of Missions also met President Lt Gen Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama. The conference was a consultative forum between the Ministry of International Affairs and Cooperation and key public and private sector stakeholders, where Botswana’s diplomatic envoys are briefed on major development issues, including government programmes, national projects and policy initiatives. The meeting recommended that Botswana Missions Abroad should work closely with Botswana Investment and Trade Centre as well as other stakeholders to ensure Botswana becomes a well know place for investment and business
Botswana Ambassadors and High Commissioners to foreign countries are among other former top government officials and former politicians just to name but a few. It has been criticized over the years that diplomatic appointments which are done by the President of the country were partisan and only afforded the opportunity to the BDP aligned.
According to Dithapelo Keorapetse Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West Botswana’s tendency of awarding diplomatic missions to ruling party elections rejects saturates Botswana‘s diplomatic service with incompetence and lack of good service delivery. He argued that there was a need to codify the country's foreign policy so that the principles underpinning it can be debated and be clear.
“We need a foreign policy that' is informed by our values and national strategic interests and for that we need a framework to infer foreign policy decisions, we cannot have a kneejerk, inconsistent and haphazard foreign policy decisions.” The youthful legislator observed this when debating Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation‘s 2017/28 budget in parliament recently. â€¨â€¨“I'm worried about the unending trend of distributing diplomatic offices as patronage by the ruling party.
Roy Blackboard has been appointed to UK since 1998 to pave way for Ian Khama at Serowe. Tebelelo Seretse was deployed to US after her failure to win primary elections against Venson-Moitoi. Jacob Nkate was sent to be the country's Ambassador to Japan following his loss to Taolo Habano of the BCP during 2009 general elections. Currently Lebonaamang Mokalake and Olebile Gaborone are emissaries in Zambia and Mozambique respectively following their failed bids to return to Parliament,” said Keorapetse in an interview with weekendpost this week.
According to Dithapelo who is also BCP spokes person it cannot be that only ruling party politicians qualify to be diplomats. “Appoint leaders from the opposition if they are capable and indeed there are qualified opposition politicians who can serve Botswana internationally,” he argued.
When further arguing his case Mp Keorapetse cited international instances in which Diplomats are appointed from opposition parties “In South Africa for instance, Tonny Leon of the DA, Dr Mohau Pheko of the PAC, Frank Mdlalose of the IFP and Douglas Gibson of the DA and others of the opposition who are qualified have been appointed to represent South Africa internationally,” he noted. Keorapetse grieves that in Botswana only ruling party politicians are recognizable by the President for deployment internationally.
“That it is wrong and it denies our country competent leadership as we have shrewd and capable people from the opposition who studied political science ,law and international relation disciplines and are better placed to serve our country internationally,” he explained.
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.