Business Botswana (BB) formally known as BOCCIM has issued a damning report on the shutdown of the BCL mine and its subsidiaries by government in late 2016.
The report compiled by Business Botswana’s 6 man task force, states that the total associated with unemployment in the region is likely to hit staggering highs of more than 50%. BB, led by its president, Lekwalo Mosienyane, states in the report that, like many other stakeholders in both the public and private sectors it was equally astounded by the closure of the BCL mine.
The reason it was astounded, according to the report was not only because it has many corporate members in the region but because of the likely socio-economic implications of the terminal exit of BCL from Selibe Phikwe, which is the region’s sole prime economic anchor. Further, BB notes that, while other initiatives such as the ongoing Selibe Phikwe Development Unit (SPEDU) and horticulture plant activities could provide some new life for Selibe Phikwe, the town is not as yet ready to operate without BCL as an anchor, therefore making the total closure of the mine non-viable.
According to the report, it was apparent to the task team that SPEDU played a suboptimal role in discharging the mandate of developing a Marshall Plan for the economic survival of the Selibe Phikwe region using a broad-based diversification approach. Therefore, for the institution to achieve its objectives, it would be necessary for SPEDU to be remodelled and properly capacitated, with an effective multi-sectoral monitoring process put in place.
Moreover, Business Botswana indicates that there are many answers that remain unanswered chief among which is whether it was appropriate to have shut down the mine in the manner it was done; and whether a gradual and predetermined closure process could have been designed beforehand and implemented in such a way that would ease impact or give room for execution of alternative options.
The task force noted that throughout the meetings with various stakeholders, most of whom had direct relations with BCL, there was a strong and consistent prevailing opinion that the closure of BCL could have been conducted in a better way than what has happened. It further elaborates stating that: even with a seal of urgency by which government evoked its decision, the overwhelming strength of such opinions, most of which were supported by logical and reasonable facts should serve as a learning point to government in terms of the need for rigorous stakeholder engagement on such matters bordering on national crisis.”
It also noted that stakeholders were concerned that a socio-economic impact study was not carried out which ideally could have been carried out before the decision to close the operations was made. It further states that the environmental impact assessment of a fossilised mine should have also been conducted
In the scathing report Business Botswana further ponders: “bearing in mind government’s acute knowledge of the impending closure of the mine, which led to the establishment of the SPEDU, a natural question arose as to whether a strategy had been developed by SPEDU and if such had been considered by government prior to the liquidation decision to avoid its abrupt closure?”
The report further notes that unemployment in Selibe Phikwe and Francistown which are affected by the mine closures were already as far back as 2013, estimated at highs of 19.2 and 18 %.It further states that the towns therefore already have challenges with poverty, estimated at 14.2 and 7.9 % and the closure has therefore left the economy in a worse off situation than the already suboptimal and undesirable positions that have many negative socio economic consequences.
In a statement capturing the economic hopelessness of the region, Business Botswana notes: “What makes matters worse is that there are no new economic opportunities emerging in the region to absorb those who lost their jobs especially in an economy that also has challenges with employment creation.”
Business Botswana also issued a grim advice, asserting that: “the state of crisis which Selibe Phikwe is experiencing also calls for the concurrent implementation of short term measures to revitalise the town in order to avoid fast implosion.” it said, further opining :“the devolution and relocation of certain government parastatal services such as provision of agricultural or agro based services together with mining services to Selibe Phikwe should be considered as this would provide a critical mass and create a demand that would support a certain level of economic activity.
The Mosienyane led organisation further noted that the strategic location of certain industries such as rail and road transport would also be beneficial. The report also states that the task team felt that the liquidation of BCL ought to have been treated as a national crisis warranting the establishment of a multidisciplinary, multi-stakeholder committee under the coordination of the newly appointed Coordinator for the Economic Revitalisation Programme for Selibe Phikwe (Linah Mohohlo) to chart an economic revival strategy for BCL and or Selibe Phikwe.
The business advocacy association also advocated that government should incentivise companies setting up in Selibe Phikwe with tax holidays, tax rebates, preferential utility rates as well as a government guaranteed market. Other incentives advocated for by BB include facilitation of timely land allocation, accelerated approvals of design plans, accelerated work and residence permits approvals among others.
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.