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BotAsh: Untapped manufacturing, processing hub

Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Sadique Kebonang, has called on the private sector, business people and investors to tap into lucrative opportunities that are presented by Botswana Ash Mine in Sowa Town.


Kebonang who toured the largest producer of salt and soda ash in Southern Africa this past week, said it is imperative for authorities and mine leadership to start coming up with product diversity and Sowa economic diversification strategies as soon as possible to prevent the repeat of a situation similar to that of Phikwe crush in other mining towns. “All the policies are in place to unleash opportunities that can enhance business development, economic diversification and job creation,” said Kebonang.


According to Sadique, his government has created the needed platform to empower and flourish the private sector: “Government is a collection of individuals, it’s not an abstract, if we Batswana are not taking up these opportunities then we can’t achieve economic diversification.” However Kebonang acknowledged challenges that are currently hindering entrepreneurship at Sowa, which is one of Africa’s sodium rich areas. “We appreciate that there is an issue of land and we are currently working with the ministry responsible for those services,” he noted.


Kebonang is of the view that the 4000 populated township can be developed into a soda ash and sodium by-product Industrial hub, “We are looking at soap manufacturing factories, fertilizers, detergents and so forth,” he said in an interview with BusinessPost.
Kebonang further told this publication that government was willing to foster industrialization of the town through investment arms such as CEDA and Botswana Development Corporation.


 “As it is constantly noted, government has a primary role of creating a conducive environment for job creation, we are indeed waiting for serious investors and mainly Batswana entrepreneurs that can put up good and feasible proposals and we will assist with funding and other incentives”, he observed.


According to BotAsh Managing Director, Montwedi Mphathi, the mine is currently producing enough soda ash and salt for other industrial products to be manufactured from the available raw material. “We output 300 000 tonnes per year for soda ash which is full capacity and 650 000 tonnes of Salt per year of which we are still at 300 000 full capacity short, but we can satisfy all our foreign market demand and we would still have excess available for any manufacturing and processing business in the township,” Mphathi who joined BotAsh from BCL in 2011 observed that for quality, their operations are ISO 9001 certified to ensure consistence and right quality of their product.


 “We are in the process of putting operative alignments to enable extraction of other by-products like Sodium Bicarbonate and Potassium Sulphate, presenting more opportunities for manufacturing and processing business in the township, diversifying the economy and creating more jobs,” he noted.


Mphathi who has received accolades for his good corporate skill compared to his successor at BCL mine, which met its demise last year October, is believed to have left the company in good financial shape with diversified sources of income like fruit and vegetable farming and a reputable Corporate –Social Investment.


Ever since he joined Botswana Ash in 2011, Mphathi has flourished at the Southern Africa’s largest salt producer. In the 2015 financial year alone, Botswana Ash paid 91 million pula to its fifty per cent (50%) shareholder; Botswana Government. Late last year Mphathi announced a strategy that will see Botash double their revenue to 300 million by 2018.


Botash currently exports their products to South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, but intends to expand its footprint into Mozambique, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Angola. In fact, Mphathi revealed that BotAsh will form strategic alliances in the detergent market and offer packaging variations to harness easier product development.


Recently Chlor Alkali Holdings, which owns the other 50 % stake in Botswana Ash, acquired market in Cerebos, the region’s leading table salt trader and BotAsh revealed that the transaction will enable them to push their product footprint in previously unexplored markets.


BotAsh will be looking to leverage on the Cerebos network to unlock new markets in the region. The deal has also enabled BotAsh to package Cerebos brands in Botswana and also distribute BotAsh products in established Cerebos outlets throughout the continent.
Botswana Ash operates chest out with an OHSAS 18001 certification for safety, ISO 14001 certification for environmental awareness and ISO 9001:2008 certification for quality.

 

It leads as currently the largest supplier of soda ash and industrial salt in southern Africa, with a staff complement of 452 employees mostly in the engineering and operations department. South Africa imports over 40 % of BotAsh products, followed by Zambia with 24 %, Zimbabwe at 16 and Malawi at 7 percent.

 

The Democratic Republic of Congo absorbs 2 % of Mphati’s products, while  less quantity remain locally as Botswana buy just a little over 4 % , statistics which Minister Kebonang says do not make economic sense for a country that imports almost all of their finished salt and sodium products.  


“We have to move towards wooing investors to set up processing and manufacturing industries here in Botswana so that most of BotAsh products are absorbed and processed here into finished products, thus diversifying the economy and creating jobs for our own,” Kebonang suggested.


Botswana Ash (Pty) Ltd began operating in April 1991. The Company produces Soda Ash and Salt. It was established at a cost of P736 million, with an additional P100 million investment in supporting infrastructure in the form of Sowa township. All the activities of the mine are undertaken at Sowa – from production through to marketing and sales and administration.

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Business

Banking on Your Terms: Exploring the World of Self-Service Banking

23rd February 2024

In today’s digital age, banking is no longer just about visiting a branch during business hours. It’s about putting you, the customer, in the driver’s seat of your financial journey. But what exactly is self-service banking, and how do you stand to benefit from it as a customer?

Self-service banking is all about giving you the power to manage your finances on your terms. Whether you want to check your account balance at midnight, transfer money while on vacation, or deposit cash without waiting in line, self-service banking makes it possible. It’s like having a virtual branch at your fingertips, ready to assist you 24/7.

This shift towards self-service banking was catalyzed by various factors but it became easily accessible and accepted during the COVID-19 pandemic. People of all ages found themselves turning to digital channels out of necessity, and they discovered the freedom and flexibility it offers.

Anyone with a bank account and access to the internet or a smartphone can now bank anywhere and anytime. Whether you’re a tech-savvy millennial or someone who’s less comfortable with technology, you as the customer have the opportunity to manage your finances independently through online banking portal or downloading your bank’s mobile app. These platforms are designed to be user-friendly, with features like biometric authentication to ensure your transactions are secure.

Speaking of security, you might wonder how safe self-service banking really is. Banks invest heavily in encryption and other security measures to protect your information. In addition to that, features like real-time fraud detection and AI-powered risk management add an extra layer of protection.

Now, you might be thinking, “What’s the catch? Does self-service banking come with a cost?” The good news is that for the most part, it’s free. Banks offer these digital services as part of their commitment to customer satisfaction. However, some transactions, like wire transfers or expedited bill payments, may incur a small service fee.

At Bank Gaborone, our electronic channels offer a plethora of services around the clock to cater to your banking requirements. This includes our Mobile App, which doesn’t require data access for Orange and Mascom users. We also have e-Pula Internet Banking portal, available at https://www.bankgaborone.co.bw as well as Tobetsa Mobile Banking which is accessible via *187*247#. Our ATMs also offer the flexibility of allowing you to deposit, withdraw cash, and more.

With self-service banking, you have the reins of your financial affairs, accessible from the comfort of your home, workplace, or while you’re on the move. So why wait? Take control of your finances today with self-service banking.

Duduetsang Chappelle-Molloy is Head: Marketing and Corporate Communication Services

 

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Business

Botswana records over P6 billion trade deficit

7th February 2024

Botswana has recently recorded a significant trade deficit of over P6 billion. This trade deficit, which occurred in November 2023, follows another deficit of P4.7 billion recorded in October of the same year. These figures, released by Statistics Botswana, highlight a decline in export revenues as the main cause of the trade deficit.

In November 2023, Botswana’s total export revenues amounted to P2.9 billion, a decrease of 24.3 percent from the previous month. Diamonds, a major contributor to Botswana’s exports, experienced a significant decline of 44.1 percent during this period. This decline in diamond exports played a significant role in the overall decrease in export revenues. However, diamonds still remained the leading export commodity group, contributing 44.2 percent to export revenues. Copper and Machinery & Electrical Equipment followed, contributing 25.8 percent and 10.1 percent, respectively.

Asia emerged as the leading export market for Botswana, receiving exports worth P1.18 billion in November 2023. The United Arab Emirates, China, and Hong Kong were the top destinations within Asia, receiving 18.6 percent, 14.2 percent, and 3.8 percent of total exports, respectively. Diamonds and Copper were the major commodity groups exported to Asia.

The Southern African Customs Union (SACU) received Botswana’s exports worth P685.7 million, with South Africa being the main recipient within SACU. The European Union (EU) received exports worth P463.2 million, primarily through Belgium. Australia received exports worth P290 million, while the United States received exports valued at P69.6 million, mostly composed of diamonds.

On the import side, Botswana imported goods worth P9.5 billion in November 2023, representing an increase of 11.2 percent from the previous month. The increase in imports was mainly driven by a rise in Diamonds and Chemicals & Rubber Products imports. Diamonds contributed 23.3 percent to total imports, followed by Fuel and Food, Beverages & Tobacco at 19.4 percent and 15.0 percent, respectively.

The SACU region was the top supplier of imports to Botswana, accounting for 77.7 percent of total imports. South Africa contributed the largest share at 57.2 percent, followed by Namibia at 20.0 percent. Imports from Asia accounted for 9.8 percent of total imports, with Diamonds, Machinery & Electrical Equipment, and Chemicals & Rubber Products being the major commodity groups imported. The EU supplied Botswana with imports worth 3.2 percent of total imports, primarily in the form of Machinery & Electrical Equipment, Diamonds, and Chemicals & Rubber Products.

Botswana’s recent trade deficit of over P6 billion highlights a decline in export revenues, particularly in the diamond sector. While Asia remains the leading export market for Botswana, the country heavily relies on imports from the SACU region, particularly South Africa. Addressing the trade deficit will require diversification of export markets and sectors, as well as efforts to promote domestic industries and reduce reliance on imports.

 

 

 

 

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Business

Business sector optimistic about 2024

7th February 2024

The business sector in Botswana is optimistic about the year 2024, according to a recent survey conducted by the Bank of Botswana (BoB). The survey collected information from businesses in various sectors, including agriculture, mining, manufacturing, construction, and finance, among others. The results of the survey indicate that businesses expect trading conditions to improve in the first quarter of 2024 and remain favorable throughout the year.

The researchers found that firms anticipate improvements in investment, profitability, and goods and services exported in the fourth quarter of 2023 compared to the previous quarter. These expectations, combined with anticipated growth in all sectors except construction and real estate, contribute to the overall confidence in business conditions. Furthermore, businesses expect further improvements in the first quarter of 2024 and throughout the entire year.

Confidence among domestic market-oriented firms may decline slightly in the first quarter of 2024, but overall optimism is expected to improve throughout the year, consistent with the anticipated domestic economic recovery. Firms in sectors such as mining, retail, accommodation, transport, manufacturing, agriculture, and finance are driving this confidence. Export-oriented firms also show increased optimism in the first quarter of 2024 and for the entire year.

All sectors, except agriculture, which remains neutral, are optimistic about the first quarter of 2024 and the year ending in December 2024. This optimism is likely supported by government interventions to support economic activity, including the two-year Transitional National Development Plan (TNDP) and reforms aimed at improving the business environment. The anticipated improvement in profitability, goods and services exported, and business investment further contributes to the positive outlook.

Firms expect lending rates and borrowing volumes to increase in the 12-month period ending in December 2024. This increase in borrowing is consistent with the expected rise in investment, inventories, and goods and services exported. Firms anticipate that domestic economic performance will improve during this period. Domestic-oriented firms perceive access to credit from commercial banks in Botswana to be relaxed, while export-oriented firms prefer to borrow from South Africa.

During the fourth quarter of 2023, firms faced high cost pressures due to increased input costs, such as materials, utilities, and transport, resulting from supply constraints related to conflicts in Ukraine-Russia and Israel-Hamas. According to the survey report, the firms noted that cost pressures during the fourth quarter of 2023 were high, mainly attributable to increase in some input costs, such as materials, utilities, and transport arising from supply constraints related to the Ukraine-Russia and Israel-Hamas wars. “However, firms’ expectations about domestic inflation decreased, compared to the previous survey, and have remained within the Bank’s 3 – 6 percent objective range, averaging 5.4 percent for 2023 and 5.4 percent for 2024. This suggests that inflation expectations are well anchored, which is good for maintenance of price stability,” reads the survey report in part.

However, firms’ expectations about domestic inflation decreased compared to the previous survey, and inflation expectations remained within the Bank’s objective range of 3-6 percent. This suggests that inflation expectations are well anchored, which is beneficial for maintaining price stability.

In terms of challenges, most firms in the retail, accommodation, transport, manufacturing, construction, and finance sectors considered the exchange rate of the Pula to be unfavorable to their business operations. This is mainly because these firms import raw materials from South Africa and would prefer a stronger Pula against the South African rand. Additionally, firms in the retail, accommodation, transport, and mining sectors cited other challenges, including supply constraints from conflicts in Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Hamas, as well as new citizen economic empowerment policies that some firms considered unfavorable to foreign direct investment.

On the positive side, firms highlighted factors such as adequate water and electricity supply, a favorable political climate, an effective regulatory framework, the availability of skilled labor, and domestic and international demand as supportive to doing business in Botswana during the fourth quarter of 2023.

Overall, the business sector in Botswana is optimistic about the year 2024. The anticipated improvements in trading conditions, supported by government interventions and reforms, are expected to drive growth and profitability in various sectors. While challenges exist, businesses remain confident in the potential for economic recovery and expansion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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