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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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Pan-African risk advisor Minet Group and Botswana’s Africa Lighthouse Capital acquire Aon Botswana

21st May 2021
Pan-African-risk-advisor-Minet-Group-

Strategic partnership offers inherent benefits of global knowledge, African insights, and local expertise and commitment

Minet Group and Africa Lighthouse Capital today announced that they have received regulatory approval and fulfilled all requirements to acquire Aon’s shareholding in Aon Botswana, and consequently will begin the process to rebrand to Minet Botswana.

Minet Group is a well-known and trusted pan-African risk advisory firm and Aon’s largest Global Network Correspondent and has been rapidly expanding its African footprint since 2017 through the acquisition of operations from global professional services firm Aon in Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.   Minet has been delivering world class products and services across Africa for over 70 years.

Africa Lighthouse Capital (ALC) is a leading Botswana citizen-owned private equity firm focused on investing in Botswana companies and propelling them into regional champions, with over BWP 500 million in funds under management.

The new entity will be rebranded to Minet and will inherit deeply rooted respect by its clients for their innovative and locally relevant solutions, responsiveness, and efficient processes. Furthermore, it shall have the benefit of consistency in leadership and staffing, with Barnabas Mavuma, previously Managing Director of Aon Botswana, continuing to lead the business as the MD supported by the local management team.

 “The addition of Minet Botswana to our growing African network affirms our belief in the great opportunities for growth that Africa offers, driven by rising consumer demand, huge investment in infrastructure and quick adoption of new technology,” says Joe Onsando, CEO at Minet Group.

“This transaction significantly adds to the diversity and skills base of our team and will have a positive impact on the range of products and services we provide. Our Correspondent agreement with Aon gives us access to global expertise and data driven insights and uniquely positions us to deliver risk advisory solutions that reduce volatility, thus driving improved performance for our clients. This is a very exciting time to be Minet in Africa.”

“The significantly increased Botswana citizen shareholding effected by this transaction gives rise to an exciting era of local market focus and growth for Minet Botswana,” says Bame Pule, Founder and CEO of Africa Lighthouse Capital.  “We intend to work with Minet Botswana’s local management team to further localise the business in terms of product development, while at the same time investing in local skills development and business development.  We look forward to this exciting journey, which will result in a significantly enhanced service offering for Minet Botswana’s clients.”

Consequently, and similar to the other members of the Minet Group, Minet Botswana becomes an Aon Global Network Correspondent, retaining its access to Aon’s resources, technology, and best practises, combined with the benefit of independent, local agility. This transaction furthermore significantly increases local shareholding, enabling operations to become even nimbler and better positioned to unlock new and existing growth opportunities.

Clients of Minet Botswana will experience continuity of product and service delivery standards in the short term. In the near future, they can expect an enhanced offering that combines agility with technology and product innovation, tailormade for their specific needs.

Together, Minet and ALC bring a sound understanding of local market conditions, strong governance, and an established track record in the region. These qualities, combined with Aon’s global capabilities and expertise, will bring clear benefits for clients.

This transaction vastly increases citizen ownership with shareholders who are going to be active in the business. The transfer of equity interests in Botswana to investors with local and regional expertise, presence and commitment will allow the businesses to move quickly in line with market movements, and to introduce products that are tailored to the local market.

“Minet’s commitment and drive to incessantly adapt to changing market conditions, and to innovate to meet the unique insurance demands of the African continent, while maintaining the high standards customers have come to expect – Onsando concludes – will continue to grow and give Minet a powerful competitive edge within the African market”.

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Africa scores $285 Billion IMF deal

21st May 2021
IMF-Managing-Director-Kristalina-Georgieva

French President Emmanuel Macron received 21 Heads of state and government officials from Africa during the recent summit on the Financing of African Economies that focused on Africa to take full advantage of the tectonic shifts in the global economy and the call for a joint effort for financial and vaccination support for the continent.

President Emmanuel Macron stressed that “Most regions of the world are now launching massive post-pandemic recovery plans, using their huge monetary and fiscal instruments. But most African economies suffer the lack of adequate capacities and such instruments to do the same. We cannot afford leaving the African economies behind.

We, the Leaders participating to the Summit, in the presence of international organizations, share the responsibility to act together and fight the great divergence that is happening between countries and within countries.

This requires collective action to build a very substantial financial package, to provide a much-needed economic stimulus as well as the means to invest for a better future. Our ambition is to address immediate financing needs, to strengthen the capacity of African governments to support a strong and sustainable economic recovery and to reinforce the vibrant African private sector, as a long-term growth driver for Africa.”

For her part, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva highlighted that “there is urgency to focus on financing Africa. Last year, the pandemic-caused recession shrank the GDP of the Continent by 1.9 percent – the worst performance on record. This year, we project global growth at 6 percent, but only half that 3.2 percent for Africa.” Adding that Africa needs to grow faster than the world at 7 to 10 percent to meet the aspirations of its youthful populations, and become more prosperous and more secure.

Georgieva revealed that the price tag on the shot is estimated to be “$285 billion through 2025. Of this $135 billion is for low-income countries. This is the bare minimum. To do more – to get African nations back on their previous path of catching up with wealthy countries – will cost roughly twice as much. These are large numbers. They may seem out of reach. But to quote Nelson Mandela: impossible until it is done.”

The main areas of interest to achieve this include; first, end the pandemic everywhere, 40 percent of the population of all countries is targeted to get vaccinated by the end of 2021, and at least 60 percent by mid-2022.

Second, bilateral and multilateral development financing grants and concessional loans ought to go up. Over the last year, the IMF have swiftly ramped their financing for the Continent, including providing 13 times their average annual lending to sub-Saharan Africa. And are working to do much more. The IMF has also received support to increase access limits so they can scale up their zero-interest lending capacity through the Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust.

The IMF has also devised exceptional measures. Their membership backs an unprecedented new allocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDR) of $650 billion, by far the largest in their history. Once approved, which is intended to be achieved by the end of August, it will directly and immediately make about $33 billion available to African members. It will boost their reserves and liquidity, without adding to their debt burden.

Over the course of the last year, the IMF has built experience in facilitating the on lending of SDRs – thus managing to triple their concessional lending capacity as a result.

The Third being, actions at home. According to Georgieva “a crisis is an opportunity for transformational domestic reforms that increase domestic revenue, improve public services, and strengthen governance. For instance, digitalization can improve tax administration and revenue collection, and the quality of public spending. And with radical transparency, Africa can tap into new sources of finance – such as carbon offsets.

There is ample scope for countries to encourage private investment, including in social and physical infrastructure. New IMF research, published today, highlights that domestic and international investors could provide at least 3 percent of GDP per year of additional financing by the end of this decade.”

Reforms of international taxation can also support Africa’s growth. For a long time, the IMF has been in favor of minimum corporate tax rates to reduce the race to the bottom and tax avoidance. And they strongly support an international agreement on digital tax, something France has been a leading voice for. It is important to secure fair distribution of tax revenues, so they can contribute to closing Africa’s financial gap.

Georgieva called on to each and every one to step up. Reminding the attendees that from history they are all familiar with what a shock of this magnitude can do if not countered forcefully and effectively.

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Indian COVID-19 variant hits Botswana diamond sales

20th May 2021
Indian-Covid--19-variant-hit-rough-diamonds-sales---De-Beers-

De Beers’ Group, the world’s number one diamond producer by value, this week attributed the downfall of its sales for the fourth cycle week to the second wave of the Covid-19 variant (B.1.617.2) which was first discovered in India.

Diamond trading conditions have been hit by the Covid-19 crisis in India which is a major cutting and polishing centre for the world’s diamond trade.

The outbreak of the new variant has led to a humanitarian crisis with 280, 284 fatalities of the disease reported.

The London headquartered company said the sales in its fourth cycle fell to $380m (about P4.1 billion) down from $450m (about P4.8 billion) in the third cycle though it was higher than the fifth cycles of last year when the group shifted only $56m (P600 million).

De Beers emphasized that they continued to implement a more flexible approach to rough diamond sales during the fourth sales cycle of 2021, with the Sight event extended beyond its normal week-long duration.

The De Beers group Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Bruce Cleaver said the company continues to see robust demand for diamond jewellery in the key US and China consumer markets.

“However, the scale of the second wave of Covid-19 in India, where the majority of the world’s diamonds are cut and polished, has led to reduced midstream capacity and subsequently lower rough diamond demand, during what is already a seasonally slower time of year for midstream purchases,” said Cleaver.

Meanwhile Botswana health officials have confirmed the new Covid-19 variant in Botswana. The Ministry of Health and Wellness -through a press statement- informed members of the public that the variant (B.1.617), was confirmed in Botswana on 13th May 2021.

According to Christopher Nyanga, spokesperson at the Ministry, this followed a case investigation within Greater Gaborone, involving people of Indian origin who arrived in the country on the 24th April 2021.

Moreover the World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced that the Indian Covid-19 variant was a global concern, with some data suggesting that the variant has “increased transmissibility” compared with other strains.

The India variant (B.1.617.2) – is one of four mutated versions of the coronavirus which has been designated as being “of concern” by transitional public health bodies, with others first being identified in Kent, South Africa and Brazil.

Nevertheless when speaking at Bank of America Global Metals and Mining conference, Anglo American Chief Executive Officer, Mark Cutifani said the company portfolio is increasingly tilted towards future enabling products and those that need to decarbonise energy and transport in order to meet consumers’ needs – from home appliances, electronics and infrastructure, to food and luxury goods.

“We see material opportunity for Anglo American to continue to set itself apart in terms of the performance of our diversified business, further enhanced through sector-leading 25% volume growth over the next four years, led by copper and the platinum group metals,” said Cutifani.

“Most importantly, as the supplier of such critical materials, it is the duty of our industry to ensure that in everything we do, we act responsibly and deliver enduring value for our full breadth of stakeholders, including our planet.”

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