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.
In the coming months prices will go up and inflation will shoot sharply above the target of 3 percent to 6 percent towards the third quarter of 2021, the Bank of Botswana on the other hand will continue to withhold its knife on the Bank Rate. This is according to a forecast made by Kgori Capital in its recent Market Watch Segment.
Statistics from Statistics Botswana show that the recent 1.8 percent increase in the September inflation, from 1 percent in August, was a reflection of the upward adjustment in public transport fares (Transport (from -6.9 to -3.9 percent) in September 2020, which is estimated to have increased inflation by approximately 0.64 percentage points.
Local anti-trust body, Competition and Consumer Authority (CCA), this month received back to back acquisition proposals from South African clothing retailers to wipe out their former rivals, Edcon, from Botswana malls.
Last week BusinessPost was in possession of Merger Notice No 23 of 2020 whereby a South African clothing retailer owner, Retailability Proprietary Limited, through Oclin Proprietary Limited, proposed to acquire parts of the Edgars business conducted by Edcon in Botswana (through Edcon Botswana), as a going concern, consisting of certain assets and identified liabilities.
South African government’s Business Rescue Practitioners earlier this year announced that Retailability will buy Edgars, after the latter filed for a business rescue plan in April after it failed to pay suppliers. This move will see Retailability add Edgars to its portfolio consisting of brands such as; Legit, Beaver Canoe and Style.
Retailability landed on Botswana shores 18 years ago with its flamboyant urban fashion Style which had 17 stores. Style, having almost the same target market as Edgars as it offers men’s and ladies’ contemporary and formal fashion, gave the 91 year old legendary clothing retailer a run for its money, and has won the battle as its parent company has taken over Edgars.
Retailability brands are synonymous with Botswana shopping centres and there are currently five (5) Beaver Canoe stores, 10 Style stores and seven (7) Legit stores across this country. The Beaver Canoe stores sell clothing apparel for men and boys only. The Legit stores have a fashion store format which focuses on the retailing of clothing, footwear, accessories, colour cosmetics and cellular products.
Retailability operates in over 460 stores across South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, and Eswatini. Many observers suggest that because of the deal with Retailability to swallow Edcon, most Edgars stores in Botswana will change their name and be branded Style. A sad tale for religious consumers of the Edgars trademark who got used to love their favourite brand for years.
According to CCA’s Merger Notice No 23 of 2020, Retailability is controlled by Clifford Raymond Lines (through a company which functions solely as a holding company of his interests in Retailability) and Metier Investment and Advisory Services Proprietary Limited (“Metier”). Metier is a private equity enterprise with investments in a number of industries spanning from healthcare, hospitality, FMCGs and telecommunications.
Retailability directors are mostly South Africans; Clifford Raymond Lines, Mark Richard Friday and Norman Victor Drieselmann. Only Nasreen Essack, who was appointed February this year, is a Motswana. He comes after Brian Thuto Tsima left on the same date. Retailability 100 percent owns Oclin Proprietary Limited, the company it is acquiring Edgars with, by a capacity of 3000 shares.
The target business, Edgars, offer textiles, cosmetics and cellular products. Edcon has a Motswana director, Charles Mzwandile Vikisi, a South African, Shane Van Niekerk and Zimbabwean Jethro Kamutsi.
“The Target Business comprises of two (2) Edgars franchise brands and private label stores across Botswana. These stores target middle to upper income customers and are home to a range of private label brands such as Free2BU, Charter Club and Stone Harbour, and a wide range of market label brands (such as Levi’s and Guess) for clothing, footwear and cosmetics.
In addition, the Target Business operates iconic Edgars Home and Edgars Beauty stores as store-in-store formats rounding out the department store offering in Botswana,” said CCA. Foshini also lines up to take Jet Botswana from Edcon.
The Foschini Group (TFG) released a statement confirming its latest intentions to acquire Edcon assets or Jet for a cash purchase consideration of R480 million. This was after the business rescue practitioners offered TFG to buy Jet by that amount.
CCA is currently mulling on a proposed merger by TFG to take over Jet operations in Botswana. Merger Notice No 21 of 2020 from TFG came a few days before the Retailability proposal. In this merger TFG, acting through Foschini Botswana, want to take over “parts” of the Jet business conducted by Edcon through Jet Supermarkets Botswana.
TFG will be willing to add Jet to its portfolio of 30 retail brands that trade in clothing, footwear, jewellery, sportswear, homeware, cell phones, and technology products from value to upper market segments throughout more than 4085 outlets in 32 countries on five continents. TFG will also get Jet’s distribution centre located in Durban and certain stores in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Eswatini. Also part of this fat deal is that the company is looking to also acquire JET Club and all existing JET stock of no less than R800 million.
Johannesburg listed TGF owns Foschini Retail Group which owns the local operations called Foschini Botswana, the acquiring enterprise according to CCA merger notice. “TFG is not controlled by any enterprise/s and for completeness, the three largest shareholders of TFG holding shares greater than 5% as at 27th March 2020 are: Government Employees Pension Fund (16.2%) Public Investment Corporation (13.2%); Old Mutual Limited (6.7%); and Investec Asset Management (6.3%). The remaining issued share capital in TFG is widely held,” said the merger notice.
Only Abdool Rahim Khan is a Motswana in the Foschini Botswana directorship, the rest; Ganeswari Shani Naidoo, Anthony Edward Thunström and Gustav Jansen (alternate director) are South Africans.
According to the CCA merger, the Jet Business is Edcon’s discount department store division, selling clothing, footwear, homeware and some cosmetics as well as cellular products and targets lower-to-middle income consumers throughout Botswana. The Jet Business does not directly or indirectly control any enterprises, says the notice. CCA seeks any stakeholder views for or against the proposed merger, which may be sent within 10 days from date of this publication to the following address.
Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority BOCRA signed a memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with the Ministries of Transport and Communications (MTC), Basic Education (MoBE) as well as Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD).
The MoA seeks to continue the collaboration that dates back to 2016 when the three parties first agreed to work together in a project aimed at computerizing and providing broadband Internet to primary schools in remote and underserved areas of Botswana.
The project benefitted 68 primary schools and 9 secondary schools through the construction of Local Area Network (LAN) in each primary school, provision of 5 Mbps dedicated broadband Internet to each Primary School and provision of Wi-Fi enabled tablets, laptops and related peripherals such as printers and copiers.
Further, the project will see the augmentation of computers in 9 Junior Secondary Schools with 30 laptops per identified school and employment of Information Technology (IT) officers at each primary school.
When speaking at the signing ceremony in Gaborone, Chief Executive of BOCRA and Chairperson of Universal Access and Service Fund (UASF) Board of Trustees Martin Mokgware said the project’s ultimate goal is to facilitate pupils in schools and host villages to be able to play a meaningful role in the digital economy.
Mokgware indicated that this necessitates upgrading of existing Telecommunications infrastructure to high capacity broadband that will support delivery of education, accessibility to the quality Internet and usage of ICTs.
The Fund began its inaugural programme by sponsoring the provision of WiFi hotspots in public areas around the country as its first project. Following the successful implementation of public WiFi hotspots, the Fund identified Kgalagadi, Ghanzi and Mabutsane areas for mobile network upgrades, schools computerization and internet provision.
Conscious that the project would not be possible without buy-in and support from MoBE, MTC and MLGRD, the Fund facilitated the signing of the first MoU between the three parties in 2016 for implementation of the project.
BOCRA Chief Executive said the signing of this agreement is aimed at benefitting the Kweneng District, adding that they have already assessed the area and have determined that they will be covering 62 underserved villages and 119 schools, 91 of which are primary schools.
“This is a project for which the partner Ministries need to re-commit for its success. Lessons from the previous schools’ computerization and internet connectivity project require that we increase our involvement and resources dedicated to the project for it to be successful. It is my belief as the project coordinator, that we will not do things the way we did them during the first project, for if we do, then we will not have learnt anything,” he said at the signing ceremony.
The purpose of learning is so that there can be continuous improvement to minimize the length of time and amount of resources utilized, he said expressing confidence that their partners will step up to the plate and ensure they play their part in the implementation of the project and that it will progress smoothly having already tread along a similar path.
UASF’s role lies mainly in funding and project management. According to Mokgware, once the project is completed, the work to integrate ICTs into the classroom begins in earnest. Therefore, he said, the project will not succeed without full cooperation and oversight of partners.
“MoBE will put in place the necessary content and ensure that the curriculum is available to all. MLGRD will provide, among others, the enabling environment by ensuring readiness of the school’s infrastructure and necessary security.”