What pundits said at FNBB budget session
First National Bank Botswana (FNNB) on Tuesday held its annual budget review a day after the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development unveiled the 2017/2018 budget. The FNBB’s event, in its 24th year of existence, seeks to stimulate discussion and reflect upon some of the key points that were raised during the National Budget Speech.
Mr. Steven Bogatsu, FNBB’s CEO, said there has been a global trend of sustained economic instability, which came to a head in 2016, citing Brexit and the past American Elections as having played a significant part in the markets. “On home front, the ripple effects of some of the occurrences of last year, such as the liquidation of BCL and others, will manifest during the course of this year. Against a backdrop of worldwide and local uncertainty, we have cause to remain cautiously optimistic,” he said.
Mr. Bogatsu says it’s possible to move away from the economic rut by drawing on lessons and strategies learned over time from past gatherings and conferences. He however noted that the key to the success of these strategies will be the grit and dedication with which they are implemented, monitored and adapted.
“Much of this has to do with stepping down out of the ivory tower and having an intimate understanding of what the needs of Batswana are, on the ground. As Government devises policies and drafts legislation with the prosperity of the country at heart, this shift will be instrumental in catalyzing and stimulating our economy.”
He ended his opening remarks by adding that small, medium and macro enterprise (SMMEs) will require efforts both from the private and public sector in ensuring their survival through provision of skills and knowledge as well as a conducive environment to operate in.
Mr John Cairns, one of the four panellists at the budget review, said Botswana’s economy remains at risk on the backdrop of global markets. He said the global markets have not sufficiently recovered post the 2008 financial crises, noting that while there has been recovery, the growth pace has been slow and still below the growth trend experienced prior to 2008.
Mr. Cairns, Currency Strategist at Rand Merchant Bank, also explained how Botswana’s dependence on diamonds and close economic ties with South Africa could impact its economy this year. He said South Africa remains under the radar of ratings agencies that are closely monitoring the country’s economic and political manoeuvrings which might impact negatively on the country.
On the issue of diamonds, he says while there was notable recovery in diamond prices and output in 2016, a lesson to be learned is that resources based economies remains at high risk as evidenced by the commodity slump that was felt heavily in 2015 as global demand for commodities waned.
Reformation or regression? That was the rhetoric question asked by Mr. Moatlhodi Sebabole, FNBB’s Research Manager, as part of his contribution to the panel. Mr. Moatlhodi started off, by showing how Africa’s perspective has changed over the years in the eyes of investors. From the break of the millennium, the resources rich Africa was viewed with scepticism, then the financial crisis happened and investors looked somewhere else where the contagion did little damage.
So post 2008, investors were upbeat about Africa, and money was flowing in. Then came the commodity slump in 2015, revenues declined for most African states, and the negative effects tickled down to the households and businesses. At the moment, Mr. Moatlhodi says the sobering reality is Africa remains as vulnerable to the global markets like the rest of the world.
In the case of Botswana, he says the economy remains heavily reliant on mining revenues even though there has been notable growth in other sectors of the economy. He implored the private sector to play a meaningful role in the economy as part of efforts to move away from diamonds.
In order to achieve sustained future growth, it was suggested that Botswana get on with the times and tap on the ongoing fourth industrial revolution. This was suggested by Ms. Bogolo Kenewendo, an especially elected member of parliament and also a trained economist who has been vocal about the country’s slowness in adapting in the rapidly changing global landscape. Ms. Bogolo said the 4th industrial revolution has changed the way we work and live, noting that technology is driving the next economic wave. She explained how early adopters of technology have reaped benefits by investing in the information, communication and technology sector.
Ms. Kenewendo said there is more to technological advances than the internet and broadband. She says countries and companies are now leveraging on the underlying technologies to create value and monetise things in a way never thought possible, giving examples of how traditional models have been usurped by efficient and convenient digital models. She also noted that the buzz word now is internet of things, where the machines can be automated to act as our assistants, powered by artificial intelligence, a new technology that’s being greatly pursued.
Furthermore, Ms. Kenewendo said Botswana can start playing on that field by modernising the government through enhancement of transparency, accountability and good governance. She says government must be more result-oriented, efficient and customer centric, also adding that the country needs secure ICT infrastructure, regulatory friendly laws that will enable innovation. Ms. Kenewendo said it was imperative that the government focuses on equipping its citizens with ICT skills that will see them actively participating in the new economy that will be driven by technology.
You may like
Grit divests from Letlole La Rona
Grit Services Limited, a member of the pan African real estate group, London Stock Exchange listed Grit Real Estate Income Group is divesting from Letlole La Rona Limited (LLR), a local real estate company established by government investment arm Botswana Development Corporation over a decade ago.
The Board of Directors of Letlole La Rona Limited this week announced in a statement to Unitholders that Grit Services Limited (‘Grit’) has informed them of its intention to exit its investment in the company.
Grit has been a material shareholder in LLR since 2019. On 07 March 2023, Grit sold 6 421 000 linked units, representing 2.29% of the Company’s total securities in issue, at a market value of BWP 22 537 710.
This trade follows previous sales of 6.79% in December 2022, as communicated to Unitholders on 10 January 2023, as well as a further sale of 4.78% (representing 13 347 068 linked units) on 24 February 2023 to various shareholders.
In aggregate, Grit has sold 13.9% shareholding in the Letlole La Rona between December 2022 and March 2023, resulting in current shareholding of 11.25% in the Company.
Letlole La Rona said in the statement that the exit process will take place in an orderly manner so as to maintain stability of the Company’s share price.
The statement explained that Grit’s sale of its entire shareholding in LLR is in line with its decision to exit investments where it does not have majority control, or where it has significant exposure to currencies other than US dollar, Euro or hard-currency-pegged revenue streams.
“Grit has announced similar decisions pertaining to certain of its hospitality assets in Mauritius recently. The Company would like to advise Unitholders that it remains focused on long-term value delivery to all stakeholders” LLR said
In July last year as part of their Go-to-Africa strategy Letlole La Rona acquired an initial 30% equity stake in Orbit Africa Logistics, with an option to increase this investment to 50%. OAL is a special purpose vehicle incorporated in Mauritius, owning an industrial asset in a prime industrial node in Nairobi, Kenya.
The co-investment was done alongside a wholly owned subsidiary of London listed Grit. The Orbit facility is situated on a prime industrial site on Mombasa Road, the principal route south of Nairobi center, serving the main industrial node, the port of Mombasa and the industrial town of Athi River and is strategically located 11 kilometers south of the international airport and 9.6 kilometers from the Inland Container Depot.
Grit shareholding in Letlole La Rona was seen as strategic for LLR, for the company to leverage on Grit’s already existing continental presence and expand its wings beyond Botswana borders as already delivered by Kenya transaction.
Media reports have however suggested that LLR and Grit have since late last year had fundamental disagreements on how to go about the Go-to-Africa strategy amongst other things, fuelled by alleged Botswana government interference on the affairs of LLR.
Government through LLR founding shareholder – Botswana Development Corporation has a controlling stake of around 40 percent in the company. Government is the sole shareholder of Botswana Development Corporation.
Letlole La Rona recently released their financial results for the six months ended December 2022, revenue increased by 4% to P50.2 million from P48.4 million in the prior comparative six months, whilst operating profit was up 8% to P36.5 million. Profit before tax of P49.7 million was reported, an increase of 8% on the prior comparative six months.
“We are encouraged by the strong results, notwithstanding a challenging economic environment. Our performance was mainly underpinned by annual lease escalations, our quality tenant base and below average market vacancy levels, especially in our warehouse portfolio,” Kamogelo Mowaneng, Letlole La Rona Chief Executive Officer commented.
LLR reported a weighted average lease expiry period of 3.3 years and escalation rates averaging 6.8% per annum for the period ended 31 December 2022.Its investment portfolio value increased by 14% year-on-year to close the period at P1.4 billion, mainly driven by the acquisition of a 30% stake in OAL in July 2022.
The Company also recorded a significant increase in other income, predominantly due to foreign exchange gains on the OAL shareholder loan. “We continue to explore pipeline opportunities locally, and regionally in line with our Go-to-Africa strategy and our interest remains on value-accretive investments,” Mowaneng said.
An interim distribution of 9.11 thebe per linked unit was declared on the 6th of February 2023 for the half-year period to 31 December 2022, comprising of a dividend of 0.05 thebe and debenture interest of 9.06 thebe per linked unit which will be paid to linked unit holders registered in the books of the Company at the close of business on 24 February 2023.
Stargems Group establishes Training Center in BW
Internationally-acclaimed diamond manufacturing company StarGems Group has established the Stargems Diamond Training Center which will be providing specialized training in diamond manufacturing and evaluation.
The Stargems Diamond Training Institute is located at the Stargems Group Botswana Unit in Gaborone.
“In accordance with the National Human Resource Development Strategy (NHRDS) which holds the principle that through education and skills development as well as the strategic alignment between national ambitions and individual capabilities, Botswana will become a prosperous, productive and innovative nation due to the quality and efficacy of its citizenry. The Training Centre will provide a range of modules in theory and in practice; from rough diamond evaluation to diamond grading and polishing for Batswana, at no cost for eight weeks. The internationally- recognized certificate offered in partnership with Harry Oppenheimer Diamond Training School presents invaluable opportunities for Batswana to access in the diamond industry locally and internationally. The initiative is an extension of our Corporate Social Investment to the community in which we operate,” said Vishal Shah, Stargems Group Managing Director, during the launch of the Stargems Diamond Training Center.
In order to participate in this rare opportunity, interested candidates are invited to submit a police clearance certificate and a BGCSE certificate only to the Stargems offices. Students who excel in these programs will have the chance to be onboarded by the Stargems Group. This serves as motivation for them to go through this training with a high level of seriousness.
“Community empowerment is one of our CSR principles. We believe that businesses can only thrive when their communities are well taken of. We are hoping that our presence will be impactful to various communities and economies. In the six countries that we are operating in, we have contributed through dedicating 10% of our revenues during COVID-19 to facilitate education, donating to hospitals and also to NGOs committed to supporting women and children living with HIV. One key issue that we are targeting in Botswana is the rate of unemployment amongst the youth. We are looking forward to working closely with the government and other relevant authorities to curb unemployment,” said Shah.
Currently, Stargems Group has employed 117 Batswana and they are looking forward to growing the numbers to 500 as the company grows. Majority of the employees will be graduates from the Stargems Diamond Training Center. This initiation has been received with open arms by the general public and stakeholders. During the launch, the Minister of Minerals and Energy, Honorable Lefoko Moagi, stated that the ministry fully endorses Stargems Diamond Training and will work closely with the Group to support and grow the initiative.
“As a ministry, we see this as an game changer that is aligned with one of the United Nations’ Six Priority Sustainable Development Goals, which is to Advance Opportunity and Impact for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). What Stargems Group is launching today will have a huge impact on the creation of employment in Botswana. An economy’s productivity rises as the number of educated workers increases as its skilled workmanship increases. It is not a secret that low skills perpetuate poverty and widen the inequality gap, therefore the development of skills has the potential to contribute significantly to structural transformation and economic growth by enhancing employability and helping the country become more competitive. We are grateful to see the emergence of industry players such as Stargems Group who have strived to create such opportunities that mitigate the negative effects of COVID-19 on the economy,” said the Minister of Minerals and Energy.
Food import bill slightly declines
The latest figures released by Statistics Botswana this week shows that food import bill for Botswana slightly declined from around P1.1 billion in November 2022 to around P981 million in December during the same year.
This content is locked
Login To Unlock The Content!