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Six technology trends that SMEs should watch out for in 2017


Sage Chief Technology Officer Klaus-Michael Vogelberg talks about the role chatbots, collective intelligence and blockchain will play at start-up and scale up enterprises in 2017

Sage, the market leader in Cloud accounting software, has predicted that chatbots, collective intelligence and blockchain are some of the big technology trends that will change the way entrepreneurs run their businesses in 2017. Sage Chief Technology Officer, Klaus-Michael Vogelberg, said: “As every business – big or small – is transforming more or less intensively into a tech-enabled business, today’s entrepreneurs should be on the lookout for the opportunities these technological developments can bring to their business.”

Vogelberg sees six major trends in 2017 that could make a big difference to the way business builders will work in 2017 and beyond.

Trend #1: Chatbots and autonomous interfaces


Autonomous interfaces such as chatbots or digital agents will become increasingly common on different devices and user interfaces which entrepreneurs use to manage and control their businesses. These interfaces will dramatically change the way that humans and computers work and interact with each other. While, in the past, people used a keyboard or mouse to interact with their PCs, they will gradually start talking with their systems or using gesture control such as hand, head or eye gestures to interact with them.

The user experience will not only become more convenient but also more enjoyable – these systems will work autonomously and have self-learning capabilities. Eventually, software could act without user intervention, or ask a certain question only once and use this information for all further activities.

In June 2016, Sage launched the first accounting chatbot, PeggTM. Pegg acts as a smart assistant that allows users to track expenses and manage finances through messaging apps such as Facebook messenger and Slack. Pegg hides the complexities of accounting and lets entrepreneurs manage finances through conversation, making the process as simple as writing a text. By digitising information at the point of capture, it takes away the hassle of filing receipts and expenses, eliminating the need for paper and data entry.

Trend #2: Artificial & collective intelligence


According to Vogelberg, artificial and collective intelligence is another major trend to look out for, even for smaller companies. With mushrooming data volumes being generated by all sorts of sensors and devices on the one hand (see trend #6), and computer power and special analysis software and intelligent agents becoming increasingly affordable and powerful on the other, companies need to find ways to extract knowledge from today’s wealth of Big Data.

Sage’s Klaus-Michael Vogelberg therefore advises SMEs to “team up”. “If small and medium-sized enterprises join forces and – while considering their corporate data protection policies and personal rights laws – share, for example, computer power and data with other companies in a structured and systematic manner, they could profit from this collaboration by receiving a better and larger data pool and superior data intelligence. Similar to crowdsourcing mechanisms, this enriched data pool would enable companies to better understand how customers behave, what they need, what to offer them and the business areas to invest in.”

Trend #3: Blockchain – or how to create trust in the digital age


According to Sage, business builders should also carefully analyse if, and how, the new blockchain technology could impact their current business models. Particularly all those industries which work as intermediaries between two parties – such as lawyers, notaries, or real-estate or financial brokers – could be affected by this new, innovative approach.

Bookkeepers and accountants might also be affected in the way they do business in the future, as blockchain has the potential to eliminate a significant part of the workload – such as checking and booking transactions, transferring money or paying invoices – handled by these professions today.

Why could this happen? Blockchain organises transactions of digital assets between two parties in a radically new way. Instead of using middlemen or intermediaries such as banks, notaries, state authorities or trading platforms to legitimise the exchange of certain assets – such as digital properties, digital trading goods, digital contracts, or even financial transactions via digital currencies such as Bitcoins – blockchains allow individuals to transfer these assets in a direct, safe, secure, and immutable way between each other.

A decentralised, distributed ledger, essentially an asset database shared across multiple participants, combined with crypto-economic algorithms serve as the technological basis of a blockchain. All participants of a blockchain (so called nodes) have access to the distributed ledger, which contains an inventory of all the relevant digital assets.

All parties within this network have their own identical copy of the ledger. Any changes to it are applied to every copy in a matter of minutes or even seconds. Thus, the system is transparent and creates trust among all nodes without the need for legitimisation by any other third party authority.

Trend #4: Revolutionizing the movement of money
The way people use money and transfer their payments from one account to another has already changed dramatically: at the frontend, in-app payment solutions nowadays enable users to effortlessly make one-click payments and purchase goods via mobile devices or websites. This functionality is already available in many apps today. But at the backend, systems such as accounting software are less user-friendly and less integrated.

For example, companies currently have almost no possibility to make one-click invoice payments or easily manage their financial transactions between partners, suppliers and their bank with a fingertip.

In 2017, more and more new solutions will allow companies to establish an end-to-end payments value chain with their suppliers and customers. These new solutions enable ubiquitous anytime anywhere, immediate and omni-channel payments and will be fully integrated into the financial accounting systems of tomorrow’s enterprises. All parties, such as e-commerce platforms, banks, fin-techs or partners, will profit from open API standards which will be used for creating new services and enable seamless, fully-automated processing of payments and financial transactions.

At Sage Summit in July 2016 Sage announced its partnership with US Bank, a technical example for this paradigm change in payments. The  HYPERLINK "https://smallbiztrends.com/2016/07/sage-partner-us-bank-cash-flow-statement.html" AP Optimizer for  HYPERLINK "http://www.sage.com/us/sage-live" Sage Live that Sage built in partnership with U.S. Bank marks a first truly digital accounting and payment solution that enables start up and scale up businesses to manage their cash flow through dynamic integration with customers. AP Optimizer is integrated in Sage Live and determines for example the best time to pay bills and the best method for payment to optimise cash flow in near real-time, and then carries out the payment.

Trend #5: Platform-based infrastructure


In 2017, more and more SMEs will replace their stand-alone, on-site software systems with integrated, cloud-based software solutions that operate on global Cloud platforms such as Salesforce.com who are offering their users access to a wealth of business apps and integrated services. Moreover, companies will also benefit from mobile-app platforms such as the one operated by the Apple Mobility Partner Program.

“The big benefit of these platforms is that they give even smaller companies access to innovative business software solutions and services which these companies would not have been able to afford five years ago.  To some extent, these types of cloud platforms are democratising the way in which companies gain access to state-of-the-art apps and smart and scalable technologies,” says Klaus-Michael Vogelberg.

“They allow business builders to discover new ways of working and give them the infrastructure needed to receive every kind of data from partners or the Internet of Things, analyze it, and then – in a “citizen developer” style – create something new and productive,” the Sage CTO says.

Trend #6: Internet of Things will create new services and job profiles


Small and medium-sized enterprises should be on the lookout for new possibilities that emerge with the realisation of the Internet of Things. Multiple data streams originating from all sorts of sensors built into e.g. machines, cars, mobile and immobile goods, clothes or even human beings (e.g. for medical monitoring purposes) will result in a true treasure trove of data, thus creating all sorts of new services.


SMEs should think about how to use these data streams to grow their business:  Mechanics will develop new services such as predictive maintenance for all sorts of technical infrastructures. Logistic companies will optimise e.g. the navigation of their truck fleets by using traffic data from many different sources including smart city data from traffic lights, streets or other vehicles. 


Concierge services will develop all sorts of surveillance services with the realisation of new smart home technology. Retail companies and shop owners might connect to smart home devices such as refrigerators or Amazon-style dash buttons to supply customers automatically and predictively with goods and services. Mobile medical care services will innovate their work with the assistance of all sorts of new devices e.g. to improve their support of elderly people living alone at home.

Early last year Sage demonstrated its partnership with TomTom telematics which enables Sage Live customers to keep track of vehicle journeys, and feed data into the accounting process in real time.

In summary, Sage Chief Technology Officer Klaus-Michael Vogelberg said: “In 2017, every business will need to start thinking of itself as a technology business. To stay competitive, they will need to grasp the opportunities that this development brings with it and change almost every aspect of today’s more or less traditional ways of working.

The good news is that this technology means that we believe that very soon, business admin could become completely invisible, as easy as messaging a friend, or even completely automated, as machines learn like humans. This will empower entrepreneurs to stay focused on building their businesses, driving growth in the economy and contributing to their communities – not basic admin.’

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Mining production rebounds to pre-Covid-19 levels

12th January 2022
Mining production

The local mining industry is on the rise again, emerging out of the COVID-19 pandemic induced headwinds. 

In 2020 mining operations had to curtail their production in response to plummeting demand across commodity markets. Companies also had to reduce their workforce to comply with COVID-19 protocols such as social distancing in an effort to curb the spread of the contagious plague.

This resulted in low production levels across the sector, however operations are significantly jumping back to pre-COVID-19 output levels albeit another variant that has now surfaced, posing uncertainty for the year 2022.

Just before close of business for the year 2021, Statistics Botswana released the Index of Mining Production, a quarterly measure of output across Botswana’s mining operations and extractive industries.

The Index of Mining Production stood at 95.5 during the third quarter of 2021, showing a year-on-year growth of 31.8 percent, from 72.5 registered during the third quarter of 2020.

The quarter-on-quarter analysis shows an increase of 11.6 percent from the index of 85.6 during the second quarter of 2021 to 95.5 observed during the period under review.

The main contributor to the increase in mining production came from the Diamonds, which contributed 31.2 percentage points.

Gold was the only negative contributor to mining production, at negative 0.4 of a percentage point.

Diamond production increased by 32.2 percent (1.584 million carats) from 4.916 million carats during the third quarter of 2020 to 6.5 million carats during the same quarter of the current year.

The increase was a result of planned strategy to align production with stronger trading conditions.

Similarly, the quarter-on-quarter analysis shows that production registered an increase of 11.6 percent (673 000 carats) during the third quarter of 2021 compared to the 5.8 million thousand carats during the second quarter of 2021.

Botswana’s flagship diamond producer is De Beers – Government jointly owned Debswana, by far the country’ s mining jewel and global leader in rough diamond production.

The other diamond producing operation is Lucara’s 100 % owned Karowe Mine, a relatively small operation but known around the globe for its spectacular diamond recoveries, the likes of which the world has never seen before.

Gold production decreased by 26.9 percent (65 kilograms) during the third quarter of 2021, from 241kilograms during the same quarter of the previous year to 176 kilograms currently

The quarter-on- quarter analysis reflects a decrease of 5.5 percent (10 kilograms) to 176 kilograms during the third quarter of 2021, compared to 186 kilograms in the preceding quarter.

Botswana’s sole gold producer is Galane Gold’s Mupane Mine in North East Botswana, enclaved around the historic gold fields of Francistown.

The decrease in production according to Statistics Botswana was a result of the deteriorating lifespan of the mine. Mupane Gold Mine is currently on a rough run with imminent workers strike over unsatisfactory payments. The impending protests have been heavily endorsed by Botswana Mine Workers Union.

In Sua Pan, the sodium crystals have risen to glory, making Sowa Town great again, Soda Ash production rose by 81.7 percent (29, 312 tonnes) from 35, 883 tonnes during the third quarter of 2020 to 65, 195 tonnes in the same quarter of the current year.

The quarter-on-quarter analysis shows that production went up by 12.5 percent (7, 233 tonnes) during the period under review, from 57, 962 tonnes during the previous quarter.

The increase in production is attributable to the effectiveness of the plant following refurbishment which occurred in the third quarter of 2020.

Salt production went up by 86.1 percent (78, 566 tonnes) to 169, 826 tonnes during the third quarter of 2021, from 91, 261 tonnes during the same quarter of the previous year.

Similarly, the quarter-on-quarter analysis shows that salt production registered an increase of 66.9 percent (68, 050 tonnes) compared to 101, 776 tonnes during the second quarter of 2021.

Botswana’s industrial scale Salt an Soda  Soda Ash producer is Botswana Ash (Botash), a 50-50 partnership between Botswana Government  and South African Chlor Alkali Holdings (CAH) Group.

Coal production increased by 1.0 percent (5, 434 tonnes), from 543, 793 tonnes during the third quarter of 2020, to 549, 227 tonnes in the current quarter.

The slight increase came as a result of the efforts made to meet both domestic and international high demand, particularly that new markets have been identified.

The quarter-on-quarter comparison shows that coal production went up by 13.1 percent (63, 585 tonnes) compared to 485, 642 tonnes during the second quarter of the current year.

Inthe coal space the only operating mines are the privately developed Minergy’s Masama located near Media Village and the wholly Gorvenment owned Morupule Coal Mine.

Copper-Nickel-Cobalt Matte recorded zero production during the period under review. The affected mines are still under provisional liquidation.

Copper in Concentrates and Silver though there has been exportation of Copper by the newly launched Khoemacau Copper Mine since July 2021, the mine has been engaged in preparatory mining activities in readiness for full operations intended for the year 2022.

The preparatory mining operations yielded rewarding outcomes as copper residues realized have been exported since July 2021.

The period between preparatory and full operations is intended to allow the production to stabilize before reporting production output figures.

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Exports plummeted in October 2021

12th January 2022
diamonds

Botswana exports took a knock in October 2021 registering only P4,960.7 million, a 22.1 percent decline from the revised September 2021 value of P6,365.1 million, latest International Merchandise Trade Statistics  have revealed. 

According to this monthly data, released by Statistics Botswana late December 2021 the decline is attributed largely to the reduction in the exportation of Diamonds by 22.6 percent (P1, 264.8 million) from the revised September 2021 value of P5, 608.4 million to P4, 343.6 million.

Though it registered a decline in export figures , the Diamonds group still remained Botswana ‘s biggest exported commodity accounted for 87.6 percent (P4, 343.6 million) of total exports, followed by Copper and Machinery & Electrical Equipment with 3.1 percent (P152.2 million) and 2.6 percent (P131.3 million) respectively.

During the month Asia was the main destination for Botswana exports, having received 65.5 percent (P3, 249.0 million) of total exports. These exports were mainly destined to the UAE and India, having received 28.1 percent (P1, 395.1 million) and 20.4 percent (P1, 011.8 million) of total exports, respectively. Only Diamonds and Copper were exported to the regional block during the October.

Exports destined to the EU amounted to P1, 066.6 million, accounting for 21.5 percent of total exports during the month under review. Belgium received almost all of the exports destined to the regional union, acquiring 21.4 percent (P1, 062.0 million) of total exports during the reporting period. The Diamonds group was the main commodity group exported to the EU.

The SACU region received exports valued at P423.6 million, representing 8.5 percent of total exports. Machinery & Electrical Equipment and Live Cattle accounted for 28.0 percent (P118.6 million) and 14.1 percent (P59.7 million) of total exports to the customs union.

South Africa received 7.8 percent (P386.7 million) of total exports during the month under review more goods entered Botswana in October than the previous month September.

On the other side the value of imports for the month of October clocked P8, 801.5 million, mirroring an increase of 30.5 percent (P2, 056.1 million) over the September 2021 revised figure of P6, 745.4 million.

The increase was mainly attributed to a more than 100 percent (P1, 755.9 million) rise in the importation of Diamonds from the revised September 2021 figure of P1, 616.2 million to P3, 372.0 during the current period.

Diamonds contributed 38.3 percent (P3, 372.0 million) to total imports. Fuel; Food, Beverages & Tobacco and Machinery & Electrical Equipment followed with contributions of 12.3 percent (P1, 086.6 million), 11.7 percent (P1,034.1 million and 10.0 percent (P882.7 million) respectively. Chemicals & Rubber Products contributed 9.7 percent (P856.1 million).

During the month SACU region contributed 61.4 percent (P5, 405.3 million) to Botswana ‘s total imports. The top most imported commodity groups from the customs union were Fuel; Food, Beverages & Tobacco and Diamonds, with contributions of 19.9 percent (P1, 075.1 million), 17.9 percent (P965.0 million) and 16.3 percent (P882.5 million) to imports from the region, respectively.

South Africa contributed 58.8 percent (P5, 176.0 million) to total imports during the reporting period. Fuel, Food, Beverages & Tobacco and Diamonds made contributions of 18.4 percent (P952.3 million), 18.3 percent (P949.4 million), and 16.0 percent (P826.7 million) respectively to imports from South Africa.

Botswana received imports worth P1, 794.2 million from the EU, accounting for 20.4 percent of total imports during October 2021.

The major commodity group imported from the EU was Diamonds, at 89.8 percent (P1, 611.0 million) of all imports from the union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, with a contribution of 18.7 percent (P1, 643.1 million) of total imports during the month of October.

During the month Imports from Asia were valued at P989.5 million, accounting for 11.2 percent of total imports.

The major commodity groups imported from the regional block were Diamonds and Machinery & Electrical Equipment with contributions of 51.9 percent (P513.8 million) and 13.4 percent (P132.6 million) of total imports from Asia.

China and UAE supplied 2.5 percent (P221.3 million) and 2.3 percent (P202.0 million) of total imports during the period, respectively.

Canada supplied imports worth P364.0 million, representing 4.1 percent of Botswana’s total imports during the current period. Imports from Canada were mainly Diamonds, at 99.6 (P362.3 million) of imports from that country.

The rise in imports and decline in exports resulted in a trade deficit of P3, 840.8 million for the month of October.

During the month exports transported by Air were worth P4, 380.1 million, accounting for 88.3 percent of total exports, while those leaving the country by Road were valued at P567.5 million (11.4 percent) while  imports representing 51.7 percent (P4, 554.0 million) were transported into the country by Road.

Transportation of imports by Rail and Air accounted for 24.4 percent (P2, 148.0 million) and 23.8 percent (P2, 098.4 million) respectively.

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Debswana receives African award from Absa for its CEE policy

12th January 2022
Absa

Debswana Diamond Company, Botswana’s flagship mining business recently received an award from Absa Bank Group in recognition of its commitment to economic empowerment across the supply chain.

The 4th Annual Absa Business Day Supplier Development Awards were held in Johannesburg, South Africa on the 18th November 2021.

The awards celebrate companies that are working towards a better African continent through innovative and impactful supplier development initiatives.

The selection process acknowledges and recognizes corporates who go beyond the scorecard to open access, empower SMEs, foster learning, build a community of best practice and encourage a collaborative spirit within their industries and within the communities in which they operate.

Explaining how Debswana scooped the award Absa Bank Botswana Managing Director Keabetswe Pheko-Moshagane said: “At Absa Bank Botswana, we were excited that for the first time since inception, the 2021 awards were extended to include nominations from Sub-Saharan Africa.”

She explained that the judges special recognition awards for Sub Saharan Africa corporates (excluding South Africa) were made under four categories being: commitment to Economic Empowerment across the Supply Chain, commitment to women inclusion in the supply chain, Commitment to localization of the supply chain and lastly commitment to a pioneering supplier development.

“We immediately thought of the transformative and inspiring work that Debswana is doing locally and what the company continues to achieve through its Citizen Economic Empowerment Program,” she said.

Pheko-Moshagane explained that in recognition of this commitment and outstanding leadership Absa nominated Debswana Diamond Company into the competition under the category: “commitment to economic empowerment across the supply chain”, for which the company was selected as the winner.

The Absa Bank Botswana MD hailed Debswana Citizen Economic Empowerment Program as a true example of how the private sector can contribute to rebuilding the economy through and post the Covid -19 pandemic.

“Your commitment to citizen economic empowerment resonates with us at Absa bank, because we are also committed to and passionate about growing Small and Medium businesses as they represent a vital part of our economy,” she said.

In 2017 Absa, launched the Enterprise and Supply Chain Development (ESD) in the local market as a response to address some challenges faced by the SMEs. The main objective of ESD is to unlock lending to SMEs in corporate value chains.

The introduction of the ESD program has streamlined some of the stringent financing requirements like the provision of financial statements, security, historical performance and weak credit ratings.

The relaxation of the financing requirements has therefore enabled the SMEs to execute on the provision of goods or services for the clients and positively impacted their growth.

ESD uses non-traditional bank lending solutions to provide financing to SME’s. Through this program Absa offers 100% finance to Enterprises in corporate supply chains.

Moshagane said this approach has allowed Absa to unlock the opportunities within the large corporate as they are now assured that their suppliers and contractors will be able to deliver and in addition releasing the corporate cash flows.

“We continue to explore various partnership agreements with various corporates to see how best we can assist the SMEs in response to government’s call for Citizen Economic Empowerment by propelling the support of the SMMEs” she said.

Speaking to Absa & Debswana partnership Mrs Keabetswe Pheko-Moshagane said  the relationship thus far has seen Debswana extend contracts to the value of BWP1.2 billion to SMEs on a  joint program, and Absa has financed close to half a billion to these SMEs, some of which would not have ordinarily qualified for funding under normal banking circumstances.

“To date no SME on the program has had its banking or contract facility terminated, which speaks to the commitment on both our ends in ensuring the success of these SMEs”

Receiving the award, Debswana Acting Managing Director, Lynette Armstrong explained that Debswana started its Citizen Economic Empowerment journey with ABSA Bank in 2017, borne out of the realisation of access to finance challenges by citizen owned enterprises.

This partnership, initiated with a deliverable to implement a pilot project at Orapa Letlhakane Damtshaa Mines within the crushing and drilling spaces.

The two projects delivered the desired results in project KPI’s with impeccable safety records with Absa providing the required access to finance that enabled the citizen suppliers to acquire machinery for the projects.

In 2019, Debswana set up the Citizen Economic Empowerment Programme office a factor that accelerated the signing of a MoU in 2020 on access to finance between Debswana and ABSA and in that, ABSA has pledged to avail access to finance totalling an unprecedented BWP1billion over a period of 3 years.

To date, ABSA has financed 23 projects since 2020 at a total impact of BWP1.5 billion pula in Contract amount with more than BWP700 million advanced to citizen suppliers.

These funds enabled citizen suppliers to pay salaries on time, procure machinery in various areas such as drilling and crushing and participate in the recent LTE installation at Jwaneng Mine.

Armstrong said in the coming year 2022, CEEP will see Debswana focused on implementing plans aimed at supporting local manufacturing and local repairs and maintenance.

“This is where access to funding is key as the two areas of local manufacturing and local repairs and maintenance have a potential to create meaningful and sustainable employment in the medium to long term to achieve Debswana’s target of 20 000 jobs by 2024”

She noted that Debswana has committed to heightened efforts of connecting the Youth and Women in the Debswana Citizen Economic Empowerment conversation, capacitation series and participation in the economic opportunities to further, totally involve all possible demographics and diversify the creativity of building sustainable communities and Make Life Brilliant for all, a total commitment of our Debswana Strategy 2024.

The Debswana Acting MD said the recognition of Debswana for its commitment to economic empowerment across the supply chain by is an encouragement to the Debswana – ABSA partnership and “gives us hope to further intensify our efforts to create opportunities for our fellow citizens and support Government’s efforts towards achieving prosperity for all in terms of Vision 2036”

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