The inaugural Ashish J Thakkar Global Entrepreneurship Index has ranked Botswana highly, placing it in the top three countries in Africa. The Index assessed 85 countries in the world and it is the first in an annual series where it will monitor the movement of these countries.
The Ashish J. Thakkar Global Entrepreneurship Index is based on 5 broad pillars that span education, entrepreneurial environment, infrastructure, finance and policy. Each pillar contains between three and seven indices. These indices were sourced from a variety of sources such as United Nations and World Trade Organisation statistics. The 5 pillars aim to give a balance of physical barriers to entrepreneurship such as poor infrastructure, government policies preventing entrepreneurship and also assessing the entrepreneurial environment.
The objective of the Index is to highlight which countries are performing well and which countries could improve. “We will measure performance over time, looking out for innovative solutions that are setting new benchmarks and hold the potential to be adopted elsewhere. Through the findings of the Index, we provide clear policy recommendations to the public and private sectors that we hope will, in turn, further the success of a great number of promising entrepreneurs around the world,” said Mr. Ashish J Thakkar, Founder of Mara Group and Mara Foundation, in the report’s foreword.
Mr. Thakkar praised Singapore, the top-scoring country in the Index, for its robust pro-entrepreneurial policies, high level of education and strong entrepreneurial culture. He says Singapore has done particularly well in developing itself as a regional hub for venture capital investment, stating that one reason it scores so highly is due to schemes such as the government backed Early Stage Venture Investment Fund which, each year, awards five venture capitalists with matching government funding that enables them to invest widely and confidently.
Botswana is placed in the 42nd position in the overall world rankings, and third position in Africa, falling behind Namibia and Rwanda respectively. The assessed five pillars are assigned 100 points each. The country managed a cumulative score of 232 points out of the total 500 points, scoring 58 for policy, 32 for infrastructure, and 48 for both education, entrepreneurial and finance. Botswana managed to outperform Namibia in terms of policy but fell shortly in the other pillars. Rwanda outdid Botswana when it came to policy, entrepreneurship and Finance. Botswana also got a special mention in the report for its exploits.
“Certain African countries performed extremely highly on mobile phone penetration highlighting how their digital infrastructure is changing. Botswana, for example, scored higher than the UK, the USA, and Singapore,” the report said. According to the report the top countries for entrepreneurship in Africa are Namibia, Rwanda, Botswana, South Africa and Zambia. Of the top three African countries in the index, Namibia and Botswana are stronger on the education pillar because of comparatively higher levels of literacy and quality in education.
Both countries have made education central to their development. According to the World Bank, Namibia set aside 26% of its national budget for education in 2010and Botswana 20% in 2009. Rwanda scores highly on the policy and finance pillars driven by the government initiatives to ease of doing business. Credit is easily available and business transparency is high. However Zambia scored the highest in the finance pillar primarily because of the availability of credit and low tax rate. This places Zambia in the top 10 of all countries globally on the Finance Pillar, just behind the USA.
In the report’s special section focusing on Africa, it was highlighted that Africa is not meeting its entrepreneurial potential due significant challenges in terms of political stability, underdeveloped infrastructure, poor education and under-diversified economies. Within this context, Africa as a continent comes much lower down the Ashish J. Thakkar Global Entrepreneurship Index.
“While African countries tend to have lower scores across all five pillars on the index, infrastructure and education are the pillars in which Africa is particularly weak. Comparatively lower scores for infrastructure are primarily driven by a lack of electrical access and the technology that comes with reliable access to energy, such as telecommunications and internet access,” the report stated.
The report states that African countries show huge potential not only for entrepreneurship in general, but especially among women. The majority of women in sub-Saharan African countries are employed, far higher than the OECD average. However, women are often employed in informal and low-skilled labour, rather than in managerial or ownership positions. The OECD estimates that approximately 70% of agricultural labour are women and that women produce about 90% of all food.
Women are also less likely to be educated and literate. Further complicating matters is the increasing number of unemployed youth. “Unlike much of the world, Africa’s youth population is growing. There are already around 200 million people aged 15 to 24. This brings significant challenges to developing economies and many countries have high proportions of unemployed young people (aged 15-24). In South Africa and Egypt, two of Africa’s largest economies, around half of young people are unemployed.”
In conclusion, the report noted that one of the main barriers to Africa’s economies and entrepreneurs is the lack of infrastructure, especially access to electricity. There is simply not enough power for the needs of its population and its businesses. Where supply exists, it is often sporadic and unreliable. “One solution lies with Africa’s most abundant natural resource – the sun.
The theoretical reserves of Africa’s solar energy are estimated at 60,000,000 TWh/year, 40% of the global total. Multiple agencies, such as the United Nations (UN) are already focussed on improving energy access, especially from solar power, driven by a green agenda, the reduced technological cost and the investment opportunity,” the report advised before adding that investment in solar could lead to a cycle of ever greater returns for investors, entrepreneurs and communities. It will create a need for companies to service the solar infrastructure while opening up opportunities for other business and services to benefit from the power generated.
Mara Foundation was established in 2009 as the social enterprise of Mara Group – a young and dynamic pan-African investment group with operations in banking, real estate, infrastructure, and technology. Mara Group was founded by Ashish J Thakkar who began his entrepreneurial journey at the age of 15 and, together with his family, has built up Mara Group into a company with investments and operations spanning 25 African countries and 3 continents. Mara Group has presence in Botswana through one of its subsidiary, ABC Holdings which operates the BancABC banking operations.
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Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo has cautioned Government against excessive borrowing and poorly managed debt levels.
He was speaking in Parliament on Tuesday delivering Parliament’s Finance Committee report after assessing a motion that sought to raise Government Bond program ceiling to P30 billion, a big jump from the initial P15 Billion.
Government Investment Account (GIA) which forms part of the Pula fund has been significantly drawn down to finance Botswana’s budget deficits since 2008/09 Global financial crises.
The 2009 global economic recession triggered the collapse of financial markets in the United States, sending waves of shock across world economies, eroding business sentiment, and causing financiers of trade to excise heightened caution and hold onto their cash.
The ripple effects of this economic catastrophe were mostly felt by low to middle income resource based economies, amplifying their vulnerability to external shocks. The diamond industry which forms the gist of Botswana’s economic make up collapsed to zero trade levels across the entire value chain.
The Upstream, where Botswana gathers much of its diamond revenue was adversely impacted by muted demand in the Midstream. The situation was exacerbated by zero appetite of polished goods by jewelry manufacturers and retail outlets due to lowered tail end consumer demand.
This resulted in sharp decline of Government revenue, ballooned budget deficits and suspension of some developmental projects. To finance the deficit and some prioritized national development projects, government had to dip into cash balances, foreign reserves and borrow both externally and locally.
Much of drawing was from Government Investment Account as opposed to drawing from foreign reserve component of the Pula Fund; the latter was spared as a fiscal buffer for the worst rainy days.
Consequently this resulted in significant decline in funds held in the Government Investment Account (GIA). The account serves as Government’s main savings depository and fund for national policy objectives.
However as the world emerged from the 2009 recession government revenue graph picked up to pre recession levels before going down again around 2016/17 owing to challenges in the diamond industry.
Due to a number of budget surpluses from 2012/13 financial year the Government Investment Account started expanding back to P30 billion levels before a series of budget deficits in the National Development Plan 11 pushed it back to decline a decline wave.
When the National Development Plan 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at budget deficits.
This as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.
Cumulatively since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances. Drawing down from government cash balances meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account.
The Government Investment Account (GIA) was established in accordance with Section 35 of the Bank of Botswana Act Cap. 55:01. The Account represents Government’s share of the Botswana‘s foreign exchange reserves, its investment and management strategies are aligned to the Bank of Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves management and investment guidelines.
Government Investment Account, comprises of Pula denominated deposits at the Bank of Botswana and held in the Pula Fund, which is the long-term investment tranche of the foreign exchange reserves.
In June 2017 while answering a question from Bogolo Kenewendo, the then Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Mathambo told parliament that as of June 30, 2017, the total assets in the Pula Fund was P56.818 billion, of which the balance in the GIA was P30.832 billion.
Kenewendo was still a back bench specially elected Member of Parliament before ascending to cabinet post in 2018. Last week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, when presenting a motion to raise government local borrowing ceiling from P15 billion to P30 Billion told parliament that as of December 2019 Government Investment Account amounted to P18.3 billion.
Dr Matsheka further told parliament that prior to financial crisis of 2008/9 the account amounted to P30.5 billion (41 % of GDP) in December of 2008 while as at December 2019 it stood at P18.3 billion (only 9 % of GDP) mirroring a total decline by P11 billion in the entire 11 years.
Back in 2017 Parliament was also told that the Government Investment Account may be drawn-down or added to, in line with actuations in the Government’s expenditure and revenue outturns. “This is intended to provide the Government with appropriate funds to execute its functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently” said Mathambo, then Minister of Finance.
Acknowledging the need to draw down from GIA no more, current Minister of Finance Dr Matsheka said “It is under this background that it would be advisable to avoid excessive draw down from this account to preserve it as a financial buffer”
He further cautioned “The danger with substantially reduced financial buffers is that when an economic shock occurs or a disaster descends upon us and adversely affects our economy it becomes very difficult for the country to manage such a shock”