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Foreign investors are rejecting Botswana – BITC

Botswana Investments and Trade Centre’s (BITC) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Letsebe Sejoe has revealed that foreign investors are still finding it hard to pick Botswana as an ultimate place to do business because of the complications associated with running businesses in the country.


The CEO of BITC, a state-owned institution mandated with promoting foreign direct investments and export promotion of locally manufactured goods told Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Enterprises that Botswana is entirely opposite to what it has the world perceiving it as.


Sejoe listed Permits and VISAs as the biggest challenge facing investors as he noted that delays in issuing the two frustrates inventors who end up going to other countries such as Rwanda, which has built a more conducive environment for investors. The issue of permits and VISAs is reportedly handled by the Directorate on Intelligence Security Services (DISS), which has unlimited discretion on who is accepted or rejected. The parliament committee also heard that there is no turnaround time agreed on, and that the premises and VISAs can be rejected without explanation.


Sejoe said part of solving a current problem is to create a legal framework or policy which will guide certain procedures needed to facilitate business for companies lured by BITC to do business in Botswana. He said while they have relationships with different stakeholders over facilitating the ease of doing business for foreign investors in Botswana, such partnerships are not binding and sometimes some institutions just ignore a request because they are not compelled by the law to do so.


“For instance, in countries like Mauritius they have what they call silent means approval. If a permit is supposed to be processed within 24 hours and there is no response after that time, the applicant has the right to go ahead because lack of response shows no objection,” he said.


Sejoe said Botswana should do the same, and design laws which promote business and protects investors if it is to continue being attractive to foreign investors. “Government does not appreciate the enormous impact the foreign direct investment can make in the country’s economy. We have this attitude of treating everyone the same,” he said. “There is also lack of appreciation of frustration experienced by these investors,” Sejoe added.


Sejoe said not only are new investors facing problems of permits, but that foreign owned companies, some which have employed hundreds of citizens are facing the same problem when they want to renew their permits. “Botswana is not an open economy like we say we are to the world. There are people who have been doing business in Botswana for over 30 years and government rejected their application for citizenship over the period and all of a sudden they were told to go,” he said.


“Investors are cagey on this. Some who are already doing business in Botswana are sceptical about expanding their business because their future in Botswana is uncertain. Investors need certainty and some level of predictability,” he further advised. Sejoe narrated that some companies with operational businesses in Botswana but with their directors residing outside Botswana have had their directors’ VISAs rejected when they wanted to attend a business meeting in Botswana; he said this recount proved that Botswana is a difficult environment to do business in.


The committee has also been informed that the tourism industry has also been hit hard as rejection of VISAs for tourists who want to visit the country has also been noticed. According to Ministry of Environment, Natural Resource Conservation and Tourism, the number of tourists visiting Botswana has been declining in recent years. Tourism is the country’s second biggest contributor to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) after the mining sector.


In 2015, another Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was told for the financial year ending March 2015, Botswana lost P4 billion worth of investment, as investors who could not secure businesses in Botswana shifted their focus elsewhere. With Botswana faced by lack of land, Sejoe said this sad fact has also been an impediment in attracting companies to do business in Botswana.


“Sometimes we bring companies, but there is no land readily available because of lack of utilities such as water and electricity, so it a big challenge,” he told the committee. Botswana’s economy is facing growth crisis, with the economy growing at a snail’s pace and failing to add new jobs.  From the 1980s to late 1990s, Botswana’s economy was among the fastest growing economy in the world following the discovery of diamonds in Jwaneng.


Former President Festus Mogae has also registered his disgruntlement with Botswana’s unwelcoming attitude, and he stated it is counterproductive and not in the interest of the country’s economy. Mogae has said foreigners no longer ‘feel at home,’ and that he is bored by Botswana which is closed up and depots foreign nationals every hour without giving reasons.


The BITC CEO has however stated engagements with various stakeholders are ongoing to ease the process for investors.

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Free at last: Ian Kirby Speaks Out

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The outgoing President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ian Kirby, shares his thoughts with us as he leaves the Bench at the end of this year.

WeekendPost: Why did you move between the Attorney General and the Bench?

Ian Kirby: I was a member of the Attorney General’s Chambers three times- first in 1969 as Assistant State Counsel, then in 1990 as Deputy Attorney General (Civil), and finally in 2004 as Attorney General. I was invited in 2000 by the late Chief Justice Julian Nganunu to join the Bench. I was persuaded by former President Festus Mogae to be his Attorney General in 2004 as, he said, it was my duty to do so to serve the nation. I returned to the Judiciary as soon as I could – in May 2006, when there was a vacancy on the High Court Bench.

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Civil society could rescue Botswana’s flawed democracy’ 

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Botswana’s civil society is one of the non-state actors that could save the country’s democracy from sliding into regression, a Germany based think tank has revealed.  This is according to a discussion paper by researchers at the German Development Institute who analysed the effects of e-government usage on political attitudes In Botswana.

In the paper titled “E-government and democracy in Botswana: Observational and experimental evidence on the effects of e-government usage on political attitudes,” the researchers offer a strongly worded commentary on Botswana’s ‘flawed democracy.’  The authors noted that with Botswana’s Parliament structurally – and in practice – feeble, the potential for checks and balances on executive power rests with the judiciary.

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Bangwato at loggerheads over Moshupa trip

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Bangwato in Serowe — where Bamagwato Paramount Chief and former President Lt. Gen Ian Khama originates – disagree on whether they must send a delegation to dialogue with President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s family in Moshupa. Just last week, a meeting was called by the Regent of Bamagwato, Kgosi Sediegeng Kgamane, at Serowe Kgotla to, among others, update the tribe on the whereabouts of their Kgosi (Khama). 

Further, his state of health was also discussed, with Kgamane telling the attendees that all is well with Khama. The main reason for the meeting was to deliberate on the escalating tension between Khama and Masisi — a three-year bloodletting going unabated.

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