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Women enterprises urged to scout market beyond borders

Officials from the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) have encouraged Francistown business women to craft their marketing strategies aligned to a greater Botswana market base.

Speaking at a business coaching and capacity building workshop organized by African Women Entrepreneurship Program last week in Francistown, AGOA Business Consultant, George Makore urged participants to always reflect on their work time and again as a way of weighing what they may be doing wrong or significantly right.

He told attendants that processing, packaging and branding of produced goods and services are an integral aspect of business marketing and generally running successful enterprises. “Our studies inform us that packaging and appealing branding is still a challenge for a number of upcoming businesses in Botswana. For those that are into food production or food commodity trading, processing, packaging and branding has to be that of high standards,’’ he said.

Makore added that as AGOA, they are readily available for regular capacity building, facilitating networking platforms as well as continued business coaching for Batswana business women. “We are very lucky as Botswana to be amongst the beneficiaries and eligible states of these initiatives.’’

For her part Francistown Deputy District Commissioner, Tebogo Hlabano, told women entrepreneurs that businesses cannot be confined to small parameters of operations only. He urged the attendants that products they produce should be of international standards.
“Do not limit your business to Francistown or Botswana alone, put up funding request proposals that will go beyond our borders and compete in those markets as effectively as locally,” she said.

A representative from the organizers, African Women Entrepreneurship Program, Ms Giyenda Chinyepi told weekendpost that the workshop was a platform to exchange views and mainly to equip women with marketing skills and world class business standards. Quoted after the workshop‘’ we encourage our women to produce goods and services that are 1st accessible and exportable to the regional market’’ she said.

Chinyepi further added that for Botswana products to be absorbed by the American market, they have to be first tested in the neighbouring market space. ‘’ We are fully aware of the fact that Botswana has small market space, thus business women here should produce appealing goods and services to the SADC region and Africa as a whole before they qualify to export to the United States ‘’ She lamented.

However market access was not noted as the only challenge facing Batswana women business people, as skills and technical knowhow was also observed as significant hindrance to women business prosperity. Mayor of Francistown, Her Worship, Silvia Muzila observed that lack of skills and business etiquettes is a concern for upcoming women enterprises in Francistown and Botswana as a whole.

‘’A majority of this Micro Enterprices  lack business skills for running a profitable and growing business, you lack  operational  technical knowhow, you don’t have adequate premises and  information to realize growth in your businesses’’ she noted. African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) is an outreach, education, and engagement initiative by the United States Government that targets African women entrepreneurs to promote business growth, increase trade, both regionally and to U.S. markets through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which seeks to create better business environments, and empower African women entrepreneurs to become voices of change in their communities.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) was established by the American Government and signed into law on May 18, 2000 as Title 1 of The Trade and Development Act of 2000. The Act offers tangible incentives for African countries to continue their efforts to open their economies and build free markets. The initiatives provide professional networking, business development and financing to meaningful women entrepreneurship ventures in Africa.

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Botswana on high red alert as AML joins Covid-19 to plague mankind

21st September 2020

This century is always looking at improving new super high speed technology to make life easier. On the other hand, beckoning as an emerging fierce reversal force to equally match or dominate this life enhancing super new tech, comes swift human adversaries which seem to have come to make living on earth even more difficult.

The recent discovery of a pandemic, Covid-19, which moves at a pace of unimaginable and unpredictable proportions; locking people inside homes and barring human interactions with its dreaded death threat, is currently being felt.

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Finance Committee cautions Gov’t against imprudent raising of debt levels

21st September 2020
Finance Committe Chairman: Thapelo Letsholo

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.

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Gov’t Investment Account drying up fast!  

21st September 2020
Dr Matsheka

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”

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