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Intra-African services industry a growing reality

Botswana multi-national delivers world-leading safari product across Africa

Botswana based multi-national ecotourism company, Wilderness Safaris, operating nearly 40 luxury safari camps across eight African countries, has successfully raised a USD35 million bilateral loan for the purchase of a new ecotourism company in Kenya and for further expansion across Africa.

This structured, multi-currency loan facility was led by Stanbic Bank Botswana and the proceeds will be deployed over several years in multiple currencies thereby creating a natural hedge against foreign exchange risks. The transaction is one of the largest corporate deals in Botswana in 2016, and was fully funded by Stanbic Bank Botswana on a bilateral basis.

Leina Gabaraane, Managing Director at Stanbic Bank Botswana says: “Our footprint across 20 countries on the continent provided Wilderness Safaris with an on the ground banking partner with regional and local expertise in the countries in which they operate, as well as countries targeted for future expansion.”  As Sole Arranger, Stanbic Bank Botswana has been able to provide Wilderness Safaris with bespoke funding solutions that will help protect it from currency volatility as well as generate future growth.

“The ability to provide long-term funding in multiple countries with currency flexibility in a short space of time, illustrates the complexity of the capital requirement needs of Africa’s emerging intra-continental service businesses,” says Mr Gabaraane.

Wilderness Safaris is one of Africa’s premier ecotourism companies and caters primarily to an international clientele. The company is dual-listed with its primary listing in Botswana and secondary listing in Johannesburg. Their strategy is to invest in luxury ecotourism opportunities in order to build sustainable conservation economies that combine conservation of Africa’s wildlife heritage with the sharing of benefits with rural communities. They do this through working with governments and other stakeholders to entrench the true value of sustainable authentic ecotourism.

“In addition to reinvestment into flagship properties in Botswana and Namibia, the proceeds of this loan will be used for expansion across African markets such as Kenya and Rwanda,” says Keith Vincent, Chief Executive, Wilderness Safaris.  “This is in line with our group strategic vision, which is to invest in African tourism markets which offer authentic wildlife and safari experiences and where we feel our specific ecotourism model can have positive conservation and community impacts.”

Wilderness Safaris places huge emphasis on the conservation of pristine ecosystems and the wildlife they hold, however they also combine positive conservation elements with human development programmes thus far exceeding narrow biodiversity concerns.

Conservation activities such as ecosystem restoration and endangered species reintroduction are blended with community programmes such as training and education, as well as community-centric local employment. Similar to Wilderness Safaris’ multi-country geography and cross-border safari itineraries, “our service banking model also drives regional integration while equipping a broad set of African geographies with the foreign exchange earnings to address Africa’s liquidity challenges,” says Mr Gabaraane.

Leveraging a loan for deployment across many camps in different countries presents a unique set of complexities. This is especially so since the funding will be required at short notice for use across a number of countries in support of its business operations – or to help address unexpected capital or liquidity events.

“This not only requires a bank on the ground in most of Wilderness Safaris countries of operation, but since the deployment of the loan will be a hands-on and a bespoke process, a bank with local personnel familiar with endemic operating and currency challenges in each environment was required,” adds Mr Gabaraane.

“This deal was especially significant for Stanbic Bank Botswana, which is part of Standard Bank Group, in showcasing its ability to find innovative solutions for home-grown African multinational clients committed to the continent and promoting local growth, even when these deals are somewhat complex and challenging to deliver in their detail over time,” says Mr Gabaraane.

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

21st September 2020
Botswana-on-high-alert-as-AML-joins-Covid-19-to-plague-mankind-

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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