The World Economic Forum (WEF) has just released the Global Competitiveness Report 2016/17(GCR). The theme for this year’s Report is “Declining Openness a Major Threat to Global Competitiveness”. The GCR 2016-2017 finds declining openness to be threatening growth and prosperity. It reports that a ten-year decline in the openness of economies at all stages of development poses a risk to countries’ ability to grow and innovate.
In this Report Botswana is ranked at #64 out of 138 countries which is a notable improvement from the previous year where the Country was ranked 71 out of 140 countries. The quality score has also improved from 4.2 to 4.3 out a total of 7. These results are worth celebrating as the country has moved 7 places up and the improvement comes at a time when Botswana is celebrating its 50 years of independence.
The good news about this performance is that, Botswana’s competitiveness has improved in almost all the twelve pillars used by WEF to assess competitiveness. A notable improvement is on the Goods Markets Efficiency pillar, jumping from 95th (in 2015) to 73rd in 2016. The Report indicates that local competition has intensified and anti-monopoly policy is starting to be effective (jumping from 71 to 63). The degree of Customer Orientation and buyer sophistication has also improved modestly.
There has also been some improvement on the Higher Education and Training pillar with a ranking of 88th compared to 100th last year. This is attributed mainly to the improvement in the tertiary education enrolment rates, quality of the education system and internet access in schools.
The establishment of the Innovation Hub is now starting to show some results as the Innovation Pillar has improved from 102 last year to 84 this year. Though the quality score of this Pillar is still low at 3.2 out of 7, the Hub’s efforts are worth celebrating. The Report shows that there has been some improvement in the Capacity to Innovate, Company Spending on Research and Development and University-Industry Collaboration in Research and Development. Initiatives linked to the likes of the Human Resource Development Council Research and Innovation Grant probably contributed to this improvement.
Botswana’s Macro-Economic Environment is still considered among the best in the world ranked in the top 10 countries. In addition Botswana has been doing well in the Institutions pillar for the past 6 years. This year, the latter is ranked 37 as in last year. This may indicate however, that more effort needs to be made to improve this area as it is stagnant. There is some improvement in the infrastructure pillar (from 96th to 90th). This is mainly due to the improvement in the air infrastructure, mainly the completion of the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport and the Francistown International airport.
In the Health and Primary Education pillar, there has been some notable improvements in both the quality score (4.5 to 4.7) and the ranking (119 to 113) compared to last year. Though there has been some great improvement in the life expectancy from 47.4 years to 64.4 years, this is still considered among the lowest in the world. Overall this pillar remains an area of main concern in the Report and has rankings that put the country amongst the lowest performers. Tuberculosis incidence and its impact on business are still very high. HIV prevalence rate (25.2%) and business impact of HIV/AIDS are also still very high.
Although Poor work ethic in the national labour force continues to be the most problematic factor for doing business in the country, the severity of this problem, however has significantly dropped from 19% last year to 16.2% this year. There has also been a significant drop in the intensity of inefficient government bureaucracy from 12.7% to 9.5%. Access to financing has moved up as the second most problematic factor this year followed by inadequately educated workforce.
Beyond 50 years of Independence, Botswana has to leverage on technology and innovation in order to enhance business sophistication. A business sophisticated economy tends to be innovative, productive and competitive in nature. Thus private sector involvement and active participation in the development of Botswana is very important.
For the eighth consecutive year, Switzerland ranks as the most competitive economy in the world, narrowly ahead of Singapore and the United States. Following these two is Netherlands and then Germany. The latter has climbed four places in two years. The next two countries, Sweden (6th) and the United Kingdom (7th) both advance three places, with the latter’s Global Competitive Index score being based on pre-Brexit data. The remaining three economies in the top ten are Japan (8th), Hong Kong SAR (9th) and Finland (10th) all move backwards.
In sub-Saharan Africa, Rwanda is one of the most improved nations moving 6 places to 52nd. It is closing in on the region’s traditionally most competitive economies, Mauritius and South Africa, although both these countries register more modest improvements, climbing to 45 and 47 respectively. Lower down the rankings, Kenya climbs to 96, Ethiopia holds steady at 109 while Nigeria slips three to 127.
A squeaky and glittering metaphoric smile was the look reflected from the Pula against the greenback this week and money market researchers lean this on optimism following Monday’s announcement of another Covid-19 vaccine which is said to have boosted emerging market economies.
With other emerging market currencies, the Pula too reacted to optimism and fanfare on the new Covid-19 vaccine against the weakening US dollar which has been losing its shine since the uncertainty laden US elections.
After bouncing back into the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) last week Friday, following a year of being in the freezer, the Choppies stock started this week with much fluidity.
Choppies was suspended in both the Botswana Stock Exchange and its secondary listing at the JSE for failure to publish financial results. Choppies suspension on Botswana Stock Exchange was lifted on 27 July 2020. On Friday last week, when suspension was being lifted, Choppies explained that this came into fruition “following extensive engagement with the JSE.”
Choppies stock, prior to suspension, hit a mammoth decline in value of more than 60 percent, especially in September 2018. Waking from a 24 month freezer, last week the Choppies share price was at R0.64 and the stock did not make any movement.
However, Monday was the day when Choppies stock moved vibrantly, albeit volatile. Choppies’ value was on a high volatile mood on Monday, reaching highs of 200 percent. At noon, the same Monday, the Choppies share had reached R1.05. Before taking an uphill movement, Choppies stock slightly slipped by 2 cents. But the Choppies share rode up high and by lunch time the stock had reached the day’s summit of R2.00 and that was at 13:30 when investors were buying the stock for lunch.
The same eventful Monday saw gloom on the faces of Choppies rivals, when Choppies gained by 220.31 percent around lunch time its rivals in the JSE Food & Drug Retailers sector were licking wounds. Spar lost 2.94 percent, Pick Pay fell by 2.43 percent, Shoprite 7.52 percent and Dis-Chem 1.98 percent. The only gainer was Clicks by a paltry 0.51 percent.
In an interview with BusinessPost, Choppies sponsors at the JSE PSG Capital Managing Director Johan Holtzhausen explained that the retailer’s stock was in high demand after a long suspension. He said when a company list or a suspension is lifted the market needs to find itself on the pricing of the share.
“Initially when the suspension was lifted there were more buyers than sellers. As far as we could see this created a shortage of shares so to speak and resulted in the price at which the shares traded going to R1.20 and eventually R2.05 before finding its level around R0.80 sent from a JSE perspective.
This is marked dynamics and reflect that there are investors that are positive about the stock in the long run. This is a snapshot over a short period and one requires a longer period to draw further conclusions,” said Holtzhausen in an interview talking about the Choppies stock.
On Monday this week where the Choppies value grew by 200 percent, the stock took a turn looking down, closing the day at R0.87 from a high of R2.00. According to local stockbroker Motswedi Securities on Monday while there was no movement by Choppies in the local stock exchange as the retailer appeared on the board as 141,000 shares traded at P0.60 each.
However in Choppies’ secondary listing the stock price rallied to over 200 percent during intraday trading on Monday before losing steam and declining to around R0.87 share.
Before press yesterday Choppies opened the market with the stock starting the day at R0.80 then went flat for few hours before taking a slide downward, dropping 5 cents in 30 minutes. Choppies then went flat at R0.75 for 50 minutes yesterday before going up at 10:20 am where it nearly recovered the open day price of 80 cents, but was shy of 1 cent. From 79 cents the price went flat until noon.
Competition and Consumer Authority (CCA) has revealed that in its assessment of the Jet take over by Foschini, there were considerations on possible market rivalry and a clash in targeted classes.
According to a merger decision notice seen by this publication this week, high considerations were made to ensure that Foschini’s takeover of Jet is not anyhow an elimination of rivalry or competition or if the two entities; the targeted and the acquiring enterprise serves the same class of customers or offer the same products, to elude the anti-trust issues or a stretch of monopoly.
The two entities are South African retailers whose services stretched to Botswana shores. Last month local anti-trust body, CCA, received an acquisition proposal from South African clothing retailer, Foschini, stating their intentions to take-over Jet.
South African government’s Business Rescue Practitioners earlier this year after finding out that Jet’s mother company, Edcon, is falling apart, made a decision that Foschini can buy Jet for R480 million. This means that Foschini will add Jet to its portfolio of 30 retail brands that trade in clothing, footwear, jewellery, sportswear, homeware, cell phones, and technology products from value to upper market segments throughout more than 4085 outlets in 32 countries on five continents.
However the main headache for the CCA decision which was released this week, is distinguishing the targeted and the acquiring entity businesses and services.
When doing a ‘Competitive Analysis and Public Interest’ assessment, CCA is said to have discovered that Foschini is classified as a “standard retailer” which targets middle-to-upper income consumers and it competes with stores such as; Truworths and Woolworths. The targeted entity, Jet, is on the lower league when compared to its acquirer, it serves customers of lower classes and is regarded as a discount/value retailer targeting lower income consumers or a mass market. This makes Jet to be in direct competition with Ackermans, Pepkor, Cash Bazaar and Mr Price.
“Therefore, a narrower view of the market is that Foschini through its stores trading in Botswana is not a close competitor to Jet. Additionally, there exist other major rivals who will continue to exercise competitive constraints on the merged enterprise post-merger,” concluded CCA this month.
The anti-trust body continued to explain that in terms of the Acquisition of a Dominant Position, the analysis shows that the acquisition of the target business by Foschini Botswana will result in an insignificant combined market share in the relevant market.
This made CCA reach to a conclusion that there is no case of an acquisition of a dominant position in the market under consideration or any other market on the account of the proposed transaction.
What supports the merger according to CCA is that it is in compliance with regards to ‘Public Interest Considerations’ because the findings of the assessment revealed that the transaction is as a result of the need for a Business Rescue by the target enterprise. This is so because in the event that the proposed transaction fails, it will translate into the loss of the employment positions at the target business.
“On that note the Authority (CCA) found it necessary to ensure that the proposed merger does not result in any retrenchments or redundancies. In light of this, the assessment revealed the critical need to protect the employees of the merged entity from possible merger specific retrenchments/ redundancies,” said CCA.
Before making a determination that the recently proposed transaction is not likely to result in the prevention or substantial lessening of competition or endanger the continuity of the services offered in the relevant market, CCA said it then moved into a concern for public interest which is a protection enshrined in the Competition Act of 2018.
CCA’s concern was mostly loss of livelihood or employment by 126 Batswana workers at Jet stores, stating that possible retrenchments or redundancies may arise as a result of implementation of the proposed merger.
Much to the desire of trade union or labour movements in Botswana and across Southern Africa where the Jet stores are stemmed-who also raised concerns about the retail’s workers job security- CCA subjects Foschini to keep the target entity 126 workers.
“There shall be no merger specific retrenchments or redundancies that may affect the employees of the merged enterprises. For clarity, merger specific retrenchments or redundancies do not include (the list is not exhaustive): i. voluntary retrenchment and/or voluntary separation arrangements; ii. Voluntary early retirement packages; iii. Unreasonable refusals to be redeployed; iv. Resignations or retirements in the ordinary course of business; v. retrenchments lawfully effected for operational requirements unrelated to the Merger; and vi. Terminations in the ordinary course of business, including but not limited to, dismissals as a result of misconduct or poor performance,” said CCA.
CCA also orders that Foschini informs it about all the details of 126 Jet employees within thirty (30) days of the merger approval date. CCA should also know information of when Foschini is implementing the merger, within 30 days of the approval date.
Other conditions include Foschini sharing a copy of the conditions of approval to all employees of the Jet or their respective representatives within ten (10) days of the approval date.
“Should vacancies arise in the target, the merged enterprise shall consider previous employment at one of the non-transferring Jet stores to be a positive factor to be taken into account in the consideration of offering potential employment,” said CCA.
According to CCA, in cases of any job losses, for the Authority to assess whether the retrenchments or redundancies are merger specific, at least three months before (to the extent that this deadline can be practically achieved and in terms of the prevailing and legally required employment practices) any retrenchments or redundancies are to take place, inform the Authority of: i. The intended retrenchments; ii. The reasons for the retrenchments; iii. The number and categories of employees affected; iv. The expected date of the retrenchments.