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Botswana working age to increase by 29%

Between now and 2050, the working-age population will increase by 29 percent in Botswana, 36 percent in Lesotho, 53 percent in Namibia, and 43 percent in Swaziland, this is according to a World Bank report titled FOREVER YOUNG? Social Policies for a Changing Population in Southern Africa by Lucilla Maria Bruni; Jamele Rigolini; and Sara Troiano.

The report suggests that in South Africa the percentage figure will be lower, 28 percent, yet representing an increase of almost 10 million people. But even now, before these increases occur, unemployment is endemic.

According to the report, “Between a third and half of Southern Africa’s young males are looking for work but can’t find it. Many more, although not studying, are simply idle and out of the labour force. Employment prospects for young females are even dimmer.”

It further indicates that these unemployment and inactivity rates are high by international standards. In most low-income countries, unemployment is low—especially for males. In the OECD, only 20 percent of working-age males and 40 percent of females of that group are out of the labour force.

“Having so much of Southern Africa’s population (in some cases, the majority of the working-age group) out of the workforce hinders economic growth, equity, and poverty reduction. The economy is underutilizing a valuable resource—labour—while at the same time it needs to provide for a large number of dependents. And unemployment among youth means a double loss: the economy is forgoing not only the economic benefit of more workers, but the benefit of the very cohort that has achieved historically high levels of education.”

The World Bank report states that if unaddressed, this employment will soon turn into a full-fledged jobs crisis with long-lasting consequences. It says if youth do not find stable and well-paid employment, they will not be able to provide for themselves and their families.

“They will be unable to save for old age. And they will likely pass their precarious conditions on to their children, generating a vicious intergenerational cycle of poverty and vulnerability. This means long-term ramifications, spanning from social (poverty and vulnerability), to economic (low-productivity workers and low savings rates) and fiscal challenges (lower tax revenues and added demands on social assistance).

For young people now completing their educations, active labour market policies (ALMP), such as job intermediation and retraining services, can facilitate school-to-work transitions and ensure a better match between what workers can offer and what employers are looking for. For youth with gaps in technical expertise and “soſt skills” such as working within a group, dedicated training and job insertion programs can make a crucial difference.”

According to Bruni, Rigolini and Troiano, Southern Africa also needs action to improve the human capital of the many workers who have already leſt the education system.  They point out that the countries now have 40 million people of working age and many of them lack the skills for a growingly sophisticated global economy. Bolstering the employability of these workers will be a long-term challenge, demanding continuous and remedial education, labour insertion programs, and social assistance.

Invest in Youth’s Human Capital – Starting from the Early Ages

The report says tackling high youth unemployment and low productivity will require serious improvements in the coverage and quality of education. Fortunately, the dramatic fall in fertility rates will open up the fiscal space to invest more in the human capital of the country’s soon-to-be fewer children and its gradually shrinking youth cohort.

“In recent years, all countries in Southern Africa have made great strides in improving coverage of basic schooling. Most have achieved close to universal primary completion rates, but there remain important gaps in coverage at the secondary level. Currently, only between 20 and 50 percent of people born in the late 1990s manage to complete Grade 12. In South Africa, only 60 percent of the group born in 2010 are expected to complete that grade—and Lesotho will need to wait until the 2030 cohort to achieve that level. Making secondary completion universal will require continued investments for decades to come.

Addressing coverage alone will not suffice, however: all Southern African countries also score below international averages in measures of educational quality (Figure VIII). Lesotho, Namibia, and South Africa have among the lowest educational quality scores as measured by the imputed PISA metrics. Creating a solid human capital base requires years, if not decades of investment in education. It starts with building strong foundations for learning through early childhood development (ECD) services, which currently are offered in very few parts of Southern Africa. It continues with basic education that provides solid cognitive and socio-emotional skills. Later on, education curricula must provide the more specialized skills that the labour market will seek. While enrolment in the region’s tertiary institutions— colleges and universities—is relatively low by international standards, it is steadily growing, and it is important to lay down ahead of time institutional bases that will bolster this sector and guarantee the quality of the education it offers. It will be much more difficult and costly to improve badly performing tertiary institutions, than to get them right from the beginning.”

Southern Africa’s Epidemiological Profile

In the next decades, the demographic transition in itself will not much affect Southern Africa’s epidemiological profile, its unique mix and incidence of the various diseases and conditions that undermine public health. This is mostly because the aging of the population will proceed at a slow pace, the World Bank report suggests.

“As the simulations show, even if the spending profile across age groups were to rise to the levels of OECD countries, overall health care expenditures would increase only moderately. This does not imply, however, that the health sector will face no challenges. Changing lifestyles are adding new diseases that the health sector will have to confront. It will also need to keep up with old ones, which are not likely to fade out soon,” narrate the authors of the report.

The report further indicates that Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are becoming a growing cause of years of life lost in Southern Africa, while chronic malnutrition and communicable diseases (CDs) such as HIV/AIDS continue to afflict millions of people (Figure IX).  It notes that young people are disproportionately at risk. New HIV/AIDS cases, for instance, are concentrated among this group, in large part due to continuation of unsafe sex practices. Redirecting the public health system will be no easy task. The service delivery model to tackle NCDs is very different and more expensive than the one used against CDs.

Rebalance Social Assistance across the Life Cycle

The World Bank report notes that countries in Southern Africa have generous and comprehensive social assistance systems. It says fiscal resources allocated to these programs are high in comparison with most emerging economies. ‘This is consistent with explicit policy priorities of the sub-region’s governments to assist poor and vulnerable people to achieve more equitable societies.’

“Social assistance is heavily geared towards supporting the elderly: resources per individual in the 65plus age group are four and a half times higher than those available to people aged 0-19 in Botswana and six times higher in South Africa. The ratio increases to 12 in Lesotho, 30 in Swaziland, and 38 in Namibia.”

The World Bank report further deducts that the lower resources allocated to children and youth help explain why cash transfers are too small to have much effect on poverty among the younger generations.  Apart from in South Africa, the impact on the nonelderly remains negligible. The “trickle down” effect of old-age pensions to younger household members is oſten called an important indirect benefit of pensions, suggests the report.

According to the report, “Overall, Southern Africa’s social assistance systems are geared towards a protective role and may miss an equally important role of promoting the human capital development of the younger generations. Well-designed cash transfers to children and youth can boost use of crucial health services such as growth monitoring checkups for infants, assuring healthier childhoods, and at later ages can help reduce school drop-out rates, in particular among the poor and vulnerable. ALMPs and continuous education programs can help vulnerable youth find places in the job market. Yet in Southern Africa these programs are rare.”

“What few of the countries have are often implemented in isolation from one another, which prevents tailoring assistance to the specific needs and vulnerabilities of each individual and following that person across the life cycle. Integrating social assistance programs into a well-articulated national system could bring significant gains in reach and efficiency. For vulnerable youth, social policies should go beyond the labour market to address the main threats to their welfare. These include unwanted pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and low-quality education,” reads the report.

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Business

Slight growth in GDP as economy battles return

28th July 2021
Peggy-Serame

Botswana’s economy showed slight growth signs in the first quarter of 2021, following a devastating year in 2020.

During 2020, the entire second quarter was on zero economic activity as the country went on total lockdown in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

Diamond trade plummeted to record low levels as global travel restrictions halted movement of both goods and people and muted trade.

The end result was a significant decline for the local economy, at an estimated 7 percent contraction, just marginally below the 2008/09 global financial crises.

According to figures released by Statics Botswana this week, the country’s nominal Gross Domestic Product for the first quarter of 2021 was P47.739 billion compared to a revised P45.630 billion registered during the previous quarter.

This represents a quarterly increase of 4.6 percent in nominal terms between the two periods.

During the quarter, Public Administration and Defence became the major contributor to GDP by 18.4 percent, followed by Wholesale & Retail by 11.4 percent. The contribution of other sectors was below 6.0 percent, with Water and Electricity Supply being the lowest at 1.6 percent.

Real GDP for the first quarter of 2021 increased by 0.7 percent compared to a contraction of 4.6 percent registered in the previous quarter.

The improvement in the first quarter 2021 GDP reflected continued efforts to reopen businesses and resume activities that were postponed or restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The real GDP increased by 0.7 percent during the period under review, compared to an increase of 1.2 percent in the same quarter of 2020.

The recovery in the domestic economy was observed across majority of industries except Accommodation & Food Services, Mining & Quarrying, Manufacturing, Construction, Other Services and Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing.

The overall slow performance of the economy was mainly due to the impact of measures that were put in place to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Non-mining GDP increased by 4.1 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to 4.0 percent increase registered in the same quarter of the previous year.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing industry decreased by 2.0 percent in real value added during the first quarter of 2021, relative to a contraction of 5.2 percent registered during the same quarter of 2020.

The main driver of the unfavorable performance stems from a decrease in real value added of Livestock farming by 3.0 percent.

Mining and Quarrying registered a decrease 11.4 percent in the real value added, this was mainly influenced by the drop in the Gold and Diamond real value added by 17.5 and 12.5 percent respectively.

Diamond production in carats went down by 12.1 percent while the tonnage of Gold produced went down by 17.5 percent.

The poor performance of the diamond sub-industry is attributed to the reduction in production due to a lower grade feed to the plant at Orapa in response to heavy rainfall and operational issues, including continued power supply disruptions.

With regard to Gold is due to diminishing resource base which affect production.

The Manufacturing industry recorded a decline of 7.4 percent in real value added during the first quarter of 2021, compared to a decrease of 2.3 percent registered in the corresponding quarter of 2020.

The deep low performance in the industry is observed in the two major sub-industries of Beverages & tobacco and Diamond cutting, polishing and setting by 57.0 and 38.5 percent respectively.

The reduction in Beverages is attributed to alcohol sale ban imposed during the quarter under review in order to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. On the other hand, exports of polished diamonds went down by 24.9 percent compared to a decrease of 11.5 percent registered in the same quarter of the previous year.

The construction industry recorded a decline of 4.8 percent compared to an increase of 4.3 percent realized in the corresponding quarter in 2020.

This industry comprises of buildings construction, civil engineering and specialized construction activities. The industry is still showing signs of the consequences of COVID-19 pandemic. The industry recorded a negative growth of 7.4 percent in the previous quarter.

Water and Electricity Water and Electricity value added at constant 2016 prices for the first quarter of 2021 was P506.2 million compared to P378.2 million registered in the same quarter of 2020, recording a growth of 33.8 percent.

In the first quarter of 2021, Electricity recorded a significant growth of 62.4 percent compared to a decrease of 67.6 percent recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2020.

The local electricity production increased by 22.4 percent while Electricity imports decreased by 33.3 percent during quarter under review. The water industry recorded a value added of P231.3 million compared to P209.0 million registered in the same quarter of the previous year, registering an increase of 10.7 percent.

Wholesale and Retail Trade real value added increased by 11.4 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to an increase of 5.5 percent registered in the same quarter of the previous year. The industry deals with sales of fast moving consumer goods.

Diamond Traders recorded a significant growth of 112.7 percent as opposed to a decline of 22.7 percent recorded in the corresponding quarter last year. The positive growth is due to improved demand of diamonds from the global market.

The Transport and Storage value added increased by 0.6 percent in the first quarter of 2021, compared to a 2.4 percent increase recorded in the same quarter of the previous year.

The slight improved performance of the industry was mainly attributed to the increase in real value added of Road Transport and Post & Courier Services by 4.3 and 2.1 percent respectively.

The slow growth was influenced by a significant reduction in Air Transport services of 69.7 percent due to reduced number of passengers carried. Rail goods traffic in tonnes went down by 6.4 percent and passenger rail transport was not operating during the quarter under review.

Accommodation and Food Services Accommodation and Food Services real value added declined by 31.7 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to a decrease of 4.4 percent registered in the same quarter of the previous year. The reduction is largely attributed to a decrease of 42.1 percent in real value added of the Accommodation activities subindustry.

The suspension of air travel occasioned by Covid-19 containment measures impacted on the number of tourists entering the borders of the country and hence affecting the output of Hotels and Restaurants industry. COVID-19 restriction measures resulted in reduced demand for leisure and conferencing activities, as conferences are largely held through virtual platforms.

Finance, Insurance and Pension Funding industry registered a positive growth of 8.3 percent due to the favorable performance from monetary intermediation and Central Banking Services by 16.4 and 5.4 percent respectively during quarter under review.

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Business

Chobe Holdings secures P16 million for dark days

28th July 2021
Chobe Holdings

It is still tough in the tourism industry — big players in this sleeping giant are not having it easy, but options are being explored to keep the once vibrant multibillion Pula sector alive until the world gets back to normalcy.

One of the primary measures against the spread of Covid-19 is to stay home; this widely pronounced precaution against the global contagion that has claimed over 4 million lives across the world is however a thorn in the flesh of one of the major industries in the global economy — the tourism sector .

This sector is underpinned by travel – an act which is the virus‘ number one mode of spread, especially across borders.

Chobe Holdings Limited, one of Botswana’s leading high end eco-tourism giants said its survival strategies are underpinned by well-crafted stakeholder engagements in the mist of these unprecedented times of muted trading activity.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Chobe continued to invest in and strengthen its relationships with key stakeholders in both its traditional markets and the SADC region,” the company directors updated shareholders this week.

To keep the business afloat, the company which owns and operates some of the exquisite tourism destinations along the banks of the mighty Chobe said it has triggered its existing available debt financing avenues.

Chobe revealed that its current overdraft of BWP 25 million has been extended on favourable terms.

The company shared that it has negotiated a further USD 1.5 million (over P16 million) standby loan with a flexible settlement terms and preferable cost implications to the bottom line.

“We are confident that the Group has sufficient cash inflows, cash reserves and un-utilized prearranged borrowing in place to settle any liabilities falling due and support the smooth recovery of operations in the short and medium term,” the company directors said, noting that they will retain the flexibility to vary operations should market conditions change.

Early this year, Chobe announced that the ongoing crisis in the tourism industry forced the company to draw from its prearranged overdraft facility of P25 million to the extent of P11.6 million.

Last year Chobe’s occupancy levels around its lodges and hotels went down 89 percent. This resulted in unprecedented revenue decline of 93% to P27.78 million from the P373.94 million in the previous year ended February 2020.

Operating profits went down 159% with profit after tax down 170%, mirroring a loss of over P67 million.

Chobe management said during the last half of the financial year they have done all they could to contain costs across the company’s operations.

During the last half of the year Chobe’s marketing and reservations teams continued to pursue the “don’t cancel but defer policy”.

“We thus continue to hold advance travel receipts, to the value of about P34 million at the financial year end,” the company revealed early this year.

Chobe said it continues to engage Government, through HATAB and BTO to prioritize the vaccination of workers in the tourism sector.

“Throughout the pandemic we have ensured that employees are trained in and comply with COVID-19 infection mitigation protocols as well as ensuring that all visitors to our remote camps and lodges as well as our staff and contractors are tested for COVID-19 before reaching the camp or lodges,” the company said.

However, the company said vaccinating the tourism staff will provide the best way to ensure that both employees and guests are protected from the virus.

“We continue to manage our cashflow through stringent cost control measures, balanced against the protection of the Group’s physical assets and the wellbeing and retention of its people,” the company said.

Chobe has successfully retained its top management through the pandemic.  To this end the company directors continue to closely monitor the Group’s recovery from COVID-19 and adjust salary reductions to support operations and aid retention.

Domestic and regional travel resumed during the second quarter of the 2020/21 financial year with the Group opening a strategic mix of camps and lodges.

A comprehensive domestic, regional and international marketing plan was put in place to support these openings.

International travel resumed in the first quarter of the 2021/22 financial year with occupancies forecast to steadily increase, albeit from a low base, through the second quarter.

The company is optimistic that forward bookings are strong for the 2022/23 financial year.

“There is pent-up demand from our traditional source markets to travel now, but this is tempered by uncertainty and access constraints,” the company stated.

“Both the domestic and international markets are sensitive to such uncertainty, and it is critical that both the private and public sector work together to develop and publish clear, authoritative and consistent travel information in order to build confidence”

Chobe entered the pandemic with the Shinde camp rebuild in progress — one of its high end camps and this was completed in the first half of the 2020/21 financial year accounting for the majority of the Group’s capital expenditure for that period.

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Business

De Beers Q2 production jumps in response to strong rough diamond demand

28th July 2021
De-Beers -jwaneng-mine

De Beers Group, the world’s leading rough diamonds producer by value and Botswana’s partner in the diamond business, ramped up its production in the second quarter of 2021, in response to stronger demand for rough diamonds in the global markets.

The London headquartered diamond mining giant revealed in its production report this week that rough diamonds output  increased by 134% to 8.2 million carats in the three(3) months  of quarter 2 2021, “reflecting planned higher production to meet stronger demand for rough diamonds”.

This was against the backdrop of curtailed demand in the same quarter last year, mirroring the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns across southern Africa during that period.

In Botswana, where De Beers sources majority of its rough diamonds through partly government owned Debswana, production increased by 214% to 5.7 million carats. The percentage jump mirrored planned low production in the second quarter of 2020 where output was adjusted to market demands and implemented Covid-19 protocols.

Debswana operates four (4) Mines: Jwaneng Mine- being its flagship producer and largest revenue contributor. Jwaneng Mine which is the wealthiest diamond mine in the world by value is envisaged for multi-billion expansion to an underground operation in future to stretch its existence by few more decades.

The underground project which is anticipated to cost a whooping P65 billion will be the world‘s largest underground diamond mine.

The company which accounts for over 65 % of De Beers’s global production also operates Orapa Mine- one of the world’s largest by area, Letlhakane Mine currently a tailings treatment operation and Damtshaa Mine which is under care and maintenance following market shrink in 2020.

Namibia production decreased by 6% to 0.3 million carats, primarily due to planned maintenance of the Mafuta vessel which was completed in the quarter and another vessel remaining demobilized.  In Namibia De Beers sources diamonds both in land and marine through Namdeb and Debmarine respectfully.

In South Africa-the spiritual home ground of De Beers Group, production increased by 130% to 1.3 million carats, due to planned treatment of higher grade ore from the final cut of the Venetia open pit, as well as the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown in Q2 2020.

Production in Canada increased by 14% to 0.9 million carats, primarily reflecting the impact of the Covid-19 measures implemented in Q2 2020.

De Beers said consumer demand for polished diamonds continued to recover, leading to strong demand for rough diamonds from midstream cutting and polishing centers, despite the impact on capacity from the severe Covid-19 wave in India during April and May.

Rough diamond sales totaled 7.3 million carats (6.5 million carats on a consolidated basis), from two Sights, reflecting the impact of the reduced Indian midstream capacity on Sight 4, compared with 0.3 million carats (0.2 million carats on a consolidated basis) from two Sights in Q2 2020, and 13.5 million carats (12.7 million carats on a consolidated basis) from three Sights in Q1 2021.

The H1 2021 consolidated average realized price increased by 13% to $135/ct (H1 2020: $119/ct), driven by an increased proportion of higher value rough diamonds sold.

While the average price index remained broadly flat, the closing index increased by 14% compared to the start of 2021, reflecting tightness in inventories across the diamond value chain as well as positive consumer demand for polished diamonds.

Full Year Guidance Production guidance is tightened to 32–33 million carats (previously 32-34 million carats (100% bases)), subject to trading conditions and the extent of any further Covid-19 related disruptions.

When commenting to 2021 quarter 2 production figures, Mark Cutifani, Chief Executive of Anglo American- De Beers parent, said the entire Anglo American Group delivered a solid operational performance supported by comprehensive Covid-19 measures to help safeguard the lives and livelihoods of its workforce and host communities.

“We have generally maintained operating levels at approximately 95% of normal capacity and, as a consequence, production increased by 20% compared to Q2 of last year, with planned higher rough diamond production at De Beers” he said.

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