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Bumpy road ahead for Botswana’s manufacturing sector

BEMA’S EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Stembile Tawengwa

Despite its stated middle class economy, Botswana continues to struggle with the manufacturing and exporting sectors, importing almost 80 percent of its goods from neighbouring South Africa.

Botswana has the potential to produce goods and services for both its citizens and for export as well. The industry is one of the real wealth creators and is an undoubted contributor to diversification. However, despite many initiatives made available, there has been a problem in elevating the sector to the kind of heights that would auger well for its existence.

The Botswana Exporters and Manufacturing Association (BEMA), a private sector association independent from the government which deals with the improvement of the competiveness of Botswana’s manufacturing and export sectors, said that its members face numerous challenges.

“There is a lack of export incentives, work and residence permits, low preference to local manufactures and finance mechanisms for industry and for financing of specialized equipment,” said Stembile Tawengwa, BEMA’s Executive Director.

She explained that export incentives are vital because, without them, it is difficult to compete with other countries whose governments have introduced these incentives for their manufacturers.

Explaining why the manufacturing and export companies fail to thrive competitively,   Keith Jefferis, the Managing Director of E-consult, concurred with Tawengwa.
“Many firms have costs of production and distribution that are too high to enable them to compete in export markets, which may be due to high transport costs, low labour productivity, lack of local raw materials, problems with erratic water and power supplies or difficulties in bringing in skilled foreign workers,” said Jefferis.

Asked what could be done to improve the competiveness of the sector, Jefferis said that not enough attention was being paid to assisting firms to reduce costs of production and governments’ many regulatory barriers that added to production costs.

“Government should pay more attention to businesses when they request policy and regulatory changes that would help to reduce costs of production and carry out a general regulatory review to remove costly regulations,” he said.

On her part, Tawengwa said that some of the issues they had tabled with the government could not be resolved in one day.
‘‘The nature of our Association and its activities require that we be in constant engagement with the government so as to increase competiveness and this is done in the form of consultation and suggested changes in policies framed by the government,’ she said.

Initiatives like the government’s Economic Diversification Drive (EDD) are efforts to invest in the growth of the production of goods and services in the country. However, the locally produced goods remain minimal, along with little competition in the manufacturing and exporting sector.

‘‘We need to take bold steps and learn from exporting countries such as Asia where the governments provide direct incentives to make their manufacturing and exporting industries competitive,” said Tawengwa.

“These incentives could include preferential utility tariffs, preferential land allotment, generous tax holidays as well as exclusive procurement from the local manufacturers and training subsidies.”

Asked for a remedy to the stagnant growth of the sector, Jefferis stated that the government “should pay more attention to successful exporting firms and seek to learn what makes them successful, whether these factors can be replicated in other firms, and what barriers can be removed to assist firms”.

“The government needs to address a couple of problems such as the immigration policy, which restricts the ability of firms to create jobs for Batswana, the water and electricity shortage and the exchange rate, which is not supportive of exporters,” he said.

Tawengwa added that programs, such as Industrial Upgrading and Modernization Program (IUMP), ensure the availability to the country of state of the art machinery used in manufacturing. She indicated that there was a growth in the manufacturing sector as more companies had been established which were exporting or ready to export with a $5 million rise of exports between the years 2011-2014.

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Business

Unleashing potential: Connectivity as a catalyst for economic and societal growth in Botswana

23rd April 2024

Imagine a young entrepreneur in the city of Gaborone with dreams of starting her own business. With access to high-speed internet, she can connect with suppliers, market her products online, and reach customers around the world, all from the comfort of her home.

Just a few years ago, this internet access was a luxury reserved for the privileged few. Today, however, thanks to the ambitious National Broadband Strategy launched in 2019, the digital landscape of Botswana is undergoing a dramatic transformation, reflecting the government’s commitment to providing stable and secure internet connectivity to businesses, citizens, and organisations.

A proactive approach to ensuring uninterrupted connectivity

The importance of reliable connectivity can’t be overstated. For instance, on 14 March 2024, four major undersea telecommunications cables, West Africa Cable System (WACS), Africa Coast to Europe (ACE), MainOne, and SAT–3, experienced simultaneous outages, with significant internet disruptions across the continent.

In this instance, Liquid Intelligent Technologies’ (Liquid) proactive investment in multiple undersea cables along both the east and west coasts of Africa showed the benefits of a robust and diversified network. Our redundant international backbone ensured traffic was rerouted, maintaining an uninterrupted service and keeping customers connected. This commitment to uninterrupted connectivity is mirrored in our initiatives such as the Gaborone Metro Ring.

Driving growth and promoting investment

The Gaborone Metro Ring is a telecommunications network powered by Liquid Botswana, which has turned the bustling capital city into a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship. Start-ups and established businesses alike are harnessing the power of high-speed internet to drive growth, create jobs, and open doors to investment.

Connectivity lies at the heart of Botswana’s digital transformation, creating economic growth and community development. The Gaborone Metro Ring, which spans key business hubs and high-density areas, provides internet access and empowers individuals and hundreds of businesses in the city, driving innovation, and fostering inclusivity. Covering Gaborone and Lobatse, it is providing the internet connectivity necessary to positively transform and grow the Botswana economy.

Fuelling entrepreneurship and job creation

One of the key benefits of enhanced connectivity is its ability to support advanced data, video, messaging, and voice services, paving the way for increased efficiency and productivity. Businesses, particularly start-ups and SMEs, can leverage high-speed internet to streamline operations, reach new markets, and drive growth. Moreover, reduced tariffs and exclusive offers within the metro fibre zone enable businesses to innovate and compete globally, fuelling entrepreneurship and job creation.

Empowering individuals and strengthening communities

In a country with 1.95 million internet users, representing an internet penetration rate of 73.5% of the total population, the benefits of connectivity extend far beyond Lobatse and Gaborone, reaching communities across the country. Improved access to information and services empowers individuals, strengthens communities, and drives social development. Moreover, connectivity plays a crucial role in bridging the digital divide, ensuring that no one is left behind in Botswana’s journey towards a digitally inclusive society.

As Botswana continues to embrace digital transformation, the role of connectivity will only become more critical. It is not just about connecting people, but about empowering them to realise their full potential, driving economic growth, and building a more inclusive society.

Internet is the backbone of a knowledge-based economy. From empowering entrepreneurs and startups and fuelling the digital economy, to improving education and healthcare, reliable and resilient connectivity is key. In addition, in the event of an emergency such as the recent multiple undersea cable failure, a diverse and stable option that ensures business continuity is essential. The Liquid-powered Gaborone Metro Ring, adding to the company’s 110,000km of fibre across the continent, is fuelling the transformative power of connectivity in Botswana.

 

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Business

LLR transforms from Company to Group reporting

9th April 2024

Botswana Stock Exchange listed diversified real estate company, Letlole La Rona Limited (“LLR” or “the Company” or “the Group”), posted its first set of group financial statements which comprise the Company and Group consolidated accounts, which show strong financial performance for the six months ended 31 December 2023, with improvements across all key metrics.

The Company commenced the financial year with the appointment of a Deputy Chairperson, Mr Mooketsi Maphane, in order to bolster its governance and enhance leadership continuity through the development of a Board and Executive Management Succession Plan.

At operational level, LLR increased its shareholding in Railpark Mall from 32.79% to 57.79% and proudly took over the management of this prime asset.

The CEO of LLR, Ms Kamogelo Mowaneng commented “During the period under review, our portfolio continued to perform strongly, with improvements across all key metrics as a result of our ongoing focus on portfolio growth and optimisation.

“We are pleased to report a successful first half of the 2024 financial year, where we managed to not only grow the portfolio through strategic acquisitions and value accretive refurbishments but also recycled capital through the disposal of Moedi House as well as the ongoing sale of section titles at Red Square Apartments. The acquisition of an additional 25% stake in JTTM Properties significantly uplifted the value of our investment portfolio to P2.0 billion at a Group level. Our investment portfolio was further differentiated by the quality of our tenant base, as demonstrated by above market occupancy levels of 99.15% and strong collections of above 100% for the period”.

The growth in contractual revenue of 9% from the prior year’s P48.0 million to the current year P52.2 million, increased income from Railpark Mall, coupled with high collection rates, has enabled the company to declare a distribution of 9.11 thebe per linked unit, which is in line with the prior year.

 

In line with its strategic pillars of ‘Streamlined and Expanded Botswana Portfolio’ as well as ‘Quality African Assets’, the Group continuously monitors the performance of its investments to ensure that they meet the targeted returns.

“The Group continues to explore yield accretive opportunities for balance sheet growth and funding options that can be deployed to finance that growth” further commented the CEO of LLR Ms Kamogelo Mowaneng.

Ms Mowaneng further thanked the Group’s stakeholders for their continued support and stated that they look forward to unlocking further value in the Group.

 

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Botswana’s Electricity Generation Dips 26.4%

9th April 2024

The Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) has reported a significant decrease in electricity generation for the fourth quarter of 2023, with output plummeting by 26.4%. This decline is primarily attributed to operational difficulties at the Morupule B power plant, as per the latest Botswana Index of Electricity Generation (IEG) released recently.

Local electricity production saw a drastic reduction, falling from 889,535 MWH in the third quarter of 2023 to 654,312 MWH in the period under review. This substantial decrease is largely due to the operational challenges at the Morupule B power plant. Consequently, the need for imported electricity surged by 35.6% (136,243 MWH) from 382,426 MWH in the third quarter to 518,669 MWH in the fourth quarter. This increase was necessitated by the need to compensate for the shortfall in locally generated electricity.

Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation Limited (ZESCO) was the principal supplier of imported electricity, accounting for 43.1% of total electricity imports during the fourth quarter of 2023. Eskom followed with 21.8%, while the remaining 12.1, 10.3, 8.6, and 4.2% were sourced from Electricidade de Mozambique (EDM), Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), Nampower, and Cross-border electricity markets, respectively. Cross-border electricity markets involve the supply of electricity to towns and villages along the border from neighboring countries such as Namibia and Zambia.

Distributed electricity exhibited a decrease of 7.8% (98,980 MWH), dropping from 1,271,961 MWH in the third quarter of 2023 to 1,172,981 MWH in the review quarter.

Electricity generated locally contributed 55.8% to the electricity distributed during the fourth quarter of 2023, a decrease from the 74.5% contribution in the same quarter of the previous year. This signifies a decrease of 18.7 percentage points. The quarter-on-quarter comparison shows that the contribution of locally generated electricity to the distributed electricity fell by 14.2 percentage points, from 69.9% in the third quarter of 2023 to 55.8% in the fourth quarter. The Morupule A and B power stations accounted for 90.4% of the electricity generated during the fourth quarter of 2023, while Matshelagabedi and Orapa emergency power plants contributed the remaining 5.9 and 3.7% respectively.

The year-on-year analysis reveals some improvement in local electricity generation. The year-on-year perspective shows that the amount of distributed electricity increased by 8.2% (88,781 MWH), from 1,084,200 MWH in the fourth quarter of 2022 to 1,172,981 MWH in the current quarter. The trend of the Index of Electricity Generation from the first quarter of 2013 to the fourth quarter of 2023 indicates an improvement in local electricity generation, despite fluctuations.

The year-on-year analysis also reveals a downward trend in the physical volume of imported electricity. The trend in the physical volume of imported electricity from the first quarter of 2013 to the fourth quarter of 2023 shows a downward trend, indicating the country’s continued effort to generate adequate electricity to meet domestic demand, has led to the decreased reliance on electricity imports.

In response to the need to increase local generation and reduce power imports, the government has initiated a new National Energy Policy. This policy is aimed at guiding the management and development of Botswana’s energy sector and encouraging investment in new and renewable energy. In the policy document, Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security Lefoko Moagi stated that the policy aims to transform Botswana from being a net energy importer to a self-sufficient nation with surplus energy for export into the region. Moagi expressed confidence that Botswana has the potential to achieve self-sufficiency in electric power supply, given the country’s readily available energy resources such as coal and renewable sources.

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