As growth in developed markets such as Europe, China and North Africa continue to stagnate, greater regional integration in Africa, amongst all role players, is needed to capitalize on the continent’s growth potential. This is according to Hennie Heymans, CEO of DHL Express Sub-Saharan Africa, who says that when comparing intra-regional trade statistics, Africa’s rates are amongst the lowest in the world, with less than 20% of what is produced in the region, remaining on the continent.
“This, in essence, means that over 80% of what is produced in Africa is exported, mainly to the European Union, China and the United States. In comparison, over 65% of Europe’s trade occurs on its own continent, and in North America, the figure is around 50%,” says Heymans.
According to the latest IMF April 2016 World Economic Outlook report, developing economies and emerging markets will continue to account for a large portion of the world’s economic growth in 2016, which is expected at a rate of 3.2%. The report also reveals that growth in sub-Saharan Africa is also expected to remain low this year, at 3%, down 0.4% from 2015.
“Sub-Saharan Africa’s dwindling growth is influenced by factors such as slowed, moderate growth in advanced markets such as China, as well as the downward revision of growth for the region’s oil-exporting countries.”
Heymans says that intra-African trade has enormous potential to catalyze investment and foster growth on the continent. “To ensure that Africa is equipped to maintain and exceed its growth trajectory of 4% in 2017, business leaders, the government and the community need to work together towards making Africa an easier place to do business and to stimulate trade between the various African countries.”
“Trade blocs such as SADC (Southern African Development Community), EAC (East African Community), ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), all promote cross-border trade and are focused on facilitating trade and reducing bureaucracy within the region. However, more needs to be done to connect and encourage the movement of goods, services, people and capital across borders in Africa.
The World Bank recently reported that intra-African trade costs are estimated to be approximately 50% higher than in East Asia due to the number of permits required when transporting goods across certain borders, or the fees payable for prolonged waiting periods at the border. Another issue is the varying de minimis values across the region.
In Angola for example, the de minimis value is USD 350 (if imported via Luanda) while in Zimbabwe, the de minimis is USD 10. The varying values can often make it difficult for companies to plan market expansion strategies in Africa.
On the contrary, a new law in the United States has simplified shipping to the U.S. by raising the import de minimis limit from USD 200 to USD 800, which means that goods below USD 800 will not require formal customs procedures and will not be liable for duties or taxes. Heymans says that in light of poor global growth forecasts, the biggest game changer for Africa going forward will be its ability to boost connectivity and intra-Africa trade.
“The government and the private sectors need to continue to work together to create a sustainable and inclusive environment, and work on solutions to make it easier for African businesses to conduct business within their local and regional environment,” concludes Heymans.
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.
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.
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”