â€¨As Botswana aims to diversify its economy to reduce a dependence on diamonds, a growing number of local businesspeople are blazing a trail for others, but a lack of financial know-how could trip them up caution global entrepreneurship experts.
â€¨Pinkie Setlalekgosi is a mother and grandmother as well as an employer of 168 people. She is one of Botswana’s top female entrepreneurs, seen as a trailblazer for other women trying to make it in male-dominated industries across the country. The co-founder and director of Sprint Couriers, one of the country’s leading courier companies knows what it takes to be an entrepreneur.â€¨â€¨“There are no short cuts to success, you have to work hard to realise your dream,” she said in a recent interview. Together with her partner, Michelle Gabriel, she started the company about 10 years ago in a coffee shop.
For almost a year, they didn’t draw salaries and almost threw in the towel, but their perseverance has paid off. Sprint Couriers now operates in Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa as well as in Botswana.â€¨â€¨There are many entrepreneurs like Setlalekgosi in Botswana – a country with the second highest score in the world for Total Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) – measured by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) as the percentage of adults who have started a business in the past three months.
Botswana scored 35%, not far behind the top scorer Senegal at 39%. The average for the sample, which included 60 countries, was 21%.â€¨â€¨Entrepreneurship is actively encouraged in Botswana, a country wanting to diversify its economy and reduce a dependency on diamonds. For 2016, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated a 3.7% increase in growth for Botswana, significantly higher than neighbouring countries Zimbabwe and South Africa.
â€¨â€¨Numerous government initiatives and programmes exist that are aimed at job creation and promoting entrepreneurship. With a high unemployment rate sitting at around 19%, there is growing awareness of the benefits of entrepreneurship, which include income generation, economic stimulation and opportunities for collaboration. â€¨But, according to the GEM study, while Botswana has a highly entrepreneurial population and many positive supporting framework conditions, not all of the businesses created manage to survive to maturity. In addition, the data clearly shows that entrepreneurial businesses in Botswana are less likely to be innovative than businesses operating in more advanced economies.
The net result of this is that they are neither generating enough jobs nor creating new markets and products that will benefit the country. â€¨â€¨Nearly half or more of entrepreneurs in Botswana operate wholesale or retail businesses whereas in more developed economies entrepreneurs are drawn more to opportunities in information and communications, financial, professional, health, education and other services industries.
According to Mike Herrington, Executive Director of GEM, more specialist support needs to be directed at entrepreneurs in less developed economies to help right these imbalances. He cites making it easier for new businesses to register and operate by reducing the amount of regulations and ensuring that people have better training – particularly around financial skills – as key.
Targeted financial training has definitely played a key role in the success of local entrepreneur Tony Mautsu. At the age of 23, Mautsu founded Social Light, a media management company that specialises in social media marketing, working across platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Youtube and Twitter. Trained as an accountant, he might have thought he was leaving the world of numbers behind him when he started a media business, but he says financial skills are vital to any entrepreneur who wants to make it in the tough world of business.
It is a view also held by Sprint Courier’s Setlalekgosi. “Business is easy,” she says. “It’s how you manage it that matters. Financial management is important.”â€¨ “Hiring the right accounting staff is an essential ingredient for any successful business,” says Mark Farrar, Chief Executive of the Association for Accounting Technicians (AAT) – a UK-based professional body for accounting technicians that offers qualifications in accounting and finance. “But it is also essential that the entrepreneur themselves has a good grasp of the numbers so that they can spot the red flags before they become a major threat to the business.”
Farrar says that many people think an accountancy or business degree is the only way to develop finance skills. “However shorter, more targeted training options are available,” he says. “AAT offers shorter, practical qualifications like the AAT Accounting Qualification. No prior experience or qualifications are needed and students are taught financial skills that they can use straight away in the workplace.”
“It takes a lot of courage to venture into business,” says Mautsu, who started out running his business from a mobile phone. Now a well-known name in Botswana’s social media circles, Mautsu sees a bright future for himself and other entrepreneurs. “Entrepreneurship is very important to our country. A lot of people are now waking up to the harsh reality of unemployment after graduation and are starting businesses,” says Mautsu.
According to GEM, 60% of people in Botswana have indicated that they want to start a business in the next three years. They are also rated highly when it comes to not fearing failure – with the country featuring amongst the most confident entrepreneurs of all the nations surveyed for the report.
â€¨The Botswana government is also credited as being one of the countries in Africa with the least bureaucracy and red tape, meaning that entrepreneurs have less of an uphill battle when establishing businesses and getting companies off the ground.â€¨â€¨“I believe that we are yet to see a lot of global leaders rise from Botswana,” says Mautsu. “In my opinion, Botswana is positioned geographically and otherwise as the future place to do great business. Botswana, just like anywhere in the world, is not without its challenges but entrepreneurs here are learning and making great strides within our borders as well as outside of it.”
* To find out more about AAT, contact Nicky Burke at firstname.lastname@example.org
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”