Having previously failed to reap much through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) initiative, which offers a huge market for African products duty and quota free into the US market, Botswana is betting on the new extension to increase exports.
The number of companies participating in the scheme has pared down over the years. Initially 15 members participated, being in textiles and apparel and furniture, but now only two companies are exporting through this scheme.
While other African countries like Lesotho managing to sustain the economy through the scheme, Botswana’s has failed recording a trade deficit with the United States (US) of $265 million in 2014million in 2014.
Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Vincent Seretse bemoaned that Botswana companies were not utilising the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA opportunity to increase their exports.
“Currently only two companies are exporting under AGOA out of the 13 companies that benefitted initially and this has led to Botswana experiencing a negative trade balance,” said Seretse Speaking at a AGOA seminar in Gaborone.
The AGOA is a United States Trade Act, enacted in 2000 as Public Law 106 of the 200th Congress and the legislation significantly enhances market access to the US for qualifying Sub-Saharan African countries. Qualification for AGOA preferences is based on a set of conditions contained in the AGOA legislation. In 2014, Botswana exported goods worth around US$9 million to the AGOA market.
In 2011 was Botswana’s finest year after it managed to export goods worth $16 million. Botswana companies have reportedly failed to take advantage of AGOA because of high utility costs and supply constraints, insufficient telecommunications infrastructure, and highly inconsistent transportation costs, augmented by distance to current or potential markets, and regional infrastructure constraints.
Seretse said initiatives are in place to diversify the economy and sustain the Botswana industries to ensure competitiveness in the international markets.
“We have among other programmes such as the National Export Strategy, the Industrial Development policy, the Economic Diversification Drive and the Private Sector Development Programme, of which, we only need to implement to ensure that our manufacturers can capitalise in order to benefit from the renewed AGOA,” said the minister.
He said despite Botswana minimal benefit in the past 15 years, there is still hope for local manufactures as the will be launching the Vision 2036 and the 11th National Development Plan which is set to given the country direction to address the needs of industries.
Seretse said AGOA is the best opportunity for promoting industrialisation, diversify the economy and increase exports and create jobs in the country. The minister said increased benefits under ago would result increased export to the US and enhance Botswana economic growth through employment creation and industrial development. “It will further contribute to the efforts of regional integration objectives as you are aware that SADC has focused its efforts on the industrialisation of the region,” said the minister.
Advising Botswana on how to fully benefit from the scheme, Lesotho’s Minister of Trade and Industry (MTI Joshua Setipa said Botswana should look into improving conditions of doing business.
Setipa added that Botswana should also look into the issue of permits to lure more investors into the country as well as bring in the much needed expertise. Lesotho is the leading exporter into the US under the AGOA scheme in the sub-Saharan region.
The AGOA Act went through a series of extensions and was to elapse in September 2015. It was however extended for ten years until September 2025. Under the AGOA Preferences currently apply to approximately 7 000 tariffs lines which include approximately 5 000 tariff lines covered under the United States Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) plus a further 1800 tariff line items added by the AGOA legislation including footwear, luggage, handbags, watches, certain automotive components. To date, about 39 countries from sub-sahara Africa, are participating in the AGOA.
Prices for cereals or staple foods in Botswana and other Southern African countries continue to rise at a slower pace, following trends in the global markets, according to the latest November 2022 Food Price Monitoring and Analysis by Food Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
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Botswana Institution Of Engineers (BIE), has last week hosted a gala dinner in which they appreciated engineers who worked tirelessly and with dedication for 10 years from 1983 to steer the BIE to its current status.
The event that was held at the Phakalane Golf Estate had brought together young, experienced and veteran engineers and was held under the theme “Vitalize the dignity and eminence of all professional engineers”.
Explaining the theme, the institution’s treasurer, Thanabalasingam Raveendran said that engineers were looked upon reverentially with respect as the educated but with time it seems to have deteriorated. He indicated that there is a need to change the narrative by all means.
“The BIE exists for the welfare and the betterment of us Botswana engineers, we need to recognize specialised units within our Institution. We Engineers strongly believe in Engineers make it happen” Raveendran said.
He indicated that under the theme they appeal to all engineers to energize, to attain quality of being worthy of honour and respect and to achieve recognized superiority amongst the Society.
Raveendran stated that engineers need to ensure their end product is of good quality satisfying the end users expectations and engineers must be honest in their work.
“Approximately 8000 engineers registered with Engineering Regulatory Board (ERB) are not members of the BIE, engineers need to make every effort to recruit them to BIE” he said.
He alluded that BIE being a society, it currently needs to upgrade itself at par with professional institutions elsewhere like the UK and USA.
He further stated that BIE has to have engineering units of specialised disciplines like Civil/Mechanical/electrical etc
“As President Masisi indicated in his inaugural speech, the young people, who make 60 percent of the population of this country, are the future leaders and therefore investing in them is building the bridge to the future” said Raveendran
Kandima indicated that BIE has a memorandum of Understanding with Engineers Registration Board (ERB), where BIE is a recognised provider of CPD training, mentorship programmes and more importantly IPD undertaking to upgrade the skills and know-how of our engineers.
“For us to achieve our mandate and make worthwhile changes to engineering in Botswana, we have to be totally focused and act with intent” said Kandima.
Furthermore, Stephen Williams, past president of the BIE from 1986-1988 told the engineers that the BIE provides a fertile environment where they can meet, share ideas and grow professionally.
“The BIE is also a nesting place for graduate engineers to learn from their peers and seniors, it also cater for engineering technicians and technologists and so nobody in the technology field is left out” he said.
He further indicated that Botswana Government provides a conductive environment for growth of engineering professionals.
“It must be stated that the Botswana Government recognises the existence of BIE and it can further be stated that the government enables ERB to carry out its mandate as a regulator of engineering professionals” said Williams
He plead with engineering companies to recognize and support BIE as it is the only source of engineering personnel’s for various Industries .
Furthermore, when giving his farewell speech, Michael Pinard , a past president of the institution said how they are viewed as engineers by the general public might be due to some lack of appreciation as to exactly what role they play in the development of the country.
“The BIE slogan is aptly coined-Engineers make it happen, in other words, what man dreams engineers create” Said Pinard.