Korea offered P30 billion to develop infrastructure
President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama’s recent visit to South Korea could be the latest indication of a turbulent relationship between the government of Botswana and that of the People’s Republic of China. What could be a further sign of strain is the fact that Botswana has reportedly scoffed off Chinese soft loans.
Chinese in Botswana this week celebrated 40 years of bilateral relations with Botswana, but it was apparent that amid the fanfare glossed with cultural night at Maitisong, the Chinese are deeply concerned at the state of affairs. Chinese companies have enjoyed a cosy relationship with the country’s procurement system but things have changed.
President Khama’s visit to South Korea resulted in a lot of undertakings and this could spell uncertainty for the China-Botswana relationship going forward. The Chinese are already experiencing problems in Botswana in the form of rejected work permits and VISA applications. Senior Chinese officials revealed this week that “we do not know what the problem could be.”
A litany of complaints, both from the Government of Botswana and on the other hand from the Chinese in recent years has created diplomatic strain between the two countries. Botswana is not happy with the quality of construction work by some Chinese companies and the country has lost billions of Pula is failed projects.
According to the Korean Times, a publication based in South Korea Khama has offered South Korean government US$2.6 billion (equivalent to P27.4 billion) to solve the power crisis which is besieging the country and also threatening the economy. Meanwhile a Chinese company is at the helm of the costly and failing Morupule B Power Plant.
Khama is also reported to have offered the South Koreans an opportunity to partner with Botswana government in development of other public infrastructure as part of the P27.4 billion worth of projects. Khama’s visit to South Korea also came in the wake of announcement of the Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) at the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Special Congress last month.
Khama’s gesture towards the South Koreans essentially means Botswana is now extending an olive branch to Koreans at the expense of long time partner in infrastructure development, China.
In 2013, Khama told South African publication, Business Day that Botswana has had bad experiences with Chinese companies and going forward Botswana will be looking very carefully at any company that originates from China in providing construction services of any nature.
Since the two countries established diplomatic relations, bilateral trade between the two countries has now reached over P300million.
The relationship between the two countries began to diminish in the last five years following failure by the Chinese to complete projects on time, and on budget. Of all the projects under question, the Morupule B, the P11 billion World Bank and African Development Bank funded projects and the Palapye Glass Project were the most contentious.
Khama has not hidden his disappointment with the turn of events as far as delivery of projects on time and on budget is concerned. This is succinctly described by his remarks in 2013 at Tlokweng addressing a Kgotla meeting, where he told attendants that, “Bagaetsho re jelwe…’’ meaning “We were sold a dummy.”
However, Khama recently defended the Chinese and other foreign owned companies from those who called to them to be compelled to partner with local companies in order to be awarded government tenders. Khama said he did not want a situation where the citizens will ride on the back of the Chinese and remarked that Chinese were welcome as long as they hire citizens.
Currently there are 16 Chinese State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) operating in Botswana, 13 of which are top construction companies, all of the construction contractors being ranked at the top grade granted by the PPADB.
PPADB has a contractor grading ceiling in which companies are graded into different categories depending on the experience of the company, qualifications of its employees and equipments/assets the company has to determine the magnitude of tenders they can be awarded.
The threshold of tenders a company can be awarded falls under the following categories are; Grade OC (P1.5 million), Grade A (P4 million), Grade B (20 million), Grade C (P40 million), Grade D, (P85 million) while Grade E has an unlimited threshold. All the Chinese SOEs are grade at E, which means they are dominate most tenders worth over P85 million.
Information reaching this publication indicates that the Chinese government has proposed various projects to the Botswana government on how they could help Botswana to further strengthen her economy. Among the proposals was the setting up of a plant that converts coal into diesel.
WeekendPost inquiries have revealed that the Chinese government in recent times made offers of soft loans to Botswana in the form of interest-free or low-interest concessional loans. It is reported the Botswana government has shown little interest in taking up the offer to develop the country’s infrastructure.
Instead Botswana has turned to her foreign reserves and South Korean companies are likely to benefit. Some Chinese officials who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity at the celebrations indicated that the offers will be passed on to other African states.
What emerges as the biggest concern for the Chinese is the continued rejection of their citizens when they apply for residence permits and or Botswana Visas. On average it has emerged that China offers 3500 Visas to Botswana citizens annually with a turnaround time of two days. But Botswana issues less than 100 annually, and the Chinese may wait for months to have theirs approved.
A Chinese national who spoke on condition of anonymity at the celebrations at Maitisong recounted a story of her his neghbours, a couple who had a toddler daughter. He said they had applied for residence’ permits only for both parents to be rejected and only the toddler permit was approved. He said they have since gone back to China.
The Chinese are confused they are never certain if they are guaranteed a tomorrow in Botswana, and the potential Chinese investors are almost next to nil because of the current situation with VISAS and permits.
THE VISA, PERMITS PROBLEM IS FAR REACHING
However the Chinese are not the only one crying foul over the matter as a number of key stakeholders, including Botswana Investment Trade Centre (BITC) and Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HAATAB) has over time complained of unexplained rejections of foreign entrepreneurs and tourist VISAs and work permits.
Earlier this year the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was told that, reports indicate that an estimated P4 billion was lost by the country on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the past year alone, and said the practice could hurt the country’s economy and reverse its gains.
This publication has established that earlier this year, an Indian billionaire and his 60 entourage all had their VISAs but was rejected by the immigration department. It is reported that the billionaire, who’s linked to one of the former presidents and is into diamond business had plans to invest in Botswana.
Reports have been rife that the VISA situation has been aggravated by interference by Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS) which is being blamed for rejecting applications supposedly for security reasons.
Former President, Festus Mogae has expressed his frustrations at the rate at which Botswana is expelling foreign nationals as he noted that it is self defeating for a country like Botswana which needs skilled professionals and foreign investors.
Businessman and legislator, Guma Moyo has also expressed concern at the sudden exchange of Botswana’s policy towards foreign nationals. “There is chaos at immigration regarding work permits and VISAs,” Moyo told PAC earlier this year. “It is creating a negative impact and countries like India are beginning to think Botswana is a no go area for business.
Part of the problem to the economy has been uncertainty that foreign investors face in Botswana. WeekendPost has been told that investors are not willing to put their money into a country where they are not certain whether they will be here tomorrow or not, hence opting to look elsewhere.
Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTC) has announced that its 3rd Francistown Marathon will be held on Saturday 20th April 2024 at Obed Itani Chilume Stadium in Francistown. The BTC Francistown Marathon is officially recognised by World Athletics and a Comrades Marathon Qualifier will offer race categories ranging from 42.2km, 21.1 km, 10km, 5km fun run, 5km peace run for children and has introduced a 5km and 10km categories for wheelchairs athletics.
BTC also used this opportunity to announce beneficiaries who received donations from proceeds made from the 2nd BTC Francistown Marathon that was held on April 23rd 203. BTC donated a play area, plastic chairs and wooden tables for pupils worth a total of thirty eight thousand, one hundred and three pula, fifty thebe each (P38, 103.50) to Monarch Primary School, Tatitown Primary School, Mahube Primary School and Gulubane Primary School. Ditladi and Boikhutso clinics each received a donation of benches, television sets and 10, 000 litre water tanks worth thirty seven thousan, eight hundred and ninety eight pula (P 37, 898.00). Additionally, BTC also donated seventy thousand pula (P70,000.00) to their marathon technical partner, Francistown Athletics Club (FAC) which will be used for daily operations as well as to purchase equipment for the club.
The BTC Francistown Marathon aligns seamlessly with BTC’s corporate social investment programme, administered through the BTC Foundation. This programme is a testament to BTC’s dedication to community development, focusing on key areas such as health promotion. The marathon, now in its third year, not only promotes a healthy lifestyle but also channels all proceeds to carefully chosen charities as part of BTC’s commitment to impactful and sustainable projects.
Speaking at the launch, the BTC Managing Director Mr Anthony Masunga stated that the marathon underscores BTC’s commitment to community upliftment and corporate social investment. He stated that “the annual event which has been in existence since 2016, having taken a break due to the covid and other logistical issues, is instrumental to the economic upliftment of the city of Francistown”. He congratulated all the beneficiaries for having been nominated to receive the donations, adding that “the donation of proceeds from the 2023 marathon aims to highlight BTC’s commitment and heart for Batswana and our continued impact in the different industries”.
He further stated that through this marathon, “we demonstrate our steadfast commitment to having a good influence on our communities, this event is a manifestation of our dedication to promoting education and a healthier, more active society”. He concluded by stating that “BTC looks forward to another successful marathon that will leave a lasting positive influence on the greater Francistown community and the country at large” he said.
Giving welcome remarks, the Councillor for Donga, Honourable Morulaganyi Mothowabarwa stated that “he is ecstatic that BTC is collaborating with the City of Francistown on yet another installment of the Marathon”. He continued to offer his support to BTC to enable this marathon to continue over the coming years, stating that the “CSI element is a welcome development that helps empower our communities”, he said.
The 3rd BTC Francistown Marathon is officially open for registrations and athletes may use the following platforms to register and pay; through Smega by dialling *173# and choosing opton 5, then choose Option 3 for the Francistown marathon, at any BTC store or by visiting the BTC website and clicking on the BTC Francistown Marathon and choosing the relevant options.
Thapelo Letsholo, Member of Parliament for Kanye North, delivered a moving speech at the United Nations International Anti-Corruption Day commemoration, praising President Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi’s digitalization initiative in the fight against corruption. Letsholo highlighted the importance of embracing digitalization in governance as a crucial step in curbing corrupt practices.
According to Letsholo, the implementation of digital systems in government services can significantly reduce direct interactions between citizens and officials, which often serve as fertile grounds for corruption. By minimizing these opportunities for illicit activities, the efficiency and transparency of public services can be enhanced. Letsholo pointed to Estonia’s success in digital governance as an example, where public services have become more transparent, accessible, and efficient.
The MP commended President Masisi’s commitment to digitalization and E-Governance, emphasizing that it aligns with global anti-corruption standards. He called for full support and active participation from all sectors to ensure the success of this initiative.
Letsholo also stressed the importance of improving detection methods and refining whistleblower laws to effectively combat corruption. He highlighted the unseen and unspoken facets of corruption as its lifelines, emphasizing the need for robust detection mechanisms and a system that encourages and protects whistleblowers.
Addressing the societal role in fighting corruption, Letsholo focused on the crucial role of everyday citizens and civil servants who often witness corrupt practices firsthand. He acknowledged the existing reluctance to report corruption due to the perceived risks of repercussions. To change this narrative, Letsholo advocated for creating an environment where staying silent is deemed more detrimental than speaking out. He called for a cultural shift where the potential benefits of exposing corruption outweigh the risks, ensuring that whistleblowers are protected and feel secure in coming forward.
Letsholo called for collective responsibility and action in creating a system that not only detects and reports corruption but also supports those who stand against it. He expressed hope that under President Masisi’s digitalization initiatives, the future of governance in Botswana will be characterized by integrity, transparency, and accountability. Letsholo’s speech resonated with the sentiments of hope and determination that permeated the commemoration, emphasizing the need for unity in the fight against corruption.
In summary, Letsholo lauded President Masisi’s digitalization initiative in the fight against corruption, highlighting its potential to curb corrupt practices, enhance efficiency and transparency in public services, and align with global anti-corruption standards. He emphasized the importance of improving detection methods, refining whistleblower laws, and creating an environment where speaking out against corruption is encouraged and protected. Letsholo called for collective responsibility and action in creating a future characterized by integrity, transparency, and accountability in governance.
FaR Property Company (FPC) Limited, a property investment company listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange, has recently announced its exceptional financial results for the year 2023. The company’s property asset value has risen to P1.47 billion, up from P1.42 billion in the previous year.
FPC has a diverse portfolio of properties, including retail, commercial, industrial, and residential properties in Botswana, South Africa, and Zambia. The company owns a total of 186 properties, generating rental revenues from various sectors. In 2023, the company recorded rental revenues of P11 million from residential properties, P62 million from industrial properties, and P89 million from commercial properties. Overall, the company’s total revenues increased by 9% to P153 million, while profit before tax increased by 22% to P136 million, and operating profit increased by 11% to P139 million.
One notable achievement for FPC is the low vacancy rate across its properties, which stands at only 6%. This is particularly impressive considering the challenging trading environment. The company attributes this success to effective lease management and the leasing of previously vacant properties in South Africa. FPC’s management expressed satisfaction with the results, highlighting the resilience of the company in the face of ongoing macroeconomic challenges.
The increase in profit before tax can be attributed to both an increase in income and effective control of operating expenses. FPC managed to achieve these results with fewer employees, demonstrating the company’s efficiency. The headline earnings per linked unit also saw an improvement, reaching 26.92 thebe, higher than the previous year.
Looking ahead, FPC remains confident in its competitiveness and growth prospects. The company possesses a substantial land bank, which it plans to develop strategically as opportunities arise. FPC aims for managed growth, focusing on consumer-driven developments and ensuring the presence of supportive tenants. By maintaining this approach, the company believes it can sustainably grow its property portfolio and remain competitive in the market.
In terms of the macroeconomic environment, FPC noted that inflation rates are decreasing towards the 3% to 6% range approved by the Bank of Botswana. This is positive news for the company, as it hopes for further decreases in interest rates. However, the fluctuating fuel prices, influenced by global events such as the war in Ukraine and oil output reductions by Russia and other Middle Eastern countries, continue to impact businesses, including some of FPC’s tenants.
FPC’s property portfolio includes notable assets such as a shopping mall in Francistown with Choppies Hyper as the anchor tenant, Borogo Mall located on the A33 main road near the Kazungula ferry crossing, and various industrial and commercial properties in Gaborone leased to Choppies, Senn Foods, and Clover Botswana. The company also owns a shopping mall in Mafikeng and Rustenburg in South Africa.
The majority of FPC’s properties, 85%, are located in Botswana, followed by 12% in South Africa and 3% in Zambia. With its strong financial performance, competitive position, and strategic land bank, FPC is well-positioned for continued growth and success in the property market.