Former State President, Sir Ketumile Masire, this week, officially unveiled the re-born insurer, Bona Life Insurance Company. Bona Life is the product of the rebranding of what was formerly Bramerlife Insurance Company.
Under new ownership of the Botswana Public Officer’s Pension Fund, Bramerlife Chief Executive Officer, Regina Sikalesele-Vaka says the company is now owned by Batswana and brings an added advantage of responding to local clients quickly without having to seek permission from foreign based parent companies.
Bramer Life Botswana was launched in June 2014 after the Mauritian based British American Investment Corporation (BAIC) invested P40 million for an 80 per cent stake in the company with citizen investors holding the remaining 20 per cent.
Nine months after the glitzy launch, the insurance firm was rocked by a ‘ponzi scheme’ scandal that hit its sister company, Bramer Banking Corporation Limited in Mauritius, tarnishing Bramer Life Botswana in the process. The scandal was said to entail a large-scale scam in the shape of a ponzi scheme estimated at over P6.4 billion.â€¨
Following the revelations, NBFIRA (Non Bank financial Institutions Regulatory Authority) appointed Nigel Dixon-Warren of KPMG as a statutory manager in April for Bramer Life Botswana.
At the official launch of the rebranded insurer, on Tuesday this week at Cresta Lodge in Gaborone, the past immediate statutory manager of the Bramer Life, Nigel Dixon-Warren told the story of how he and the regulator NBFIRA went to Mauritius to clear the mist of Bramer Life’s associates and cobbled up a deal within two days of arriving, which would see the Bramer Life detaching from the Mauritian connection.
“The regulator brought me in as the statutory manager to protect the interests of policy holders at Bramer Life,” said Dixon- Warren.
Sikalesele-Vaka, said that usually when a company is placed under statutory management, it signals the end of that company. However, the company came to life in the mould of Bona Life. Sikalesele-Vaka is upbeat about the prospects of success. “There is no uncertainty about the prospects of success of Bona Life; the only thing that is not certain is the magnitude of that success,” she said.
The company under the tried and tested leadership of Sikalesele-Vaka has a mammoth task ahead of wrestling market share of the long term insurance sub sector, with Botswana Life dominating at 80 percent, leaving 20 percent to be shared out among six players in the sector.
Sikalese-Vaka said that Bona Life will have a special focus on annuities and retirement products, funeral cover, cash back investments and mortgage protection.
Former President Sir Ketumile Masire said that the lives of Batswana have evolved from mainly cattle rearing, with contingencies borne by the extended family, to more sophisticated lifestyles that constantly change with new innovations. He said that the financial services sector should be responsive to these changes and adapt.
Masire said that the birth of Bona Life is a historic moment in the forty years that the insurance industry has been in the country as it is the first citizen owned insurance company.
Despite Covid-19 interrupting trade worldwide, exporting companies in Botswana which benefited from the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) services realised P2.96 billion in export earnings during the period from April 2020 to March 2021.
In the preceding financial year, the sale of locally manufactured products in foreign markets had registered export revenue of P2, 427 billion against a target of P3, 211 billion BITC, which celebrates 10 years since establishment, continues to carry out several initiatives targeted towards expanding the Botswana export base in line with Botswana’s desire to be an export led economy, underpinned by a robust export promotion programme in line with the National Export Strategy.
The main products exported were swamp cruiser boats, pvc tanks and pvc pipes, ignition wiring sets, semi-precious stones, veterinary medicines, hair braids, coal, textiles (towels and t-shirts) and automobile batteries. These goods were destined mainly for South Africa, Zimbabwe, Austria, Germany, and Namibia.
With Covid-19 still a problem, BITC continues to roll out targeted virtual trade promotion missions across the SADC region with a view to seeking long-lasting market opportunities for locally manufactured products.
Recently, the Centre facilitated participation for Botswana companies at the Eastern Cape Development Council (ECDC) Virtual Export Symposium, the Botswana-Zimbabwe Virtual Trade Mission, the Botswana-Zambia Virtual Trade Mission, Botswana-South Africa Virtual Buyer/Seller Mission as well as the Botswana-Namibia Virtual Trade Mission.
BITC has introduced an e-Exporting programme aimed at assisting Botswana exporters to conduct business on several recommended e-commerce platforms. Due to the advent of COVID-19, BITC is currently promoting e-trade among companies through the establishment of e-commerce platforms and is assisting local companies to embrace digitisation by adopting e-commerce platforms to reach export markets as well as assisting local e-commerce platform developers to scale up their online marketplaces.
During the 2019/2020 financial year, BITC embarked on several initiatives targeted at growing exports in the country; facilitation of participation of local companies in international trade platforms in order to enhance export sales of local products and services into external markets.
BITC also helped in capacity development of local companies to compete in global markets and the nurturing of export awareness and culture among local manufacturers in order to enhance their skills and knowledge of export processes; and in development and implementation of trade facilitation tools that look to improve the overall ease of doing business in Botswana.
As part of building export capacity in 2019/20, six (6) companies were selected to initiate a process to be Organic and Fair Trade Certified. These companies are; Blue Pride (Pty) Ltd, Motlopi Beverages, Moringa Technology Industries (Pty) Ltd, Sleek Foods, Maungo Craft and Divine Morula.
In 2019 seven companies which were enrolled in the Botswana Exporter Development Programme were capacitated with attaining BOBS ISO 9001: 2015 certification. Three (3) companies successfully attained BOBS ISO 9001:2015 certification. These were Lithoflex (Pty) Ltd, General Packaging Industries and Power Engineering.
BITC’s annual flagship exhibition, Global Expo Botswana (GEB) to create opportunities for trade and strategic synergies between local and international companies. The Global Expo Botswana) is a premier business to business exposition that attracts FDI, expansion of domestic investment, promotion of exports of locally produced goods and services and promotion of trade between Botswana and other countries.
The portal also provides information on; measures, legal documents, and forms and procedures needed by Botswana companies that intend on doing business abroad. BITC continues to assist both potential and existing local manufacturing and service entities to realise their export ambitions. This assistance is pursued through the ambit of the Botswana Exporter Development Programme (BEDP) and the Trade Promotion Programme.
BEDP was revised in 2020 in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with a vision to developing a diversified export-based economy. The programme focuses mostly on capacitating companies to reach export readiness status.
Prices for goods and services in this country continue to increase, with the latest figures from Statistics Botswana showing that in May 2022, inflation rate rose to 11.9 percent from 9.6 percent recorded in April 2022.
According to Statistics Botswana update released this week, the largest upward contributions to the annual inflation rate in May 2022 came from increase in the cost of transport (7.2 percent), housing, water, electricity, gas & other Fuels (1.4 percent), food & non-alcoholic beverages (1.1 percent) and miscellaneous goods & services (0.8 percent).
With regard to regional inflation rates between April and May 2022, the Rural Villages inflation rate went up by 2.5 percentage points, from 9.6 percent in April to 12.1 percent in May 2022, according to the government owned statistics entity.
In the monthly update the entity stated that the Urban Villages inflation rate stood at 11.8 percent in May 2022, a rise of 2.4 percentage points from the April rate of 9.4 percent, whereas the Cities & Towns inflation rate recorded an increase of 1.9 percentage points, from 9.9 percent in April to 11.8 percent in May.
Commenting on the national Consumer Price Index, the entity stated that it went up by 2.6 percent, from 120.1 in April to 123.2 in May 2022. Statisticians from the entity noted that the transport group index registered an increase of 7.3 percent, from 134.5 in April to 144.2 in May, mainly due to the rise in retail pump prices for petrol and diesel by P1.54 and P2.74 per litre respectively, which effected on the 13th of May 2022.
The food & non-alcoholic beverages group index rose by 2.6 percent, from 118.6 in April 2022 to 121.6 in May 2022 and this came as a result of increase in prices of oils & fats, vegetables, bread & cereal, mineral waters, soft drinks, fruits & vegetables juices, fish (Fresh, Chilled & Frozen) and meat (Fresh, Chilled & Frozen), according to the Statisticians.
The Statisticians said the furnishing, household equipment & routine maintenance group index rose by 1.0 percent, from 111.6 in April 2022 to 112.7 in May 2022 and this was attributed to a general increase in prices of household appliances, glassware, tableware & household utensils and goods & services for household maintenance.
The prices for clothing & footwear group index moved from 109.4 to 110.4, registering a rise of 0.9 percent during the period under review. Bank of Botswana has projected higher inflation in the short term, associated with the likelihood of further increases in domestic fuel prices in response to persistent high international oil prices and added that the possible increase in public service salaries could add also upward pressure to inflation in this country.
In the latest June 2022 global economic prospects, released last week the World Bank has warned that low global economic growth and economic activity in global commodity markets such as China and Europe could negatively affect export revenues for Botswana and other Sub Saharan countries.
Recent data from Statistics Botswana show that Botswana’s exports destined to the global markets such as Asia and the European Union (EU) on monthly basis accounts for around 60.1 percent and 20.1 percent respectively.
The World Bank last week lowered its 2022 projections of global economic growth and indicated that the new forecasts could be bad news for countries like Botswana who are dependent on export mineral revenues. The Bank noted that just over two years after COVID-19 caused the deepest global recession since World War II, the world economy is again in danger and stated that this time it is facing high inflation and slow growth at the same time.
In the recent June projections, the bank lowered its forecast of global economic growth from the January 4.1 percent to 2.1 percent. “Our June forecasts reflect a sizable downgrade to the outlook: global growth is expected to slow sharply from 5.7 percent in 2021 to 2.9 percent this year. This also reflects a nearly one-third cut to our January 2022 forecast for this year of 4.1 percent,” a team of World Bank economists noted in the June 2022 Global Economic Prospects.
The World Bank indicated that exports from Botswana and other Sub Saharan countries could suffer from a substantial deceleration of activity in China and Europe. The Bank noted that exporters of industrial metals, crude oil, and ores such as Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, South Africa, and Zambia could suffer from a substantial deceleration of activity in China.
On the other hand a sharp contraction of growth in the euro area could hurt exporters of agricultural products such as beef, coffee, tea, tobacco, cotton, and textiles from Botswana, Ethiopia, Madagascar and Malawi. “The faster-than-expected deceleration of the global economy and increased volatility of commodity prices could hurt many SSA commodity exporters,” said World Bank President David Malpass.
Malpass indicated that subdued growth in the global markets for Botswana and other Sub Saharan exports will likely persist throughout the decade because of weak investment in most of the world.
He noted that with inflation now running at multi-decade highs in many countries and supply expected to grow slowly, inflation could remain higher for longer than currently anticipated. “Even if a global recession is averted, the pain of stagflation could persist for several years— unless major supply increases are set in motion. Amid the war in Ukraine, surging inflation, and rising interest rates, global economic growth is expected to slump in 2022. Several years of above-average inflation and below-average growth are now likely,” said Malpass.