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Japanese Volunteers transform Mmea, Xere settlements

Two Japanese Volunteers working partnership with the Remote Area Development Programme (RADP) office in Boteti have launched a flourishing project that has created employment in the small settlements of Mmea and Xere in the Boteti Sub District.

The project, aptly dubbed gifts for Botswana involves the making of handy crafts like bags, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, ties, and pouches by the inhabitants of the two settlements. Handy crafts, in addition to traditional crafts like baskets, wooden crafts, wooden chairs and other items are then sold not only to individuals but to lodges, hotels and shops in sightseeing areas in Botswana and abroad.

This innovative project is being executed with the assistance of Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) where volunteers from Japan are actively involved in carrying out daily project activities in the ethnic Basarwa settlements. Owing to this, many of the items and accessories created and built in Xere and Mmea have found their way to Japan and the Asian market.

According to Etsuko Nagayama a volunteer through JICA, two volunteers from Japan who are stationed at the Boteti sub district council have been very instrumental in the project. “The Boteti Sub District Council through the Social Welfare and Community Development Department had dispatched a team of volunteers to the settlements around Boteti with the aim of devising ways to help the local community. After our visit we proposed this idea of income generation activities by making crafts. Then the proposal was approved by the council and this is how this project started” Etsuko who prefers being addressed by her Setswana name Naledi says.

She says in many villages and settlements in rural Botswana the majority of the inhabitants cannot make their living without financial help from the government thus they had to think of strategies to help create employment and upholding the principle and spirit of Ipelegeng.  

She says the main goal of the project is to create jobs in remote areas so that rural dwellers can get income by themselves and better their life “and also because we want to energise the craft sector in Botswana, we realised that they are many tourists from outside of Botswana these days, and they expect something made in Botswana. We believe that it is a very good opportunity for the tourism sector to flourish. To accomplish these goals, we encourage people making crafts to promote these items and market them to an international audience” she adds.

She says they sell many of the products in Japan through the internet “people like our items especially handy crafts using German print, currently we have three members in Xere and six members in Mmea who are making handy crafts. More than ten people are registered as producers of these traditional crafts” she reveals. She said the project which only begun its operation in April 2014, struggled in its first year as they couldn’t make any sales, through sheer perseverance and determination, the group is now doing better in sales having sold more than P 7,325 worth of products from May to December 2014 and P 26,270 worth of sales from January to August 2015.

At the moment the group has more than 15 partner-shops and lodges locally who are selling their items.  She says however, that the amount of money they have made amounts to less than P500 salary for each person in the group per month. “We need more customers who are interested in our items. We would like to get more partner-shops. And we also want to promote our items to companies that want gifts or prizes for their customers. Furthermore, it would be great if we met someone who comes from abroad who could introduce and sell made in Botswana crafts to their country, like me, a Japanese can sell these items to Japan” she pleads.  

She says that individuals in Botswana can also help as they are willing to offer local partners’ special prices for bulk orders from a minimum P500 per order. “It would be great if someone could buy our items together with their friends or colleagues. We need support not only from government but also from communities. There are so many good items and producers who can make these items in rural areas. The problem is marketing. I believe we can overcome this problem with people in all Botswana, including people from abroad fully behind us” she says.  

She says while she drives the project, she would like it known that it is funded by the government through Boteti Sub district Council RADP program and that they are working together with local officers in Boteti Sub District. “They give good advice and help to operate this project” she says.

She says their main challenges are lack of business operating skills by members, lack of knowledge in using computers, internet and English for the mainly Basarwa ethnic group in the settlements.  She says there is no electricity at the project sites and that some members cannot read and write “it is also not easy for us to reach market as we are located in a very rural area. It takes too much cost to go and sell our products in towns and abroad” she adds.

She says they are doing everything in their power to teach the residents business operations skills to ensure sustainability of the project long after they are gone “but it is tough for them with their literacy rate. It would be better if a Motswana in town could help to operate the project for them. So, I am looking for someone who would help us” she says.  She says looking into the future, they are trying to get bulk orders from retail shops, companies and individuals by phone, mail or internet. Saying some lodges and shops have already indicated interest in partnering with the group to sell their wares.

She posits that as this is a community based project that has created employment for many they are obliged to call for help in promoting and intensifying marketing for the handy crafts project and its activities so that more people would know what they are doing. While the project is based in Xere and Mmea settlement, it will soon operate in all four remote area settlements of Xere, Mmea, Khwee and Kedia in Boteti. She says, they have recently created a website, http://giftbotswana.jimdo.com/ where their products can be seen and ordered from anywhere in the world.

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Business

Pula smiles at COVID-19 vaccine

25th November 2020
COVID-19 vaccine

A squeaky and glittering metaphoric smile was the look reflected from the Pula against the greenback this week and money market researchers lean this on optimism following Monday’s announcement of another Covid-19 vaccine which is said to have boosted emerging market economies.

With other emerging market currencies, the Pula too reacted to optimism and fanfare on the new Covid-19 vaccine against the weakening US dollar which has been losing its shine since the uncertainty laden US elections.

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Business

Choppies high on JSE rollercoaster volatility

25th November 2020
CHOPPIES

After bouncing back into the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) last week Friday, following a year of being in the freezer, the Choppies stock started this week with much fluidity.

Choppies was suspended in both the Botswana Stock Exchange and its secondary listing at the JSE for failure to publish financial results. Choppies suspension on Botswana Stock Exchange was lifted on 27 July 2020. On Friday last week, when suspension was being lifted, Choppies explained that this came into fruition “following extensive engagement with the JSE.”

Choppies stock, prior to suspension, hit a mammoth decline in value of more than 60 percent, especially in September 2018. Waking from a 24 month freezer, last week the Choppies share price was at R0.64 and the stock did not make any movement.

However, Monday was the day when Choppies stock moved vibrantly, albeit volatile. Choppies’ value was on a high volatile mood on Monday, reaching highs of 200 percent. At noon, the same Monday, the Choppies share had reached R1.05. Before taking an uphill movement, Choppies stock slightly slipped by 2 cents. But the Choppies share rode up high and by lunch time the stock had reached the day’s summit of R2.00 and that was at 13:30 when investors were buying the stock for lunch.

The same eventful Monday saw gloom on the faces of Choppies rivals, when Choppies gained by 220.31 percent around lunch time its rivals in the JSE Food & Drug Retailers sector were licking wounds. Spar lost 2.94 percent, Pick Pay fell by 2.43 percent, Shoprite 7.52 percent and Dis-Chem 1.98 percent. The only gainer was Clicks by a paltry 0.51 percent.

In an interview with BusinessPost, Choppies sponsors at the JSE PSG Capital Managing Director Johan Holtzhausen explained that the retailer’s stock was in high demand after a long suspension. He said when a company list or a suspension is lifted the market needs to find itself on the pricing of the share.

“Initially when the suspension was lifted there were more buyers than sellers. As far as we could see this created a shortage of shares so to speak and resulted in the price at which the shares traded going to R1.20 and eventually R2.05 before finding its level around R0.80 sent from a JSE perspective.

This is marked dynamics and reflect that there are investors that are positive about the stock in the long run. This is a snapshot over a short period and one requires a longer period to draw further conclusions,” said Holtzhausen in an interview talking about the Choppies stock.

On Monday this week where the Choppies value grew by 200 percent, the stock took a turn looking down, closing the day at R0.87 from a high of R2.00. According to local stockbroker Motswedi Securities on Monday while there was no movement by Choppies in the local stock exchange as the retailer appeared on the board as 141,000 shares traded at P0.60 each.

However in Choppies’ secondary listing the stock price rallied to over 200 percent during intraday trading on Monday before losing steam and declining to around R0.87 share.

Before press yesterday Choppies opened the market with the stock starting the day at R0.80 then went flat for few hours before taking a slide downward, dropping 5 cents in 30 minutes. Choppies then went flat at R0.75 for 50 minutes yesterday before going up at 10:20 am where it nearly recovered the open day price of 80 cents, but was shy of 1 cent. From 79 cents the price went flat until noon.

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Foschini-Jet merger, a class and rivalry conundrum dissection

25th November 2020
Foschini

Competition and Consumer Authority (CCA) has revealed that in its assessment of the Jet take over by Foschini, there were considerations on possible market rivalry and a clash in targeted classes.

According to a merger decision notice seen by this publication this week, high considerations were made to ensure that Foschini’s takeover of Jet is not anyhow an elimination of rivalry or competition or if the two entities; the targeted and the acquiring enterprise serves the same class of customers or offer the same products, to elude the anti-trust issues or a stretch of monopoly.

The two entities are South African retailers whose services stretched to Botswana shores.  Last month local anti-trust body, CCA, received an acquisition proposal from South African clothing retailer, Foschini, stating their intentions to take-over Jet.

South African government’s Business Rescue Practitioners earlier this year after finding out that Jet’s mother company, Edcon, is falling apart, made a decision that Foschini can buy Jet for R480 million. This means that Foschini will add Jet to its portfolio of 30 retail brands that trade in clothing, footwear, jewellery, sportswear, homeware, cell phones, and technology products from value to upper market segments throughout more than 4085 outlets in 32 countries on five continents.

However the main headache for the CCA decision which was released this week, is distinguishing the targeted and the acquiring entity businesses and services.

When doing a ‘Competitive Analysis and Public Interest’ assessment, CCA is said to have discovered that Foschini is classified as a “standard retailer” which targets middle-to-upper income consumers and it competes with stores such as; Truworths and Woolworths. The targeted entity, Jet, is on the lower league when compared to its acquirer, it serves customers of lower classes and is regarded as a discount/value retailer targeting lower income consumers or a mass market. This makes Jet to be in direct competition with Ackermans, Pepkor, Cash Bazaar and Mr Price.

“Therefore, a narrower view of the market is that Foschini through its stores trading in Botswana is not a close competitor to Jet. Additionally, there exist other major rivals who will continue to exercise competitive constraints on the merged enterprise post-merger,” concluded CCA this month.

The anti-trust body continued to explain that in terms of the Acquisition of a Dominant Position, the analysis shows that the acquisition of the target business by Foschini Botswana will result in an insignificant combined market share in the relevant market.

This made CCA reach to a conclusion that there is no case of an acquisition of a dominant position in the market under consideration or any other market on the account of the proposed transaction.

What supports the merger according to CCA is that it is in compliance with regards to ‘Public Interest Considerations’ because the findings of the assessment revealed that the transaction is as a result of the need for a Business Rescue by the target enterprise. This is so because in the event that the proposed transaction fails, it will translate into the loss of the employment positions at the target business.

“On that note the Authority (CCA) found it necessary to ensure that the proposed merger does not result in any retrenchments or redundancies. In light of this, the assessment revealed the critical need to protect the employees of the merged entity from possible merger specific retrenchments/ redundancies,” said CCA.

Before making a determination that the recently proposed transaction is not likely to result in the prevention or substantial lessening of competition or endanger the continuity of the services offered in the relevant market, CCA said it then moved into a concern for public interest which is a protection enshrined in the Competition Act of 2018.

CCA’s concern was mostly loss of livelihood or employment by 126 Batswana workers at Jet stores, stating that possible retrenchments or redundancies may arise as a result of implementation of the proposed merger.

Much to the desire of trade union or labour movements in Botswana and across Southern Africa where the Jet stores are stemmed-who also raised concerns about the retail’s workers job security- CCA subjects Foschini to keep the target entity 126 workers.

“There shall be no merger specific retrenchments or redundancies that may affect the employees of the merged enterprises. For clarity, merger specific retrenchments or redundancies do not include (the list is not exhaustive): i. voluntary retrenchment and/or voluntary separation arrangements; ii. Voluntary early retirement packages; iii. Unreasonable refusals to be redeployed; iv. Resignations or retirements in the ordinary course of business; v. retrenchments lawfully effected for operational requirements unrelated to the Merger; and vi. Terminations in the ordinary course of business, including but not limited to, dismissals as a result of misconduct or poor performance,” said CCA.

CCA also orders that Foschini informs it about all the details of 126 Jet employees within thirty (30) days of the merger approval date. CCA should also know information of when Foschini is implementing the merger, within 30 days of the approval date.

Other conditions include Foschini sharing a copy of the conditions of approval to all employees of the Jet or their respective representatives within ten (10) days of the approval date.

“Should vacancies arise in the target, the merged enterprise shall consider previous employment at one of the non-transferring Jet stores to be a positive factor to be taken into account in the consideration of offering potential employment,” said CCA.

According to CCA, in cases of any job losses, for the Authority to assess whether the retrenchments or redundancies are merger specific, at least three months before (to the extent that this deadline can be practically achieved and in terms of the prevailing and legally required employment practices) any retrenchments or redundancies are to take place, inform the Authority of:  i. The intended retrenchments; ii. The reasons for the retrenchments; iii. The number and categories of employees affected; iv. The expected date of the retrenchments.

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