While it is widely acknowledged that the beef industry in Botswana plays an important role as a source of foreign exchange, rural livelihoods and employment, the Botswana Institute of Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) through a recent working paper have demonstrated that the country is an insignificant player in the world beef market.
A paper by Dr Tebogo Seleka and Pinkie G Ketshabile illustrates that the industry has experienced declining output since the 1970s, leading to a steady fall in exports. “This scenario questions the industry’s sustainability and its continued role as one of the country’s leading sources of foreign exchange,” the two researchers point out.
For the continued sustenance of the beef industry in Botswana, it is important that beef exports remain competitive in the export market. However, the fall in exports experienced since the 1970s may have contributed to declining export competitiveness over time. Seleka and Ketshabile therefore tackled this issue by assessing the export competitiveness of the beef industry in Botswana, employing various indices of RCA.
The working paper revealed that Botswana has been the most competitive beef exporter in the SADC region, followed by Namibia. Export shares against the leading beef exporters indicate that Botswana is an insigniï¬cant player in the world beef market.
“However, all other RCA indices suggest that the performance of Botswana’s beef exports was generally impressive, with its competitiveness trends following those for major world beef exporters. Botswana’s beef industry was the most competitive from the early 1960s to the late 1980s, after which it was surpassed by some of the leading beef exporters.”
Seleka and Ketshabile noted a few factors underlying Botswana’s beef export competitiveness.
By way of background, Seleka and Ketshabile share that the BMC, a state trading enterprise, has been the sole exporter of beef since its establishment in 1965, which was made possible through a statutory instrument establishing the entity. Its establishment was geared at exporting beef to Britain, owing to colonial ties of the two countries. Botswana beef has also been accorded preferential access into the EU market through various trade arrangements.
“Before 1975, preferential access was made possible through the Commonwealth Preferential System, which allowed for duty free access of Botswana beef to the British market. From 1975 to 2000, non-reciprocal preferential access was made through the beef protocol of the Lomé Convention, signed between the European Commission (EC) and the African, Caribbean and Paciï¬c (ACP) countries, which exempted ACP beef exports from ad valorem duties levied to non-ACP beef imports into the EC.9 Non-reciprocal trade preferences were further extended through the Cotonou Agreement (CA) during the period from 2001 to 2007, to give the EU and ACP countries time to negotiate WTO compatible Regional Economic Partnership Agreements.”
In 2009, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland signed an interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU, which allowed for the continuation of non-reciprocal preferences. The interim EPA allowed for duty free/ quota free access of Botswana’s beef into the EU market while EU/SADC EPA negotiations were ongoing.
The successful conclusion of negotiations on an EPA between the EU and the SADC EPA Group (Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland) on 15 July 2014 will result in the signing of a substantive EPA in the near future to facilitate the continuation of the ongoing preferential access of Botswana’s beef in the EU market.
According to the researchers, without doubt, the above institutions have played critical roles in stimulating the development of a competitive beef industry in Botswana, through promoting export market access.
“However, the same institutions are potential threats to beef export competitiveness in Botswana. First, the single export channel, through a state trading export monopoly, means that the collapse of the state trader may lead to an instant collapse of the beef industry in Botswana. Tis potential threat is not farfetched in that the BMC has operated at idle capacity since the 1980s when its throughput began to steadily decline. Such eminent threat is also reï¬‚ected in the poor ï¬nancial performance of the BMC, characterized by declining and negative proï¬ts.”
They further note that Botswana’s competitiveness is enhanced by duty free/quota free access of its beef exports to the EU market, while the country’s key competitors are subject to high import duties in the same market. As a result, Botswana’s beef exports are priced higher than world market prices because of trade restricting protectionist policies in the EU market.
According to Seleka and Ketshabile the Trade reforms in the EU that ease trade restrictions would lower beef prices in the EU market, further leading to preference erosion and reduced beef export competitiveness in Botswana.
“Finally, changes in standards in the EU market pose risks to Botswana’s beef industry, particularly where compliance capacity is limited or compliance costs are prohibitive amongst communal farmers. For example, the requirement that cattle should have been kept in a single enclosed area for a given period before they are slaughtered for the EU market is not practical under communal arrangements and serves as a trade barrier.”
According to Seleka and Ketshabile, given that over 80 percent of Botswana’s cattle are in the communal production system, this requirement would therefore lead to reduced exports to the lucrative EU market, impacting adversely on beef industry competitiveness.
Botswana’s beef cattle are produced under two distinct production systems of communal and commercial (ranching). The communal system is the most prominent and accounted for more than 80 percent of the country’s cattle population during the period from 1979 to 2012. However, the communal system is less productive than its commercial counterpart.
Seleka and Ketshabile have established that the steady and consistent fall in real cattle producer prices, from P1,228 per 100kg of carcass in 1974 to P776 per 100kg of carcass in 2005, has had long term adverse eï¬€ects on beef export competitiveness in Botswana.
“This period largely coincides with the reduction in export competiveness against SADC countries and the leading beef exporters. Empirical evidence has also shown that the occurrence of drought in Botswana causes farmers to increase cattle sales, as a strategy to minimize the risk of inventory loss from drought-induced cattle mortalities (BIDPA 2006).”
However, in subsequent good years following drought, farmers engage in inventory accumulation to rebuild their breeding stock, and thereby reducing cattle sales. Thus, such drought-induced decisions have had both short- and long-term adverse impacts on beef export competitiveness.
Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreaks have also impacted adversely on cattle sales directly through the banning of trade from aï¬€ected areas. Moreover, FMD outbreaks have had long-term adverse impacts on the beef industry where they have led to the imposition of mandatory cattle destruction in the aï¬€ected areas to halt further FMD spread.
They note that mandatory cattle destruction impacts adversely on cattle sales to the BMC and overall beef exports. In addition it also reduces the breeding stock now, leading to a reduction in future cattle sales, as these (cattle sales) positively relate with cattle inventory.
“Moreover, subsequent restocking exercises with cattle from disease free areas divert cattle sales from slaughter, further impacting adversely on cattle sales and beef exports. All these decisions adversely aï¬€ect beef industry competitiveness in both the short- and long-term. In sum, the predominance of the communal production system, stagnant cattle population, high communal cattle mortality rates, low communal cattle oï¬€take rates, declining cattle producers’ prices, and recurrent outbreaks of drought and livestock diseases have collectively contributed to the observed decline in the competitiveness of the beef industry in Botswana. If these factors are not eï¬€ectively addressed, Botswana’s beef industry is likely to continue to experience declining competitiveness in future,” they write.
The live cattle market in Botswana may be described as oligopsonistic, with the BMC being a price leader and a residual buyer of live cattle and numerous other buyers constituting the price-taking fringe ï¬rms (BIDPA 2006). Given stagnant cattle supply, Seleka and Ketshabile posit that an increase in domestic demand for beef in Botswana, due to increasing per capita income, would yield a reduction in cattle sales to the BMC. Since BMC is the sole exporter of beef in Botswana, this would further yield a reduction in beef exports.
The BMC’s share of cattle sales declined from about 80 percent in 1981 to 40 percent in 2012, representing a significant loss of market share.
“If we add the share of feedlots to that of BMC, assuming they sell cattle to BMC, the share for 2012 is estimated at 43 percent. This can be contrasted from the share of local abattoirs, which rose from 9 percent in 1981 to about 40 percent in 2012. Given that BMC slaughters cattle primarily for the export market and that local abattoirs slaughter solely for the domestic market, it then follows that the rising demand for beef in Botswana.”
Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.
Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.
“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.
Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.
The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.
The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River. They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).
His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.
The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.
Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.
37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far
Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.
“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.
It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.
Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.
This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.
In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.
“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.
Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.
Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”
Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.
He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”
According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.
Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.
“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.
He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.
Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.
“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.
He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”
Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.
However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.
In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.
“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.
Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.
“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.
Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.
In an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.
The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.
“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.
According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.
“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.
Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.
“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.
“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.
COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.
Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.
The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).
On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.
Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.
President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.
“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.
On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.
In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.
Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.
Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.
As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.
This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.
The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.
As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.
“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.