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.”
For the past two years, the world has been at combat with various COVID-19 variants. A new variant of concern which is considered to have a combination of the greatest hits (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta) has sent alarm bells around the world.
Botswana’s COVID-19 genomic surveillance, which actively monitors COVID-19 variants in Botswana, picked four samples that were concerning and discovered a completely new variant. In accordance with international obligations, as a responsible member state under the International Health Regulations of 2005, Botswana submitted the suspected new variant for the entire global scientific community to respond to this early finding. Shortly after, the Republic of South Africa, also submitted a similar concerning variant.
The new variant, ‘Omicron’ is named after the 15th letter of the Greek Alphabet to avoid public confusion and stigma. The news spread like wild fire which resulted in European Union member states, the United Arab Emirates and United States of America imposing travel bans on Botswana and other sister SADC nations, resulting in drawing a wedge between nations.
In his address on the occasion of an update on Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has shunned the response by some countries to Botswana’s detection of the Omicron variant stating that it is unfortunate as it appears to have caused unnecessary panic amongst the public across the world. He considers it defeating the spirit of multilateral cooperation in dealing with this global pandemic.
“The decision to ban our citizens from travelling to certain countries was hastily made and is not only unfair but is also unjustified while remain confident that reason and logic will prevail, the harshness of the decision has the effect of our shaking our belief in the sincerity of declared friendship and commitment of equality and economic prosperity for us,” he said.
President Masisi has appealed to the nations that have imposed travel restrictions on Botswana to reflect and review their travel restrictions stance against the Southern African region.
African leaders and heads of state are in agreement on a matter. Some stating that the travel bans are ‘uncalled for, afro phobic, unscientific, strict, unfair and unjustified’. They have come out to bash the unilateral travel bans and request immediate upliftment of the restrictions imposed on SADC member states by European Union member states, the United Arab Emirates and United States of America.
While Batswana are banned from international travel, locally as at 26th November 2021, a total of 195 068 COVID19 cases and 2 418 deaths had been reported since the beginning of the pandemic.
“We have been steadily witnessing a decrease in the number of new cases and deaths in the last three months. We are currently reporting an average of less 10 infections per 100 000 people compared to 648 cases per 100 000 people at the peak of the third wave. We have also observed a gradual decline in hospitalizations across the country with an average of less than 10 patients at a time at Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital (SKMTH) and our other health facilities countrywide,” pointed out President Masisi.
Masisi encouraged Batswana not to despair as to date, all the nations’ key indicators remain stable. “This is comforting although it still does not warrant any complacency on our part in terms of behaviour and other attitudinal patterns towards this dreadful disease. We are actively monitoring the evolving situation in view new variant of concern,’’ he sternly advised.
Government through the different Ministries leading the different sectors, has been working tirelessly to prepare for potential outbreaks and a fourth (4th) wave. This will be achieved through; installing oxygen generating plants and increasing skilled human capacity.
With regards to the vaccination programme; as of 29th November 2021, an estimated One Million and Fifty Three Thousand Three Hundred and Sixty One (1 053 361) people translating to 75.7% of the target Batswana citizens and residents over the age of 18 years have received at least 1 dose of the COVID-19 vaccines. A total of Nine Hundred and Fifty Thousand Nine Hundred and Seventy Three (950 973) people translating to 68.4% have been fully vaccinated. This number exceeds the 64% target Botswana has set to achieve by end of December 2021.
Masisi enthusiastically revealed that; “We are one of the three countries in Africa that have achieved the World Health Organisation target of vaccinating at least 40% of the entire population by December 2021. We are committed to ensure that all is done to reduce the transmission of the virus in the country.
More vaccines are being procured to ensure availability for those who have not yet received any dose. Government is also considering booster doses for those who may be identified as qualifying for them.”
President Masisi urged Batswana to continue observing the COVID-19 health protocols of social distancing, washing hands or sanitizing and wearing masks and avoid unnecessary travelling.
As COVID-19 pandemic continues to shake the world, China has promised to donate a billion coronavirus vaccines, advance billions of dollars for African trade and infrastructure, and write off interest-free loans to African countries to help the continent recover from the coronavirus pandemic. All these promises emerged at the Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in Senegal at the end of November 2021.
Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that China will provide one billion doses of vaccines to Africa when delivering keynote speech at the Eighth Ministerial FOCAC via video link on 29th November. Of those, 600 million would be via donations and the rest would be produced jointly by African countries and Chinese companies. In addition, China would send medical teams to help the continent deal with the pandemic.
President Xi also announced nine programmes that China will work closely with African countries in the next three years. He mentioned the medical and health program, the poverty reduction and agricultural development program, the trade promotion program, the investment promotion program, the digital innovation program, the green development program, the capacity building program, the cultural and people-to-people exchange program, the peace and security program. President Xi hailed China-Africa relations as a shining example for building a new type of international relations.
Furthermore, Xi said Beijing would pump US$10 billion into African financial institutions for onward lending to small and medium enterprises. He promised to extend another US$10 billion of its International Monetary Fund allocation of special drawing rights, which would help stabilise foreign exchange reserves. In addition, China will write-off interest-free loans due this year, to help the economies that had been ravaged by the pandemic. Last year, China also promised to write off interest-free loans due at the end of 2020.
Beijing pledged US$60 billion to finance Africa’s infrastructure at the forum in Johannesburg in 2015, and a similar amount when the gathering was held in the Chinese capital in 2018. But in the past few years, Chinese lenders, including the policy banks – Exim Bank of China and China Development Bank – have become more cautious and are now demanding bankable feasibility studies amid debt distress in the continent.
Besides seeking more money for projects, Xi said China would encourage more imports of African agricultural products, and increase the range of zero-tariff goods, aiming for US$300 billion of total imports from Africa in the next three years.
China would also advance US$10 billion of trade financing to support African exports into China. He said the country would also advance another US$10 billion to promote agriculture in Africa, send 500 experts and establish China-Africa joint agro-technology centres and demonstration villages. African countries are pushing to grow exports of agricultural products into China. At the moment, Beijing maintains an enormous trade surplus over the continent. African imports from China include machinery, electronics, construction equipment, textiles and footwear.
Meanwhile, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi summarized FOCAC achievements when meeting with journalists ahead the 8th FOCAC Ministerial Conference. Wang said that the FOCAC is a crucial platform for collective dialogue between China and Africa and an effective mechanism for practical cooperation.
He said since the inception of the FOCAC 21 years ago, Chinese enterprises have built over 10,000 kilometers of railways, nearly 100,000 kilometers of roads, nearly 1,000 bridges, nearly 100 ports, and over 80 large-scale power facilities in Africa.
In addition, they have assisted Africa in building over 130 medical facilities, 45 gymnasiums and more than 170 schools, and training over 160,000 professionals in various fields. Chinese medical teams have provided medical service to an accumulated number of 230 million, and China’s network service has covered around 700 million user terminals.
Yi said that the Eighth FOCAC Ministerial Conference was a great success. According to Yi, the success of the conference confirmed the strong will of China and Africa to work together to overcome difficulties and seek common development, and showed the huge potential and bright prospects of China-Africa cooperation.
Wang summarized the most important consensus reached at the conference as following: 1) both sides will promote the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation; 2) China and Africa will work together to defeat the pandemic; 3) both sides will work to enrich China-Africa cooperation in the new era; 4) the two sides will work together to practice true multilateralism; 5) China and Africa will jointly build a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era.
FOCAC, is one of the developments that came as a major shift in the dynamics of the China-Africa relationships came about in the 1980s when China embarked upon its “Opening up and Reform Policy” –a wide-ranging policy that gave birth to the new China. Economic and geo-strategic interests rather than the desire to export a specific political philosophy drive China’s current relationship with Africa.
For Africa though, the key problem is that our economies are weak in value creation. As argued by one economist, what workers and factories produce is produced more efficiently, with better quality and at lower cost, by other economies. “In such circumstances, making money is easier through rent than through value creation.
African governments should be capable of guiding their private sector towards value creation, a key factor for achieving a sustainable competitive edge in the global market. Furthermore, partnerships that Africa forges should be targeted to enhance such an environment”. The question remains as to whether China’s intervention in Africa will help address this challenge.
A report by The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU) has given its outlook for the rise and fall of living costs around the world.
The report is based on current and past trends impacting the cost of living, including currency swings, local inflation and commodity shocks. In addition, it compares more than 400 individual prices across over 200 products and services in 173 cities.
The Worldwide Cost of Living (WCOL) rankings continue to be sensitive to shifts brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, which have pushed up the cost of living across the world’s major cities. Although most economies are now recovering as covid-19 vaccines are rolled out, the world’s major cities still experience frequent surges in cases, prompting renewed social restrictions. In many cities this has disrupted the supply of goods, leading to shortages and higher prices.
The report highlights that “the inflation rate of the prices tracked in the EIU’s WCOL across cities is the fastest recorded over the past five years. It has accelerated beyond the pre-pandemic rate, rising by 3.5% year on year in local-currency terms in 2021, compared with an increase of just 1.9% in 2020 and 2.8% in 2019.”
However; supply-chain problems, as well as exchange-rate shifts and changing consumer demand, have led to rising prices for commodities and other goods. The most rapid increases in the WCOL index were for transport, with the price of a litre of petrol up by 21% on average.
Tel Aviv, a city on Israel’s Mediterranean coast tops the WCOL rankings for the first time ever, making it the most expensive city in the world to live in. The Israeli city climbed from fifth place last year, pushing Paris down to joint second place with Singapore. Tel Aviv’s rise mainly reflects its soaring currency and price increases for around one-tenth of goods in the city, led by groceries and transport, in local-currency terms. Property prices (not included in the index calculation), have also risen, especially in residential areas.
The cheapest cities are mainly in the Middle East and Africa, or in the poorer parts of Asia. Damascus has easily retained its place as the cheapest city in the world to live in. It was ranked the lowest in seven of the ten pricing categories, and was among the lowest in the remaining three. While prices elsewhere have generally firmed up, in Damascus they have fallen as Syria’s war-torn economy has struggled. Tripoli, which also faces political and economic challenges, is ranked second from the bottom in our rankings, and is particularly cheap for food, clothing and transport.
“Over the coming year, we expect to see the cost of living rise further in many cities. Inflationary expectations are also likely to feed into wage rises, further fuelling price rises. However, as central banks cautiously raise interest rates to stem inflation, price increases should moderate from this year’s level. We forecast that global consumer price inflation will average 4.3% in 2022, down from 5.1% in 2021 but still substantially higher than in recent years. If supply-chain disruptions die down and lockdowns ease as expected, then the situation should improve towards the end of 2022, stabilising the cost of living in most major cities.”
“The survey has been designed to enable human resources and finance managers to calculate cost-of-living allowances and build compensation packages for expatriates and business travellers. It can also be used by consumer-goods firms and other companies to map pricing trends and determine optimum prices for their products across cities. In addition, the data can be used to understand the relative expense of a city to formulate policy guidelines,” highlights the report.