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Trade Minister’s stance on exemptions rile industry

Minister Vincent Seretse


The annual general meeting of the private sector apex body, Business Botswana, held this week on Tuesday, revealed a clash between larger business interests against citizen economic empowerment.


The retail property space will yet feel the heat of the reservation of some business categories for Batswana if indications remain true to the eventual realities.


Giving background to the saga, Turnie Morolong from Time Projects, told BusinessPost that although the legislation is not new, former ministers of Trade had been giving exemptions for clothing retail chain stores, with the understanding that they are in business and they stimulate the local economy.


However, Minister Vincent Seretse, since ascending to the helm of the Ministry after general elections in October 2014, has put his foot down and refused to give exemptions in for the business lines listed in the reserved list.


Even a provision in the Trade and Liquor Act that states that foreign business employers who have a staff complement of more than 25, can have a waiver to the rule, industry observers say that it is a tough call for the clothing retail chains to follow as they would be overstaffed and crowded for a usual 300 square metres shop space hence not helping the situation for the retailers.


“Previously what would happen is we would put up a shopping malls and they would apply for trading licenses and get exemptions from the Minister; but Minister Seretse is declining to give these waivers,” said Morolong.


Minister Seretse, on the floor of the AGM, during question time, responded to Morolong with a sharp retort, saying: “We are not stopping anybody from going into business; we are only saying these businesses are reserved for Batswana.” The annual general meeting was held at the Pavilion, Fairgrounds in Gaborone.


“Right now we are building a P100 million shopping mall in Pilane and the businesses we are targeting to occupy the shop spaces are the same brands that are already operating in the country,” said Morolong.


“It is the multinationals that can occupy these shop spaces as they have been in business for a long time,” said Morolong.


“We now have a situation where they are now not able to get trading licenses to open more stores,” adding that “it is a given that the economy needs business activity for it to grow.”


The past decade has seen an explosion of shopping malls around Gaborone such as Riverwalk Shopping Mall, Game City, Molapo Crossing, South Ring Mall, Sebele Centre and Airport Junction, just to name some of them, causing saturation in the Gaborone area and prompting developers to look outside Gaborone for prospects.  


Another major property developer told BusinessPost that the challenge is facing the local property developers as a whole, saying that it is turning into “a catch 22 situation.”


“We are in agreement that citizen empowerment is a must and the Government’s intentions are good; however it is the implementation that needs to be looked at and only further engagement can help,” said the developer.


Apex Properties chief executive, Umesh Loona explained to this publication that in the retail property space, there exists destination malls such as the bigger Gamecity in Gaborone, and convenience malls such as the Bodiba Mall that will officially open in a few weeks, in Mogoditshane. “For Convenience malls, it is not expected that we will experience this problem because these are small businesses that are owned by citizens of this country.”   


Other observers felt that Government is under pressure to show that it is serious about citizen empowerment, in the process coming up with knee jerk reactions to the dire status of citizens involved in any form of business activity.


Alongside the General Clothing category, the Act has reserved other businesses trading licenses for citizens of Botswana, including: auctioneers; cleaning services ; curio shops ; fresh produce; funeral parlours; General dealers; hairdressers; hire services; laundromats; petrol filling stations and takeaway food outlets.

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Business

Dark days as Aviation industry collapses

22nd November 2020
Air Botswana

As the Aviation industry takes a COVID-19 pummeling, for Africa the numbers are staggering, Chief Executive Officer of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Alexandre de Juniac has observed.

Speaking recently at the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) has been hosting an Annual General Assembly, de Juniac said traffic is down 89% and revenue loses are expected to reach $6 billion. And this figure is likely to be revised downwards in the next forecast to be released later this month. “But the impact is much broader. The consequences of the breakdown in connectivity are severe,” he surmised.

According to de Juniac, five million African livelihoods are at risk while aviation-supported GDP could fall by as much as $37 billion. That’s a 58% fall.

“We have a health crisis. And it is evolving into a jobs and economic disaster. Fixing it is beyond the scope of what the industry can do by itself.”

He said they need governments to act, “And act fast to prevent a calamity.”

“We are in the middle of the biggest crisis our industry has ever faced. As leaders of Africa’s aviation industry, you know that firsthand. Airline revenues have collapsed. Fleets are grounded. And you are taking extreme actions just to survive. We all support efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.  It is our duty and we will prevail. But policymakers must know that this has come at a great cost to jobs, individual freedoms and entire economies,” he said.

de Juniac used the AFRA general assembly platform to amplify IATA’s call for governments to address two top priorities: “The first is unblocking committed financial relief. Airlines will go bust without it. Already four African carriers have ceased operations and two are in administration. Without financial relief, many others will follow.”

Over US$31 billion in financial support has been pledged by African governments, international finance bodies and other institutions, including the African Development Bank, the African Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Unfortunately de Juniac pointed out, in his words, “Pledges do not pay the bills. And little of this funding has materialized. And let me emphasize that, while we are calling for relief for aviation, this is an investment in the future of the continent. It will need financially viable airlines to support the economic recovery from COVID-19.”

The second priority, according to IATA is to safely re-open borders using testing and without quarantines.

“People have not lost their desire to travel. Border closures and travel restrictions make it effectively impossible. Forty-four countries in Africa have opened their borders to regional and international air travel. In 20 of these countries, passengers are still subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Who would travel under such conditions?” de Juniac quizzed rhetorically.

He suggested that countries should adopt systematic testing before departure provides a safe alternative to quarantine and a solution to stop the economic and social devastation being caused by COVID-19.

He admitted that it’s a frightening time for everyone, not least the millions of people whose livelihoods depend on a functioning airline industry. Right now, de Juniac said there essentially is no airline industry. He cited the example that China’s largest airlines sound optimistic, but in a vague way. “They gave no hard data about current yields, loads, or forward bookings, discussing only developments in 2019. Boy, does that seem like ages ago.”

Aviation’s darkest days

The IATA CEO said these are the darkest days in aviation’s history. “But as leaders of this great industry I know that you will share with me continued confidence in the future.

Our customers want to fly. They desire the exploration that aviation enables. They need to do international business that aviation facilitates. And they long to reunite with family and loved ones.”

He said the industry will, no doubt, be changed by this crisis, but flying will return. “Airlines will be back in the skies. The resilience of our industry has been proven many times. We will rise again,” he said.

de Juniac said Aviation is a business of freedom. “For Africa that is the freedom to develop and thrive. And that is not something people on this continent will forget or lose their desire for.”

 

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Business

Inflation increased to 2.2% in October 2020

22nd November 2020

Headline inflation increased from 1.8 percent in September to 2.2 percent in October 2020, but remained below the lower bound of the Bank’s medium-term objective range of 3 – 6 percent, and lower than the 2.4 percent in October 2019.

According to Statistics Botswana, the increase in inflation between September and October 2020 mainly reflects the upward adjustment in domestic fuel prices {Transport (from -3.9 to -2.5 percent)}, which is estimated to have increased inflation by approximately 0.29 percentage points.

“There was also a rise in the annual price increase for most categories of goods and services: Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (from 6.2 to 6.6 percent); Clothing and Footwear (from 2.5 to 2.7 percent); Communications (from 0.6 to 0.9 percent); Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels (from 6.4 to 6.6 percent); Recreation and Culture (from 0 to 0.2 percent); Miscellaneous Goods and Services (from 0.7 to 0.9 percent); Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages (from 4.2 to 4.3 percent); and Furnishing, Household Equipment and Routine Maintenance (from 2 to 2.1 percent). Inflation remained stable for: Education (4.7 percent); Restaurants and Hotels (3 percent); and Health (1.5 percent). Similarly, the 16 percent trimmed mean inflation and inflation excluding administered prices rose from 1.8 percent and 3.1 percent to 2.2 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively, in the same period.”

[Source: Bank of Botswana]

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BDC injects further P64 million into Kromberg & Schubert

22nd November 2020
BDC

Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) has to date pumped a total of P100 million into the expansion of Kromberg and Schubert, a car harnessing manufacturing company, operating from Gaborone Old Naledi.

At the official ground breaking ceremony of the company‘s new warehouse today, BDC Managing Director, Cross Kgosidiile revealed the wholly state owned investment corporation has pumped P64 million into the expansion which entailed building of the new warehouse.

Kgosidiile explained that this follows another expansion project which was successfully launched in 2017, in which BDC invested P36 million, bringing the total investment into Kromberg at P100 million. The MD also acknowledged Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) as a partner in the project and for having facilitated the acquisition of the land.

 

Giving a keynote address, Minister of Investment, Trade & Industry, Peggy Serame highlighted the importance of infrastructural development in growing the local manufacturing sector and transforming the economy of Botswana.

Serame underscored the value of strategic partnerships between Government and the private sector, noting that when the two work together and pull together in one direction results will be evident and jobs will be created.

“With the prevailing conditions of depressed economy occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic, government is reliant on entities like BDC to bring in revenue and acceleration of private sector development in line with its mandate and strategic plan. This plan is supported by the need to invest in growth sectors and accelerate the implementation of the Economic Diversification Drive,” Serame said.

Minister Serame noted that the partnership between BDC and Kromberg & Schubert begun in 2017 when the P36 million, 4100 square metres factory expansion for the company was launched.

 

She said the launch of the 7320 square meters factory expansion, to be built at the tune of P64 million signals the continuation of the good partnership between the two companies.

 

“I must commend BDC for their continuous efforts to build partnerships with the private sector geared towards contributing to economic development of this country.”

 

Minister Serame also added that BITC through its robust investor aftercare programme continues to provide value added and red carpet to Kromberg and Schubert under their One Stop Service Centre.

 

“In this regard BITC facilitated acquisition of land to enable this expansion. I therefore would like to commend BITC for their timely facilitation to make this expansion possible,” the minister said.

 

Kromberg & Schubert was incorporated in Botswana in 2009; The Company has grown to asset its position as a significant player in the regional automotive industry value chain.

 

The company is also a critical player in the economic development of Botswana, it currently employs 2100 Batswana across its operations. Kromberg exports on average P2.0 billion worth of goods annually, contributing significantly to foreign exchange.

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