Bramerlife Chief Executive Officer, Regina Sikalesele-Vaka
The newest life insurer in the country, Bramerlife, will soon shed any vestiges of its association with its former parent company, when it rebrands.
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.
Sikalesele-Vaka, is upbeat about making Bramerlife the best financial services company in five years time. “We had our scandal but we are a new company now and we have new shareholders in BPOPF; the company is now owned by Batswana,” she said. “With some marketing and rebranding, we will shake off the scandal.”
Botswana Opportunity Partnership (BOP), a joint venture between Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) and Capital Management Botswana (CMB), now owns 40 percent of Bramer Life Botswana under the new ownership structure.
According to Sikalesele-Vaka, the local insurance sector, which has become very competitive in the last five years, is plagued by, among other issues, fraud, especially perpetrated by brokers, who have even gone to the extent of claiming death benefits for clients who are still alive.
However, she said that the recently passed Insurance Industry Act is more prescriptive in the way that of client-insurer relations, as well as being more punitive in cases of breaches of the law.
She said there is competition in the industry, with many underwriters entering the insurance space and putting pressure with pricing.
On the issue of client perceptions, she said that insurance, particularly life is not a tangible good and the client often feels that they are paying for nothing, whereas they appreciate the peace of mind mostly when an incident happens that the insurance pays out a claim.
With vehicle insurance, people will usually take out a policy because the banks require it, said Sikalesele-Vaka, comparing long and short term life insurance. Another challenge that the industry has to deal with is the exclusion of the ordinary person from insurance cover.
The traditional way of doing insurance, with brokers, underwriters and clients on the other end, has been greatly reshaped by the arrival of the bancassurance business model, a distribution channel for both insurance and banking products, offered at one selling point. While this is greatly convenient for the consumer and profitable for the banks and partner insurers, it has had the effect of pushing out the broker from the scene.
“The two industries (banking and insurance) are from two extremes; often the customer does not even know why they are taking out an insurance policy when they are taking a loan but it is a business evolution and only the consumer can tackle that over time, maybe in the next five years,”she said.
THE SERIAL CORPORATE
Sikalesele-Vaka loves a good challenge. “I love turning small things big,” she told BusinessPost. A lawyer by training, Sikalesele-Vaka left the chambers to become a business leader when she joined the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (MVA) in 1998, growing its asset base up to about P750 million and turning it into an exemplar of good governance for even similar organisations in the southern African region.
She then moved to Botswana Life and spearheaded its re-engineering, from 2010 to 2014, also becoming the head of the Group. In 2014, she was at the helm of the committee that organised the African Youth Games, with “very little time and a shoestring budget”.
Quizzed on her views regarding powerful women and their contribution to the development of other women, in the context of sentiments expressed by leader of opposition in parliament, Duma Boko, last week, that women generally grow powerful and make it difficult for other women to become successful, she said that it was actually quite true looking at the situation on the ground.
For her part, Sikalesele -Vaka, said she believes she has always made it a point to empower women, citing various examples of women who she has mentored and encouraged to climb the corporate ladder.
Sikalesele -Vaka relishes the thought of going into lecturing at university level, to impart the knowledge and experiences that she has garnered over the years to future corporate leaders. Would she go into politics? Every career has its people, she says, adding that she does not have the temperament for house to house campaigns, wheeling and dealing and being the people’s person, being the introvert that she is.
Homegrown LED light manufacturing company, The Bulb World, has kick started operations in South Africa, setting in motion the company’s ambitious continental expansion plans.
The Bulb World, which was partly funded by Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) at the tune of P4 million, to manufacture LED lighting bulbs for both commercial and residential use in 2017, announced last year that it will enter the South African market in the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) of North West province under the auspices of North West Development Corporation (NWDC).
The company has already secured a deal with South Africa authorities which entails production factory shells and tax incentives arrangements.
The company founder and Chief Executive Officer, Ketshephaone Jacob has also previously stated that the company is looking for just under P50 million to finance its expansion strategy and is reaching out to institutional investors such as Botswana Public Officers Pensioners Fund (BPOPF) and government investment arm, Botswana Development Corporation (BDC).
However, Jacob told WeekendPost that instead of sitting and waiting for expansion funding the company has started hitting the ground running.
“We have decided to get in the streets of SA, start selling lights from door to door, ” said Jacob who is in currently in Rusternburg to oversee the introduction of The Bulb World products in the market.
Jacob explained more brand activations will be undertaken in South Africa. “The plan is to do it the whole of North West and Limpopo province, through hawkers, we give the hawkers the lights to sell at a factory price and they put a mark up and make a living,” he said.
The Bulb World operates from Selibe Phikwe, it currently employees 65 young people, 80 % of which are Phikwe youth. The company plans to add 100 jobs this year alone as it forges ahead with its regional and continental expansion plans.
In July this year Bulb World products will hit South African Shelves: Pick n Pay, Checkers and Africa’s largest retailer Shoprite.
The Bulb World has been registered as a company in South Africa; the company will start producing lights from Mogwasa after striking a special economic zones deal with North West Development Corporation in North West Province South Africa.
“Over the next 10 years we are looking to create over 5,000 jobs in Africa. Through our expansion into all of Africa we will be able to create employment for various individuals in different sectors namely; manufacturing, distribution electronics and retail,” Jacob told this publication earlier this year.
Jacob said if all goes well, the plan is to have taken over Africa or rather penetrated, and have prevalent presence in the African market.
“We are gunning to have at least 30 percent market share by then. According to a 2016 Market Survey, the total valuation of sales for LED Lighting was 57BN, a portion of which we plan to have taken over by then,” he said.
While the company has set its eyes on Africa, Jacob said, the company has not fully exploited its local growth, indicating that there could be strategic factories built to supply neighbouring countries of Angola and Zimbabwe.
“There is potential for further local expansion as well to other areas of Botswana if things run smoothly as anticipated. Hopefully in the long-term if our fellow Africans and all these markets receive us well we are planning to build another factory,” he said.
“We are looking to build another factory in the Chobe/Ngamiland Area that will give priority to markets in Zimbabwe and Angola,” he said
The Maun based Okavango Research Institute (ORI) has downplayed the impacts of oil and gas exploration in part of Okavango delta arguing that given the distance proposed the likelihoods of negative impacts drilling these exploration wells on the surface water systems is likely to be negligible.
The Institution released a position paper titled ‘Proposed Petroleum (Oil and Gas) Exploration Operations in the Petroleum Exploration License (PEL) No. 73,’ with findings stating that, in the event of discovery of economically viable hydrocarbon deposits, much more careful consideration of the impacts and economic benefits of development of the resource will be needed.
For example, the fracking process for gas and oil extraction is known to require large volumes of underground water.
It further argues that increased extraction of the underground water is likely to affect the water table level and further affect the overall water availability in the river-basin.
“The effect on water availability and use may become worse if surface water is reticulated or sourced by any means from the Kavango River. Should the exploration and fracking for oil and gas expand to Block 1720, 1721 and 1821, the impact on water availability and quality will be significant, especially if the wastewater is not well managed,” said the paper.
The research unit recommends close communication between the relevant Basin State Ministries (Mineral Resources, Environment) and the Permanent Commission on the Okavango River Basin, OKACOM, and other stakeholders must be facilitated.
This will facilitate sharing of the correct information on the desired intentions of the basin states and compromises sought for the sustainability of the ecosystems in the downstream of the Cubango-Okavango river Basin, states the position paper.
ORI as a key stakeholder with scientific information says it is positioned to provide scientific advice and guidance to decision-makers on the potential impacts of both exploration and development and operation activities.
It also recommends that while the impacts might be minimal at the exploration stage, environmental impacts during the development and extraction process are significant.
Findings also state that the SADC Protocol places a mandatory duty to make a notification of planned measures undertaken in any riparian state in cases where such measures hold the potential to cause ‘significant adverse effects.’
It further states that where the planned development is trivial and not expected to cause any significant harm, the development state is not under duty to notify other riparian states.
Given that the drilling in the Kavango Region in Nambia is merely for exploratory purpose and the possibility of harm is minor, it is therefore not surprising that the Namibian government did not inform Botswana.
However, should it be found that the oil can be profitably or economically exploited, the Namibian government would be under a duty to notify both Angola and Botswana.
The institution further states that to ensure sustainable development in the Okavango Delta the following in the context of exploration for and potential development of hydrocarbon deposits within the Cubango-Okavango River Basin, it must be considered that the Okavango Delta is a World Heritage Site listed in 2014 by UNESCO and one of the binding requirements of the listing is the non-permissible commercial mining of any mineral, gas or oil within the World Heritage Site.
It states that the Okavango Delta is also a RAMSAR site in which mining is not allowed.
Should the exploration for minerals, oil and gas be allowed, there is a high chance that a mineral, oil or gas may be found given that the Delta is sitting on karoo sediments and shale rocks which in other parts of the world have been found to be sources of oil and gas deposits. Should oil or gas be discovered, there will be a strong socio-economic pressure to mine oil or gas and create jobs for the masses.
Manufactured in Turkey, Pakmaya Instant Dry Yeast can be used in the production of various fermented products, as it is suited for both traditional and industrial baking processes. All kinds of breads, buns and fermented pastry products are typical examples of applications.
Pakmaya Africa Sales Manager Cem Perdar says Pakmaya has 4 plants in across the world, further indicating that all of the plants have the highest standards of quality certificates and approvals. Regarding raw material, molasses is the main ingredient for yeast. Concerning production activities, yeast manufacturing requires high know-how and capability. Pakmaya has all those capabilities and aspects more than 45 years.
According to Perdar, Pakmaya has been existent in African markets since 30 years. From South to North, Central to East and West, a consumer can find Pakmaya in nearly every part of Africa continent.
“With its high quality, rich product selection and good service, our brand has become the favorite yeast of many Africans. On the other hand, our distributors in African countries are working very hardly and loyally in order to promote our products in their markets. After some time, we are becoming like families with our exclusive distributors in Africa and this enables both parts to work harder and keeps our product sustainable in market,” he said in an interview this week.
The yeast manufacturing giant made its way to Botswana market. The company has been smoothly working with Kamoso Distribution, a local distribution company. Perdar told BusinessPostthat two entities have been working hard to earn is market locally.
“At the moment we have a good market share with them in Botswana market. I’m sure during 2021 long, we will be increasing our sales and market position. Soon we are going to start a marketing campaign in Botswana, so that means Batswana will see and recognize Pakmaya more and more. Pakmaya wants to be the best friend of bakers in bakeries and ladies at homes in Botswana.”
As per global COVID-19 regulations to curb the spread of the COVID-19, Botswana just like other country closed borders. Providentially, the restrictions did not affect the company destructively.
Perdar says “Kamoso Africa is a very important and strong partner in Botswana territory. With Kamoso’s hard work and strict measurements, we have done a very good job. So as Pakmaya, we have not suffered any distribution problem. Our partner is doing the needful at the reaching our products to end users.”
He further said “We are doing well in Botswana market and hoping to make much more. Our aim is to enter every single corner in Botswana territory. With our new marketing campaigns, we are planning to be the most preferred yeast in Botswana market.”