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Deposit taking licenses key to Letshego’s growth

Letshego Group Managing Director, Christopher Low

Botswana’s biggest multinational company has made great forays into African markets, expanding organically or buying into operations, in ten countries besides the home country.

Letshego’s first 15 years have seen the financial services group transformed from a small standalone office in Gaborone, of about 30 people, in 1998, to Botswana’s largest indigenous company with a presence in 10 countries in southern and East Africa.

The company is Botswana’s most heavily traded stock, with the shareholders now at 38 percent international investors as well as a market capitalisation of P5.4 billion, ranking in the top 40 listing of sub-Saharan companies ex-South Africa.

“Put another way we are larger than most banks in the markets in which we operate – our Botswana operations made well in excess of P300 million in post-tax profits this last year,” said Low.

Though the Group was denied a banking license in Botswana, it has managed to acquire deposit taking licenses in Rwanda, Tanzania, Mozambique and Namibia.

“We have engaged in forums with the BoB (Bank of Botswana) in which they discussed their intention to review a tiered licensing structure. We welcome this development, as we believe it will aid financial inclusion and skills deepening across Botswana, and have indicated as much to the regulator.”

On the question of whether the Group will try again to obtain a deposit taking license in Botswana, Group Managing Director, Christopher Low, is previously quoted in another publication saying: “Given the projects currently being followed in Mozambique, Rwanda, Namibia, Tanzania, amongst others, we would rather wait until the BoB reverts with an update on the tiered licensing structure. Should this initiative progress, we would reconsider an application under the deposit-taking micro-finance tier.”

At Letshego’s Gala dinner which was held at Lansmore Masa hotel on Tuesday this week, Mr Low revealed that the company’s strategy will rely heavily on obtaining deposit taking licenses.

“However to really develop a fully-fledged diversified strategy we need to obtain deposit taking licences – we have gone live with these in Mozambique and Rwanda in 2014 and are aiming to do the same in Namibia this year” adding that, “once we obtain such licenses, we can offer our customers “any channel, anywhere” solutions to their financial needs, using the latest technology – these will be affordable, simple and appropriate to their needs.

Legodile Serema, board chair of Letshego group, affirming the stature of the Group, said that: “Letshego remains an indigenous Botswana force that is now a multinational company. It is effectively exporting Brand Botswana through the skills that are built amongst the more than 190 Batswana team members, approximately half of whom provide support at Group level to our 9 other country operations.”

The Group is expected to show strong growth in its financial results, with loans and advances to clients growing substantially.

Mr Low revealed that the Group’s revenue mix is improving, and following the acquisition of a micro-finance business with operations in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda three years ago, some 6 percent of revenues come from this business. “We are looking to roll this model out to further countries, including in Botswana,” he said.

In the last two years, Letshego has raised medium term notes (debt finance) of over P 1 billion Pula on both the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) and the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) – which has assisted the Company to improve its balance sheet leverage.

The financial results of Letshego Holdings Group for the year ended 31 December 2014, which were released this week, reflect double digit growth in profit after taxation and advances to clients.

Profit before tax increased by 24 percent to P970 million. Margins were consistent with the prior period despite the prevailing competitive Environment. 60 percent of profits before tax were generated outside of Botswana. Cost to income ratio was reduced to 29 percent. Impairment charges were 2.0 percent on average net advances. Capital adequacy ratio remains above 60 percent.

Advances to customers (net) increased by 28 percent to P5.7 billion while the payroll portfolio increased by 26 percent to P5.3 billion. The microfinance portfolio increased 117 percent to P370 million. The customer base grew by 11 percent to 265,265. Customer access points have extended to 252.

The largest contributors to advances growth in absolute terms were Namibia, Mozambique and Botswana, contributing P944 million (75 percent) of net increase, as well as driving the payroll portfolio growth. Lesotho operations’ portfolio doubled to P190 million. Growth in the Swaziland portfolio was revived after product reviews, closing at P151 million, up 41 percent from the prior period. The Company has doubled the dividend payout ratio, paying out a dividend of some P197 million.

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Gambling Authority tender dangles as a jittery lottery quandary

30th November 2020

Lucrative and highly anticipated national lottery tender that saw several Batswana businessmen partnering to form a gambling consortium to pit against their South African counterparts, culminates into a big power gamble.

WeekendPost has had a chance to watch lottery showcase even before the anticipated and impending national lottery set-up launches. A lot has been a big gamble from the bidding process which is now set for the courts next year January following a marathon legal brawl involving the interest of the gambling fraternity in Botswana and South Africa.

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The uncertainty of getting the next meal in Botswana

30th November 2020
uncertainty of getting the next meal

Households representing more than half of Botswana’s population-mostly residing in rural areas- do not know where their next meal will come from, but neither do they take into consideration the quality and/or quantity of the food they consume.

This is according to the latest Prevalence of Food Insecurity in Botswana report which was done for the 2018/19 period and represents the state of food insecurity data even to this time.
The Prevalence of Food Insecurity was released by Statistics Botswana and it released results with findings that the results show that at national level 50.8 percent of the population in Botswana was affected by moderate to severe food insecurity in 2018/19, while 22.2 percent of the population was affected by severe food insecurity only.

According to the report, this translates to 27 percent of the population being food secure that is to say having adequate access to food in both quality and quantity. According to Statistician General, Burton Mguni, when explaining how the food data was compiled, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), is custodian of the “Prevalence of Undernourishment (PoU)” and “Prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity in the population based on the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES)” SDG indicators, for leading FIES data analysis and the resultant capacity building.

“The FIES measures the extent of food insecurity at the household or individual level. The indicator provides internationally comparable estimates of the proportion of the population facing moderate to severe difficulties in accessing food. The FIES consists of eight brief questions regarding access to adequate food, and the questions are answered directly with a yes/no response. It (FIES) complements the existing food and nutrition security indicators such as Prevalence of Undernourishment.

According to the FIES, with increasing severity, the quantity of food consumed decreases as portion sizes are reduced and meals are skipped. At its most severe level, people are forced to go without eating for a day or more. The scale further reveals that the household’s experience of food insecurity may be characterized by uncertainty and anxiety regarding food access and compromising the quality of the diet and having a less balanced and more monotonous diet,” says Mguni.

The 50.8 percent of the population in Botswana which was affected by moderate to severe food insecurity are characterized as people experiencing moderate food insecurity and face uncertainties about their ability to obtain food. These people have been forced to compromise on the quality and/or quantity of the food they consume according to the report on food insecurity.

Those who experience severe food insecurity, the 22.2 percent of the population, are people who have typically run out of food and, at worst, gone a day (or days) without eating. According to the statistics, rural area population experienced moderate to severe food insecurity at 65 percent while urban villages were at 46.60 percent and cities/town were at 31.70 percent. Those experiencing the most extreme and severe insecurity were at rural areas making 33.10 percent while urban villages and towns were at 11.90 percent and 17.50 respectively.

According to a paper compiled by Sirak Bahta, Francis Wanyoike, Hikuepi Katjiuongua and Davis Marumo and published in December 2017, titled ‘Characterization of food security and consumption patterns among smallholder livestock farmers in Botswana,’ over 70 percent of Botswana’s population reside in rural areas, and majority (70%) relies on traditional/subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods.

The study set out to characterize the food security situation and food consumption patterns among livestock keepers in Botswana. “Despite the policy change, challenges still remain in ensuring that all persons and households have access to food at all times. For example, during an analysis of the impacts of rising international food prices for Botswana, BIDPA reported that food prices tended to be highest in the rural areas already disadvantaged by relatively low levels of income and high rates of unemployment,” said the study.

According to the paper, about 9 percent of households were found to be food insecure and this category of households included 6 percent of households that ranked poorly and 3 percent that were on the borderline according to the World Food Programme’s (WFP) definition of food security.

Media reports state that the World Bank has warned that disruption to production and supply chains could ‘spark a food security crisis’ in Africa, forecasting a fall in farm production of up to 7 percent, if there are restrictions to trade, and a 25 percent decline in food imports.

Food security in Botswana or food production was also attacked by the locust pandemic which swept out this country’s vegetation and plants. The locust is said to have contributed to 25 percent loss in production.

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Solid demand for diamonds towards the ‘gift’ season

30th November 2020

Global lockdown have been a thorn in diamonds having shiny sales, but a lot of optimism shows with the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, the precious stones will be bought with high volumes towards festive season. The diamond market is however warned of the resurgence of Covid-19 in key markets presents ongoing risks amid the presence and optimist about the new Covid-29 vaccines.

The latest findings published as De Beers Group’s latest Diamond Insight ‘Flash’ Report, which looks at the impact of the pandemic on relationships and engagements, has revealed that in the US that more couples than ever are buying diamond engagement rings. Bridal sales is mostly the primary source of diamond jewellery demand in recent months, De Beers said.

According to De Beers, interviews with independent jewellers around the US revealed that the rate of couples getting engaged has increased compared with the period when Covid-19 first had an impact in the US in the spring.

“In addition, despite challenging economic times, consumers were spending more than ever on diamond engagement rings – often upgrading in colour, cut and clarity, rather than size. Several jewellers speculated that with consumers spending less on elaborate weddings and/or honeymoons in the current environment, they had more to spend on choosing the perfect ring,” said De Beers.

According to De Beers, a national survey of 360 US women in serious relationships, undertaken in late October in collaboration with engagement and wedding website, The Knot. This survey is said to have found that the majority of respondents (54%) were thinking more about their engagement ring than the wedding itself (32%) or the honeymoon (15%), supporting jewellers’ hypothesis that engagement ring sales were benefiting from reduced wedding and travel budgets in light of Covid-19 restrictions.

When it came to researching engagement rings, online was by far the predominant channel for gaining ideas/inspiration at 86% of consumers surveyed, with 85% saying they had saved examples of styles they liked, according to De Beers. According to the survey, only a uarter of respondents said they had looked in-store at a physical location for design inspiration.

“For many couples, the pandemic has brought them even closer together, in some instances speeding up the path to engagement after forming a deeper connection while experiencing lockdown and its associated ups and downs as a partnership. Engagement rings are taking on even greater symbolism in this environment, with retailers reporting couples are prepared to invest more than usual, particularly due to budget reductions in other areas,” De Beers CEO Cleaver said.

According to De Beers Group, its Diamond Insight Flash Report series is focused on understanding the US consumer perspective in light of Covid-19 and monitoring how it evolves as the crisis evolves. Also, the company said, it is augmenting its existing research programme with additional consumer, retailer and supply chain touch-basis to understand the pain points and the opportunities for stakeholders across the diamond pipeline.

Demand for diamonds is as hard and resilient as the precious stone itself. De Beers pocketed US$ 450 million in its recently held ninth rough diamond sales cycle, and the company says it is more flexible approach to rough diamond sales during the ninth sales cycle of 2020, with the Sight event extended beyond its normal week-long duration.

“Steady demand for De Beers Group’s rough diamonds continued in the ninth sales cycle of the year, reflecting stable consumer demand for diamond jewellery at the retail level in the US and China, and expectations for reasonable demand to continue throughout the holiday season. However, the resurgence of Covid-19 infections in several consumer markets presents ongoing risks,” said De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver recently.

High expectations are on diamonds being a sentimental gift for holiday season or as the most fetished gift. However the ninth cycle was lower than the eighth which registered US$ 467 million. For the last year period which corresponds with the current one, De Beers managed to raise US$ 400.

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