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New BDC swims out of the red

The Managing Director at Botswana Development Corporation, Bashi Gaetsaloe

The Managing Director at Botswana Development Corporation (BDC), Bashi Gaetsaloe, seems to have brought some magic to the embattled giant finance house.

The Corporation is seemingly reversing its loss making trajectory, having plunged into the red questionable investments such as the abortive P500 million loss making Fengyue glass project in Palapye.

On Friday this week Gaetsaloe told news agencies that the Corporation will double its business in five years and that its turnaround strategies are bearing fruit.

“The new BDC is here,” declared Gaetsaloe emphatically. He said that the ultimate goal of BDC is to create transformational changes to society and answer crucial development questions such as food security, sustainable energies and job creation.

Gaetsaloe said that BDC will be going outside of Botswana’s borders to create wealth for Batswana and explore niches that commercial banks would not venture into.

“We have been too insular, too inward looking for too long, this is an opportunity to expand our client base and build our international capability and also diversify our risk profile,” he said.

He said that Botswana needs to expand its export potential and go into previously unexplored ventures such as manufacturing of automobiles and saying the Corporation is geared towards this after strengthening its business development capability to become more ‘viable and relevant.’

“There are industries we have not even touched,” he said.

“We want a wealthier, better positioned Batswana and we want to put business into their hands.”

Gaetsaloe said that implementation of the programme begun in April 2014 with the objectives of reducing wastage, preserving cash, preserving the integrity of the balance sheet, and creating a platform for sustainable and viable growth.

Priority areas for improvement included: financial restructuring, review of Legal and Governance frameworks, organisational structure review, process redesign, and the introduction of best practise risk management policies and frameworks.

This steady financial improvement is a positive development and demonstrates that the Re-Modelling Programme that begun towards the end of the year displayed early signs of success. Business Remodelling The commencement of BDC's Business Re-Modelling Programme began in October 2013. This unprecedented exercise looked at ways to nurture a new corporate culture and introduce new ways of working, partnering, and executing.

In the current financial year, BDC will bed-down many of the changes that will be necessary for the Corporation to achieve long term success. The Corporation is confident that through this re-modelling programme BDC will not only rebuild trust with its stakeholders, but will also emerge as the leading investment company in Botswana and the region. Strategy BDC’s Strategic Plan centres on a single, unifying Strategic Goal of “doubling the business in 5 years”.

Going forward BDC will focus on commercially viable projects that: Pioneer new industries; Unlock value in existing industries; Stimulate private sector growth and linkages; Drive diversification and exports; Create significant employment and generate wealth from outside the country.

In the year under review the Group's financial performance showed steady gains. The Group realised a Profit Before Tax of P35.7million representing a 166 percent increase over the prior year. The Group’s statement of financial position also grew by a healthy 15 percent to P3.6 billion from P3.2 billion while the net assets of the company were P2.5 billion, a 12 percent increase on the previous year. Revenue for the BDC Company grew from P101.7 million to P150.4 million representing a 48 percent increase from the previous year.

The Group’s revenue, however, declined by 10 percent from P317.9 million in the previous year to P286.8 million in the current year. The slow-down in revenue at the group level reflects the challenges and changes that the organisation is managing within its subsidiary and associate company structures.

At a company level, BDC experienced a loss before tax of P67.1 million against a loss before tax of P222.2 million in the previous year. This loss at a company level is substantially less than the loss in the previous year and is reflective of key initiatives to manage operating costs and improve collections.

Indeed, despite incurring expenses of the remodelling exercise, total expenses for the Corporation were reduced by 25 percent which is reflective of key initiatives to manage operating costs. Whilst the net loss for the group was P7.8 million, a total comprehensive income of P215 million was achieved compared to P107 million in the previous year after taking into account the net gains on investments and revaluation of property, plant and equipment.

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Media have a Role in Accelerating Harm Reduction Adoption

8th December 2022

African Scientists and Experts Call for the adoption of a Harm Reduction in approach in Public Health Strategies and Tobacco Control. Media have a critical role to play in accelerating Harm Reduction efforts by informing and sensitizing cigarette smokers on the availability and benefits of alternative, potentially lower risk products to cigarretes. Traditional cessation and smoking prevention norms are not the only ways that smokers who cannot or don’t’ want to quit can make healthier choices that cause less harm to themselves and those around them.

This was said during the 2nd Harm Reduction Exchange conference for African journalists held in Nairobi, Kenya on the 1st of December 2022. Speaking at the Harm Reduction Exchange Conference, Integra Africa Principal Dr. Tendai Mhizha emphasized the role that journalists and media houses should play in handling misinformation and disinformation in tobacco harm reduction discourse that is actually perpetuating the death and disease caused by people continuing to smoke combustible cigarettes. “There has been a lot of disinformation surrounding the topic of nicotine and the alleged negative effects that e-cigarettes have on public health.

This has led to policies that disfavour risk reduces products and narratives that completely deny their benefits. The media have the difficult responsibility to curb the scourge of disinformation and misinformation on harm reduction just like on other socio-political stances that are prescriptive and do not uphold consumers’ right to healthier lifestyle choices,” Dr Mhizha said.

The Harm Reduction Exchange cast a spotlight on alternative ways to reduce harm among tobacco smokers. Held under the theme Harm Reduction: Making a difference in Africa, the conference focused on the progress being made through harm reduction strategies in all fields related to public health such as drug and alcohol abuse, excessive sugar consumption, skin lightening and other addictive and behavioral practices. A wide array of harm reduction strategies and initiatives that are deployed towards reducing unnecessary deaths through non-communicable diseases were presented and discussed.

On his part, Prof. Abdoul Kassé, a world renowned and awarded Oncologist and a Professor of Surgery at the Cancer Institute in Senegal, said that Harm Reduction is a powerful public A Summary of the HR Exchange 30th November  1st December 2022 health tool that has the potential to reduce cancer by 30% and should be at the centre of all public health development strategies. Harm reduction, he said, has already benefited many people in public health and is the most viable alternative in tobacco control.

It applies to areas where there is a need to reduce the harm associated with a practice or consumption of a substance that is overused in society leading to increased morbidity and mortality. “Innovative Harm Reduction initiatives will help to keep more Africans alive. Tobacco Harm Reduction initiatives, including the use of popular e-cigarettes, nicotine patches and chewing gums, have continued to generate a lot of misunderstanding in both the public health community and in the media. However, there is evidence that the use of potentially less harmful alternatives than cigarettes for those who are not willing or cannot give up smoking with currently approved methods may be a solution, not necessarily the best for everyone but by far better than continuous smoking.

Where cessation repeatedly fails, switching to less harmful products is expected to result in benefits for many smokers,” Prof. Abdoul Kassé said. Similarly, views were expressed by Kenya’s Dr. Vivian Manyeki who said tobacco Harm Reduction has a solid scientific and medical basis, and it has a lot of promise as a public health measure to assist millions of smokers. “Many smokers are unable, or at least unwilling, to achieve cessation through complete nicotine and tobacco abstinence. They continue smoking despite the very real and obvious adverse health consequences and against the multiple public health campaigns. Conventional smoking cessation proposals should be complemented with alternative but more realistic options through Harm Reduction,” Dr. Manyeki said.

Tobacco Harm Reduction was introduced to mitigate the damage caused by cigarette smoking—the most dangerous form of tobacco use, and the leading cause of preventable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. “Nicotine has an addictive potential but plays a minor role in smoking-related morbidity and mortality. Across the world, there is growing interest among experts in novel approaches towards tobacco control and there is an ongoing discussion that reducing the negative effects of smoking can be also achieved by tobacco harm reduction,” Dr. Kgosi Letlape, an ophthalmologist and President of Africa Medical Association and the president of the Association of Medical Councils of Africa, said.

Tobacco cessation is a key factor in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Abstinence from tobacco smoking is one of the primary goals for health promotion and management globally but it is unachievable in a huge amount of cases. This task remains unaccomplished despite extensive public campaigns on the health dangers of tobacco smoking. Thus, the development of novel strategies to reduce smoking is imperative. Moreover, the use of innovations in smoking products has been currently adopted by several smokers to reduce the health risks of smoking.

“The Harm Reduction approach prevents drug-related deaths and overdose fatalities and is the only way out for addicts. In the same way these alternative technologies can reduce tobacco harm and accelerate the journey to a smoke-free world as they reduce exposure to toxicants,” Bernice Apondi, A Policy Manager at Voices of Community Action and Leadership Kenya (VOCAL-Kenya), said.

During the Harm Reduction Exchange, journalists drawn from Southern, West and East African countries, including: Nigeria, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Eswatini, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe debated and set forth several resolutions in regards to the present and future as well as the challenges and progress made in Harm Reduction,and science-led regulation.

The Harm Reduction Exchange brought together high-level policy makers, physicians, scientists and health policy experts with media stakeholders from Africa in a lively mix of speeches, presentations, and panel discussions. The key note speakers included Prof Abdoul Aziz Kasse, Ms Bernice Opondi, Joseph Magero, Jonathan Fell, Chimwemwe Ngoma, Clive Bates, Dr. Kgosi Letlape, Dr. Vivian Manyeki and Dr. Tendai Mhizha.


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Over 2 000 civil servants interdicted

6th December 2022

Over 2,000 civil servants in the public sector have been interdicted for a variety of reasons, the majority of which are criminal in nature.

According to reports, some officers have been under interdiction for more than two years because such matters are still being investigated. Information reaching WeekendPost shows that local government, particularly councils, has the highest number of suspended officers.

In its annual report, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) revealed that councils lead in corrupt activities throughout the country, and dozens of council employees are being investigated for alleged corrupt activities. It is also reported that disciplined forces, including the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), police, and prisons, and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) have suspended a significant number of officers.

The Ministry of Education and Skills Development has also recorded a good number of teachers who have implicated in love relationships with students, while some are accused of impregnating students both in primary and secondary school. Regional education officers have been tasked to investigate such matters and are believed to be far from completion as some students are dragging their feet in assisting the investigations to be completed.

This year, Mmadinare Senior Secondary reportedly had the highest number of pregnancies, especially among form five students who were later forcibly expelled from school. Responding to this publication’s queries, Permanent Secretary to the Office of the President Emma Peloetletse said, “as you might be aware, I am currently addressing public servants across the length and breadth of our beautiful republic. Due to your detailed enquiry, I am not able to respond within your schedule,” she said.

She said some of the issues raised need verification of facts, some are still under investigation while some are still before the courts of law.

Meanwhile, it is close to six months since the Police Commissioner Keabetwe Makgophe, Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo and the Deputy Director of the DIS Tefo Kgothane were suspended from their official duties on various charges.

Efforts to solicit comment from trade unions were futile at the time of going to press.

Some suspended officers who opted for anonymity claimed that they have close to two years while on suspension. One stated that the investigations that led him to be suspended have not been completed.

“It is heartbreaking that at this time the investigations have not been completed,” he told WeekendPost, adding that “when a person is suspended, they get their salary fully without fail until the matter is resolved”.

Makgophe, Katlholo and Kgothane are the three most high-ranking government officials that are under interdiction.

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Masisi to dump Tsogwane?

28th November 2022

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and some senior government officials are abuzz with reports that President Mokgweetsi Masisi has requested his Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane not to contest the next general elections in 2024.

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