Botswana banks face a tough 2015 as the liquidity debacle, further declines in credit growth, and interest margin squeeze continue – the challenge is further compounded by the stagnant economic growth.
More than eight years after the start of the financial crisis, banks have made strides towards improving financial stability but they are still struggling to boost profits. Over the past year 2014, the market as a whole experienced a squeeze in local currency liquidity.
“The year 2015 is going to be another challenging year for financial stocks given the tough economic landscape,” said Garry Juma, an Investment Analyst with local brokerage, Motswedi Securities.
Juma said the moratorium which is still hanging around the banks necks barring them from increasing bank charges on existing products will continue to have an impact on non-interest income.
He observed that the intensifying competition in the banking sector, especially with the presence of new shareholders on Banc ABC (Bob Diamonds) will also make it more tough for the financial sector. “We don’t know what these sharp minds in banking have in store for us,” he said.
He pointed out that the benign inflation might compel the Bank of Botswana to reduce the bank rate once again, further eating on bank’s interest income, which is already under pressure.
“December inflation printed at historic low of 3.8% and further reductions in inflation might prompt the BoB to reduce interest rates. Amidst stagnant economic growth, declining purchasing power, counteractive fiscal changes and banking operations which are tightening the monetary conditions, the BoB might counteract these developments by a rate cut in 2015 to loosen the monetary conditions further,” he said.
“This will be a challenge to banks as they will have to act accordingly in reducing rates on existing loans, while lower deposit rates will be unattractive to savers, thus exacerbating some of the liquidity concerns as loans and advances are likely to grow at a faster pace than deposits,” Moatlhodi Sebabole Research Manager with Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) Botswana stated.
The banking sector is going through a tough time as they are no longer benefiting from the tax revenue which used to accumulate in commercial banks over a long period of time, now the revenue service’s collections are now transferred to the central bank overnight.
In addition parastatal institutions’ balances held in commercial banks have decreased by 18% in the past year. This is a result of the government’s strategy to take on a more prudent and directed funding for its agencies. Instead of receiving the lump sum annual budget for government funded projects, parastatal institutions and local authorities receive funding as and when payments are due.
In the past year total market pula denominated advances has grown faster than deposits. Between October 2013 and October 2014 advances grew by 13.6% whilst deposit grew by only 11.6%.There has been an increase in offshore investments by fund managers. The Bank of Botswana statistics show that from April 2013 the proportion of assets invested offshore increased from 50.9% and reached 55.7% in October 2014.
“The MPC has maintained the bank rate at decades’ low of 7.5% since December 2013. Despite this expansionary monetary stance, actual monetary conditions have swung from being exceptionally easy to being exceptionally tight as a result of changes to tax and parastatals banking arrangements, among others,” said Sebabole.
The market’s loan to deposit ratio (excluding foreign currency) for October reported at 100.2% and liquidity from government to fund activity remains constricted. Sebabole said these constraints have resulted in curtailing of loans and advances by commercial banks.
Additionally, market liquidity remains subdued, with a downward trend in average positions and excess liquidity trending around P1 billion. The market deposit rate curve has shifted upwards as banks compete for limited market liquidity.
“Unless banks become more innovative; the fiscal stance become expansionary and; there is regulation easing on primary reserve requirements, liquid asset classification and capital adequacy requirements, the persistence of liquidity challenges might see great reduction in lending activities which is counteractive to the financial intermediation process and economic-wide expansion,” said Sebabole.
He added that despite the low interest environment, credit slowed down in 2014 as a reflection of: erosion of purchasing power, liquidity squeeze, and increased cost of borrowing and underperformance of several sectors.
In the twelve months to November 2014, y/y total credit growth slowed down to 14% compared to 15.8% in the previous period. The y/y household credit growth declined from 26.6% in November 2013 to 9.8% in November 2014, while y/y business credit growth has increased from 2.8% to 12.3%.
“The increasing credit growth and arrears for businesses could be a reflection of the contraction of growth in the non-mining private sector, while contraction of credit growth to households could reflect the household income squeeze,” Sebabole noted.
The Rand Merchant Bank has forecast economic growth at 5.0% in 2015 with non-mining private sector continuing to underperform.
“This will be a challenge to banking operations as an economic-wide squeeze will reduce the financial intermediation activities, thus reducing the contribution of financial services to overall GDP. Erosion of purchasing power of households will also see minimal participation of households in boosting banks’ balance sheets” he said.
However analysts are of the view that, the challenges are prompting for unconventional means of banking which will result in customer-centric products. Innovation is also likely to increase as banks seek to retain customers and offer tailored structured products. “Increased competition will also encourage banks to deliver not only high-level service, but solution-based approach to banking,” said Sebabole.
At present the banking sector's total assets represent 50.4% of GDP. This is down from its 2009 peak of 60.9%. The Business Monitor International (BMI) forecasts client loans to grow by 12.0% in 2015, after an estimated expansion of 10.0% in 2014. This is markedly slower than the 18.4% average growth rate from 2009 to 2013.
The recent study on youth entrepreneurship in Botswana has identified difficult access to funding, land, machinery, lack of entrepreneurial mindset and proper training as serious challenges that continue to hamper youth entrepreneurship development in this country.
The study conducted by Alliance for African Partnership (AAP) in collaboration with University of Botswana has confirmed that despite the government and private sector multi-billion pula entrepreneurship development initiatives, many young people in Botswana continue to fail to grow their businesses into sustainable and successful companies that can help reduce unemployment.
University of Botswana researchers Gaofetege Ganamotse and Rudolph Boy who compiled findings in the 2022 study report for Botswana stated that as part of the study interviews were conducted with successful youth entrepreneurs to understand their critical success factors.
According to the researchers other participants were community leaders, business mentors, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Youth, Gender, Sport and Culture, financial institutions, higher education institutions, non-governmental institutions, policymakers, private organizations, and support structures such as legal and technical experts and accountants who were interviewed to understand how they facilitate successful youth entrepreneurship.
The researchers said they found that although Botswana government is perceived as the most supportive to businesses when compared to other governments in sub-Saharan Africa, youth entrepreneurs still face challenges when accessing government funding. “Several finance-related challenges were identified by youth entrepreneurs. Some respondents lamented the lack of access to start-up finance, whereas others mentioned lack of access to infrastructure.”
The researchers stated that in Botswana entrepreneurship is not yet perceived as a field or career of choice by many youth “Participants in the study emphasized that the many youth are more of necessity entrepreneurs, seeing business venturing as a “fall back. Other facilitators mentioned that some youth do not display creativity, mind-blowing innovative solutions, and business management skills. Some youth entrepreneurs like to take shortcuts like selling sweets or muffins.”
According to the researchers, some of the youth do not display perseverance when they are faced with adversity in business. “Young people lack of an entrepreneurial mindset is a common challenge among youth in business. Some have a mindset focused on free services, handouts, and rapid gains. They want overnight success. As such, they give up easily when faced with challenges. On the other hand, some participants argue that they may opt for quick wins because they do not have access to any land, machinery, offices, and vehicles.”
The researchers stated that most youth involved in business ventures do not have the necessary training or skills to maintain a business. “Poor financial management has also been cited as one of the challenges for youth entrepreneurs, such as using profit for personal reasons rather than investing in the business. Also some are not being able to separate their livelihood from their businesses.
Lastly, youth entrepreneurs reported a lack of experience as one of the challenges. For example, the experience of running a business with projections, sticking to the projections, having an accounting system, maintaining a clean and clear billing system, and sound administration system.”
According to the researchers, the participants in the study emphasized that there is fragmentation within the entrepreneurial ecosystem, whereby there is replication of business activities without any differentiation. “There is no integration of the ecosystem players. As such, they end up with duplicate programs targeting the same objectives. The financial sector recommended that there is a need for an intermediary body that will bring all the ecosystem actors together and serve as a “one-stop shop” for entrepreneurs and build mentorship programs that accommodate the business lifecycle from inception to growth.”
Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) is said to have recorded an operating surplus of P61 Million, an improvement compared to the previous year. The housing, office and other building needs giant met with stakeholders recently to share how the business has been.
The P61 million is a significant increase against the P6 million operating loss realized in the prior year. Profit before income tax also increased significantly from P2 million in the prior year to P72 million which resulted in an overall increase in surplus after tax from P1 million prior year to P64 million for the year under review.
Chief of Finance Officer, Diratsagae Kgamanyane disclosed; “This growth in surplus was driven mainly by rental revenue that increased by 15% from P209 million to P240 million and reduction in expenditure from P272 million to P214 million on the back of cost containment.” He further stated that sales of high margin investment properties also contributed significantly to the growth in surplus as well as impairment reversals on receivables amounting to P25 million.
It is said that the Corporation recorded a total revenue of P702 million, an 8% decrease when compared to the P760 million recorded in the prior year. “Sales revenue which is one of the major revenue streams returned impressive margins, contributing to the overall growth in the gross margin,” added Kgamanyane.
He further stated professional fees revenue line declined significantly by 64% to P5 million from P14 million in the prior year which attributed to suspension of planned projects by their clients due to Covid-19 pandemic. “Facilities Management revenue decreased by P 24 million from P69 million recorded in prior year to P45 million due to reduction in projects,” Kgamanyane said.
The Corporation’s strength is on its investment properties portfolio that stood at P1.4 billion at the end of the reporting period. “The Corporation continues its strategy to diversify revenue streams despite both facilities management income and professional fees being challenged by the prevailing economic conditions that have seen its major clients curtailing spending,” added the CEO.
On the one hand, the Corporation’s Strategic Performance which intended to build 12 300 houses by 2023 has so far managed to build 4 830 houses under their SHHA funding scheme, 1 240 houses for commercial or external use which includes use by government and 1 970 houses to rent to individuals.
BHC Acting CEO Pascaline Sefawe noted that; BHC’s planned projects are said to include building 336 flat units in Gaborone Block 7 at approximately P224 million, 100 units in Maun at approximately P78 million, 13 units in Phakalane at approximately P26 million, 212 units in Kazungula at approximately P160 million, 96 units at approximately P42 million in Francistown and 84 units at approximately P61 million in Letlhakane. Emphasing; “People tend to accuse us of only building houses in Gaborone, so here we are, including other areas in our planned projects.”
Researchers from some government owned regulatory institutions in the financial sector have projected that the banking sector’s profitability could increase, following Bank of Botswana Monetary Policy Committee recent decision to increase monetary policy rate.
In its bid to manage inflation, Bank of Botswana Monetary Policy Committee last month increased monetary policy rate by 0.50 percent from 1.65 percent to 2.15 percent, a development which resulted with commercial banking sector increasing interest rate in lending to household and companies. As a result of BoB adjustment of Monetary Policy Rate, from 1.65 percent to 2.15 percent commercial banks increased prime lending rate from 5.76 percent to 6.26 percent.
Researchers from Bank of Botswana, the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority, the Financial Intelligence Agency and the Botswana Stock Exchange indicated that due to prospects of high inflation during the second half of 2022, there is a possibility that the Monetary Policy Committee could further increase monetary policy rate in the next meeting in August 25 2022.
Inflation rose from 9.6 percent in April 2022 to 11.9 percent in May 2022, remaining above the Bank of Botswana medium-term objective range of 3 – 6 percent. According to the researchers inflation could increase further and remain high due to factors that include: the potential increase in international commodity prices beyond current forecasts, logistical constraints due to lags in production, the economic and price effects of the ongoing Russia- Ukraine conflict, uncertain COVID-19 profile, domestic risk factors relating to possible regular annual administered price adjustments, short-term unintended consequences of import restrictions resulting with shortages in supplies leading to price increases, as well as second-round effects of the recent increases in administered prices “Furthermore, the likelihood of further increases in domestic fuel prices in response to persistent high international oil prices could add upward pressure to inflation,” said the researchers.
The researchers indicated that Bank of Botswana could be forced to further increase monetary policy rate from the current 2.15 percent if inflation rises persistently. “Should inflation rise persistently this could necessitate an upward adjustment in the policy rate. It is against this background that the interest rate scenario assumes a 1.5 percentage points (moderate scenario) and 2.25 percentage points (severe scenario) upward adjustment in the policy rate,” said the researchers.
The researchers indicated that while any upward adjustment on BoB monetary policy rate and commercial banks prime lending rate result with increase in the cost of borrowing for household and compnies, it increase profitability for the banking sector. “Increases in the policy rate are associated with an overall increase in bank profitability, with resultant increases in the capital adequacy ratio of 0.1 percentage points and 0.2 percentage points for the moderate and severe scenarios, respectively,” said the researchers who added that upward adjustment in monetary policy rate would raise extra capital for the banking sector.
“The increase in profit generally reflects the banking industry’s positive interest rate gap, where interest earning assets exceed interest earning liabilities maturing in the next twelve months. Therefore, an increase of 1.5 percentage points in the policy rate would result in industry gains of P71.7 million (4.1 percent increase), while a 2.25 percentage points increase would lead to a gain of P173.9 million (6.1 percent increase), dominated by large banks,” said the researchers.