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Analysts: Botswana banks face a tough 2015

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.

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Gambling Authority tender dangles as a jittery lottery quandary

30th November 2020
SEFALANA MD: CHANDRA CHAUHAN

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
Diamonds

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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