Botswana manufacturing companies have failed to reap much through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) initiative, which offers a huge market for African products duty and quota free into the US market.
Nkosi Mwaba, the President at the Botswana Exporters and Manufactures Association (BEMA), said benefits have been derived from the AGOA initiative but not to satisfactory levels.â€¨â€¨
The number of companies participating in the scheme has pared down over the years. BEMA started off with about 15 members participating, being in textiles and apparel and furniture, but now only two companies are active because of unsustanability.â€¨â€¨
For Botswana, the AGOA comprises of 6,400 product lines, but the country’s textile and garment sector has been the beneficiary of AGOA over the years. â€¨â€¨
“We appeal to government to introduce incentives that will ensure competitiveness and sustainability of the sectors. We recognize the stimulus packages that government has extended to the textile industry however these are temporal solutions. As manufactures we solicit for incentives that will make Botswana export competitive globally,” said Mwaba.
Since inception of AGOA, Botswana managed to participate in about 8 sectors in agriculture, Machinery, Minerals Metals, Textiles apparel, Chemicals, Forestry, Transport equipment and Electronic products. To date Botswana is only using one product line under the scheme.
Mwaba highlighted that the scheme is underutilized in Botswana because without Government incentivizing exporting to the US market is not sustainable. Through AGOA countries like Lesotho have become one of the largest textile exporters and have created employment.
“We have similar challenges like Lesotho, but Lesotho has benefited tremendously from AGOA compared to Botswana, this is so because the Lesotho government has put in place incentives to encourage export into the US market,” he said.
In 2008 when Botswana exports totaled to $15million Lesotho made exports of close to $350 million through the AGOA scheme.â€¨â€¨Under AGOA in 2011, the export levels stood at US $15 million for the textiles and apparel, diminishing to US $10 million as at December 2012.
â€¨â€¨“Government could introduce incentives like duty incentives, rebates, sourcing of raw materials among other things. If these incentives are put in place costs will shrink thereby making the business sustainable,” said Mwaba.
So far manufactures have not been cushioned by anything. Mwaba made reference to the South African Duty Credit Certificate Scheme which has helped SA manufactures to earn customs duty free and reduce interest on certain items.
He said such schemes if put in place could help Batswana to benefit from AGOA.â€¨â€¨ Mwaba also attributed the poor performance to a number of issues, which include geographic trade-related barriers, like being land-locked, which requires the use of neighbouring boarders to access the market.â€¨â€¨
He also cited Infrastructure in Botswana, which still requires a lot of development. “We still have high utility costs and supply constraints, insufficient telecommunications infrastructure, and highly inconsistent transportation costs, augmented by distance to current or potential markets, and regional infrastructure constraints,” he said.â€¨â€¨
Botswana is also disadvantaged with the lack of skilled labour, which is necessary to diversify into more skill-intensive sectors steel manufacture as weighing down the country exports to USA. Even the existing manufacturers are struggling to get competent labour within the country. â€¨â€¨“More could be done to participate in the market and grow the sales, in turn diversifying our income stream as a country,” he said.
Meanwhile, the US is considering expanding product coverage under AGOA to include other products of export interest to African countries. The US will also be working to identify ways to provide greater flexibility in the rules of origin under AGOA to encourage regional integration and development of regional value chains, and to incentivise more US-Africa trade.
Prices for cereals or staple foods in Botswana and other Southern African countries continue to rise at a slower pace, following trends in the global markets, according to the latest November 2022 Food Price Monitoring and Analysis by Food Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
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Botswana Institution Of Engineers (BIE), has last week hosted a gala dinner in which they appreciated engineers who worked tirelessly and with dedication for 10 years from 1983 to steer the BIE to its current status.
The event that was held at the Phakalane Golf Estate had brought together young, experienced and veteran engineers and was held under the theme “Vitalize the dignity and eminence of all professional engineers”.
Explaining the theme, the institution’s treasurer, Thanabalasingam Raveendran said that engineers were looked upon reverentially with respect as the educated but with time it seems to have deteriorated. He indicated that there is a need to change the narrative by all means.
“The BIE exists for the welfare and the betterment of us Botswana engineers, we need to recognize specialised units within our Institution. We Engineers strongly believe in Engineers make it happen” Raveendran said.
He indicated that under the theme they appeal to all engineers to energize, to attain quality of being worthy of honour and respect and to achieve recognized superiority amongst the Society.
Raveendran stated that engineers need to ensure their end product is of good quality satisfying the end users expectations and engineers must be honest in their work.
“Approximately 8000 engineers registered with Engineering Regulatory Board (ERB) are not members of the BIE, engineers need to make every effort to recruit them to BIE” he said.
He alluded that BIE being a society, it currently needs to upgrade itself at par with professional institutions elsewhere like the UK and USA.
He further stated that BIE has to have engineering units of specialised disciplines like Civil/Mechanical/electrical etc
“As President Masisi indicated in his inaugural speech, the young people, who make 60 percent of the population of this country, are the future leaders and therefore investing in them is building the bridge to the future” said Raveendran
Kandima indicated that BIE has a memorandum of Understanding with Engineers Registration Board (ERB), where BIE is a recognised provider of CPD training, mentorship programmes and more importantly IPD undertaking to upgrade the skills and know-how of our engineers.
“For us to achieve our mandate and make worthwhile changes to engineering in Botswana, we have to be totally focused and act with intent” said Kandima.
Furthermore, Stephen Williams, past president of the BIE from 1986-1988 told the engineers that the BIE provides a fertile environment where they can meet, share ideas and grow professionally.
“The BIE is also a nesting place for graduate engineers to learn from their peers and seniors, it also cater for engineering technicians and technologists and so nobody in the technology field is left out” he said.
He further indicated that Botswana Government provides a conductive environment for growth of engineering professionals.
“It must be stated that the Botswana Government recognises the existence of BIE and it can further be stated that the government enables ERB to carry out its mandate as a regulator of engineering professionals” said Williams
He plead with engineering companies to recognize and support BIE as it is the only source of engineering personnel’s for various Industries .
Furthermore, when giving his farewell speech, Michael Pinard , a past president of the institution said how they are viewed as engineers by the general public might be due to some lack of appreciation as to exactly what role they play in the development of the country.
“The BIE slogan is aptly coined-Engineers make it happen, in other words, what man dreams engineers create” Said Pinard.