Minerals discoveries stir economic prospects
By Aubrey Lute
Agriculture continues to be a critical sector when it comes to employment creation
President Lt Gen Ian Khama has said other mineral prospects are looking good for the country and government is working around the clock to ensure that maximum benefit is derived from the new found gems. In an interview the President has also revealed that they are confident that diamonds are still around up beyond 2050.
The President’s comments come on the backdrop of talk of dwindling diamonds reserves and possible the future after diamonds. Khama clarified that Botswana is not diversifying away from minerals but instead wants to ensure that the economy is not dominated by one commodity.
On the other hand he noted that in the meantime, while the diamonds are still good, government is maximising benefits through the beneficiation process. “By next year we are going into the net phase of beneficiation as we look into manufacturing jewellery here at home,” he said. He said he was happy that Botswana would have completed the entire value chain.
According to President Khama, new technology will ensure that the lifespan of diamond go beyond 2050, which is in sharp contrast to the much talked about 2027.
Consultants, Rob Davies and Dirk van Seventer sharing recently at a BIDPA workshop indicated that indeed “Diamonds will one day run out not necessarily physically but will be more costly to mine not sure when, but around late 2020s.”
The study titled Life after Diamonds: The Economy Wide Consequences of Declining Diamond Production in Botswana, is a composite of a wide ranging economic report commissioned by BIDPA for private sector body, Botswana Confederation of Commerce Industry and Manpower (BOCCIM).
They give three possible scenarios showing how the effects of depletion of diamonds will manifest and how they can be mitigated.
“We assume that the decline takes place between 2025 and 2027, although lessons we draw do not depend on this precise timing; here we report that the most significant and permanent decline assuming that by 2027, GDP in diamond mining declines by 75 percent below its 2024 level and remains constant; This decline leads to total GDP of 25 percent in 2028, below what would otherwise have been. Even after diamond production stabilises, the economy declines and ten years after the presumed reduction in diamond production started, GDP is 48 percent below what it would have been.”
ENCOURAGING MINERAL DEPOSITS
President Khama shared that there has been very encouraging discoveries of other mineral deposits around the country. He said there are good discoveries of copper, iron ore, gas, and coal deposits. He said in the near future Botswana should be exporting coal and other minerals in their volumes. Khama said it was encouraging that there still continues to be other discoveries of diamond deposits. He gave the example that he recently opened another diamond mine in the Gantsi area. He emphasised that the advent of new technologies has ensured that more mineral discoveries are found in the country.
TOURISM POTENTIAL BIG EMPLOYER
Khama said Botswana is pushing hard to elevate tourism to its imagined levels of contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). He said tourism is generally a large scale employer and is optimistic that overtime it will employ more Batswana. He said the world over tourism contributes close to 45 percent of jobs, and he wants Botswana to get close to the international average of jobs created through tourism.
AGRICULTURE ON TRACK
Agriculture continues to be a critical sector when it comes to employment creation and feeding the nation. He said there are mega projects lined up in the agriculture sector which are likely to scale up its performance in the short term. He gave the example of the Agro Zambezi project, which he said government intends to push for its effective implementation.
TARGETING THE SADC MARKET
On Manufacturing the President acknowledged that being neighbours with South Africa can be challenging because of their perceived advantages such as a big population of over 50 million people, proximity to the sea ports and other factors.
However he said as a country Botswana is taking advantage of being landlocked. He observed that there is more that is being done to improve the country’s infrastructure, roads and other key developments. Khama cited the likelihood of direct flights to international markets in the near future. He said already three airlines have shown interest in having direct flights to Botswana.
He said this will make it easy for Botswana to attract Foreign Direct Investment especially after the completion of other projects such as the Trans Kalahari railway line and the Kazungula project. He said the intention is widen the market that investors could potentially access when they open business in Botswana.
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Stargems Group establishes Training Center in BW
Internationally-acclaimed diamond manufacturing company StarGems Group has established the Stargems Diamond Training Center which will be providing specialized training in diamond manufacturing and evaluation.
The Stargems Diamond Training Institute is located at the Stargems Group Botswana Unit in Gaborone.
“In accordance with the National Human Resource Development Strategy (NHRDS) which holds the principle that through education and skills development as well as the strategic alignment between national ambitions and individual capabilities, Botswana will become a prosperous, productive and innovative nation due to the quality and efficacy of its citizenry. The Training Centre will provide a range of modules in theory and in practice; from rough diamond evaluation to diamond grading and polishing for Batswana, at no cost for eight weeks. The internationally- recognized certificate offered in partnership with Harry Oppenheimer Diamond Training School presents invaluable opportunities for Batswana to access in the diamond industry locally and internationally. The initiative is an extension of our Corporate Social Investment to the community in which we operate,” said Vishal Shah, Stargems Group Managing Director, during the launch of the Stargems Diamond Training Center.
In order to participate in this rare opportunity, interested candidates are invited to submit a police clearance certificate and a BGCSE certificate only to the Stargems offices. Students who excel in these programs will have the chance to be onboarded by the Stargems Group. This serves as motivation for them to go through this training with a high level of seriousness.
“Community empowerment is one of our CSR principles. We believe that businesses can only thrive when their communities are well taken of. We are hoping that our presence will be impactful to various communities and economies. In the six countries that we are operating in, we have contributed through dedicating 10% of our revenues during COVID-19 to facilitate education, donating to hospitals and also to NGOs committed to supporting women and children living with HIV. One key issue that we are targeting in Botswana is the rate of unemployment amongst the youth. We are looking forward to working closely with the government and other relevant authorities to curb unemployment,” said Shah.
Currently, Stargems Group has employed 117 Batswana and they are looking forward to growing the numbers to 500 as the company grows. Majority of the employees will be graduates from the Stargems Diamond Training Center. This initiation has been received with open arms by the general public and stakeholders. During the launch, the Minister of Minerals and Energy, Honorable Lefoko Moagi, stated that the ministry fully endorses Stargems Diamond Training and will work closely with the Group to support and grow the initiative.
“As a ministry, we see this as an game changer that is aligned with one of the United Nations’ Six Priority Sustainable Development Goals, which is to Advance Opportunity and Impact for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). What Stargems Group is launching today will have a huge impact on the creation of employment in Botswana. An economy’s productivity rises as the number of educated workers increases as its skilled workmanship increases. It is not a secret that low skills perpetuate poverty and widen the inequality gap, therefore the development of skills has the potential to contribute significantly to structural transformation and economic growth by enhancing employability and helping the country become more competitive. We are grateful to see the emergence of industry players such as Stargems Group who have strived to create such opportunities that mitigate the negative effects of COVID-19 on the economy,” said the Minister of Minerals and Energy.
Food import bill slightly declines
The latest figures released by Statistics Botswana this week shows that food import bill for Botswana slightly declined from around P1.1 billion in November 2022 to around P981 million in December during the same year.
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Moody’s Reaffirms African Trade Insurance’s A3 Rating & Revises Outlook to Positive
Moody’s Investors Service (“Moody’s”) has affirmed the A3 insurance financial strength rating (IFSR) of the African Trade Insurance Agency (ATI) for the fifth consecutive year and changed the outlook from stable to positive.
Moody’s noted that the change in outlook to positive reflects the strong growth in ATI’s membership base – that has resulted in improved portfolio diversification, strengthened capital adequacy, and the good profitability despite the challenging operating environment. In addition, ATI benefits from its preferred creditor status (PCS) amongst sovereign member states which protects it from the risk of default by member sovereigns through securing recoveries against claims paid on guarantees.
The strong membership and equity growth are some of the key considerations for the consistent reinstatement of ATI’s A/Stable rating by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s rating, over the years. Also supporting the rating affirmation are; consistent improvement in financial performance, commitment of its shareholders who continue to uphold the preferred creditor status, its high quality and conservative investment portfolio as well as strong relationships with a number of global reinsurers that provide significant risk-bearing capacity.
With the change in outlook to “positive”, ATI is now better placed to provide enhanced support to its member countries, attract additional shareholding and grow its portfolio. The positive outlook is an indication that if ATI continues to demonstrate its strong underwriting performance and ability to recover claims under the preferred creditor arrangements, among other factors, an upward pressure towards an upgrade may be generated. The Moody’s press release can be accessed from here
Commenting on the rating, Africa Trade Insurance Chief Executive Officer Manuel Moses said: “This positive revision is in line with our 2023 – 2027 strategic objectives in which we set to improve our rating outlook to positive in the first year, and achieve an upgrade of at least “AA”/Stable rating by both Moody’s and S&P within this Strategic Plan period. We aim to achieve this by doubling our exposures and increasing our capital to more than USD1 billion.”
ATI’s mandate is to provide trade-credit and political risk insurance, as well as other risk mitigation products to its member countries and related public and private sector actors. These insurance products not only directly encourage and facilitate foreign direct investment as well as local private sector investment in our member countries, but also contribute to intra- and extra-African trade.
About The African Trade Insurance Agency
ATI was founded in 2001 by African States to cover trade and investment risks of companies doing business in Africa. ATI predominantly provides Political Risk, Credit Insurance and, Surety Insurance. Since inception, ATI has supported US$78 billion worth of investments and trade into Africa. For over a decade, ATI has maintained an ‘A/Stable’ rating for Financial Strength and Counterparty Credit by Standard & Poor’s, and in 2019, ATI obtained an A3/Stable rating from Moody’s, which has now been revised to A3/Positive.