CAPE TOWN: The national flag carrier, Air Botswana, has formalised its operations in Cape Town, South Africa by opening an office to better market the airlines route and supervise operations.
The airline is also looking to capitalise on the Cape Town-Gaborone route Air Botswana started flying to Cape Town in June 2012 first with the operation of the Maun-Cape Town route. In October of the same year, we began the Gaborone-Cape Town operation.
Cape Town, which is rated among the top places in the world to visit, carries great potential for tourism and business opportunities with its routes from the city into Gaborone and Maun.
Last week on Friday, the new general manager of Air Botswana, Tozivazvipi Ben Dahwa, travelled with senior members of management to officially open the Air Botswana office at the Cape Town International Airport in Western Cape province of South Africa.
The management team which included, Joe Motse, also lobbied stakeholders in the travel and tourism sector in the province to utilise the airliner for business and leisure travel to Gaborone and Maun to Cape Town.
South Africa Country Manager Isaac Mabote, told BusinessPost that though only Air Botswana and South African Airlink travel to Cape Town from Botswana, Air Botswana has an upper hand as it the monopoly of direct flights from Cape Town.
South African national, Ezra du Plessis, will be running the office and marketing the airline in Cape Town and the Western Cape province as a whole.
Du Plessis told this publication that, the airline has a database of clients that use Air Botswana when travelling into Botswana from the tourism hub that is Cape Town.
“I will be supervising Air Botswana operations as well as marketing the route in the whole of the Western Cape,” said Du Plessis. Air Botswana is the only airline that flies direct from Cape Town into Botswana.
It is for these challenges that the airline realized the need to have a permanent presence in this very important destination and market. The presence of dedicated personnel based in Cape Town Global aviation company, Menzies Aviation services ticketing and ground operations for Air Botswana and Mabote says the firm will remain as the service provider due to their experience and expertise. Menzies Aviation, a global firm operating 149 stations in 31 countries serves over 500 airline customers handling over 1 million flights and 1.5 million tonnes of cargo per annum.
The GM revealed that under his watch, the airline has improved its efficiencies and reliability. “Over the past few months, our performance record has consistently been above 85 percent OTP, with most delays contained within 60 minutes,” adding that “at a time when one or two of our aircraft are away in heavy maintenance shop visits, we have set ourselves a target of 90 percent in the short term ahead of our re-fleeting and upgrade strategy implementation.”
“The story to tell really is that we now know exactly where the pain is coming from and we have started with treatment,” said Dawha.
The new GM revealed that at some point the on time performance was 65 percent and in aviation terms this means a customer has a 50/50 probability they can fly.
“When an airline reaches this point in simple terms it means there is no business to talk about. Operating below 70 percent on time record is indicative of an airline business under distress,” said Dahwa, putting the efficiency issue into context.
Ben Dahwa, when first engaging with media after his appointment, noted that: “The airline is in need of serious assistance in the areas of technology solutions to leverage world class available solutions for enhanced efficiency in addition to revenue management to respond to rapidly changing industry challenges among other key issues.’
Staff morale was also said to be low, with turnover of general managers at the airline going unprecedented, painting a picture of a corporation in distress.
The loss making airline has been plagued by inefficiencies in operations that have further taken away some confidence from the customers.
The airliner has completed a five year strategy that will most likely involve replacement of the six fleet of aircraft.
“Finally, work has been completed with the assistance of renowned Consultants to finalise a five year strategy plan which will inform a whole range of initiatives to drive revenues, manage and contain costs, increases efficiencies and productivity as well as appropriate resources in all business areas to optimise our business revenues.”
The key strategic areas which have been considered, are; Route network and schedule; Re-fleeting/Fleet upgrade; Review of internal processes and procedures/process re-engineering to gain improvement in how we do things; Use of Technology to enhance delivery and simplicity and improving our people resource and processes. Joe Motse, Commercial Director at Air Botswana told BusinessPost in a short interview, that the re-fleeting, which awaits approval by Cabinet, will involve aircraft that is suitable for regional operations; these include the business routes of Gaborone-Johannesburg as well as leisure routes for tourism between Cape Town and Maun, and the mixed routes being Gaborone-Harare and Gaborone-Lusaka.
“The new will fleet will be a mix of jet and turbo prop aircraft that have however been modernised for faster flying times,” said Motse.
The airline is confident of having optimised its operations and have also recently expanded our cargo facilities and handling space, positioning ourselves well, in anticipation of increased cargo business through Sir Seretse Khama International Airport, which is said to be adept to handle all types of cargo such as perishables and valuables.
The airliner currently operates a dedicated cargo freighter on the Johannesburg- Gaborone route twice a week enabling customers to now send more volumes that were not possible with commercial aircraft.
The airliner is also in the process of acquiring new ground handling equipment to the tune of P43 million.
This century is always looking at improving new super high speed technology to make life easier. On the other hand, beckoning as an emerging fierce reversal force to equally match or dominate this life enhancing super new tech, comes swift human adversaries which seem to have come to make living on earth even more difficult.
The recent discovery of a pandemic, Covid-19, which moves at a pace of unimaginable and unpredictable proportions; locking people inside homes and barring human interactions with its dreaded death threat, is currently being felt.
Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo has cautioned Government against excessive borrowing and poorly managed debt levels.
He was speaking in Parliament on Tuesday delivering Parliament’s Finance Committee report after assessing a motion that sought to raise Government Bond program ceiling to P30 billion, a big jump from the initial P15 Billion.
Government Investment Account (GIA) which forms part of the Pula fund has been significantly drawn down to finance Botswana’s budget deficits since 2008/09 Global financial crises.
The 2009 global economic recession triggered the collapse of financial markets in the United States, sending waves of shock across world economies, eroding business sentiment, and causing financiers of trade to excise heightened caution and hold onto their cash.
The ripple effects of this economic catastrophe were mostly felt by low to middle income resource based economies, amplifying their vulnerability to external shocks. The diamond industry which forms the gist of Botswana’s economic make up collapsed to zero trade levels across the entire value chain.
The Upstream, where Botswana gathers much of its diamond revenue was adversely impacted by muted demand in the Midstream. The situation was exacerbated by zero appetite of polished goods by jewelry manufacturers and retail outlets due to lowered tail end consumer demand.
This resulted in sharp decline of Government revenue, ballooned budget deficits and suspension of some developmental projects. To finance the deficit and some prioritized national development projects, government had to dip into cash balances, foreign reserves and borrow both externally and locally.
Much of drawing was from Government Investment Account as opposed to drawing from foreign reserve component of the Pula Fund; the latter was spared as a fiscal buffer for the worst rainy days.
Consequently this resulted in significant decline in funds held in the Government Investment Account (GIA). The account serves as Government’s main savings depository and fund for national policy objectives.
However as the world emerged from the 2009 recession government revenue graph picked up to pre recession levels before going down again around 2016/17 owing to challenges in the diamond industry.
Due to a number of budget surpluses from 2012/13 financial year the Government Investment Account started expanding back to P30 billion levels before a series of budget deficits in the National Development Plan 11 pushed it back to decline a decline wave.
When the National Development Plan 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at budget deficits.
This as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.
Cumulatively since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances. Drawing down from government cash balances meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account.
The Government Investment Account (GIA) was established in accordance with Section 35 of the Bank of Botswana Act Cap. 55:01. The Account represents Government’s share of the Botswana‘s foreign exchange reserves, its investment and management strategies are aligned to the Bank of Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves management and investment guidelines.
Government Investment Account, comprises of Pula denominated deposits at the Bank of Botswana and held in the Pula Fund, which is the long-term investment tranche of the foreign exchange reserves.
In June 2017 while answering a question from Bogolo Kenewendo, the then Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Mathambo told parliament that as of June 30, 2017, the total assets in the Pula Fund was P56.818 billion, of which the balance in the GIA was P30.832 billion.
Kenewendo was still a back bench specially elected Member of Parliament before ascending to cabinet post in 2018. Last week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, when presenting a motion to raise government local borrowing ceiling from P15 billion to P30 Billion told parliament that as of December 2019 Government Investment Account amounted to P18.3 billion.
Dr Matsheka further told parliament that prior to financial crisis of 2008/9 the account amounted to P30.5 billion (41 % of GDP) in December of 2008 while as at December 2019 it stood at P18.3 billion (only 9 % of GDP) mirroring a total decline by P11 billion in the entire 11 years.
Back in 2017 Parliament was also told that the Government Investment Account may be drawn-down or added to, in line with actuations in the Government’s expenditure and revenue outturns. “This is intended to provide the Government with appropriate funds to execute its functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently” said Mathambo, then Minister of Finance.
Acknowledging the need to draw down from GIA no more, current Minister of Finance Dr Matsheka said “It is under this background that it would be advisable to avoid excessive draw down from this account to preserve it as a financial buffer”
He further cautioned “The danger with substantially reduced financial buffers is that when an economic shock occurs or a disaster descends upon us and adversely affects our economy it becomes very difficult for the country to manage such a shock”