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Economic diversification efforts not paying off – Sebabole

Chief Economist at First National Bank (FNBB), Moatlhodi Sebabole says Botswana’s efforts towards diversifying the economy and realizing a mixed revenue profile are clearly not paying off. Sebabole said this recently when giving pre and post budget reviews for the 2020/21 financial year.

Citing Botswana’s revenue and grants basket profile Sebabole says the figures show a clear trend of dependence on mineral revenue signaling undesirable outcome against the run of efforts and investment in trying to pick up other revenue channels. Owing to the steep downturn in the diamond market during the 2008/09 Global financial crises Mineral revenue accounted for only 30 % of Government revenue in the 2009/10 financial year with SACU revenue accounting  for about 26 %  and Non mineral economic sectors  revenue going in at 19% while VAT contributed  in 13 %.

Against all efforts to diversify the economy the Mineral revenue rose through the years to account for about 37 %  of government total budget in 2015 until dropping down a bit to just over 35 % for  2019/20 financial year. However total revenues and grants for the 2019/2020 Financial Year were  revised to P60.71 billion with the main revenue contributor being Mineral revenue at P18.43 billion; Customs and Excise at P13.79 billion; and VAT at P7.92 billion. This placed mineral revenue at just above 30 % of total revenue and grants.

“As long as Mineral revenue still accounts for over 30 % of our total revenue, zigzagging up and down through the years to over 35 %, our revenue profile poses a serious risk,” cautioned Sebabole. The Economist further indicated that other revenue windows such as Customs and Excise revenue have remained below 25 % for some time signaling trade stagnancy and little improvement on the export sector.

Within the Foreign income earning basket Mineral revenue controls the channel, sitting at almost 90 %. “In Africa it is Botswana and Angola with this unhealthy revenue profile, Angola because of their Oil and Botswana because of our diamonds, this signals that we have failed over the years to diversify our economy and promote export of other products to foreign markets,” he said.

For the 2020/21 financial year total revenues and grants are estimated at P62.39 billion, of which, Mineral revenue is estimated at P20.02 billion. Customs and Excise revenue is expected to be P15.38 billion, with Non-Mineral Income Tax estimated at P14.22 billion, while VAT is expected to amount to P8.55 billion.

These estimated figures mirror that government revenue will still in the coming years rely heavily on mineral exports. However Moathodi Sebabole who is also chairman of National Economic Transformation strategy set up by President Masisi last year says government consolidated efforts and singling out Export development as one of its key priority areas sparks some confidence going forward.

Delivering the Budget Speech on Monday Minister of Finance and Economic Development Dr Thapelo Matsheka highlighted that amongst government‘s key priority areas promotion of export growth comes on top. “The objective is to ensure that the drivers of economic growth in Botswana shift towards export promotion. This, Mr. Speaker, will address the balance of payments problem, which has emerged in recent years as a constraint to economic growth,” he said.

Dr Matsheka explained that as a result, greater effort is required in implementing the country’s Export Strategy, since increased exports of goods and services do not only contribute to growth, improved balance of trade position; but are necessary for replenishing the country’s foreign exchange reserves. The Minister explained that on the positive fronts, acknowledging the slight progress thus far, and preliminary review of the first half of National Development Plan 11 signals that economic performance was in line with the original NDP 11 projections, while economic diversification progressed fairly well during the first half of NDP 11.

The share of the non-mining private sector in value added terms rose to 66 percent in 2018, compared to 63 percent in 2015. The sectoral pattern of growth also showed that the services sectors of Transport & Communications, Trade, Hotels & Restaurants, and Finance & Business Services were the fastest growing sectors.   

He however noted that Botswana still imports most of its requirements, including basic products that do not require huge investment to produce locally. Minister Matsheka explained that using Government’s purchasing power through programmes such as the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD) and citizen empowerment initiatives, additional measures will be put in place to ensure reduction in the country’s import bill. “It is only through a deliberate and vigorous implementation of the Export Strategy and Import Substitution Strategy that the country can restore its external balance and create the jobs that are required in an inclusive economy, in which Batswana are major players,” he said.

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Food prices continue to rise, but at a slower rate

28th November 2022

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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Still doing business the old way?

18th November 2022

It’s time to get business done better with MTN Business Botswana’s ICT Solutions.

Running a digital businessMTN Business Solutions Botswana, popularly known as MTN Business is an Internet Service Provider. We are a subsidiary of MTN Group Limited, a multinational telecommunications Group headquartered in South Africa, which operates in 19 markets across Africa and the Middle East.

More and more, clients are looking for ways to keep their staff productive in a dynamically changing business environment. Whether your people are working from home, the office or abroad, there is a growing recognition that digitising your operations can offer unprecedented commercial value in flexibility, productivity and growth. This new, digital reality means that it is more important than ever to stay agile – if there is anything that can slow a business down, it is being burdened by othatld technology.

Having made substantial investments in fibre technology, high-speed terrestrial and undersea networks and new frequency spectrum across the markets wherein it operates, MTN is perfectly positioned to respond to this shift in the market.

A few years ago, MTN also made the decision to build an IP capable radio network for its mobile services, giving its core network the ability to seamlessly integrate with enterprise IP networks. The mobile towers deliver services to enterprise clients absolutely anywhere it has a network, shortening the last mile and removing complexity and cost.

Now there is increasing demand from clients to connect their remote sites in all areas, including rural and semi- rural. MTN has assisted clients with overcoming this connectivity hurdle, enabling their staff to get the job done wherever they are.
MTN’s evolution

For MTN, the focus has shifted from just being a core telecommunications services provider, towards also becoming a technology solutions provider. The service offering now also includes Unified Communications, Data Hosting and Cloud Solutions, Security-As-A-Service and Managed Network Services. The scope has changed to being client and industry specific, so the requirements and service portfolio vary from one client to the next. The expectation is that a company like MTN must respond to these challenges, helping clients to get business done better as they shift from old to new technologies.

As many businesses continue to grapple with a digitally dynamic world, they face new challenges that have to be solved. This environment will benefit those that are more digitally enabled and agile. It is a brave new world that will favour online over on-site, wireless over wired and fluid over formulaic. Businesses will seek out partners and suppliers that are every bit as flexible and forward-looking as they are.
Ultimately, clients need partners like MTN Business that will invest in infrastructure, deliver the services they require, have market credibility, are financially sound and have a long-term commitment to their market presence.

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BIE to vitalize the Dignity of Engineers

9th November 2022

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.

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