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Batswana, a nation of defaulting borrowers

The recent Bank of Botswana Banking Supervision Annual Report shows that the banking fraternity is hampered by people who are failing to pay back the money they borrowed, with Non-performing loans and advances standing at P3.2 billion in the year under review.

According to the Banking Supervision Report, household non-performing loans and advances were high in 2017 at 52 percent followed by private businesses loans at 46 percent in the previous year. In the year under review, loans which have been defaulted were at 47 percent in the household sector compared to the 51 percent in the private business sector, numbers still at the peak of non-performing loans.

According to the central bank report the banks’ large exposures to unimpaired capital ratio increased to 209 percent (2017: 200 percent), and was within the 800 percent prudential limit for banks in Botswana. Generally, according to the Bank, the composite credit risk for the banking sector was considered high and is expected to increase in the short- to medium-term due to the dominance in banks’ loan books of the household sector credit, which is mostly unsecured. This makes the banking sector vulnerable to business restructuring and employment risks, particularly for state-owned entities, says the central bank.

“Past due loans (accounts in arrears) increased by 1.2 percent between December 2017 and December 2018. Non-performing loans (NPLs) increased by 10.7 percent from P2.9 billion to P3.2 billion in the same period. As a result, the ratio of NPLs to gross loans and advances rose from 5.3 percent in December 2017 to 5.5 percent in December 2018, thus a slight deterioration in asset quality.

The ratio of specific provisions to NPLs fell from 53.7 percent in 2017 to 42.7 percent in 2018, an erosion in the coverage of NPLs. But the credit-risk mitigation measures that banks have put in place are expected to absorb the residual risks,” says Bank of Botswana Banking Supervision Annual Report.

A cry echoing at judicial chambers

During the just ended Legal Year address Attorney General Abraham Keetshabe told the nation that the judiciary chambers of this country is constipated by debt collection cases. He said the justice system cannot handle the cases brought to court against people who cannot service their debts, as there is a stiff competition for space and time to have such cases heard and resolved within the shortest possible time.

Keetshabe borrowed from the central bank as he highlighted that the commercial bank loans to the household sector grew at elevated rates. “For example, about 13 percent in 2019, to approximately P40 billion and account for a larger proportion of bank credit, at 63.3 percent,” he said.

But the sad story does not end there, it continues with the total credit composition having 68 percent of unsecured loan, mortgages and motor vehicle loans account for 25 percent and 5 percent respectively. “Meanwhile household credit from micro lenders is estimated at P3.6 billion as at November 2019. Clearly the significance share of unsecured loans and advances has the potential to cause financial distress and conflicts in households, given the inherently expensive nature of such credit,” said Keetshabe.

The attorney general said that the risk posed by this credit composition is moderated by the extent to which unsecured credit is diversified. He added that the bulk of household credit is to the working class who are assessed by lenders to determine their capacity to repay the loan. Keetshabe also observed that credit risk is also lowered where a loan is under the custodian of a credit life insurance.

The amount of household credit relative to income and the size of the economy(GDP is modest and stable at around 48 percent and 19 percent respectively, but much lower than what pertains in more mature markets, said Keetshabe. “In this respect, domestic household borrowing appears to be in line with trends in personal incomes, representing relatively stronger debt servicing capacity.  As a result, the rate of household loan default has been modest at 3.3 percent as at September 2019,” said the number one state lawyer.

Keetshabe spoke to lack of financial discipline by Batswana who lack adequate financial planning and evaluation of prospects for borrowing as well as over-borrowing through use of multiple institutions and padding of income sources. He said this leads to inability to repay. This does not only affect the banking fraternity and debt collectors, but the courts also find themselves at loss of time and resources.

“We are all too familiar that there is a beehive of activity in the issuance of writs of execution and subsequent attachment and sale of whatever property that can be salvaged by Deputy Sheriffs; with traumatic effect on the concerned. In the business environment the philosophy is simple- minimize the minimums and maximize the maximums with a clear target of expanding the profit margin,” said the attorney general.

Keetshabe said Batswana are easily tempted by earthly riches hence irresponsible borrowing. As the case of a public servant being rendered a defaulter, he or she is financially embarrassed to a point of being inefficient and this is considered as misconduct. He emphasized the need for continuously promotion of financial literacy.

A continuing credit plague

One of the leading commercial banks, a big player in the local bourse too, First National Bank Botswana could have been far if it was not the rise of non-performing loan exposure from 6.6 percent to 7.6 percent year-on-year, an huge increase to P1.26 billion, according to the bank’s last financial statements.

Three years ago Bank of Botswana Governor Moses Pelaelo highlighted that there is a disturbing emerging trend where customers cannot pay their loan. This was after there was a trend which showed that since December 2014, the industry’s NPLs rose from 3.6 percent to 3.9 percent in 2015 and 4.9 percent in December 2016.

That same year of 2017 when the central bank governor raised concern statistics shows that in July 31, 2017 the non-performing loans had increased further to 5.9 percent of total bank loans. Since 2013 International Monetary Fund (IMF) also shows concerns about unsecured household credit and risks to banks.

Solution

Years ago when Botswana was toying with the idea of strengthening its credit laws, it looked at its southern neighbor South Africa for benchmarking. This is despite antagonists of the South Africa credit legislation saying the law does not offer full solution the country’s high levels of non-performing loans. South Africa’s National Credit Act (NCA) of 2007 received a rude awakening barely two years in its existence as firms and households were not able to live up to their credit expectations in the 2009 recession.

In the past former, legislator, trade minister and Econsult Botswana economist Bogolo Kenewendo suggested that there should be a National Credit Information Registry to make it easier to track and evaluate trends in credit habits in the country.  Last year former Minister of Finance and Economic Development Kenneth Matambo said the ministry was in a process of drafting the credit information bill.

Matambo said the legislation is in line with the implementation of the national financial inclusion roadmap and strategy that runs from 2015 to 2021. According to Mathambo that time,“the bill will seek to improve both positive and negative financial information which will improve access to credit which is extended to small businesses and citizens.”

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Business

New study reveals why youth entrepreneurs are failing

21st July 2022
Youth

The recent study on youth entrepreneurship in Botswana has identified difficult access to funding, land, machinery, lack of entrepreneurial mindset and proper training as serious challenges that continue to hamper youth entrepreneurship development in this country.

The study conducted by Alliance for African Partnership (AAP) in collaboration with University of Botswana has confirmed that despite the government and private sector multi-billion pula entrepreneurship development initiatives, many young people in Botswana continue to fail to grow their businesses into sustainable and successful companies that can help reduce unemployment.

University of Botswana researchers Gaofetege Ganamotse and Rudolph Boy who compiled findings in the 2022 study report for Botswana stated that as part of the study interviews were conducted with successful youth entrepreneurs to understand their critical success factors.

According to the researchers other participants were community leaders, business mentors, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Youth, Gender, Sport and Culture, financial institutions, higher education institutions, non-governmental institutions, policymakers, private organizations, and support structures such as legal and technical experts and accountants who were interviewed to understand how they facilitate successful youth entrepreneurship.

The researchers said they found that although Botswana government is perceived as the most supportive to businesses when compared to other governments in sub-Saharan Africa, youth entrepreneurs still face challenges when accessing government funding. “Several finance-related challenges were identified by youth entrepreneurs. Some respondents lamented the lack of access to start-up finance, whereas others mentioned lack of access to infrastructure.”

The researchers stated that in Botswana entrepreneurship is not yet perceived as a field or career of choice by many youth “Participants in the study emphasized that the many youth are more of necessity entrepreneurs, seeing business venturing as a “fall back. Other facilitators mentioned that some youth do not display creativity, mind-blowing innovative solutions, and business management skills. Some youth entrepreneurs like to take shortcuts like selling sweets or muffins.”

According to the researchers, some of the youth do not display perseverance when they are faced with adversity in business. “Young people lack of an entrepreneurial mindset is a common challenge among youth in business. Some have a mindset focused on free services, handouts, and rapid gains. They want overnight success. As such, they give up easily when faced with challenges. On the other hand, some participants argue that they may opt for quick wins because they do not have access to any land, machinery, offices, and vehicles.”

The researchers stated that most youth involved in business ventures do not have the necessary training or skills to maintain a business. “Poor financial management has also been cited as one of the challenges for youth entrepreneurs, such as using profit for personal reasons rather than investing in the business. Also some are not being able to separate their livelihood from their businesses.

Lastly, youth entrepreneurs reported a lack of experience as one of the challenges. For example, the experience of running a business with projections, sticking to the projections, having an accounting system, maintaining a clean and clear billing system, and sound administration system.”

According to the researchers, the participants in the study emphasized that there is fragmentation within the entrepreneurial ecosystem, whereby there is replication of business activities without any differentiation. “There is no integration of the ecosystem players. As such, they end up with duplicate programs targeting the same objectives. The financial sector recommended that there is a need for an intermediary body that will bring all the ecosystem actors together and serve as a “one-stop shop” for entrepreneurs and build mentorship programs that accommodate the business lifecycle from inception to growth.”

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Business

BHC yearend financial results impressive

18th July 2022
BHC

Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) is said to have recorded an operating surplus of P61 Million, an improvement compared to the previous year. The housing, office and other building needs giant met with stakeholders recently to share how the business has been.

The P61 million is a significant increase against the P6 million operating loss realized in the prior year. Profit before income tax also increased significantly from P2 million in the prior year to P72 million which resulted in an overall increase in surplus after tax from P1 million prior year to P64 million for the year under review.

Chief of Finance Officer, Diratsagae Kgamanyane disclosed; “This growth in surplus was driven mainly by rental revenue that increased by 15% from P209 million to P240 million and reduction in expenditure from P272 million to P214 million on the back of cost containment.”
He further stated that sales of high margin investment properties also contributed significantly to the growth in surplus as well as impairment reversals on receivables amounting to P25 million.

It is said that the Corporation recorded a total revenue of P702 million, an 8% decrease when compared to the P760 million recorded in the prior year. “Sales revenue which is one of the major revenue streams returned impressive margins, contributing to the overall growth in the gross margin,” added Kgamanyane.

He further stated professional fees revenue line declined significantly by 64% to P5 million from P14 million in the prior year which attributed to suspension of planned projects by their clients due to Covid-19 pandemic. “Facilities Management revenue decreased by P 24 million from P69 million recorded in prior year to P45 million due to reduction in projects,” Kgamanyane said.

The Corporation’s strength is on its investment properties portfolio that stood at P1.4 billion at the end of the reporting period. “The Corporation continues its strategy to diversify revenue streams despite both facilities management income and professional fees being challenged by the prevailing economic conditions that have seen its major clients curtailing spending,” added the CEO.

On the one hand, the Corporation’s Strategic Performance which intended to build 12 300 houses by 2023 has so far managed to build 4 830 houses under their SHHA funding scheme, 1 240 houses for commercial or external use which includes use by government and 1 970 houses to rent to individuals.

BHC Acting CEO Pascaline Sefawe noted that; BHC’s planned projects are said to include building 336 flat units in Gaborone Block 7 at approximately P224 million, 100 units in Maun at approximately P78 million, 13 units in Phakalane at approximately P26 million, 212 units in Kazungula at approximately P160 million, 96 units at approximately P42 million in Francistown and 84 units at approximately P61 million in Letlhakane. Emphasing; “People tend to accuse us of only building houses in Gaborone, so here we are, including other areas in our planned projects.”

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Business

Commercial banks to cash big on high interest rates on loans

18th July 2022
Commercial-banks

Researchers from some government owned regulatory institutions in the financial sector have projected that the banking sector’s profitability could increase, following Bank of Botswana Monetary Policy Committee recent decision to increase monetary policy rate.

In its bid to manage inflation, Bank of Botswana Monetary Policy Committee last month increased monetary policy rate by 0.50 percent from 1.65 percent to 2.15 percent, a development which resulted with commercial banking sector increasing interest rate in lending to household and companies. As a result of BoB adjustment of Monetary Policy Rate, from 1.65 percent to 2.15 percent commercial banks increased prime lending rate from 5.76 percent to 6.26 percent.

Researchers from Bank of Botswana, the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority, the Financial Intelligence Agency and the Botswana Stock Exchange indicated that due to prospects of high inflation during the second half of 2022, there is a possibility that the Monetary Policy Committee could further increase monetary policy rate in the next meeting in August 25 2022.

Inflation rose from 9.6 percent in April 2022 to 11.9 percent in May 2022, remaining above the Bank of Botswana medium-term objective range of 3 – 6 percent. According to the researchers inflation could increase further and remain high due to factors that include: the potential increase in international commodity prices beyond current forecasts, logistical constraints due to lags in production, the economic and price effects of the ongoing Russia- Ukraine conflict, uncertain COVID-19 profile, domestic risk factors relating to possible regular annual administered price adjustments, short-term unintended consequences of import restrictions resulting with shortages in supplies leading to price increases, as well as second-round effects of the recent increases in administered prices “Furthermore, the likelihood of further increases in domestic fuel prices in response to persistent high international oil prices could add upward pressure to inflation,” said the researchers.

The researchers indicated that Bank of Botswana could be forced to further increase monetary policy rate from the current 2.15 percent if inflation rises persistently. “Should inflation rise persistently this could necessitate an upward adjustment in the policy rate. It is against this background that the interest rate scenario assumes a 1.5 percentage points (moderate scenario) and 2.25 percentage points (severe scenario) upward adjustment in the policy rate,” said the researchers.

The researchers indicated that while any upward adjustment on BoB monetary policy rate and commercial banks prime lending rate result with increase in the cost of borrowing for household and compnies, it increase profitability for the banking sector. “Increases in the policy rate are associated with an overall increase in bank profitability, with resultant increases in the capital adequacy ratio of 0.1 percentage points and 0.2 percentage points for the moderate and severe scenarios, respectively,” said the researchers who added that upward adjustment in monetary policy rate would raise extra capital for the banking sector.

“The increase in profit generally reflects the banking industry’s positive interest rate gap, where interest earning assets exceed interest earning liabilities maturing in the next twelve months. Therefore, an increase of 1.5 percentage points in the policy rate would result in industry gains of P71.7 million (4.1 percent increase), while a 2.25 percentage points increase would lead to a gain of P173.9 million (6.1 percent increase), dominated by large banks,” said the researchers.

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