First National Bank Botswana FNBB released its unaudited summarised consolidated financial results recently in Gaborone. The financials depict a strong balance sheet for the six months ended 31 December 2019.
During the past six months, the Bank continued to place focus on improving credit discipline with concentrated efforts on the distressed debt portfolio. According to the Bank, priority was given to customer-centric strategy through continued investment in infrastructure and digital customer solutions, with the roll-out of new products such as Cash Plus together with contactless POS devices and cards. When announcing the results, FNBB’s Chief Financial Officer, Luke Woodford noted that the Bank’s funding increased year-on-year by 5 percent, with customer deposits increasing by 10 per cent. ‘’This is largely attributable to a 12 percent increase in demand deposits in line with the Bank’s strategy to enhance its transactional offering base, and a 3 percent decline in fixed and notice deposits.
During the year under review, the Bank increased the funding pool by issuing Tier II Capital amounting to P196 Million. Woodford announced that gross customer advances growth of 3 percent year-on-year was predominantly driven by retail lending although offset by further reductions in the business portfolio due to the intentional reduction of key high-risk accounts. He further shared that ewallet volumes increased by 31 percent over the period while Pay 2 Cell increased by 41 percent, as customer continued to take up to the Bank’s convenient solutions. These factors combined with an overall increase in digital transactions resulted in a 29 percent growth in card and merchant commissions.
FNBB says its forward-thinking approach to technology and innovation will remain a constant focus point as the Bank enters the next era of rapid technological development around the world. The Bank has launched contactless point of sale devices and cards to further streamline and develop the customer and merchant experience. ‘’Creating a seamless channel experience for our customer remains a focal point, with further developments planned for the FNB banking App. The Bank seeks to provide its clients with the flexibility to serve themselves in the form of convenient, value-added services. Combatting the ever-changing nature of cyber security remains paramount. The Bank deploys significant resources in this area and remains constantly vigilant to the evolving nature of the risk,’’ reads a statement from the Bank.
According to the Bank’s financial results, profit after tax jumped 12 percent due to the strong growth in income and resulting in an improved return on equity of 25.4 percent as compared to 24.6 percent in 2018. Interest income rose by 5 per cent against a gross advances growth of 3 percent. ‘’The increase in average client rates was driven by a change in the portfolio mix towards retail as the Commercial portfolio continued to experience attrition. Set against the significant liquidity pressures seen in the prior period, the easing of liquidity in the current period and the success of the Bank in increasing transactional balances across all segments saw the interest expenses reduce significantly by 17 percent,’’ said Woodford.
Woodford also indicated that the impairment charge for the period indicated an increase of 10 percent against the prior year, following continued default pressure in the retail portfolio and further impacted by an extension of the collateral realisation period in the provisioning models. The impairment charge was further increased by the rise in retail personal loans which in turn now carry a higher expected credit loss provisions at initial origination.
Furthermore, the Bank’s non-interest revenue grew surged by 10 percent over the period from increases in volumes of customer transactions, as well as, from merchant service revenue following improved connectivity in the point-of-sale machines and an increase in machines in use. Revenue from foreign exchange reduced by 3 percent on the prior year, during which exchange rate volatility increased demand above usual levels.
The improvement in the cost-to-income ratio from 48 percent to 47 percent is largely due to the strong growth in NIR and reduced funding costs. It also reflects continued cost management initiatives, with the overall expenditure remaining within an acceptable range. For the six months ended 31 December 2019, the Bank continued to operate above the regulatory minimum capital adequacy ratios. As at the end of the final year period, the total capital adequacy ratio was 20.77 percent and is above the regulatory minimum of 15 percent.
FNBB declared an interim dividend of 6 thebe per share for the half year ended 31 December 2019. This dividend is payable to all shareholders registered in the books of the company at close business on 31 March 2020. The dividend will be paid on or about 25 March 2020 less withholding tax at the rate of 7.5 percent. Meanwhile, FNBB reiterated its commitment to its social responsibility to the community and performs this function through its foundation. The Bank has committed to contributing up to 1 percent of each year’s profit after tax to the Foundation. Since its inception in 2001, the Bank has made grants of more than P57 Million to the Foundation, which has been invested appropriately in qualifying beneficiaries.
The partnership between Debswana and Botswana Oil Limited (BOL) which was announced a fortnight ago will create under 100 direct jobs, and scores of job opportunities for citizens in the value chain activities.
In a major milestone, Debswana and BOL jointly announced that the fuel supply to Debswana, which was in the past serviced by foreign companies, will now be reserved for citizen companies. The total value of the project is P8 billion, spanning a period of five years.
“About 88 direct jobs will be created through the partnership. These include some jobs which will be transferred from the current supplier to the new partnership,” Matida Mmipi, Head of Stakeholder Relations at Botswana Oil, told BusinessPost.
“We believe this partnership will become a blueprint for other citizen initiatives, even in other sectors of the economy. Furthermore, this partnership has succeeded in unlocking opportunities that never existed for ordinary citizens who aspire to grow and do business with big companies like Debswana.”
Mmipi said through this partnership, BOL and Debswana intend to impact citizen owned companies in the fuel supply value chain that include transportation, supply, facilities maintenance, engineering, customs clearance, trucks stops and its support activities such as workshop / maintenance, tyre services, truck wash bays among others.
“The number of companies to be on-boarded will be determined by the economics at the time of engagement,” she said. BOL will play a facilitatory role of handholding and assisting emerging citizen-owned fuel supply and fuel transportation companies to supply Debswana’s Jwaneng and Orapa Letlhakane Damtshaa (OLDM) mines with diesel and petrol for their operations.
“BOL expects to increase citizen companies’ market share in the fuel supply and transportation industries, which have over the years been dominated by foreign-owned suppliers. Consequently, the agreement will also ensure security of supply for Debswana operations, which are a mainstay of the Botswana economy,” Mmipi said.
“Furthermore, BOL will, under this agreement, transfer skills to citizen suppliers and transporters during the contract period and ensure delivery of competent and skilled citizen suppliers and transport companies upon completion of the agreement.”
Mmipi said the capacitating by BOL is limited to providing citizen companies oil industry technical capability and capacity to deliver on the requirements of the contract, when asked on helping citizen companies to access funding.
“BOL’s mandate does not include financing citizen empowerment initiatives. Securing funding will remain the responsibility of the beneficiaries. This could be through government financing entities including CEDA or through commercial banks. Further to this, there are financial institutions that have already signed up to support the Debswana Citizen Economic Empowerment Programme (CEEP),” Mmipi indicated.
While BOL is established by government as company limited by guarantee, it will not benefit financially from the partnership with Debswana, as citizen empowerment in the petroleum value chain is core to BOL’s mandate.
“BOL does not pursue citizen facilitation for financial benefit, but rather we engage in citizen facilitation as a social aspect of our mandate. Citizen facilitation comes at a cost, but it is the right thing to do for the country to develop the oil and gas industry,” she said.
Mmipi said supplying fuel to Debswana comes with commercial benefits such as supply margins. These have traditionally been made outside the country when supply was done by multi-nationals for a period spanning over 50 years. With BOL anchoring supply for Debswana, this benefit will accrue locally, and BOL will be able to pay taxes and dividends to the shareholders in Botswana.
PwC Africa has presented the eighth edition of the VAT in Africa Guide – Africa re-emerging. This backdrop of renewal informs on the re-emergence of African economies and societies which have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this edition, which has been compiled by PwC Africa’s indirect tax experts, covers a total of 41 African countries. It is geared towards sharing insight with our clients based on the constantly changing tax environments that can have a significant impact on business operations.
Within Africa, governments continue to focus on expanding the tax net by improving revenue collection through efficient compliance systems and procedures. PwC Africa has observed that revenue authorities also continue to take a keen interest in indirect taxes as part of revenue mobilisation initiatives.
Maturing VAT system and upskilling SARS
“In South Africa, VAT is becoming more relevant as a revenue source for the government,” says Matthew Besanko, PwC South Africa’s Indirect Tax Leader. “Strides have been made to upskill South African Revenue Service (SARS) staff and identify VAT revenue leakages, particularly in respect of foreign suppliers of electronic services to people and businesses in South Africa.”
Broadening the tax base and digital economy
In the past year, South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe saw updates to their VAT legislation, or introduced specific legislation targeting electronically supplied services (ESS), which is in line with the global trend of attempting to tax the digital economy. “The expectation is that Botswana will also introduce VAT legislation in due course, while the National Treasury in South Africa has also made mention of revising the rules to account for further developments in the digital economy,” Besanko says.
South Africa’s National Treasury has also drafted legislation with the intention to introduce a reverse charge on gold, which is expected to come into effect later in 2022. While in Zimbabwe, revenue authorities have introduced a tax on the export of raw medicinal cannabis ranging between 10% and 20%, which came into effect on 1 January 2021.
ESG and carbon tax
Key strides have also been made within the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) space. “ESG leadership, strategising and reporting is essential now for organisations that wish to flourish and remain relevant,” Kabochi says. He adds that companies need to consider how ESG and tax intersect, since tax is a significant value driver when businesses need to deliver on their ESG goals.
In South Africa, a carbon tax regime, which is being implemented in three phases, has been adopted. The second phase was scheduled to start in January 2023, however phase one was extended by three years until 31 December 2025.
Until then, taxpayers will enjoy substantial tax-free allowances which reduce their carbon tax liability. At the beginning of 2022, the South African government increased the carbon tax rate to R144 (about US$9), which is expected to increase annually to enable South Africa to uphold its COP26 commitments.
With effect from 1 January 2023, carbon tax payers in South Africa will also be required to submit carbon budgets and adhere to the provisions of the carbon budgeting system which will be governed by the Climate Change Bill. Where set carbon budgets are exceeded, the government plans to impose penalties. “At PwC, we are continuously focused on our renewed global strategy, ” The New Equation,” Kabochi says. “Through this strategy, a key focus area for PwC Africa is to support clients in adding value to their ESG ambitions and building trust through sustained outcomes.”
The New Equation is also an acknowledgement of the fundamental changes in the business environment in which PwC’s clients and other stakeholders operate. PwC continues to reinvent and adapt to these changes as a community of problem solvers, combining knowledge and human-led technology to deliver quality services and value.
Local and international economists have lowered their projections on Botswana’s economic growth for 2022 and 2023, saying the country is highly likely to fail to maintain high growth rate recorded in 2021 hence will not reach initial forecasts.
Economists this week lowered 2022 forecasts for Botswana’s economic growth rate, from the initial 5.3% to 4.8% and added that in 2023 growth could further decline to 4.0%. The lower projections come on the backdrop of an annual economic growth that recovered sharply in 2021 with figures showing that year-on-year real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth increased to 11.4%, up from a contraction of 8.7% in 2020.
Economists from the local research entity, E-consult, this week stated that the 2021 double digit growth that exceeded projections made at the time of the 2022 budget may be short lived due to other developments taking place in the global economy. E-consult Economist Sethunya Kegakgametse stated that the war in Ukraine has worsened supply problems in the global economy and added that before the war, macroeconomic indicators were seen as improving and returning to pre-COVID levels.
According to the economist the global economy was projected to improve in 2022 and 2023. Recent figures show that global growth projections have been revised downwards from the initial forecast of 4.9% in 2022 with the World Bank’s new estimate for global growth in 2022 at 3.2%.
The statistics also shows that International Monetary Fund revised their growth projections for 2022 and 2023 down by 0.8% and 0.2% respectively, falling to 3.6% for both years. “The outbreak of war has severely dampened the global recovery that was under way following the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the economist.
She stated that despite Botswana being geographically removed from the conflict, the country has not and will not be exempt from the disruptions in the global economy. “The disruptions to global supply chains resulting from the war will have a negative effect on both Botswana’s growth and trade activities.
The economic sanctions against diamonds from Russia will add uncertainty to the market which will have knock on effects to Botswana’s growth, exports, and government revenues,” said the economists who added that the disruptions are driving prices up and result with very high inflation in the local economy.
Kegakgametse projected that in an attempt to limit inflation Bank of Botswana will be forced to raise interest rate “Should the sharp increase in both global and local inflation persist, Bank of Botswana much like other central banks around the world will be forced to raise interest rates in a bid to control rising prices. This would mean an end to the expansionary monetary policy stance that had been adopted post COVID-19 to aid economic growth,” she said.
In the latest projections, the UK based economic research entity Fitch Solutions lowered 2022 real GDP growth forecast for Botswana from 5.3% to 4.8% “In 2023, we see economic growth rate decelerating to 4.0%,” said Fitch Solutions economists who also noted that the 2022 and 2023 economic growth projections may come out lower than the current forecasts, as it is possible that new vaccine-resistant virus variants may be identified, which could result in the re-implementation of restrictions. “In such circumstances, we cannot rule out that Botswana’s economy may post weaker growth than our baseline scenario currently assumes,” said the economists.
According to the projections, Fitch Solution stated that there is limited scope for Botswana government to increase diamond production and exports, following the economic sanctions imposed on Russian diamond mining companies operating in Botswana. The research entity added that De Beers is unlikely to scale up diamond output from Botswana in order to prop up diamond prices.