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P10 billion to slip through Botswana’s hands as Gov’t bans travel, tourism

Minister of Health and Wellness Lemogang Kwape this week took to mainstream media to announce Botswana’s preparedness against the rapidly spreading coronavirus with cases in South Africa, exceeding a hundred (100).

The most important part of Kwape’s announcement was evoking the  Public Health Act 2013, which temporarily bans travel of “All individuals coming to Botswana from the following high-risk countries will not be allowed entry; China, Japan, South Korea, Iran, USA, UK Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and India.” Furthermore the Minister announced that Batswana and residents returning from high-risk countries will be subjected to 14-day mandatory quarantine as per protocol.

Issuance of Visa at Ports of entry and all embassies is suspended with immediate effect, according to the ministry. Current visas are also canceled with immediate effect until further notice. “International travel by all government employees, parastatals and State-owned Entities is suspended with immediate effect,” said the health ministry.

Kwape’s announcement albeit met with fear, discomfort, and chagrin by many in the travel and tourism industry was guided by the Public Health Act whose mandate is to, “make the notification of certain diseases compulsory and to control such diseases; to make provision regarding diseases subject to the International Health Regulations; to prevent the spread of smallpox; to prevent the introduction of diseases into Botswana; to control advertisements and publications concerning venereal disease; to regulate sanitation and housing; to provide for the protection of foodstuffs and water supplies; to regulate the use of cemeteries, and generally to make provision for public health.”

By banning travels the ministry could have evoked Section 3 of the Act which gives the ministry functions, “to prevent and guard against the introduction of disease from outside; and to prevent or control the communicable disease.” However a temporary ban will mean Botswana is set to fall short on the fraction of the money made on travel and tourism to the GDP. Most of these countries especially China where the coronavirus outbreak was discovered last year November, are major contributors to Botswana’s travel and tourism sectors. On the other hand, South Africa which is hit by a rapidly growing number of coronavirus cases is the major trade partner of Botswana especially in the travel or business sector. Travel and tourism’s direct contribution to GDP is P10.13 billion.

Absa Botswana economist Madala told BusinessPost the outbreak of COVID-19 has dampened the outlook for the local economy as already the travel restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic complicates diamond sales, tourism and trade. She said uncertainty associated with the outbreak of COVID-19 is also likely to influence consumer and business confidence, which can potentially dent domestic spending and investment.

Cursory research already shows the negatives of COVID-19 which has spread within Botswana, affecting this country’s tourism sector. BusinessPost has seen a survey done on 361 safari tour operators just before the health ministry announced temporary travel bans. These findings have concluded that more than 86 percent of operators are experiencing a significant decline in bookings due to fear of the virus outbreak. This report was done by a safari media outlet SafariBookings with a website SafariBookings.com, which is the largest online marketplace for African safari tours.

According to the survey, a quarter of operators experienced a staggering 75 percent decrease in bookings while only 14 percent reported no decrease and for these operators it has been business as usual. It is a heavy blow for the industry and the numerous wildlife reserves that rely on its revenue. One safari operator who also owns a travel and tour company in Botswana and contributed to the survey, Kenewang Chobacho African Bush Lovers Travel & Tours Safaris, said: “So far we have four trips which have been canceled due to the virus. This is affecting us a lot.”

Jane Bettenay of Ulinda Safari Trails in Botswana said people are “shy” to send money as they are concerned they will not be able to travel. Oliver Madibela of Mosu Safari Tours said most of the clients are very sensitive about this issue (coronavirus), so it is not easy for them to confirm their bookings as they are particularly afraid to travel. However just before the ministry announced travel bans this week, Mark Hathaway of Gondwana Tours & Safaris in Botswana has been trying to preach positive information about Botswana, which has so far not registered any case.

“At the moment we are reassuring clients who ask that there have been no cases of coronavirus in the main tourist destinations in Africa. Given that many clients are coming from countries where there have been reported cases then they would be safer in Africa,” said Hathaway.
Most tourists use air transport to come to Botswana according to national statistics. Air Botswana has said it anticipates adverse impact, given its feeder status and reliance on other airlines.

There have been cancellations of major events around the world, according to Air Botswana, this paints a bleak future in the short term. “Given the depressed passenger travel patterns, the airline’s schedule has been modified to reflect the impact of the pandemic, in line with the low business activity that is currently being observed,” says Air Botswana in a recent statement.

According to World Bank, Botswana spends around P0.6 billion on travel and tourism services. The Bank says infection of coronavirus from one continent to another-one country to another- will affect trade. Global value chains are expected to suffer as they account for nearly half of global trade, according to the Bank, which further stated that this is due to global trade being disrupted by factory shutdowns and delayed resumption of operations.

That transmission is likely to occur through several channels. The first is the trade: global value chains, which account for nearly half of global trade and are being disrupted by factory shutdowns and or are delayed. Coronavirus also brings harp drops in commodity prices which will harm developing countries that rely on them for much-needed revenue. The World Bank says developing countries like Botswana are hit hard on transport and tourism, a major revenue stream for these countries. According to the Bank, transport and tourism in many developing countries are shrinking with declining demand and expanding travel restrictions.

At the beginning of this month, World Bank Group made available an initial package of up to $12 billion or P120 billion in immediate support to assist countries in coping with the health and economic impacts of the global outbreak. According to the Bank, this financing is designed to help member countries take effective action to respond to and, where possible, lessen the tragic impacts posed by COVID-19. “…What comes next will be crucial: in the coming weeks, all countries—even those without a single coronavirus patient—will need to take concrete policy steps to protect their people and limit harm to their economies,” says the World Bank.

World Bank advice President Mokweetsi Masisi and his government

To Botswana and other developing countries, there is a need to move swiftly in boosting spending on health. According to the Bank: “In many developing countries, public health systems remain weak, making their populations vulnerable to the rapid spread of the outbreak.  Governments should boost investments that strengthen these systems to enable faster treatment and containment.”

Botswana should also strengthen the safety net by making cash transfers and free medical services for the most vulnerable people available, this could help contain the outbreak and also limit its financial harm. There is also need for this country to support the private sector since all kinds of businesses are likely to be hit, according to the Bank, they would benefit from short-term credit, tax breaks, or subsidies.

According to the World Bank there should be counter financial-market disruptions where central banks in developing countries like Bank of Botswana —particularly those that are sensitive to bouts of risk aversion—should stand ready to react to disorderly financial market movements. Also, Bank of Botswana may need to lower interest rates and inject liquidity to restore financial stability and boost growth, according to the World Bank.

Business

Pan-African risk advisor Minet Group and Botswana’s Africa Lighthouse Capital acquire Aon Botswana

21st May 2021
Pan-African-risk-advisor-Minet-Group-

Strategic partnership offers inherent benefits of global knowledge, African insights, and local expertise and commitment

Minet Group and Africa Lighthouse Capital today announced that they have received regulatory approval and fulfilled all requirements to acquire Aon’s shareholding in Aon Botswana, and consequently will begin the process to rebrand to Minet Botswana.

Minet Group is a well-known and trusted pan-African risk advisory firm and Aon’s largest Global Network Correspondent and has been rapidly expanding its African footprint since 2017 through the acquisition of operations from global professional services firm Aon in Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.   Minet has been delivering world class products and services across Africa for over 70 years.

Africa Lighthouse Capital (ALC) is a leading Botswana citizen-owned private equity firm focused on investing in Botswana companies and propelling them into regional champions, with over BWP 500 million in funds under management.

The new entity will be rebranded to Minet and will inherit deeply rooted respect by its clients for their innovative and locally relevant solutions, responsiveness, and efficient processes. Furthermore, it shall have the benefit of consistency in leadership and staffing, with Barnabas Mavuma, previously Managing Director of Aon Botswana, continuing to lead the business as the MD supported by the local management team.

 “The addition of Minet Botswana to our growing African network affirms our belief in the great opportunities for growth that Africa offers, driven by rising consumer demand, huge investment in infrastructure and quick adoption of new technology,” says Joe Onsando, CEO at Minet Group.

“This transaction significantly adds to the diversity and skills base of our team and will have a positive impact on the range of products and services we provide. Our Correspondent agreement with Aon gives us access to global expertise and data driven insights and uniquely positions us to deliver risk advisory solutions that reduce volatility, thus driving improved performance for our clients. This is a very exciting time to be Minet in Africa.”

“The significantly increased Botswana citizen shareholding effected by this transaction gives rise to an exciting era of local market focus and growth for Minet Botswana,” says Bame Pule, Founder and CEO of Africa Lighthouse Capital.  “We intend to work with Minet Botswana’s local management team to further localise the business in terms of product development, while at the same time investing in local skills development and business development.  We look forward to this exciting journey, which will result in a significantly enhanced service offering for Minet Botswana’s clients.”

Consequently, and similar to the other members of the Minet Group, Minet Botswana becomes an Aon Global Network Correspondent, retaining its access to Aon’s resources, technology, and best practises, combined with the benefit of independent, local agility. This transaction furthermore significantly increases local shareholding, enabling operations to become even nimbler and better positioned to unlock new and existing growth opportunities.

Clients of Minet Botswana will experience continuity of product and service delivery standards in the short term. In the near future, they can expect an enhanced offering that combines agility with technology and product innovation, tailormade for their specific needs.

Together, Minet and ALC bring a sound understanding of local market conditions, strong governance, and an established track record in the region. These qualities, combined with Aon’s global capabilities and expertise, will bring clear benefits for clients.

This transaction vastly increases citizen ownership with shareholders who are going to be active in the business. The transfer of equity interests in Botswana to investors with local and regional expertise, presence and commitment will allow the businesses to move quickly in line with market movements, and to introduce products that are tailored to the local market.

“Minet’s commitment and drive to incessantly adapt to changing market conditions, and to innovate to meet the unique insurance demands of the African continent, while maintaining the high standards customers have come to expect – Onsando concludes – will continue to grow and give Minet a powerful competitive edge within the African market”.

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Africa scores $285 Billion IMF deal

21st May 2021
IMF-Managing-Director-Kristalina-Georgieva

French President Emmanuel Macron received 21 Heads of state and government officials from Africa during the recent summit on the Financing of African Economies that focused on Africa to take full advantage of the tectonic shifts in the global economy and the call for a joint effort for financial and vaccination support for the continent.

President Emmanuel Macron stressed that “Most regions of the world are now launching massive post-pandemic recovery plans, using their huge monetary and fiscal instruments. But most African economies suffer the lack of adequate capacities and such instruments to do the same. We cannot afford leaving the African economies behind.

We, the Leaders participating to the Summit, in the presence of international organizations, share the responsibility to act together and fight the great divergence that is happening between countries and within countries.

This requires collective action to build a very substantial financial package, to provide a much-needed economic stimulus as well as the means to invest for a better future. Our ambition is to address immediate financing needs, to strengthen the capacity of African governments to support a strong and sustainable economic recovery and to reinforce the vibrant African private sector, as a long-term growth driver for Africa.”

For her part, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva highlighted that “there is urgency to focus on financing Africa. Last year, the pandemic-caused recession shrank the GDP of the Continent by 1.9 percent – the worst performance on record. This year, we project global growth at 6 percent, but only half that 3.2 percent for Africa.” Adding that Africa needs to grow faster than the world at 7 to 10 percent to meet the aspirations of its youthful populations, and become more prosperous and more secure.

Georgieva revealed that the price tag on the shot is estimated to be “$285 billion through 2025. Of this $135 billion is for low-income countries. This is the bare minimum. To do more – to get African nations back on their previous path of catching up with wealthy countries – will cost roughly twice as much. These are large numbers. They may seem out of reach. But to quote Nelson Mandela: impossible until it is done.”

The main areas of interest to achieve this include; first, end the pandemic everywhere, 40 percent of the population of all countries is targeted to get vaccinated by the end of 2021, and at least 60 percent by mid-2022.

Second, bilateral and multilateral development financing grants and concessional loans ought to go up. Over the last year, the IMF have swiftly ramped their financing for the Continent, including providing 13 times their average annual lending to sub-Saharan Africa. And are working to do much more. The IMF has also received support to increase access limits so they can scale up their zero-interest lending capacity through the Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust.

The IMF has also devised exceptional measures. Their membership backs an unprecedented new allocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDR) of $650 billion, by far the largest in their history. Once approved, which is intended to be achieved by the end of August, it will directly and immediately make about $33 billion available to African members. It will boost their reserves and liquidity, without adding to their debt burden.

Over the course of the last year, the IMF has built experience in facilitating the on lending of SDRs – thus managing to triple their concessional lending capacity as a result.

The Third being, actions at home. According to Georgieva “a crisis is an opportunity for transformational domestic reforms that increase domestic revenue, improve public services, and strengthen governance. For instance, digitalization can improve tax administration and revenue collection, and the quality of public spending. And with radical transparency, Africa can tap into new sources of finance – such as carbon offsets.

There is ample scope for countries to encourage private investment, including in social and physical infrastructure. New IMF research, published today, highlights that domestic and international investors could provide at least 3 percent of GDP per year of additional financing by the end of this decade.”

Reforms of international taxation can also support Africa’s growth. For a long time, the IMF has been in favor of minimum corporate tax rates to reduce the race to the bottom and tax avoidance. And they strongly support an international agreement on digital tax, something France has been a leading voice for. It is important to secure fair distribution of tax revenues, so they can contribute to closing Africa’s financial gap.

Georgieva called on to each and every one to step up. Reminding the attendees that from history they are all familiar with what a shock of this magnitude can do if not countered forcefully and effectively.

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Indian COVID-19 variant hits Botswana diamond sales

20th May 2021
Indian-Covid--19-variant-hit-rough-diamonds-sales---De-Beers-

De Beers’ Group, the world’s number one diamond producer by value, this week attributed the downfall of its sales for the fourth cycle week to the second wave of the Covid-19 variant (B.1.617.2) which was first discovered in India.

Diamond trading conditions have been hit by the Covid-19 crisis in India which is a major cutting and polishing centre for the world’s diamond trade.

The outbreak of the new variant has led to a humanitarian crisis with 280, 284 fatalities of the disease reported.

The London headquartered company said the sales in its fourth cycle fell to $380m (about P4.1 billion) down from $450m (about P4.8 billion) in the third cycle though it was higher than the fifth cycles of last year when the group shifted only $56m (P600 million).

De Beers emphasized that they continued to implement a more flexible approach to rough diamond sales during the fourth sales cycle of 2021, with the Sight event extended beyond its normal week-long duration.

The De Beers group Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Bruce Cleaver said the company continues to see robust demand for diamond jewellery in the key US and China consumer markets.

“However, the scale of the second wave of Covid-19 in India, where the majority of the world’s diamonds are cut and polished, has led to reduced midstream capacity and subsequently lower rough diamond demand, during what is already a seasonally slower time of year for midstream purchases,” said Cleaver.

Meanwhile Botswana health officials have confirmed the new Covid-19 variant in Botswana. The Ministry of Health and Wellness -through a press statement- informed members of the public that the variant (B.1.617), was confirmed in Botswana on 13th May 2021.

According to Christopher Nyanga, spokesperson at the Ministry, this followed a case investigation within Greater Gaborone, involving people of Indian origin who arrived in the country on the 24th April 2021.

Moreover the World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced that the Indian Covid-19 variant was a global concern, with some data suggesting that the variant has “increased transmissibility” compared with other strains.

The India variant (B.1.617.2) – is one of four mutated versions of the coronavirus which has been designated as being “of concern” by transitional public health bodies, with others first being identified in Kent, South Africa and Brazil.

Nevertheless when speaking at Bank of America Global Metals and Mining conference, Anglo American Chief Executive Officer, Mark Cutifani said the company portfolio is increasingly tilted towards future enabling products and those that need to decarbonise energy and transport in order to meet consumers’ needs – from home appliances, electronics and infrastructure, to food and luxury goods.

“We see material opportunity for Anglo American to continue to set itself apart in terms of the performance of our diversified business, further enhanced through sector-leading 25% volume growth over the next four years, led by copper and the platinum group metals,” said Cutifani.

“Most importantly, as the supplier of such critical materials, it is the duty of our industry to ensure that in everything we do, we act responsibly and deliver enduring value for our full breadth of stakeholders, including our planet.”

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