The catastrophic impact of COVID-19 on global economies has sent Botswana back to the drawing boards. The country is currently on a serious conversation with itself to come up with ways of forging ahead post corona, the current economic configuration is in question.
Concerns around over reliance on diamond revenue as the country’s economic nucleus while neglecting agricultural sector have once again resurfaced. Prior to discovery of diamonds in 1969 Botswana pre independence and during early years of sovereignty relied purely on agriculture as the country‘s source of livelihood.
Leading the country export earnings was during the years beef industry under the hospices of once mighty Botswana Meat Commission (BMC). The rapid infrastructural development and accelerated urbanization resulted in mass migration from rural settlements to towns and cities thus abandoning pastoral and arable farming practices.
To date Botswana still doesn’t produce enough maize, sorghum and wheat for itself, let alone processed and canned beef. The common denominator in various submissions during these discussions is the fact that Agriculture has demonstrated before; as well as per gathered information from numerous scientific studies and economic research findings that the sector is a potential remedy to Botswana’s economic diversification headache.
Around independence Agriculture contributed over 30 % to the country‘s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) today the sector has been relegated to a mere 2 % replaced by the lucrative Diamond and Tourism industries.
Before Independence, Batswana lived out of subsistence pastoral and arable farming. Though today the sector is still source of livelihood to many ordinary Batswana especially those in the furfural and rural settlements, the major concern is that on a national scale Botswana cannot feed its small population of just over 2 million people. The country still import over 50 % of almost every food commodity predominately from neighboring South Africa.
The anticipated decline in diamond and tourism revenue due to COVID19 pandemic has sparked conversation around a total reconfiguration of Botswana economy. Both Mining and tourism will decline by 33 % and 32 % respectively.
Various dialogue and engagements have identified and underscored Agricultural sector as Botswana’s economic precinct which can lead the country‘s economic revolution and birth an export led, industrialized, diversified that can generate sustainable jobs.
The emphasis around Agriculture is that deliberate action has to be taken, at policy level as well as national, community and individual level to put in place the right legislative frameworks, financial instruments and infrastructure to drive the nation into massive investments in the sector.
It was reiterated during various lockdown discussions that if well developed under large scale and techno based production the agricultural sector had the potential of absorbing idle graduates from engineers, economists, crop and animal health scientist just to name but a few.
Lack of funding by from government budget has taken centre stage as a serious cause of concern and major impediment to transformation of Agriculture in Botswana. According to experts small budget allocations means no infrastructure development to support, no road networks to connect farm lands with market places, no development of innovative solutions in response to climate challenges facing the agricultural sector.
In his open letter to President Masisi this week, Leader of Opposition and Maun West Member of Parliament Dumelang Saleshando called on government to seriously invest in development of farming and production of food in Botswana.
“Your Excellency, our current reality compels us to urgently reconsider our approach to agriculture. In the last debate of the national budget, all MPs who contributed to the agriculture budget debate noted that the allocated amounts are a small fraction of what is needed to turn the sector around,” reads the widely published letter.
Saleshando further called on inclusion of the sector into bespoke strategic economic recovery plans post COVID19.” As part of the economic recovery strategy post COVID 19, consider launching an aggressive program of identifying farmers who can be assisted to expand their operations. Subsistence farmers should be hand held to graduate into efficient commercial operations.”
The Leader of Opposition further added, ”senior civil servants who are part time farmers should be enticed to retire early and take up the new agricultural schemes geared at helping Botswana to produce enough to feed itself.”
Last week when breiefing members of the media about impacts of COVID 19 on the economy Minister of Finance & Economic Development Dr Thapelo Matsheka said as part of government response strategy and economic recovery plan Agriculture will be prioritized to accelerate the country’s capacity in food production.
“We are looking at a number of options and ways to prioritize some projects over others, investing in irrigation and food production will be some of our priority areas , post corona we will look at things differently as a country, ” Matsheka said.
Chinaâ€™s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) expanded by 3% year-on-year to 121.02 trillion yuan ($17.93 trillion) in 2022 despite being mired in various growth pressures, according to data from the National Bureau Statistics.
The annual growth rate beat a median economist forecast of 2.8% as polled by Reuters. The countryâ€™s fourth-quarter GDP growth of 2.9% also surpassed expectations for a 1.8% increase.
In 2022, the Chinese economy encountered more difficulties and challenges than was expected amid a complex domestic and international situation. However, NBS said economic growth stabilized after various measures were taken to shore up growth.
Industrial output rose 3.6% in 2022 over the previous year, while retail sales slightly shrank by 0.2% data show that fixed-asset investment increased 5.1% over 2021, with a 9.1% hike in manufacturing investment but a 10% fall in property investment.
China created 12.06 million new jobs in urban regions throughout the year, surpassing its annual target of 11 million, and officials have stressed the importance of continuing an employment-first policy in 2023.
Meanwhile, China tourism market is a step closer to robust recovery. Tourism operators are in high spirits because the market saw a good chance of a robust recovery during the Spring Festival holiday amid relaxed COVID-19 travel policies.
On January 27, the last day of the seven-day break, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism published an encouraging performance report of the tourism market. It said that domestic destinations and attractions received 308 million visits, up 23.1% year-on-year. The number is roughly 88.6% of that in 2019, they year before the pandemic hit.
According to the report, tourism-related revenue generated during the seven-day period was about 375.8 billion yuan ($55.41 billion), a year-on-year rise of 30%. The revenue was about 73% of that in 2019, the Ministry said.
The state of the art jewellery manufacturing plant that has been set up by international diamond and cutting company, KGK Diamonds Botswana will create over 100 jobs, of which 89 percent will be localized.
Local diamond and metal exploration company Tsodilo Resources Limited has negotiated a non-brokered private placement of 2,200, 914 units of the company at a price per unit of 0.20 US Dollars, which will provide gross proceeds to the company in the amount of C$440, 188. 20.
According to a statement from the group, proceeds from the private placement will be used for the betterment of the Xaudum iron formation project in Botswana and general corporate purposes.
The statement says every unit of the company will consist of a common share in the capital of the company and one Common Share purchase warrant of the company.
Each warrant will enable a holder to make a single purchase for the period of 24 months at an amount of $0.20. As per regularity requirements, the group indicates that the common shares and warrants will be subject to a four month plus a day hold period from date of closure.
Tsodilo is exempt from the formal valuation and minority shareholder approval requirements. This is for the reason that the fair market value of the private placement, insofar as it involves the director, is not more than 25% of the companyâ€™s market capitalization.
Tsodilo Resources Limited is an international diamond and metals exploration company engaged in the search for economic diamond and metal deposits at its Bosoto Limited and Gcwihaba Resources projects in Botswana. Â The company has a 100% stake in Bosoto which holds the BK16 kimberlite project in the Orapa Kimberlite Field (OKF) in Botswana.