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BOCRA facilitates the reduction of data prices amidst COVID-19 scourge

BOCRA

In its firm effort to encourage the use of internet in the mist of COVID-19 crisis, Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) engaged telecommunications operators on discussions centred on reduction of data prices, a factor that has many on their feet during this predicament.

BOCRA as the regulator and an enabler of market development exists to enable choices to be made by both the market and the consumer, ensuring that there is full and healthy competition in the market. Every year BOCRA reviews prices of the services that they regulate and this year, the focus was centred on mobile data prices.

When addressing members of the media in Gaborone this week, Chief Executive Officer Martin Mokgware said in the advent of COVID-19, affordability of communications services is more critical than ever before, saying people need data to access COVID-19 related information.

‘’COVID-19 virus is relatively new to the entire world and more information needs to be shared. If they do not have access to internet it will be difficult for them to access such information on a number of issues that include how they can protect the deadly virus, would not be able to telework, they would not learn remotely and would not connect to their families and loved ones in the event they are quarantined,’’ he said.

Mokgware further indicated that as BOCRA, they want all citizens to be fully connected so as to be able to use the full potential of digital technologies. ‘’There is a need to address few factors in order to have full connectivity. Lack of relevant content particularly local content is one factor that prevents full connectivity, as well as lack of digital skills to operate these technologies. BOCRA found lack of good quality of internet service provision as a challenge that still surfaces even during this crisis.’’

He however stressed that BOCRA will in September 2020 invite internet service providers to apply for their spectrum that would allow them to invest in and provide fixed wireless technologies.
‘’Our mobile technology in Botswana is universal and we have surpassed the 95 per cent mark.

That means we are doing well in the telecommunications sector, therefore our focus is more on fixed wireless technologies. We will be rolling out this spectrum to our operators in September because we want people to operate from home. They are able to do their work from their comfort zones, and this will enable children to learn from home as well. This is one way in which as BOCRA we strive to help contain the spread of the virus. We encourage our operators to start investing in high quality internet’’

Further, Mokgware told fourth estate that BOCRA managed substantially to reduce mobile data prices across all products and services provided by their operators. For his part, Director of Business Development Noble Katse said some internet packages across all products have been discontinued, saying the newly introduced packages are now competitive. ‘‘Some of our operators dealt away with old packages and introduced new bundles, while for some packages volumes have been kept constant.’’

According to information from the communications regulator, most of the internet packages from all operators realized a significant reduction. Orange Botswana reduced the 1 month All My Internet package of 2 gigabytes by 43 per cent to be P34.50 per gigabyte. The 4 gigabyte data bundle also saw a significant reduction of 55 per cent, which is approximately P24. 75 per gigabyte.

The Orange Prepaid Konnecta saw the introduction of new packages with new prices that vary according to the data bundle purchased. The newly introduced 12.5 gigabyte is priced P199.00, while the 30 gigabyte is sold P349.00. Mascom My Mix prepaid packages also saw a reduction of its 1 month validity data bundles by 22, 27, 32 and 41 per cent for the 32, 2, 4 and 16 gigabyte data bundles respectively. Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) prices did not change as they are already competitive.

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Corporate

Customer-centric Banking Solutions Are Essential to Maintain Market Relevance

19th December 2020
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The reimagined banking experience

2020 has brought with it many changes to different industries, and all propelled by the Covid-19 pandemic. Recent reports show that – banks, like most companies, face an urgent imperative to reimagine themselves, with the pandemic accelerating consumer behaviour shifts and causing significant earnings challenges given, the tough macroeconomic environment and extensive risk of financial distress for both consumers and businesses.

As consumer behaviour continues to shift, this will push banks all over the globe to rapidly develop and implement continuous improvements to their customer value proposition in order to remain as agile as possible.

These improvements include establishing and growing digital banking platforms, constant and relevant engagements with customers and providing the appropriate and personalised offering to corporate and commercial banking clients. And done right, this will ensure customer retention and acquisition of new clients, every bank’s ultimate objective.

Bolstering customer value proposition through digital banking platforms

While branch networks will remain a crucial part of the banking industry’s value-chain, a continuous redefinition of the digital banking journey has now become the driving force in ensuring a customer-centric approach and addressing customers’ current banking needs.

Investing in the bank’s digital capability is imperative, in that it warrants streamlined operational and decision-making processes. Additionally, it ensures that banks enjoy extended industry reach and higher brand authority as well as allowing for better and more frequent B2B partnership opportunities.

Ensuring retention and acquisition of customers

As a new market entrant, acquiring new clients is always the primary goal, however for emerging industry players, success lies in the level of retention rates. As customer needs are constantly evolving, banks not only have to adapt to meet these needs but also navigate uncharted territory due to the Covid-19 pandemic, while also understanding that customers are struggling financially as a result of the current subdued economic environment.

Banks have had to come to the fore and secure customer loyalty by offering financial aid in the form of payment holidays, extending loan tenures as well as providing additional support to SMEs and retail customers in unfavourable economic conditions.

 

Ensure appropriate conversations with customers

Having conversations that are not only beneficial to the bank but to the customer as well, demonstrates a customer-centric approach that focuses on providing a positive customer experience. Therefore, in order to succeed in a market dominated by ongoing cost pressures, stringent regulatory requirements, and increasing competition between ‘new-born digital’ entrants, like fintech and digital banks, and established market leaders – the only thing that will set you apart and ensure competitor advantage is excellent customer service. A well-executed customer-centric strategy will assist in building trust in the brand and ultimately ensure an overall positive reputation.

Enhancing the corporate and commercial banking offering

Early 2020 reports showed that rising customer expectations, disruptive competitors, new technologies and increased regulation are just a few of the ongoing pressures forcing commercial banks to reimagine and evolve their business and operating models.

Aggressive investments to drive efficiency and enhance the client and employee experience will keep them in the lead. 2020 is seen as the year commercial banks went from digitisation to digital by building on these investments and truly unlocking the power of their data. Here are some trends that are due to take centre stage into the future:

  • Relationship managers are poised to grow revenues and customer satisfaction with vastly improved, digitally driven business insights
  • Market leaders are increasingly implementing AI and predictive analytics solutions, growing their businesses with real-time decisions at higher returns
  • Legacy systems can be reliable but stall change efforts. Innovation will kick-start migration towards full digital transformation
  • Data and integration options in Open Banking (banks providing greater financial transparency options for account holders ranging from open data to private data) enable a rich ecosystem to help banks differentiate products and provide customer-centric services

Customer-centricity is about more than just asking customers what they want and making good on it. It requires banks to re-evaluate what they know about customers with the aim to understand who their customers are, what interests them, what they value, and what drives them.

It’s about building a relationship that is more meaningful than the transactional one banks traditionally have with their customers — a relationship that looks more like a partnership, and that is attuned to the customer’s needs.

Addressing customer needs also encompasses digital transformation within the banking industry. The emergence of a reimagined customer-centric banking experience has proven that digital is key at every level of the banking value chain. The banking industry should thus keep adapting and repurposing itself in order to ensure it stays ahead of the curve and continues to innovatively meet customer needs.

BancABC, Retail Department

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Corporate

The BancABC Customer First-hand Experience

26th November 2020
Thatayotlhe

In the past six months, entrepreneurs all over Botswana have rushed into the sanitizer market. However, Kutz & Tutz Hygiene founder and Executive Director Thatayotlhe Mmereki spotted the need – and acted – more than eleven years ago.

She explains how the business grew from its humble beginnings. ‘In 2009, I left my job because I had a vision. We were determined to bring Purell hand sanitizers to Botswana. While studying in Canada, we discovered the product and knew that our fellow citizens would love it, too. We started by going door to door, searching for companies who could be our first customers,’ she says.

‘There were a lot of rejections. But I was determined. And I’ve never been a big believer in the word no,’ she laughs. Sure enough, after months of focus and persistence, Kutz & Tutz Hygiene had its first two corporate clients. ‘Those first clients gave us what we needed at the time, which was a little bit of regular income,’ explains Thatayotlhe. ‘After a while however, we noticed their needs evolving.

Soon they were asking us for hand soap, paper towels — even mobile toilets. The business was suddenly diversified and booming.’ ‘There are a lot of sanitizer salespeople out there,’ she smiles. ‘But that’s not us. We are a passion driven portfolio. We exist to raise awareness. We are compelled by a sense of cleanliness: to give our clients a better, healthier environment in which to live and work,’ she explains. ‘We are here to elevate their state of being.’

Today, Thatayotlhe finds herself at the top of an entire group of companies under the Kutz & Tutz Hygiene umbrella, employing 60 people. ‘The hygiene industry is very broad and as time has gone by we have recognized the opportunity to expand into different areas of the value chain.

We don’t just supply personal hygiene products, we also run an innovative contract cleaning and disinfection business as well as a clinical waste portfolio where we do collection, treatment and disposal. From our offices in Gaborone, Francistown and Maun, we service clients all over the country.’

She encourages SMEs in Botswana to get their priorities right. ‘Our business grows because we are not led by money. Customer relationships come first, every day. As a result, the money follows us.’ ‘The onset of COVID-19 simply reinforced what our company has been saying since 2009: healthy hands save lives.  ‘Demand for our products and services continued to grow consistently before, during and after the Lockdowns. But we faced our own cash flow challenges: that’s when BancABC rose to the occasion.’ ‘

Our biggest clients were struggling to pay us on time. Many were months behind. Our relationship manager at BancABC came to us with a perfect solution. They anticipated our need for cash, reached out to us and offered us the overdraft facility we needed to stay afloat— before we even asked for it. Amazing.’ ‘Because of this assistance, we’ve been able to make significant progress in a very uncertain time. I love BancABC. They understand us.’ Thatayotlhe says she has regional expansion plans for Kutz & Tutz Hygiene, with the next chapter of growth already mapped out. Today, her eyes are fixed on the African market.

Business Banking, BancABC.

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Corporate

JSE lifts Choppies trading suspension

16th November 2020
Ramachandaran

The founding directors of Botswana and JSE-listed retailer, Choppies Enterprises Limited (“Choppies” or “the Company” or “the Group”) backed the Group’s turn-around strategy to the tune of just over P11,000,000.00 million recently.

Messrs. Ramachandran Ottapathu and Ismail Farouk acquired 18 597 724 shares on the open market at an average price of approximately 63 thebe per share on the Botswana Stock Exchange in a slew of transactions at the end of October.

“As a management team, we faced numerous challenges during the past number of years. The retail environment continues to experience headwinds, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. As a significant shareholder and director, I am confident that the worst is behind Choppies and that we’re close to the bottom of the cycle. “Our investment strongly aligns us with shareholders as we now focus on further improving corporate governance and growing profitability,” comments Chief Executive Officer Ramachandran Ottapathu.

The founding directors are currently involved in litigation against the Company’s former auditor and audit partner for delaying the publication of the Company’s audited results following breaches of independence and unlawful changes to the scope of the audit. This resulted in the suspension of trade in the Company’s shares on both the Botswana Stock Exchange (“BSE”) where it holds a primary listing as well as on the JSE Limited (“JSE”).

The JSE lifted the suspension of trade in the Company’s shares, following a similar decision by the BSE in July this year. Botswana based Kwabena Antwi from Kgori Capital says that shareholders will take courage from the fact that the Group is now current on its financial statements, following the BSE’s lifting of the trading suspension.

“Shareholder confidence is usually linked with shareholders returns. Getting Choppies back to an overall profitable position, where they are capable of paying dividends will go a long way in shoring up shareholder confidence. The next phase will focus on implementing governance structures throughout the Group. Some progress has been made, but there is still more to be rolled out,” he says.

At the presentation of the audited financial results for the year ended 30 June 2020, the Company said it has discontinued or disposed of its lossmaking operations in South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique. This resulted in a once-off loss of approximately P371 million from discontinued operations and an increase in negative equity to P467 million for the financial year ended 30 June 2020.

“The board of Choppies considered the 2021 budgets, detailed cash flow forecasts that were stress tested, as prepared by management, banking facilities and covenants, undertakings of financial support by the founder shareholders, the economic outlook of the countries in which it operates as well as the possible future impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Based on the evidence provided by management, the Board concluded that the Group has already taken the necessary steps to remedy the past situation by discontinuing loss making operations the Company and the Group should be a going concern for the foreseeable future.

“As founder shareholders we remain committed to the turn-around strategy of Choppies, and confident of growing profitability in the short to medium term,” says Ottapathu.

The turnaround at Choppies follows implantation of turnaround strategy to improve corporate governance and exit of underperforming operations in South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya and Tanzania

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