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Edcon dis-membered by rivals while workers watch in the dark

Edcon

Once a giant retailer in the non-food retailer industry, 91 year old Edcon lies helplessly on the auction block akin a half-dead dinosaur as its long standing arch-rivals happily divide and devour it amongst themselves for an easy feast.  A worker in an Edcon store in Botswana remains in limbo as the big guns shred the gigantic beast into pieces.

Edcon filed for business rescue plan in April after it failed to pay suppliers. It was reported that during lockdown Edcon stores lost R2 billion in sales. This week Monday The Foschini Group (TFG) released a statement confirming its latest intentions to acquire Edcon assets for a cash purchase consideration of R480 million.

While TFG is going for the lion’s share of Edcon, Jet is waiting to add it to its comprehensive portfolio of 29 retail brands that trade in clothing, footwear, jewellery, sportswear, homeware, cell phones, and technology products from value to upper market segments throughout more than 4085 outlets in 32 countries.

TFG will also get Jet’s distribution centre located in Durban and certain stores in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Eswatini. Also part of this fat deal is that the company is looking to also acquire JET Club and all existing JET stock of no less than R800 million.

Many observers never expected Jet to be sold for a “good deal” or “for a song.” In an interview with CNBC Africa, TFG CEO Anthony Thunstrom said they took a very good look at Jet for 5 and a half to 6 months and made in-depth due diligence before arriving at its decision of taking over Jet.

Thunstrom said they had an offer to buy Edcon for R10 billion and they found the price was not worth it and pulled out, only for TFG to be recently offered by the business rescue practitioners to buy Jet “as a standalone” for less than quarter of a billion.

Before the Jet bid last week, it was announced by Edcon Business Rescue Practitioners Retailability will buy Edgars. Retailability also owns brands such as Legit, Beaver Canoe and Style.

According to a document seen by BusinessPost, “the Edcon Business Rescue Practitioners today announced the signing of a “Heads of Agreement” to sell parts of Edgars to Retailability (Pty) Ltd.”

Retailability left its footprints in Botswana after launching Style in Botswana with 17 stores. The company operates in over 460 stores across South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, and Eswatini.

The crumbs after the big guys have eaten

A lot of workers in Botswana working for any Edcon, Retailability or TFG related store did not seem to be far from the development in South Africa. The picture in simple logic is that Edcon which was formed just during the beginning of The Great Depression is seeing its demise with the dawn of the novel COVID-19 and its competitors are dividing it amongst themselves.

It is a classic case of ‘when two elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled’. When Edcon succumbs to the financial hit that comes from the invisible giant Covid-19, workers face losing their livelihoods.

The much publicized Edcon Business Rescue Plan in South Africa had the workers representative in mind, the South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU).

“Both the Employee and SACCAWU representatives expressed support for the Business Rescue Plan, indicating that they choose to back the Business Rescue Plan as it will ensure the preservation of jobs…” said Edcon recently.

It was confirmed that most Edcon employees are affiliate to SACCAWU. However, Botswana Edcon workers are not unionized nor are they members of any known union.

Botswana workers may be facing a huge task of putting their livelihoods in the hands of a multination which does not include the local employees on its high level decision making, this has left some observers worried.

UNI Global Union, a global union federation for skills and services, gathering national and regional trade unions’ regional affiliate UNI Africa, is involved in making sure Edcon as a giant employer or multinational preserves job security. UNI Global Union represents more than 20 million workers from over 150 different countries in the fastest growing sectors in the world – skills and service.

UNI Africa Sector and Project Coordinator, Lebogang Keabetswe said they are not turning a blind eye to the lack of consultation between an employer and an employee with regards to decisions taken in multinationals. She told BusinessPost in an interview that their part in un-unionized member like those of Edcon Botswana, the offer solidarity especially through their affiliates or federations who are mostly stakeholders.

She is aware that Edcon Botswana may be faced by a powerful multinational, but workers’ strength is always in numbers, she said. Keabetswe also wishes Edcon Botswana could have been unionized and hopes Edcon Business Rescue Plan does everything in good faith when Edgars and Jet are sold.

“I think from our end we would like to see workers being involved or engaged in taking decisions that affects their lives, so they can share ideas. They should also take economic factors; value chains will be hurt if Edcon dies and youth who work there will lose jobs adding to the currently high levels of youth unemployment,” said Keabetswe in an interview.

Botswana Federation of Trade Union (BFTU) Secretary General, Thusang Butale told this publication that he does not believe Edcon will retrench Botswana employees due to the emergency powers put to avoid businesses laying off workers. He said that can only happen after October after the end of the State of Emergency.

Business

Gambling Authority tender dangles as a jittery lottery quandary

30th November 2020
SEFALANA MD: CHANDRA CHAUHAN

Lucrative and highly anticipated national lottery tender that saw several Batswana businessmen partnering to form a gambling consortium to pit against their South African counterparts, culminates into a big power gamble.

WeekendPost has had a chance to watch lottery showcase even before the anticipated and impending national lottery set-up launches. A lot has been a big gamble from the bidding process which is now set for the courts next year January following a marathon legal brawl involving the interest of the gambling fraternity in Botswana and South Africa.

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Business

The uncertainty of getting the next meal in Botswana

30th November 2020
uncertainty of getting the next meal

Households representing more than half of Botswana’s population-mostly residing in rural areas- do not know where their next meal will come from, but neither do they take into consideration the quality and/or quantity of the food they consume.

This is according to the latest Prevalence of Food Insecurity in Botswana report which was done for the 2018/19 period and represents the state of food insecurity data even to this time.
The Prevalence of Food Insecurity was released by Statistics Botswana and it released results with findings that the results show that at national level 50.8 percent of the population in Botswana was affected by moderate to severe food insecurity in 2018/19, while 22.2 percent of the population was affected by severe food insecurity only.

According to the report, this translates to 27 percent of the population being food secure that is to say having adequate access to food in both quality and quantity. According to Statistician General, Burton Mguni, when explaining how the food data was compiled, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), is custodian of the “Prevalence of Undernourishment (PoU)” and “Prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity in the population based on the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES)” SDG indicators, for leading FIES data analysis and the resultant capacity building.

“The FIES measures the extent of food insecurity at the household or individual level. The indicator provides internationally comparable estimates of the proportion of the population facing moderate to severe difficulties in accessing food. The FIES consists of eight brief questions regarding access to adequate food, and the questions are answered directly with a yes/no response. It (FIES) complements the existing food and nutrition security indicators such as Prevalence of Undernourishment.

According to the FIES, with increasing severity, the quantity of food consumed decreases as portion sizes are reduced and meals are skipped. At its most severe level, people are forced to go without eating for a day or more. The scale further reveals that the household’s experience of food insecurity may be characterized by uncertainty and anxiety regarding food access and compromising the quality of the diet and having a less balanced and more monotonous diet,” says Mguni.

The 50.8 percent of the population in Botswana which was affected by moderate to severe food insecurity are characterized as people experiencing moderate food insecurity and face uncertainties about their ability to obtain food. These people have been forced to compromise on the quality and/or quantity of the food they consume according to the report on food insecurity.

Those who experience severe food insecurity, the 22.2 percent of the population, are people who have typically run out of food and, at worst, gone a day (or days) without eating. According to the statistics, rural area population experienced moderate to severe food insecurity at 65 percent while urban villages were at 46.60 percent and cities/town were at 31.70 percent. Those experiencing the most extreme and severe insecurity were at rural areas making 33.10 percent while urban villages and towns were at 11.90 percent and 17.50 respectively.

According to a paper compiled by Sirak Bahta, Francis Wanyoike, Hikuepi Katjiuongua and Davis Marumo and published in December 2017, titled ‘Characterization of food security and consumption patterns among smallholder livestock farmers in Botswana,’ over 70 percent of Botswana’s population reside in rural areas, and majority (70%) relies on traditional/subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods.

The study set out to characterize the food security situation and food consumption patterns among livestock keepers in Botswana. “Despite the policy change, challenges still remain in ensuring that all persons and households have access to food at all times. For example, during an analysis of the impacts of rising international food prices for Botswana, BIDPA reported that food prices tended to be highest in the rural areas already disadvantaged by relatively low levels of income and high rates of unemployment,” said the study.

According to the paper, about 9 percent of households were found to be food insecure and this category of households included 6 percent of households that ranked poorly and 3 percent that were on the borderline according to the World Food Programme’s (WFP) definition of food security.

Media reports state that the World Bank has warned that disruption to production and supply chains could ‘spark a food security crisis’ in Africa, forecasting a fall in farm production of up to 7 percent, if there are restrictions to trade, and a 25 percent decline in food imports.

Food security in Botswana or food production was also attacked by the locust pandemic which swept out this country’s vegetation and plants. The locust is said to have contributed to 25 percent loss in production.

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Business

Solid demand for diamonds towards the ‘gift’ season

30th November 2020
Diamonds

Global lockdown have been a thorn in diamonds having shiny sales, but a lot of optimism shows with the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, the precious stones will be bought with high volumes towards festive season. The diamond market is however warned of the resurgence of Covid-19 in key markets presents ongoing risks amid the presence and optimist about the new Covid-29 vaccines.

The latest findings published as De Beers Group’s latest Diamond Insight ‘Flash’ Report, which looks at the impact of the pandemic on relationships and engagements, has revealed that in the US that more couples than ever are buying diamond engagement rings. Bridal sales is mostly the primary source of diamond jewellery demand in recent months, De Beers said.

According to De Beers, interviews with independent jewellers around the US revealed that the rate of couples getting engaged has increased compared with the period when Covid-19 first had an impact in the US in the spring.

“In addition, despite challenging economic times, consumers were spending more than ever on diamond engagement rings – often upgrading in colour, cut and clarity, rather than size. Several jewellers speculated that with consumers spending less on elaborate weddings and/or honeymoons in the current environment, they had more to spend on choosing the perfect ring,” said De Beers.

According to De Beers, a national survey of 360 US women in serious relationships, undertaken in late October in collaboration with engagement and wedding website, The Knot. This survey is said to have found that the majority of respondents (54%) were thinking more about their engagement ring than the wedding itself (32%) or the honeymoon (15%), supporting jewellers’ hypothesis that engagement ring sales were benefiting from reduced wedding and travel budgets in light of Covid-19 restrictions.

When it came to researching engagement rings, online was by far the predominant channel for gaining ideas/inspiration at 86% of consumers surveyed, with 85% saying they had saved examples of styles they liked, according to De Beers. According to the survey, only a uarter of respondents said they had looked in-store at a physical location for design inspiration.

“For many couples, the pandemic has brought them even closer together, in some instances speeding up the path to engagement after forming a deeper connection while experiencing lockdown and its associated ups and downs as a partnership. Engagement rings are taking on even greater symbolism in this environment, with retailers reporting couples are prepared to invest more than usual, particularly due to budget reductions in other areas,” De Beers CEO Cleaver said.

According to De Beers Group, its Diamond Insight Flash Report series is focused on understanding the US consumer perspective in light of Covid-19 and monitoring how it evolves as the crisis evolves. Also, the company said, it is augmenting its existing research programme with additional consumer, retailer and supply chain touch-basis to understand the pain points and the opportunities for stakeholders across the diamond pipeline.

Demand for diamonds is as hard and resilient as the precious stone itself. De Beers pocketed US$ 450 million in its recently held ninth rough diamond sales cycle, and the company says it is more flexible approach to rough diamond sales during the ninth sales cycle of 2020, with the Sight event extended beyond its normal week-long duration.

“Steady demand for De Beers Group’s rough diamonds continued in the ninth sales cycle of the year, reflecting stable consumer demand for diamond jewellery at the retail level in the US and China, and expectations for reasonable demand to continue throughout the holiday season. However, the resurgence of Covid-19 infections in several consumer markets presents ongoing risks,” said De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver recently.

High expectations are on diamonds being a sentimental gift for holiday season or as the most fetished gift. However the ninth cycle was lower than the eighth which registered US$ 467 million. For the last year period which corresponds with the current one, De Beers managed to raise US$ 400.

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