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Gov’t moves to merge SPEDU, SEZA

Minister Peggy Serame

Rationalization of parastatals and state funded agencies has been on the table since beginning of National Development Plan 11. This was conceptualized with a view to merge some parastatals that have overlapping mandates and duplicate basis of existence.

Information reaching WeekendPost suggest that Selibe Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU), will be merged with Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA). Established in 2008 SPEDU is an investment promotion company owned by the Government of Botswana tasked to coordinate investment promotion and economic diversification in the SPEDU region

The Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) Botswana is an institution under the Ministry of Investment Trade and Industry (MITI), established through the Special Economic Zones Act of 2015. SEZA’s mandate is to establish, develop and manage Special Economic Zones (SEZs).

SEZA was set up to deliver investor friendly services and incentives aimed at enhancing the competitiveness of investors and providing supportive operating SEZ environment through delivery of a one stop shop service to enhance investor efficiency as well as providing serviced infrastructure and fit for purpose property solutions to investors.

The adverse impacts of COVID-19 pandemic on Botswana’s economy and government revenue have amplified the need for rationalization of some parastatals, many of these organizations are view as a waste of government money. The novel corona virus has suppressed Botswana’s fiscal muscle pushing government into reprioritization corner to embark on unprecedented cost serving drive.

Curtailing subvention funds to parastatals was highlighted as one of those key areas earmarked to free up money for more pressing matters. “We will have to relook at the money channeled to our parastatals and state agencies, are we still getting value for money , under this situation of depressed government revenue we will have to reduce the amount of money we giving to our parastatals,” said Minister of Finance & Economic Development Dr Thapelo Matsheka earlier this year in April.

Responding to WeekendPost’s inquiry on SPEDU, SEZA matter Minister of Investment Trade & Industry Peggy Serame referred this publication to her parliament address on Tuesday. Minister Serame told lawmakers that Government had recognized the need to rationalize some parastatals noting that it has been observed that some have duplicate mandates and redundant deliverables.

“This in turn has been underscored to stretch government coffers as hundreds of millions of subvention exit the national treasury,” she said. Serame underscored that a committee has been set up led by Minister of Finance, Dr Thapelo Matsheka to asses all existing parastatals and state funded agencies.

“Government has about 60 parastatals, in my ministry we have about 12 state owned enterprises, they are too many, we have started a process to reduce them, some will be merged with others , while some will not exist at all after this rationalization excise,” said Serame.

She further told parliament that Minister Matsheka’s committee which has been tasked by cabinet will submit its findings on rationalization of State Owned Enterprises and parastatals in October this year. “The findings of this assessment by Dr Matsheka’s committee will be presented to cabinet following which an exercise would commence to implement its findings, subject to cabinet approval.”

Minister Serame revealed that the rationalization is not only intended to save government funds but also to improve efficiency and service delivery. “Government is spending a lot of money on these SOEs and parastatals, we have been asked before why we have Botswana Development Corporation(BDC), National Development Bank (NDB) and Citizen Economic Empowerment (CEDA, we will look at these organizations and see how we reconfigure them to get value for money,” she said.

Earlier this year Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West Dithapelo Keorapetse suggested that it was time SPEDU‘s mandate be reviewed. “We need an expedited review of the mandate of SPEDU or close it down altogether. It cannot be business as usual. The town’s economy needs resuscitation,” he said.

According to Keorapetse SPEDU in its current form is incapacitated and unable to drive serious economic revitalization through cutting edge enterprises and labour intensive industries.
“A broadened mandate to make a fully fledged investment arm of the region is what we need. SPEDU should be able to go into joint ventures with domestic and foreign investors and setup profit making business,” he said in an interview with this publication in February after delivery of the 2020/21 Budget Speech.

He underscored that SPEDU must be able to do all things necessary to set up industries in Phikwe without being encumbered by any other entity. “That’s what special economic zone principle is about,” he said. On Tuesday SPEDU Corporate Communications Manager Sheila Moakufi told WeekendPost that she was not aware of the imminent merger or restructuring of SPEDU. “That would be high level information and I am not aware of it as yet,” she said.

 

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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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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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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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