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Creating Botswana’s Next Value Frontiers

Tuelo Botlhole

Many economists have published detailed models about how steep a curve the movement from middle income status to high status is.

The middle-income trap has left many cabinets and high-powered delegations of experts drawing economic formulas that have left nothing beyond growing bodies of theory and a few actions that have delivered the much sought-after value. Emerging markets still remain emerging markets – a status quo long predicted to remain as such for many lifetimes.  A few countries have broken away from the middle-income barriers since the establishment of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Our republic has been having the same debate for more than a generation whilst our economic diversification debate is still on full steam.

As we confront a changing world and new realities we have to answer difficult questions about where we are and where we are going. As a predominantly import economy, how much value do we derive from this economic model versus in-country capacity building in manufacturing? How is the balance of trade between our exports and our imports?  Which value frontiers remain untapped? What can give a genuine jump into a high-income economy? How do we get over the – ‘we are better than most adage and complacency?’  How can our natural endowments be the spring board of international competitiveness? What happens when basic goods run dry because exporters cannot even meet their own home demand?

As a construction industry player, I dream of a belt of vast factories – strong primary industries that mushroom from our cities and towns from Ramokgwebana to Charles Hill and beyond – giving beam and life to our people. Skills are harnessed, transferred and shared with our people as we forge a winning coalition of elevating our country beyond what we are and where we are now.  I remember the pride of our fathers when they came back from mines back in the yester years, the mere pride of using their own hands and skills in productivity.  They understood their contribution in the value chain. In Selibe Phikwe the ‘unending smoke’ from the BCL Mine represented life for the town and its people. A strong sense of nostalgia and a blend of emotions drew tears for many when for the first time in two generations the smoke failed to rise to the skies. The clear skies were symbolic of the new era a new time and a new reality – all minerals are finite. They are abundant today and they are depleted tomorrow.

Nkosi Mwaba, the former Botswana Export and Manufacturers Association Chairman (BEMA) and the current Chairman of Association Entrepreneurs Botswana (AEB) in a recent documentary commented on the pride of strong, local, vibrant manufacturing sector within our shores. “The global value chain can still be fully optimised for a strong manufacturing backbone in our country. We can support existing local manufactures to compete, increase their quality models and have sufficient capacity to cater for our economy and export. I worked for Bolux, they mastered their raw materials, where they source them at competitive rates, created a strong human capital base and today they do not only supply Botswana they supply the region,” says Mwaba.

Many global case studies support this. Germany was resilient in the 2008 global recession because of small enterprises that are a major contributor to the economy. The recession which changed the economic perking order in Europe acknowledged Germany is a supreme economy which was almost insulated when the global economy weaned in horror.

The rise of nationalism is a wave that is sweeping across different nation-states globally.  Exacerbated by the new reality of Covid-19 our regional trade is slowly creating a ‘one man for himself’ atmosphere. One of the senior Executive Managers Teedzani Majaula at Botswana National Productivity Centre (BNPC) asked a question. “What happens when South Africa closes its borders to us? What happen when they switch off their power, fuel and food produce? We have to reach a burning platform which will drive and trigger action,”

His assertions go beyond the normal free market economics argued by the ‘old school’ of markets and economics. The argument of raw materials, cost of production and natural endowments may be a to an extent hindrance towards stabilising critical tenets of our economy and day to day livelihoods for the long term. Israel is one of the largest exporters of produce with a climate similar to ours because of the huge numbers of scientists per capital in the country. What may have been dismissed as bear lands and desert terrains is at the centre of harvesting and exporting thousands of tonnes of produce per year.

The new economic model should look into how much of the import bill should be diverted towards the growth of local manufacturers across different industries. Where there is capacity there is no need for imports where there is a shortage there can be a balanced trade-off which includes imports to mitigate shortages. Moatlholdi Sebabole argues that there has to be a balance between increasing local capacity and disturbing FDIs for the broader health of our GDP. “Any form of protectionism may trigger unwanted circumstances in attracting FDIs. There has to be a well-managed narrative in terms of how this is structured,” he argues.

“Establishment of industries is built on assumptions, the access to raw materials at reasonable costs, labour markets that can deliver value, creation the entire value chain considers the profitability and the profitability growth. Going against this grain in hope of support may trigger unwanted circumstances. However, when the quality of products is good the Government can protect those good,” notes Majaule.

For PPC Botswana, the burning platform has always been how the local manufacturer which used local fly ash from Morupule B for years before the arrangement changed can continue employing Batswana.

The quarries in Kgale, Francistown and Mokolodi are part of a value chain which has strong downstream industry beneficiation. The plant at Gaborone West Industrial are a chemical process of cement production which has emboldened and empowered local applied chemistry experts, chemical engineering gurus amongst others. That entire value is lost when the emphasis is on imports at the expense of establishing a full operation. Materials used in blasting rocks, the people behind the science, the expertise and the blending process of cement drives the conversation about having globally competitive assets that can compete in any part of the globe as outlined by the vision of the National Human Resource Development Strategy. With over BWP120 million paid in taxes, imagine how big an impact the cement industry can be if all players had set up shop in-country.

A lot of good quality players have not seen enough of sunlight in many manufacturing industries, not because they cannot compete but because the products and services which were tailored for the market were overlooked for goods and services from far away. When FDIs come into Botswana they should have different strategic options of setting up not just green field where they start from scratch, they should have options of licensing, joint ventures and buying out local players. This will give a huge return to local players and their shareholders.  Indonesia has introduced industry protection for the same reasons. The Motor industry in South Africa is protected against grey imports. In Zimbabwe the cost of importing attracts 100% duty for specific goods which are available in-country.

Our philosophy of supporting local enterprise development, community building and CSI projects for SMMEs is our step of demonstrating that true value should include how players impact and influence SMMEs.  We have been part of the community growth and development with our signature rising buildings across the country, a testament to our quality management process. For close to half a century our buildings still stand.  Matsiloje, PPC and other local manufacturers have good products, the only thing left is for us to answer the question -what do we want to be. An import economy or a vibrant force of nature that is self-sustaining no matter what?

We are at a crossroads, if sings of Covid-19 are anything to go buy, the future of our manufacturing sector is buying local and enhancing capacity of our home-brewed brands. The avenues for new value frontiers are available. The question is -are we bold enough to take the vital steps to make it happen?

*Dumisani Ncube is Digital Executive at PR Practice

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TENDER NOTICE AND INVITATION TO TENDER T 1.1

3rd December 2021
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GATA LE RONA Comes To Completion

6th September 2021
BPOPF

The Botswana Public Officers Fund (BPOPF) is now mandated by law to have pension fund administration and investment management conducted by independent licensed entities.

This means that these functions must be fully outsourced. This became necessary due to the enacting by Parliament of the Retirement Funds Act in 2014 (RFA Act) and the promulgation of subsidiary legislation governing the RFA Act by the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBIFIRA).

Therefore, the outsourcing project name coded Gata Le Rona journey comes to completion as the BPOPF hands over fund administration outsourcing services to NMG Administrators Botswana. NMG Administrators Botswana will be collecting contributions on behalf of the BPOPF, maintain all Member records, payment of claims, permit any excess cash to the BPOPF for investment and manage pensioner payroll. The BPOPF remains committed to building brighter futures together.

Following a significant 19-month long transition journey, the Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF), officially handed over fund administration services to NMG Administrators Botswana, as the outsourcing project comes to fruition. The project, which began in October 2019, commenced following amendments to the Retirement Funds Act (Section 15 (i).

Effective 2 June 2021, NMG Administrators Botswana will collect contributions on behalf of the BPOPF, maintain all Member records, payment of claims, permit any excess cash to the BPOPF for investment and manage pensioner payroll.

Noted CEO of the BPOPF, Mr. Moemedi Malindah, “This is a large-scale project and one we are proud to say was managed with the utmost diligence, with our Members at heart in all that we did and indeed continue to do. The BPOPF continues to engage all key stakeholders to ensure this transition is a smooth one.

Members can be rest assured that their pensions and benefits are not affected as NMG Administrators Botswana takes over the day-to-day fund administration tasks. This is a bright new chapter and we are more than ready and confident in the future.”

NMG Administrators Botswana is a joint venture between Lecha Administration (a company owned 100% by the BPOPF) and NMG South Africa. Lecha Administration owns 51% shares and NMG South Africa owns 49% shares in NMG Administrators Botswana.

“Re a leboga, Batswana, for your patience and support; especially our valued Members. We remain committed to investing in your golden years and building a brighter future together,” concluded Malindah.

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BSB Expands towards financial inclusion

6th September 2021

“As part of the bank’s quest to fulfil its financial inclusion mandate, Botswana Savings Bank (BSB) has focused more on expanding its footprint across the country to take its services to the communities it serves during the 2020 fiscal period” said Nixon Marumoloa, the Bank’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

According to the CEO, BSB’s focus in 2020 was expansion, visibility, continued mobilization and delivery of its inclusive finance agenda to provide simple, appropriate and accessible financial solutions to the under-served in a sustainable manner.

“In order to achieve our goal, the bank had to make compromises on some of our short-term goals in order to fulfil long term solutions to our customers. In advancing the bank’s financial inclusion agenda, we are proud to announce that BSB launched four (4) Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) in Gaborone, Mogoditshane, Old Naledi and Bokaa. This is in partial fulfillment of our strategy and commitment to our communities to ensure that our products and services are accessible to all. It gives us pride to be the sole service provider in these areas where financial services were previously non- existent,” Marumoloa said.

Botswana Savings Bank is currently approaching the final year of its strategic period of 2016-2021.  Marumoloa said BSB is now more determined to ensure that the Bank totally transforms to provide life events, cradle to grave products through digitised service channels for all income groups in Botswana and beyond.

Improved products will be launched into the market during 2021, moving on to 2022. The highlight product for the new financial year, according to the CEO is the Pensioners Loan facility.

“This product will ensure that the marginalised senior citizens continue to have financial freedom and access to financial services during their years of retirement,” he noted.

Further, the BSB CEO added that it is in the final year of the strategic period that the digitisation and integration programme will be executed and partially completed, with some elements overlapping into the following financial year. He said Point of Sales Machines will be deployed across the bank’s network to enable the phasing out of passbooks which will be replaced with Visa enabled BSB Debit Cards.

“As other banks close branches, we will open new branches and service points across the country to ensure we live up to our mandate of financial inclusion,” he stated.

The History of BSB stretches back more than 20 years. The bank has since experienced transformational growth, moving from a traditional bank to a 21st century financial institution with independent branches in Gaborone, Francistown, Serowe, Mahalapye and Hukuntsi.

The BSB Chairman Mr Kealeboga Molelowatladi added that BSB continues to increase its physical proximity to its customers as part of its financial inclusion mandate which has been embedded into the bank’s corporate strategy.

“Ultimately, our goal is to increase our footprint and brand visibility as we provide affordable savings solutions across the country,” he expanded.  Moreover, Mr Molelowatladi highlighted that The Bank is determined to ensure that it delivers on it’s five-year strategic plan by end of 2021.  He noted that the bank has embarked on various long-term projects that are currently work in progress.

These projects are part of the bank’s growth strategy with a focus to increase our footprint in Botswana.

Mr Molelowatladi stated that, this includes the opening of new branches across the country to ensure that BSB’s services are accessible to all Batswana.

However, he revealed that a major drawback in implementing the bank’s strategy was lack of integration of systems. As a solution however, he affirmed that the Bank is working on implementing new systems to improve the bank’s efficiency and effectiveness.

“We are looking forward to the phasing out of the traditional passbooks as we introduce digital channels and automate our processes for customer convenience. We remain confident that despite the rapid changes in our economic environment, our strategic priorities will enable us to drive sustainable growth for our business,’ he said.

During the same period, he also revealed that the bank identified a superior banking system that will be implemented and rolled out by 2021. He said, this banking system shall be the backbone in the bank’s digital transformation.  In his views, it is through this system that the bank will optimize its internal processes to provide a sound value proposition to Batswana and improve profitability of the bank by reducing the cost to income ratio.

The Bank continues to be profitable, with the year ended 31 March 2021 returning a modest profit after tax of P5.2 million due to pressure on both revenue and rising costs. Although the result could be easily read as a regression on the results of the year before, a simple reduction of the government grant received in the previous year paints a picture of a bank that is set to realize an improvement in its operating margins when measured by a significant growth in advances. The bank’s balance sheet continues to grow year on year.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, hinderances have become quite the norm but the Bank has managed to persevere and remain true to its strategic objectives. This reflects the undeniable resilience and the progressive leadership that is at the helm of the Bank. The expansion plans that are underway are a harbinger of the growth and success that BSB is on the verge of achieving.

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