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BoB in historic benchmark rate cut

BoB Governor: Moses Pelaelo

Businesses, banks and household on Thursday midday received the much anticipated announcement from Bank of Botswana Governor, Moses Pelaelo, who said the central bank has decided to reduce the Bank Rate by 50 basis points from 4.25 percent to 3.75 percent.

This is the second 50 basis points cut this year after the April cut from 4.25 percent to 4.75 percent. This Thursday cut is the record lowest since 2006, two years before global recession. The two cuts this year were seen as intervention to cushion the economic impact of Covid-19.
Covid-19 and its new normal to most business activities shifted most macroeconomic dynamics and dimension; this recent cut according to the central bank is meant to support the domestic economy which is backed against the wall by inflationary pressures.

The headline inflation remained steady at 1 percent in August and well below the lower bound of the Bank’s objective range of 3-6 percent after waking from the lowest level since records began in January of 1997(June and July, 0.9 percent). For August, the upward pressure came from prices of food & non-alcoholic beverages (4.2 percent vs 3.9 percent in July); housing & utilities (6.1 percent vs 5.9 percent); alcoholic beverages & tobacco (6.6 percent, the same pace as in July) as the economy was rising from a gloomy lockdown. But the Bank has decided to improve spending.

Inflation has been at the bottom of BoB’s container of 3 percent to 6 percent for 11 months and it is expected to bounce back to the targeted range in the third quarter of 2021 according to Pelaelo.  “The COVID-19 pandemic and consequent containment measures have severely throttled economic activity globally and domestically as production, supply chains, project implementation and provision of goods and services are constrained. Similarly, consumption and spending are disrupted, hence domestic demand pressures and foreign prices remain subdued.

Consequently, overall risks to the inflation outlook are skewed to the downside. However, inflation may rise above current forecasts if international commodity prices increase beyond current projections and in the event of upward price pressures occasioned by supply constraints due to travel restrictions and lockdowns,” says Pelaelo on Thursday.

Pelaelo and his Central Bank Monetary Committee was on this recent decision making amid the work-on of the second quarter of 2020 GDP data. In the Thursday press conference, Pelaelo said already Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracted by 4.2 percent in the 12 months to June 2020, compared to a growth of 3.9 percent in the year to June 2019.

“The decline in output is attributable to the contraction in output of both the mining and non-mining sectors, resulting from the associated COVID-19 pandemic containment measures. Mining output contracted by 18.6 percent compared to a growth of 1.5 percent in the corresponding period ending June 2019, mainly due to weaker performance of the diamond, copper, soda ash and other mining subsectors,” said the Governor on Thursday.

Furthermore, Pelaelo said Non-mining GDP contracted by 2.6 percent in the year to June 2020 compared to a growth of 4.2 percent in the corresponding period in 2019. The decline in non-mining GDP was mainly due to contractions in output of the trade, hotels and restaurants, construction, manufacturing and transport and communications sectors.

But the storm was felt recently in the release of the second quarter of 2020 economic data, a depiction of the heavy wave that invisibly came with Covid-19 inside Botswana borders in March. A mammoth decline in real value added of Mining & Quarrying and Trade, Hotels & Restaurants industries by 60.2 and 40.3 percent respectively made sure that the Real Gross Domestic Product for the second quarter of 2020 plunges by 24.0 percent.

“The nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the second quarter of 2020 was P36, 863.5 million compared to P50, 726.5 million registered during the previous quarter. This represents a quarterly decrease of 27.3 percent between the two periods. During the quarter under review, General Government became the major contributor to GDP for the first time in many years, by 19.7 percent, followed by Finance & Business Services, Trade, Hotels & Restaurants and Mining & Quarrying by 16.7, 16.5 and 8.1 percent respectively. The contribution of other sectors was below 7.0 percent, with Water & Electricity being the lowest at 1.6 percent,” said Statistics Botswana.

A tale of contractions in projections by economists this year, riddled in uncertainty and all spelling deterioration in economic Botswana’s growth this year. Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and the International estimates that the economy will decrease by 8.9 percent in 2020, from an earlier forecast of a 13.1 percent contraction, before rebounding to growth of 7.7 percent in 2021. Commercial bank with a locally focused and commissioned research, Rand Merchant Bank, maintains an expectation of 10.5 percent contraction in growth in 2020.

Projections by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is for the domestic economy to contract by 9.6 percent in 2020 compared to 5.4 percent in the April 2020 World Economic Outlook, before rebounding to a growth of 8.6 percent in 2021 for Botswana in 2020.  According to the BoB Governor, with recovery in 2021, the contraction in 2020 equates, approximately, to a two-year loss of output. He further stated that the disparity in forecasts attests to the challenges of making forward projections when there is uncertainty about the duration of constrained economic activity, the resultant adverse impact on productive capacity, as well as the speed of resumption of production and pace of recovery in demand. Pelaelo however mentioned that there will be revisions on all the projections made.

Pelaelo explained that, something that was further echoed by his deputy Kealeboga Masalila, BoB’s monetary policy has recognized that the short-term adverse developments in the domestic economy occur against a potentially supportive environment including accommodative monetary conditions. The Governor was referring to, “reforms to further improve the business environment; concerted efforts by government to mitigate the impact of COVID-19; as well as the likely impact of the Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan.”

A lot of anticipation has been on the Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan (ERTP) and its expected take off. With economists curious on whether there will be any monetary policy coordination from the central bank to the ERTP, like an expansionary monetary stance in the form of cutting the benchmark rate, as a way of catalysing the implementation of economic recovery efforts.

According to Rand Merchant Bank Global Markets Research seen by this publication, the government is expected to publish ERTP in 4Q:2020. But the implementation of ERTP is expected to begin in 2021. “With its success relying heavily on prudent project management by government,” says the report.

Business

Pan-African risk advisor Minet Group and Botswana’s Africa Lighthouse Capital acquire Aon Botswana

21st May 2021
Pan-African-risk-advisor-Minet-Group-

Strategic partnership offers inherent benefits of global knowledge, African insights, and local expertise and commitment

Minet Group and Africa Lighthouse Capital today announced that they have received regulatory approval and fulfilled all requirements to acquire Aon’s shareholding in Aon Botswana, and consequently will begin the process to rebrand to Minet Botswana.

Minet Group is a well-known and trusted pan-African risk advisory firm and Aon’s largest Global Network Correspondent and has been rapidly expanding its African footprint since 2017 through the acquisition of operations from global professional services firm Aon in Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.   Minet has been delivering world class products and services across Africa for over 70 years.

Africa Lighthouse Capital (ALC) is a leading Botswana citizen-owned private equity firm focused on investing in Botswana companies and propelling them into regional champions, with over BWP 500 million in funds under management.

The new entity will be rebranded to Minet and will inherit deeply rooted respect by its clients for their innovative and locally relevant solutions, responsiveness, and efficient processes. Furthermore, it shall have the benefit of consistency in leadership and staffing, with Barnabas Mavuma, previously Managing Director of Aon Botswana, continuing to lead the business as the MD supported by the local management team.

 “The addition of Minet Botswana to our growing African network affirms our belief in the great opportunities for growth that Africa offers, driven by rising consumer demand, huge investment in infrastructure and quick adoption of new technology,” says Joe Onsando, CEO at Minet Group.

“This transaction significantly adds to the diversity and skills base of our team and will have a positive impact on the range of products and services we provide. Our Correspondent agreement with Aon gives us access to global expertise and data driven insights and uniquely positions us to deliver risk advisory solutions that reduce volatility, thus driving improved performance for our clients. This is a very exciting time to be Minet in Africa.”

“The significantly increased Botswana citizen shareholding effected by this transaction gives rise to an exciting era of local market focus and growth for Minet Botswana,” says Bame Pule, Founder and CEO of Africa Lighthouse Capital.  “We intend to work with Minet Botswana’s local management team to further localise the business in terms of product development, while at the same time investing in local skills development and business development.  We look forward to this exciting journey, which will result in a significantly enhanced service offering for Minet Botswana’s clients.”

Consequently, and similar to the other members of the Minet Group, Minet Botswana becomes an Aon Global Network Correspondent, retaining its access to Aon’s resources, technology, and best practises, combined with the benefit of independent, local agility. This transaction furthermore significantly increases local shareholding, enabling operations to become even nimbler and better positioned to unlock new and existing growth opportunities.

Clients of Minet Botswana will experience continuity of product and service delivery standards in the short term. In the near future, they can expect an enhanced offering that combines agility with technology and product innovation, tailormade for their specific needs.

Together, Minet and ALC bring a sound understanding of local market conditions, strong governance, and an established track record in the region. These qualities, combined with Aon’s global capabilities and expertise, will bring clear benefits for clients.

This transaction vastly increases citizen ownership with shareholders who are going to be active in the business. The transfer of equity interests in Botswana to investors with local and regional expertise, presence and commitment will allow the businesses to move quickly in line with market movements, and to introduce products that are tailored to the local market.

“Minet’s commitment and drive to incessantly adapt to changing market conditions, and to innovate to meet the unique insurance demands of the African continent, while maintaining the high standards customers have come to expect – Onsando concludes – will continue to grow and give Minet a powerful competitive edge within the African market”.

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Business

Africa scores $285 Billion IMF deal

21st May 2021
IMF-Managing-Director-Kristalina-Georgieva

French President Emmanuel Macron received 21 Heads of state and government officials from Africa during the recent summit on the Financing of African Economies that focused on Africa to take full advantage of the tectonic shifts in the global economy and the call for a joint effort for financial and vaccination support for the continent.

President Emmanuel Macron stressed that “Most regions of the world are now launching massive post-pandemic recovery plans, using their huge monetary and fiscal instruments. But most African economies suffer the lack of adequate capacities and such instruments to do the same. We cannot afford leaving the African economies behind.

We, the Leaders participating to the Summit, in the presence of international organizations, share the responsibility to act together and fight the great divergence that is happening between countries and within countries.

This requires collective action to build a very substantial financial package, to provide a much-needed economic stimulus as well as the means to invest for a better future. Our ambition is to address immediate financing needs, to strengthen the capacity of African governments to support a strong and sustainable economic recovery and to reinforce the vibrant African private sector, as a long-term growth driver for Africa.”

For her part, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva highlighted that “there is urgency to focus on financing Africa. Last year, the pandemic-caused recession shrank the GDP of the Continent by 1.9 percent – the worst performance on record. This year, we project global growth at 6 percent, but only half that 3.2 percent for Africa.” Adding that Africa needs to grow faster than the world at 7 to 10 percent to meet the aspirations of its youthful populations, and become more prosperous and more secure.

Georgieva revealed that the price tag on the shot is estimated to be “$285 billion through 2025. Of this $135 billion is for low-income countries. This is the bare minimum. To do more – to get African nations back on their previous path of catching up with wealthy countries – will cost roughly twice as much. These are large numbers. They may seem out of reach. But to quote Nelson Mandela: impossible until it is done.”

The main areas of interest to achieve this include; first, end the pandemic everywhere, 40 percent of the population of all countries is targeted to get vaccinated by the end of 2021, and at least 60 percent by mid-2022.

Second, bilateral and multilateral development financing grants and concessional loans ought to go up. Over the last year, the IMF have swiftly ramped their financing for the Continent, including providing 13 times their average annual lending to sub-Saharan Africa. And are working to do much more. The IMF has also received support to increase access limits so they can scale up their zero-interest lending capacity through the Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust.

The IMF has also devised exceptional measures. Their membership backs an unprecedented new allocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDR) of $650 billion, by far the largest in their history. Once approved, which is intended to be achieved by the end of August, it will directly and immediately make about $33 billion available to African members. It will boost their reserves and liquidity, without adding to their debt burden.

Over the course of the last year, the IMF has built experience in facilitating the on lending of SDRs – thus managing to triple their concessional lending capacity as a result.

The Third being, actions at home. According to Georgieva “a crisis is an opportunity for transformational domestic reforms that increase domestic revenue, improve public services, and strengthen governance. For instance, digitalization can improve tax administration and revenue collection, and the quality of public spending. And with radical transparency, Africa can tap into new sources of finance – such as carbon offsets.

There is ample scope for countries to encourage private investment, including in social and physical infrastructure. New IMF research, published today, highlights that domestic and international investors could provide at least 3 percent of GDP per year of additional financing by the end of this decade.”

Reforms of international taxation can also support Africa’s growth. For a long time, the IMF has been in favor of minimum corporate tax rates to reduce the race to the bottom and tax avoidance. And they strongly support an international agreement on digital tax, something France has been a leading voice for. It is important to secure fair distribution of tax revenues, so they can contribute to closing Africa’s financial gap.

Georgieva called on to each and every one to step up. Reminding the attendees that from history they are all familiar with what a shock of this magnitude can do if not countered forcefully and effectively.

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Business

Indian COVID-19 variant hits Botswana diamond sales

20th May 2021
Indian-Covid--19-variant-hit-rough-diamonds-sales---De-Beers-

De Beers’ Group, the world’s number one diamond producer by value, this week attributed the downfall of its sales for the fourth cycle week to the second wave of the Covid-19 variant (B.1.617.2) which was first discovered in India.

Diamond trading conditions have been hit by the Covid-19 crisis in India which is a major cutting and polishing centre for the world’s diamond trade.

The outbreak of the new variant has led to a humanitarian crisis with 280, 284 fatalities of the disease reported.

The London headquartered company said the sales in its fourth cycle fell to $380m (about P4.1 billion) down from $450m (about P4.8 billion) in the third cycle though it was higher than the fifth cycles of last year when the group shifted only $56m (P600 million).

De Beers emphasized that they continued to implement a more flexible approach to rough diamond sales during the fourth sales cycle of 2021, with the Sight event extended beyond its normal week-long duration.

The De Beers group Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Bruce Cleaver said the company continues to see robust demand for diamond jewellery in the key US and China consumer markets.

“However, the scale of the second wave of Covid-19 in India, where the majority of the world’s diamonds are cut and polished, has led to reduced midstream capacity and subsequently lower rough diamond demand, during what is already a seasonally slower time of year for midstream purchases,” said Cleaver.

Meanwhile Botswana health officials have confirmed the new Covid-19 variant in Botswana. The Ministry of Health and Wellness -through a press statement- informed members of the public that the variant (B.1.617), was confirmed in Botswana on 13th May 2021.

According to Christopher Nyanga, spokesperson at the Ministry, this followed a case investigation within Greater Gaborone, involving people of Indian origin who arrived in the country on the 24th April 2021.

Moreover the World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced that the Indian Covid-19 variant was a global concern, with some data suggesting that the variant has “increased transmissibility” compared with other strains.

The India variant (B.1.617.2) – is one of four mutated versions of the coronavirus which has been designated as being “of concern” by transitional public health bodies, with others first being identified in Kent, South Africa and Brazil.

Nevertheless when speaking at Bank of America Global Metals and Mining conference, Anglo American Chief Executive Officer, Mark Cutifani said the company portfolio is increasingly tilted towards future enabling products and those that need to decarbonise energy and transport in order to meet consumers’ needs – from home appliances, electronics and infrastructure, to food and luxury goods.

“We see material opportunity for Anglo American to continue to set itself apart in terms of the performance of our diversified business, further enhanced through sector-leading 25% volume growth over the next four years, led by copper and the platinum group metals,” said Cutifani.

“Most importantly, as the supplier of such critical materials, it is the duty of our industry to ensure that in everything we do, we act responsibly and deliver enduring value for our full breadth of stakeholders, including our planet.”

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