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Botswana still stuck with credit-risky paint even towards 2021

Moody's

Renowned credit ratings and analytics institution; Moody’s Investors Service in its 2021 outlook released midweek, maintains the red alert colour it placed on Botswana (A2 negative) five months ago, suggesting that Botswana together with 65 sovereigns in the world have plunged into credit risky status even towards next year.

Moody’s assigns ratings on the basis of assessed risk and the borrower’s ability to make interest payments and its ratings are closely watched by many investors. In simple terms credit agencies asses willingness of debt issuers, like corporations or governments, to meet their financial obligations on time and in full.

In the case of Botswana, this means a lower of negative rating or gloomy outlook puts Botswana at a disadvantage when it comes to securing loans or any credit facility from the international market. This also determines the sentiment of foreign investors. Moody’s is placed with Standard & Poor’s (S&P) and Fitch as ‘The Big Three’ credit rating agencies.

In September this year Botswana got a negative outlook on its credit ratings as S&P revised its outlook on Botswana to negative from stable and affirming its ‘BBB+/A-2’ ratings. S& P said that at the time that it expect Botswana’s GDP to contract by 9 percent in 2020 because of the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, compounded by weaker diamond exports.

Botswana which maintained the Moody’s A2 grade since 2001, which is regarded as “Upper medium grade,” got into the red in May this year amid Covid-19 wave- barely two months after the pandemic broke in this country-and got a negative outlook up to now. Moody’s 2021 outlook projects Botswana to remain with the A2 negative outlook tag until next year.

“Our outlook for sovereign creditworthiness in 2021 is negative, reflecting our expectations for the fundamental conditions that will drive sovereign credit over the next 12-18 months. The widespread fallout from the pandemic and the measures adopted by sovereigns to contain it have created an economic, fiscal and social shock that will last into 2021 and beyond,” said Moody’s research released on Wednesday.

The only time Botswana’s credit outlook was A2 positive was in 2007, it has always had a “stable” status which is regarded as good for creditworthiness. The last time Botswana got a “negative” outlook was in 2010 following the aftermath of global recession. Botswana has maintained the “stable” status until May this year.

When getting a bearish outlook despite an affirmation of A2 rating in May, Bank of Botswana explained that the affirmation of the rating, at ‘A2’, is “underpinned by the Government’s still strong, albeit deteriorating, fiscal and debt metrics, in particular the relatively low public debt level, high debt affordability and fiscal and external liquidity buffers that help in mitigating the impact of the coronavirus shock.”

In the same communication the central bank said Botswana’s track record of “fiscal prudence, adherence to the rule of law, robust institutions and effective policy making, as well as the current level of the Pula Fund,” which continue to provide key fiscal and external buffers.

However this week, Moody’s warned that in the near term sovereigns like Botswana with low credit ratings will be the most adversely affected given their lower economic and institutional strength as well as their more limited access to funding compared to sovereigns with stronger credit profiles.

“However, over the medium term, sovereigns across the rating spectrum will face increasingly challenging policy trade-offs triggered or exacerbated by the crisis. These include developing exit strategies from the current supportive policy framework without jeopardizing the economic recovery, as well as structural economic and social reforms that support long-term growth and social cohesion,” Moody’s continued.

Moody’s projects a negative 2021 outlook as pandemic fallout weighs on economic activity, government finances, complicates policy choices. In July, Moody’s reduced its growth forecasts for Botswana and put it on -10.9, saying the rate was in response to the coronavirus crisis.

“Many African governments have limited financial and institutional capacity to absorb the current coronavirus shock,” said Kelvin Dalrymple, a Moody’s Vice President – Senior Credit Officer in July. “The longer-term negative effects on the region’s sovereign credit profiles will leave them with diminished capacity to absorb future shocks.’’

Expected sharpest declines in real GDP growth is said by Moody’s to be because of the impact of domestic restrictions on economic activity and the impact of a fall in global demand in key sectors such as tourism and mining. Botswana’s GDP for the second quarter of 2020, the time when Covid-19 faced off with this country’s population, frowned by 27 percent.

In May, Botswana got its fair share of the shock of Covid-19 effects, when Moody’s affirmed this country’s rating of ‘A2’ for long-term bonds denominated in both domestic and foreign currency, but changed the outlook from stable to negative.

Bank of Botswana said the downgrading by Moody’s is mostly prompted by the risks associated with coronavirus shocks, given Botswana’s strong dependency on the diamond industry for growth, exports and budget revenues.

“The revision of the outlook from stable to negative reflects the increasing risks of lower growth, higher budget deficits and likely resultant increase in government borrowing. In their assessment, Moody’s observed that these adverse effects of COVID-19 pandemic, combined with the current challenges the government faces on fiscal consolidation, could mean further deterioration of fiscal metrics to a level not consistent with the ‘A2’ sovereign credit rating,” explained the central bank then.

Last month when assessing sovereign ability to recovering revenue post coronavirus crisis, Moody’s said that move will be crucial but challenging. Moody’s last month also said resource-rich, like Botswana which is dependent on diamond exports, will also face a large drop in fiscal revenue. In May when Botswana’s outlook became negative, the central bank explained its “strong dependency on the diamonds industry for growth, exports and budget revenues,” said Bank of Botswana.

In the midweek report, Moody’s said there will be far more negative rating actions in 2020 than in 2019. The rating agency highlighted that as of 9 November 2020, 65 (60 %) of our 108 sovereign rating actions have been negative – a higher proportion than in 2019 (20%) and 2018 (30%).

Moody’s further said almost a third (33) of all rating actions in 2020 were downgrades, the highest tally since the actions taken in 2016 in response to the previous oil price shock. According to Moody’s the pandemic drove almost half of all sovereign rating actions in 2020. Out of the 65 negative rating actions, 43 taken on 33 sovereigns (or 23% of all Moody’s-rated sovereigns) were principally driven by the pandemic.

Constrained access to financing drove most of these actions, said Moody’s. The rating agency further said the other drivers were lower growth, particularly in tourism-reliant or otherwise concentrated economies, invariably accompanied by a sharp rise in debt; and the associated steep fall in oil and other commodities’ prices.

Business

Mining production rebounds to pre-Covid-19 levels

12th January 2022
Mining production

The local mining industry is on the rise again, emerging out of the COVID-19 pandemic induced headwinds. 

In 2020 mining operations had to curtail their production in response to plummeting demand across commodity markets. Companies also had to reduce their workforce to comply with COVID-19 protocols such as social distancing in an effort to curb the spread of the contagious plague.

This resulted in low production levels across the sector, however operations are significantly jumping back to pre-COVID-19 output levels albeit another variant that has now surfaced, posing uncertainty for the year 2022.

Just before close of business for the year 2021, Statistics Botswana released the Index of Mining Production, a quarterly measure of output across Botswana’s mining operations and extractive industries.

The Index of Mining Production stood at 95.5 during the third quarter of 2021, showing a year-on-year growth of 31.8 percent, from 72.5 registered during the third quarter of 2020.

The quarter-on-quarter analysis shows an increase of 11.6 percent from the index of 85.6 during the second quarter of 2021 to 95.5 observed during the period under review.

The main contributor to the increase in mining production came from the Diamonds, which contributed 31.2 percentage points.

Gold was the only negative contributor to mining production, at negative 0.4 of a percentage point.

Diamond production increased by 32.2 percent (1.584 million carats) from 4.916 million carats during the third quarter of 2020 to 6.5 million carats during the same quarter of the current year.

The increase was a result of planned strategy to align production with stronger trading conditions.

Similarly, the quarter-on-quarter analysis shows that production registered an increase of 11.6 percent (673 000 carats) during the third quarter of 2021 compared to the 5.8 million thousand carats during the second quarter of 2021.

Botswana’s flagship diamond producer is De Beers – Government jointly owned Debswana, by far the country’ s mining jewel and global leader in rough diamond production.

The other diamond producing operation is Lucara’s 100 % owned Karowe Mine, a relatively small operation but known around the globe for its spectacular diamond recoveries, the likes of which the world has never seen before.

Gold production decreased by 26.9 percent (65 kilograms) during the third quarter of 2021, from 241kilograms during the same quarter of the previous year to 176 kilograms currently

The quarter-on- quarter analysis reflects a decrease of 5.5 percent (10 kilograms) to 176 kilograms during the third quarter of 2021, compared to 186 kilograms in the preceding quarter.

Botswana’s sole gold producer is Galane Gold’s Mupane Mine in North East Botswana, enclaved around the historic gold fields of Francistown.

The decrease in production according to Statistics Botswana was a result of the deteriorating lifespan of the mine. Mupane Gold Mine is currently on a rough run with imminent workers strike over unsatisfactory payments. The impending protests have been heavily endorsed by Botswana Mine Workers Union.

In Sua Pan, the sodium crystals have risen to glory, making Sowa Town great again, Soda Ash production rose by 81.7 percent (29, 312 tonnes) from 35, 883 tonnes during the third quarter of 2020 to 65, 195 tonnes in the same quarter of the current year.

The quarter-on-quarter analysis shows that production went up by 12.5 percent (7, 233 tonnes) during the period under review, from 57, 962 tonnes during the previous quarter.

The increase in production is attributable to the effectiveness of the plant following refurbishment which occurred in the third quarter of 2020.

Salt production went up by 86.1 percent (78, 566 tonnes) to 169, 826 tonnes during the third quarter of 2021, from 91, 261 tonnes during the same quarter of the previous year.

Similarly, the quarter-on-quarter analysis shows that salt production registered an increase of 66.9 percent (68, 050 tonnes) compared to 101, 776 tonnes during the second quarter of 2021.

Botswana’s industrial scale Salt an Soda  Soda Ash producer is Botswana Ash (Botash), a 50-50 partnership between Botswana Government  and South African Chlor Alkali Holdings (CAH) Group.

Coal production increased by 1.0 percent (5, 434 tonnes), from 543, 793 tonnes during the third quarter of 2020, to 549, 227 tonnes in the current quarter.

The slight increase came as a result of the efforts made to meet both domestic and international high demand, particularly that new markets have been identified.

The quarter-on-quarter comparison shows that coal production went up by 13.1 percent (63, 585 tonnes) compared to 485, 642 tonnes during the second quarter of the current year.

Inthe coal space the only operating mines are the privately developed Minergy’s Masama located near Media Village and the wholly Gorvenment owned Morupule Coal Mine.

Copper-Nickel-Cobalt Matte recorded zero production during the period under review. The affected mines are still under provisional liquidation.

Copper in Concentrates and Silver though there has been exportation of Copper by the newly launched Khoemacau Copper Mine since July 2021, the mine has been engaged in preparatory mining activities in readiness for full operations intended for the year 2022.

The preparatory mining operations yielded rewarding outcomes as copper residues realized have been exported since July 2021.

The period between preparatory and full operations is intended to allow the production to stabilize before reporting production output figures.

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Business

Exports plummeted in October 2021

12th January 2022
diamonds

Botswana exports took a knock in October 2021 registering only P4,960.7 million, a 22.1 percent decline from the revised September 2021 value of P6,365.1 million, latest International Merchandise Trade Statistics  have revealed. 

According to this monthly data, released by Statistics Botswana late December 2021 the decline is attributed largely to the reduction in the exportation of Diamonds by 22.6 percent (P1, 264.8 million) from the revised September 2021 value of P5, 608.4 million to P4, 343.6 million.

Though it registered a decline in export figures , the Diamonds group still remained Botswana ‘s biggest exported commodity accounted for 87.6 percent (P4, 343.6 million) of total exports, followed by Copper and Machinery & Electrical Equipment with 3.1 percent (P152.2 million) and 2.6 percent (P131.3 million) respectively.

During the month Asia was the main destination for Botswana exports, having received 65.5 percent (P3, 249.0 million) of total exports. These exports were mainly destined to the UAE and India, having received 28.1 percent (P1, 395.1 million) and 20.4 percent (P1, 011.8 million) of total exports, respectively. Only Diamonds and Copper were exported to the regional block during the October.

Exports destined to the EU amounted to P1, 066.6 million, accounting for 21.5 percent of total exports during the month under review. Belgium received almost all of the exports destined to the regional union, acquiring 21.4 percent (P1, 062.0 million) of total exports during the reporting period. The Diamonds group was the main commodity group exported to the EU.

The SACU region received exports valued at P423.6 million, representing 8.5 percent of total exports. Machinery & Electrical Equipment and Live Cattle accounted for 28.0 percent (P118.6 million) and 14.1 percent (P59.7 million) of total exports to the customs union.

South Africa received 7.8 percent (P386.7 million) of total exports during the month under review more goods entered Botswana in October than the previous month September.

On the other side the value of imports for the month of October clocked P8, 801.5 million, mirroring an increase of 30.5 percent (P2, 056.1 million) over the September 2021 revised figure of P6, 745.4 million.

The increase was mainly attributed to a more than 100 percent (P1, 755.9 million) rise in the importation of Diamonds from the revised September 2021 figure of P1, 616.2 million to P3, 372.0 during the current period.

Diamonds contributed 38.3 percent (P3, 372.0 million) to total imports. Fuel; Food, Beverages & Tobacco and Machinery & Electrical Equipment followed with contributions of 12.3 percent (P1, 086.6 million), 11.7 percent (P1,034.1 million and 10.0 percent (P882.7 million) respectively. Chemicals & Rubber Products contributed 9.7 percent (P856.1 million).

During the month SACU region contributed 61.4 percent (P5, 405.3 million) to Botswana ‘s total imports. The top most imported commodity groups from the customs union were Fuel; Food, Beverages & Tobacco and Diamonds, with contributions of 19.9 percent (P1, 075.1 million), 17.9 percent (P965.0 million) and 16.3 percent (P882.5 million) to imports from the region, respectively.

South Africa contributed 58.8 percent (P5, 176.0 million) to total imports during the reporting period. Fuel, Food, Beverages & Tobacco and Diamonds made contributions of 18.4 percent (P952.3 million), 18.3 percent (P949.4 million), and 16.0 percent (P826.7 million) respectively to imports from South Africa.

Botswana received imports worth P1, 794.2 million from the EU, accounting for 20.4 percent of total imports during October 2021.

The major commodity group imported from the EU was Diamonds, at 89.8 percent (P1, 611.0 million) of all imports from the union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, with a contribution of 18.7 percent (P1, 643.1 million) of total imports during the month of October.

During the month Imports from Asia were valued at P989.5 million, accounting for 11.2 percent of total imports.

The major commodity groups imported from the regional block were Diamonds and Machinery & Electrical Equipment with contributions of 51.9 percent (P513.8 million) and 13.4 percent (P132.6 million) of total imports from Asia.

China and UAE supplied 2.5 percent (P221.3 million) and 2.3 percent (P202.0 million) of total imports during the period, respectively.

Canada supplied imports worth P364.0 million, representing 4.1 percent of Botswana’s total imports during the current period. Imports from Canada were mainly Diamonds, at 99.6 (P362.3 million) of imports from that country.

The rise in imports and decline in exports resulted in a trade deficit of P3, 840.8 million for the month of October.

During the month exports transported by Air were worth P4, 380.1 million, accounting for 88.3 percent of total exports, while those leaving the country by Road were valued at P567.5 million (11.4 percent) while  imports representing 51.7 percent (P4, 554.0 million) were transported into the country by Road.

Transportation of imports by Rail and Air accounted for 24.4 percent (P2, 148.0 million) and 23.8 percent (P2, 098.4 million) respectively.

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Debswana receives African award from Absa for its CEE policy

12th January 2022
Absa

Debswana Diamond Company, Botswana’s flagship mining business recently received an award from Absa Bank Group in recognition of its commitment to economic empowerment across the supply chain.

The 4th Annual Absa Business Day Supplier Development Awards were held in Johannesburg, South Africa on the 18th November 2021.

The awards celebrate companies that are working towards a better African continent through innovative and impactful supplier development initiatives.

The selection process acknowledges and recognizes corporates who go beyond the scorecard to open access, empower SMEs, foster learning, build a community of best practice and encourage a collaborative spirit within their industries and within the communities in which they operate.

Explaining how Debswana scooped the award Absa Bank Botswana Managing Director Keabetswe Pheko-Moshagane said: “At Absa Bank Botswana, we were excited that for the first time since inception, the 2021 awards were extended to include nominations from Sub-Saharan Africa.”

She explained that the judges special recognition awards for Sub Saharan Africa corporates (excluding South Africa) were made under four categories being: commitment to Economic Empowerment across the Supply Chain, commitment to women inclusion in the supply chain, Commitment to localization of the supply chain and lastly commitment to a pioneering supplier development.

“We immediately thought of the transformative and inspiring work that Debswana is doing locally and what the company continues to achieve through its Citizen Economic Empowerment Program,” she said.

Pheko-Moshagane explained that in recognition of this commitment and outstanding leadership Absa nominated Debswana Diamond Company into the competition under the category: “commitment to economic empowerment across the supply chain”, for which the company was selected as the winner.

The Absa Bank Botswana MD hailed Debswana Citizen Economic Empowerment Program as a true example of how the private sector can contribute to rebuilding the economy through and post the Covid -19 pandemic.

“Your commitment to citizen economic empowerment resonates with us at Absa bank, because we are also committed to and passionate about growing Small and Medium businesses as they represent a vital part of our economy,” she said.

In 2017 Absa, launched the Enterprise and Supply Chain Development (ESD) in the local market as a response to address some challenges faced by the SMEs. The main objective of ESD is to unlock lending to SMEs in corporate value chains.

The introduction of the ESD program has streamlined some of the stringent financing requirements like the provision of financial statements, security, historical performance and weak credit ratings.

The relaxation of the financing requirements has therefore enabled the SMEs to execute on the provision of goods or services for the clients and positively impacted their growth.

ESD uses non-traditional bank lending solutions to provide financing to SME’s. Through this program Absa offers 100% finance to Enterprises in corporate supply chains.

Moshagane said this approach has allowed Absa to unlock the opportunities within the large corporate as they are now assured that their suppliers and contractors will be able to deliver and in addition releasing the corporate cash flows.

“We continue to explore various partnership agreements with various corporates to see how best we can assist the SMEs in response to government’s call for Citizen Economic Empowerment by propelling the support of the SMMEs” she said.

Speaking to Absa & Debswana partnership Mrs Keabetswe Pheko-Moshagane said  the relationship thus far has seen Debswana extend contracts to the value of BWP1.2 billion to SMEs on a  joint program, and Absa has financed close to half a billion to these SMEs, some of which would not have ordinarily qualified for funding under normal banking circumstances.

“To date no SME on the program has had its banking or contract facility terminated, which speaks to the commitment on both our ends in ensuring the success of these SMEs”

Receiving the award, Debswana Acting Managing Director, Lynette Armstrong explained that Debswana started its Citizen Economic Empowerment journey with ABSA Bank in 2017, borne out of the realisation of access to finance challenges by citizen owned enterprises.

This partnership, initiated with a deliverable to implement a pilot project at Orapa Letlhakane Damtshaa Mines within the crushing and drilling spaces.

The two projects delivered the desired results in project KPI’s with impeccable safety records with Absa providing the required access to finance that enabled the citizen suppliers to acquire machinery for the projects.

In 2019, Debswana set up the Citizen Economic Empowerment Programme office a factor that accelerated the signing of a MoU in 2020 on access to finance between Debswana and ABSA and in that, ABSA has pledged to avail access to finance totalling an unprecedented BWP1billion over a period of 3 years.

To date, ABSA has financed 23 projects since 2020 at a total impact of BWP1.5 billion pula in Contract amount with more than BWP700 million advanced to citizen suppliers.

These funds enabled citizen suppliers to pay salaries on time, procure machinery in various areas such as drilling and crushing and participate in the recent LTE installation at Jwaneng Mine.

Armstrong said in the coming year 2022, CEEP will see Debswana focused on implementing plans aimed at supporting local manufacturing and local repairs and maintenance.

“This is where access to funding is key as the two areas of local manufacturing and local repairs and maintenance have a potential to create meaningful and sustainable employment in the medium to long term to achieve Debswana’s target of 20 000 jobs by 2024”

She noted that Debswana has committed to heightened efforts of connecting the Youth and Women in the Debswana Citizen Economic Empowerment conversation, capacitation series and participation in the economic opportunities to further, totally involve all possible demographics and diversify the creativity of building sustainable communities and Make Life Brilliant for all, a total commitment of our Debswana Strategy 2024.

The Debswana Acting MD said the recognition of Debswana for its commitment to economic empowerment across the supply chain by is an encouragement to the Debswana – ABSA partnership and “gives us hope to further intensify our efforts to create opportunities for our fellow citizens and support Government’s efforts towards achieving prosperity for all in terms of Vision 2036”

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