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.
The Bulb World Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and entrepreneur, Ketshephaone Jacob has been selected as a 2021 Top 50 Africa’s Business Hero.
Jacob was chosen from a pool of 12,000 applicants – many of whom are highly-skilled and accomplished entrepreneurs.
Africa’s Business Hero, sponsored by technology entrepreneur, Jack Ma, aims to identify, support and inspire the next generation of African entrepreneurs who are making a difference in their local communities, working to solve the most pressing problems, and building a more sustainable and inclusive economy for the future.
The initiative is as inclusive as possible and applications were open in English and French to entrepreneurs from all African countries, all sectors, and all ages who operate businesses formally registered and headquartered in an African country, and that have a 3 year-track record.
Every year, finalists are selected to compete in the ABH finale pitch competition and participate in a TV Show that will be broadcast online and across the continent.
The finalists will compete for a share of US $1.5 million in grant money.
The Bulb World, is home grown LED light manufacturing company, which was partly funded by Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) at the tune of P4 million, to manufacture LED lighting bulbs for both commercial and residential use in 2017.
The Bulb World operate from the Special Economic Zone of Selibe Phikwe. Early this year, The BulB World announced its expansion to South Africa, setting in motion its ambitious Africa expansion plan.
During the first quarter of 2021, production in Botswana’s economic nucleus- the mining sector contracted by 12 percent. This is according to Mining Production Index released by Statistics Botswana this week.
The country’s central data body revealed that Index of Mining production stood at 74.4 during the first quarter of 2021, showing a negative year on-year growth of 12.0 percent, from 84.6 registered during the first quarter of 2020.
The main contributor to the decline in mining production came from the Diamonds sector, which contributed negative 11.7 percentage points. Soda Ash was the only positive contributor in the mining production, contributing 0.1 of a percentage point. However Soda Ash’s contribution was insignificant to offset the negative contribution made by Diamonds.
The quarter-on-quarter analysis by Statistics Botswana experts shows an increase of 16.3 percent from the index of 64.0 during the fourth quarter of 2020 to 74.4 observed during the period under review.
Diamond production decreased by 12.1 percent during the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same quarter of the previous year. The decrease was as a result of planned strategy to align production with weaker trading conditions mostly linked to Covid-19 protocols restrictions.
Botswana’s diamond sector is underpinned by Debswana, the country’s flagship rough producer- a 50-50 joint venture between government and global mining giant De Beers Group. The other producer is Canadian based Lucara Diamond Corp through its wholly owned Karowe Mine which is a relatively small but significant production that has made a name for itself worldwide with rare diamond recoveries of unprecedented carat size.
On the other hand, quarter-on quarter analysis shows that production has improved, registering a positive growth of 17.5 percent during the first quarter of 2021 compared to the preceding quarter – 2020 Q4.
Though production was significantly lower in the first quarter, the two producers ended Q2 with rare diamond recoveries. Debswana early last month found the world’s third largest gem diamond – weighing 1098 carat at Jwaneng Mine, its flagship gem quality diamonds producer, also regarded the world’s richest diamond mine.
A week later Lucara announced its second biggest recovery, the 1174 carat clivage near-gem dug from its Karowe Mine. The diamond is the world third in carat size after the plus-3000 carat Cullinan found in South Africa back in 1905 and the 1758 carat Sewelo unearthed at its Karowe mine in 2019. Debswana and Lucara are investing billions of pulas in underground mining projects to extend the life of its mines, Jwaneng & Karowe respectively.
In terms of Gold which is produced at Mupani mine near Botswana’s second city of Francistown output decreased by 17.9 percent during the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same quarter of the previous year.
Similarly, quarter-on-quarter analysis reflects that production decreased by 21.4 percent during the first quarter of 2021, compared to the preceding quarter. The decrease was as a result of the deteriorating lifespan of the mine as well as the impact of COVID-19 which slowed down the mining activities.
Soda Ash production increased by 11.1 percent during the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same quarter of the previous year. In terms of quarter-on-quarter Soda Ash production also showed an increase, picking up by 2.1 percent during the period under review. The increase in production is attributable to the effectiveness of the plant following refurbishment which occurred in the third quarter of 2020.
Salt production decreased by 34.0 percent during the first quarter of 2021, compared to the same quarter of the previous year. Similarly, the quarter-on-quarter analysis shows that salt production registered a decrease of 32.9 percent during the period under review. Both salt and Sodash are produced by partly government owned Botswana Ash (BotsAsh) operating from Sowa town near Makgadikgadi pans.
Coal production decreased by 11.2 percent during the first quarter of 2021, compared to the corresponding quarter of the previous year. The decrease was attributed to the reduced demand from Morupule B Power Station following the remedial works being undertaken, as one boiler was in operation during the period under review.
Although production fell, Statistics Botswana says there was no shortfall in supply of coal due to stockpiling. On the other hand, the quarter-on-quarter comparison shows that coal production increased by 20.4 percent compared to the preceding quarter.
Botswana’s flagship coal producer is Morupule Coal Mine; a wholly state owned mining company located in Palapye producing primarily for Botswana Power Corporation (BPC)’s power generation plants Morupule A & B.
The other coal producer is Botswana Stock Exchange listed Minergy which operates a 390 MT Coal Resource mine in Masama near Media in the southwestern edge of the Mmamabula Coalfields.
Department of Mines in the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology & Energy Security has awarded mining licence to Tshukudu Metals-a subsidiary of Aussie firm Sandfire Resources ,giving the company a green light to start piecing the ground at its Motheo Copper Project near Gantsi.
Lefoko Moagi, minister in charge of mineral resources in Botswana confirmed to weekendpost on Tuesday. Minister Moagi revealed that “the licence has been approved , but Sandfire Resources as a listed company will report to its shareholders and investors then make an official public statement” he said.
Based on a forecast copper price of US$3.16/lb (reflecting current long-term consensus pricing) the Base Case 3.2Mtpa – Ghantsi copper project is forecast to generate US$664 million (over P7 billion) in pre-tax free cash-flow and US$987 million (over P10 billion) in EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortisation), at a forecast all-in sustaining cost of US$1.76/lb over its first 10 years of operations.
In December 2020, the Board of Sandfire Resources approved the commercial development of the Motheo Copper Mine located in the Kalahari Copper Belt in Botswana, marking a key step in its transformation into a global, diversified, and sustainable mining company.
Tshukudu Metals Botswana (Pty) Limited (Tshukudu) a 100% owned subsidiary will be the owner and operator of the Motheo Copper Mine which is scheduled to produce up to 30,000 tonnes per annum of copper in concentrate over a 12 year mine life.TMB is targeting development of its Motheo Copper Mine in 2021 and 2022, with its first production in 2023.
GOVERNMENT NOT TAKING UP 15 % STAKE ON OFFER
Beginning of this year presentations were made to the Department of Mines as part of the Mining Licence approval process and to the Ghanzi Regional Council, additional information was requested by Department of Mines in April and was duly supplied by the company.
As part of the Mining Licence approval process, the Government of Botswana has a right to acquire up to a 15% fully contributing interest in all mining projects locally. Quizzed on whether government through Mineral Development Corporation Botswana (MDCB) would be taking up stake in the project Minister Moagi said, “No consideration is being made on that regard”.
“Government is not considering taking up a stake in the Ghantsi Copper Mine project, every opportunity is assessed on all risks, but Government makes money all the while from leases, taxes and royalties, remember if you take stake you are liable for liabilities of the project as well,” Moagi said.
Last month Sandfire announced that it has awarded over P5 billion worth mining contract to African Mining Services (AMS), a subsidiary of Perenti, to deliver the open cast operation.
The contract, which has an estimated value of US$496 million (over 5 billion), is the largest single operational contract for the new Motheo Project covering a period of 7 years and 3 months, with provision for a one-year extension.
The contract according to Sandfire Resources was awarded following a competitive 3-stage tender process which saw a number of key factors taken into consideration when selecting the preferred contractor.
These included Citizen Economic Empowerment, safety culture, equipment suitability and availability, commercial terms and identified improvement opportunities. Under the terms of the contract, AMS has agreed to form a 70:30 Joint Venture with a suitable local Botswana partner or partners.
The JV is expected to be finalized ahead of commencement of mining in early 2022. African Mining Services has been operating in Africa for over 30 years. AMS’ parent company, ASX listed diversified mining services group Perenti, already has a presence in Botswana through Barminco, their underground mining division, at the large-scale Khoemacau Copper Mine located 200km north-east of Motheo.
Last month Sandfire executives said the award of the open pit mining contract represents another key milestone in advancing the Motheo Project towards production, with all components of the contract in line with the key parameters outlined in the December 2020 Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS).
The company said full-scale construction of the US$279 million (over P 3 billion ) mine development is expected to commence immediately upon receipt of the Mining Licence, with mining scheduled to commence in early 2022 ahead of first production in early 2023. This week Sandfire Resources advertised over 10 positions in calling on applications from geologists, mining engineers and geotechnical engineers.
The Motheo mine has an initial mine life of 12.5 years based on production from the T3 pit. The initial development is expected to generate approximately 1,000 jobs during the construction phase and 600 direct full-time jobs during operations, with at least 95% of the total mine workforce expected to be made of up of Botswana citizens.
Later in the week Sandfire Resources announced in the company website that it has received the licence. Sandfire’s Managing Director and CEO, Mr Karl Simich, said the award of the Mining Licence represented a major milestone that would see a significant increase in construction and development activities on site.
“We are absolutely delighted to now be in a position to move to full-scale construction at Motheo, with our construction crews expected to mobilise to site over the next few days. I would like to thank the Government of Botswana for their support throughout the approvals process, which will see Motheo come on-stream in 2023 as one of very few new copper mines commencing production globally.”
Simich said the project is expected to generate approximately 1,000 jobs during construction and 600 full-time jobs during operations, and represents the foundation for Sandfire’s long-term growth plans in Botswana.
“Our vision is that Motheo will form the centre of a new, long-life copper production hub in in the central portion of the world-class Kalahari Copper Belt, where we hold an extensive ground-holding spanning Botswana and Namibia,” he said.