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The uncertainty of getting the next meal in Botswana

Households representing more than half of Botswanas 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 households 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 Botswanas 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 Programmes (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 countrys vegetation and plants. The locust is said to have contributed to 25 percent loss in production.

Business

Rags to riches: Group-IB uncovers potential $280k fake investment scam targeting ME

25th September 2023

Group-IB, a global cybersecurity leader headquartered in Singapore, in coordination with the UAE Cybersecurity Council has today published a new research blog outlining a new fake investment scam that is targeting users across the globe.

In total, experts from Group-IB’s Digital Risk Protection team uncovered almost 900 unique scam pages leveraged by the cybercriminals behind this still-ongoing scheme. Links to these scam pages were contained in Facebook advertisements purchased by the scammers and the text of these posts offered users the opportunity to invest in one of 35 market-leading companies from 13 countries. This text was often accompanied by an image in which the scammers used the logo of the impersonated company in question. In total, 60% of the scam pages created in this scheme, which peaked in activity in December 2022, targeted users from the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region. Based on Group-IB’s estimations, this scam campaign caused roughly $280,000 in financial damages for internet users between March and June 2023.

Group-IB has a zero-tolerance policy to cybercrime, and the company blocked all discovered scam pages that contained the brand name or likeness of Group-IB clients. In order to investigate this scam campaign, Group-IB analysts used the company’s proprietary Digital Risk Protection platform, leveraging its AI technology and highly accurate logo analysis and text recognition features. The company’s researchers are continuing to monitor this scam scheme amid the continued uptick in the number of retail investors and, subsequently, investment scams.

Taking stock

The core aim of the cybercriminals behind this campaign is financial gain, as they leverage sophisticated social engineering techniques to exploit individuals’ vulnerabilities and inherent trust in well-known brands. Group-IB researchers first began tracking this scam scheme in June 2022, when the campaign burst into life, although there is evidence to suggest that the scammers purchased a small portion of the domains used to host scam sites as early as 2020.

 

In total, 884 unique scam pages were created and registered by the scammers since the start of the campaign. The peak in activity was registered in December 2022, when 308 new pages were created. Throughout the entire duration of the scam campaign, 60% of scam pages targeted users in the MEA region, with the bulk of these adverts containing text written in the Arabic language. Users in Latin America were targeted on 9.2% of the scam pages, and 4.8% of scam pages were geared towards users in the Asia-Pacific region, while 25% of the resources had no specific geographic focus.

Due to the sector’s seemingly easy integration with investment opportunities, 30% of scam pages discovered during this campaign impersonated legitimate financial and insurance companies. Other highly targeted sectors were transportation (25% of all scam pages), stock trading (8.6%), oil and gas (5.3%), and construction (5.3%).

Group-IB researchers estimated the potential financial losses from this campaign over a four-month period to amount to $280,000. This figure was drawn from an analysis of activity on several of the scam sites leveraged between March and June 2023.

H.E. Dr. Mohamed Al Kuwaiti, Head of Cybersecurity for the UAE Government, said: “As technology continues to advance, so do its risks. Our eagerness to adopt new innovative technologies in the pursuit of advancement has made us an attractive target for cyber criminals. However, we’ve been resilient in the face of these challenges, learning invaluable lessons and placing cyber literacy as a priority. The UAE Cybersecurity Council has been dedicated to enhancing cybersecurity awareness and fortifying the digital landscape, contributing significantly to reducing the influence of scammers. The UAE, a leader in the cybersecurity space, stands as a prime example with its cutting-edge infrastructure and comprehensive strategy to bolster digital defenses. Agility in swiftly addressing emerging threats is paramount in today’s dynamic cyber landscape.”

Personal scammers

A typical victim will first encounter this scam by seeing an advertisement placed by the cybercriminals on their social media feeds. Group-IB researchers found adverts placed in multiple languages, most notably English, Arabic, and Spanish. On Arabic-language advertisements and scam sites created for this campaign, the scammers entice individuals with claims that they could earn millions by investing a mere $200. These adverts may also use the words “news”, “media”, “investment”, and “digital”, either in English or in Arabic. Spanish-language adverts, such as those in the below Figure 2, offer users the chance to earn money each month.

If the user clicks on the advertisement, they are redirected to a scam page that contains the logo and branding of a prominent company, imploring the user to register for the possibility to make quick, easy money by investing. The scammers request the name, email address, and phone number from the user.

 

Once the user has completed this form, they will receive daily emails claiming to be from a trading portal. These emails implore the user to sign up for the chance to begin trading stocks, and the first email contains an account number, login information, password, and server name for their supposed account on this platform. Users are then urged to deposit money into their trading account to begin buying stocks.

If, after a period of time, the user does not place a deposit, they will receive a call from a person claiming to be a customer service representative. This individual begins pressuring the victim to deposit funds, promising the chance to earn immediate dividends. Should the victim agree, they are asked for information about their bank card, desired investment amount and place of residence. Additionally, they will then receive an email asking for their ID and passport. Group-IB researchers examined multiple user testimonies of the investment portal posted online. Users frequently complain that representatives of the portal stop communicating once they transfer money. Users are also blocked on messaging platforms once they request a refund.

“Retail investing is becoming increasingly popular among individuals who are looking for ways to diversify their income, but this has created opportunities for cybercriminals to exploit this trend. This particular scam is notable as the cybercriminals leverage multiple communication channels, such as email and direct phone calls, as part of their social engineering efforts. Investment scams have the potential to cause great financial damage to victims, given the potential large sums of money involved, and we urge individuals to never share personal information or money with third parties unless you are certain of their legitimacy,” Sharef Hlal, Head of Group-IB’s Digital Risk Protection Analytics Team, MEA, said.

 

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Business

Gov’t account records P2.6Bn surplus

25th September 2023

Bank of Botswana (BoB) latest Monetary Policy Committee report published this week shows that Botswana Government recorded an increase in surplus in the current account which accumulates government’s financial savings.

According to recent figures from the report government accumulated surplus amounting to P2.6 billion in the account, during the first quarter of 2023. “Current account recorded a surplus in the first quarter of 2023. The current account is estimated to have recorded a surplus of P2.6 billion in the first quarter of 2023, compared to a revised surplus of P1.5 billion in the corresponding period in 2022.”

In the report BoB noted that the improved surplus was primarily attributable to a higher trade surplus in addition to the net income inflows from the secondary income account. Exports amounted to P21.6 billion in the first quarter of 2023, a decrease of 16.6 percent from P25.9 billion in the corresponding period of 2022, while imports decreased by 21.5 percent from P24.6 billion to P19.3 billion, leading to a surplus of P2.2 billion in the merchandise trade account, according to recent statistics from the report. The report added that SACU revenues, which dominate the secondary income account, amounted to P3.5 billion in the first quarter of 2023.

Diamond exports which dominate Botswana’s exports, accounted for 83.9 percent of total exports of goods in the first quarter of 2023. Diamond exports decreased to P18.1 billion from P23.3 billion in the first quarter of 2022. “During the same period, diamond imports decreased from P9.2 billion to P3.1 billion. The decrease in diamond trade mainly stemmed from the market being more cautious about the uncertain global macroeconomic outlook.”

Diamond prices also decreased in the second quarter of 2023.The global rough diamond price index decreased by 1.2 percent from 182.08 points in the first quarter of 2023 to 179.80 points in the second quarter, mainly due to a decline in demand, amid high inflation, rising interest rates and a shift towards spending on travel and experiences. The global rough diamond price index averaged 165.1 points in July 2023. The global polished diamond price index also decreased by 2.2 percent from 213.2 points in the first quarter of 2023 to 208.47 points in the second quarter of 2023, amid a rise in inventory levels due to weaker demand and global economic outlook. The global polished diamond price index averaged 224.88 points in July 2023.”

BoB noted that the other commodities that contributed to a decline in exports include gold, meat and meat products, iron and steel products and live cattle. “However, copper and nickel exports increased from P653.5 million to P1.4 billion, owing to increased production and copper sales by the US private equity company Cupric Canyon, which started production at Khoemacau Copper Mine in 2021.”

BoB indicated that if the country is spending more than it produces, a deficit will be recorded in the current account and added that the current account deficit becomes much of a concern if it is persistent and financed by unsustainable borrowing. “However, the deficit is acceptable if it is matched by capital or financial inflows. In the case of Botswana, because of its prudent management of diamond revenues, the country has in the past generally enjoyed current account surpluses, except during times of economic crises.”

In the review of Botswana’s economic performance between 2015 and 2021, BoB analysts indicated that since 2016, Botswana government financial returns and savings from exports have been decelerating as a result of volatilities in the global market for diamonds while expenditure have been rising due to increasing import bill. The decline in government annual earnings from exports and high import bill, according to the analysts resulted with negative balance/deficit in the government current account that accumulates government savings and revenues used to fund government budget.

Statistics compiled by the analysts show that savings from the government account declined from a surplus of P11.8 billion in 2007 to deficits averaging P3.6 billion between 2008 and 2012 due decline in diamond sales. The figures show that between 2015 and 2021 the account balance was on a downward trajectory culminating in a deficit of P18.3 billion in 2020 and P2.7 billion by September 2021.

“The performance of the current account over the years largely reflects the performance of the merchandise trade account, which is in turn is influenced largely by diamond trade; therefore, lack of traction, with respect to diversification of exports and substitution of imports. The merchandise account balance moved from a revised deficit of P11.6 billion in 2019 to a deficit of P23.2 billion in 2020, in the context of a 5 percent increase in imports and a 14.5 percent decrease in exports. The decrease in exports in 2020 was mostly due to a 16.7 percent decline in diamond sales abroad from P51 billion in 2019 to P42.5 billion,” said BoB analyst Baby Mogapi.

 

 

 

 

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Business

FNBB results – A Stockbrokers’ perspective

25th September 2023

“FNBB’s full year net profit for the year ended 30 June 2022 increased by 20% to P1.12 billion (2022: P927 million). From an income statement perspective, a large part of this increase was due to a decrease in impairment advances of 86% from the previous year to P93.56 million.

Their non-interest income and expense increased by 7% to P1.49 billion (2022: P1.39 billion), which was a result of their improved performance of their service offering, other fees such as eWallet volumes and increases in transactional volumes. The increase in non-interest income is largely due to the retail segment of the business, which increased to P644 million (2022: P608 million). The increase in the net interest income after impairment of advances of 25% far outweighs the increase in the operating expenses of 9%. We expect this trend to remain stable as uncertainty within the macro-economic environment continues to exist. FNBB since 2019 has kept its non-interest expenses below its non-interest revenue. Furthermore, the balance sheet increased by 9% y o-y with growth in deposits from customers to P23.33 billion (P21.35 billion). In the segmental reporting statement comprised of retail, commercial, corporate, and treasury, each segment has performed well with regards to the profit before direct taxation compared to last year. The cost to income ratio reduced compared to the same period the previous year. In times of uncertain macro-economic environments such as 2022 shareholders always look to protect themselves from losses when things take a turn for the worst. The banking industry more probably than any other industry is susceptible to these infrequent shocks and panic. FNBB performed well with regards to key metrics despite the negative headwinds. Return on equity and return on average assets increased by 25% and 15% respectively compared to the previous year. This demonstrates their ability to add good quality assets to the balance sheet. Their capital adequacy ratio remains at 18.1% which is above the regulatory requirement. Moving forward we look forward to seeing how FNBB will perform given expected subdued inflation and pause in interest rate hikes. The continued effects into the second half of 2023 of the rebranding along with their expansion of digital offerings should bode well for their market share and bottom line.”

Adopted from Stockbrokers Botswana report

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