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COVID-19 has not materially affected pensions

Indications are that during the period February 2020 to April 2020, markets experienced extreme pressure because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but a ray of hope in the mould of vaccine trials have injected life back into the markets.

Markets are rebounding and it is expected that Pension Funds will not be materially affected, this according to Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka.

Briefing Parliament on pensions recently the Minister said the Non-Bank Financial Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA) is closely monitoring the industry for the possible effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic hence there has been no major negative impact recorded so far. However the Regulator will maintain close supervision and take appropriate actions, where necessary, to ensure, safety, soundness and sustainability of the Pension industry, said Matsheka.

Dr Matshekas brief to Parliament was as a result of a question from Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse who had engaged the Minister on the performance of pensions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some people are worried by what appears to be a slump in the performance, in fact, some observe inconsistencies, a rollercoaster if you may, in the performance and they are worried that they may be losing out. This has caused much anxietyand the perturbed workers wonder whether they will retire into poverty with the pension eaten out, observed Keorapetse.

According to the Minister Botswana has 75 stand-alone Funds and 6 umbrella Funds with 320 sub-funds. These funds have 230 588 members, 21 310 deferred members and 12 693 pensioners. The income of the Funds in 2019 amounted to P11.8 billion, of which P7 billion was investment income and P4.6 billion was both employer and employee contributions. The total expenditure for the Funds for the corresponding period was P3.7 billion, of which P3 billion was benefit payments.

Pension Funds account for the largest portion of the assets of the non-bank financial institutions in Botswana. The latest audited figures as at the end of December 2019 show that total assets of Pension Funds represented 42 percent of GDP. In 2018, the ratio was 42 percent, which confirms the growth of the pension funds industry.

In the past 10 years Pension Funds experienced growth of 171 percent, nearly doubling their size. The growth was achieved through contributions inflows and investment returns.

Pension Funds are currently mandated to invest 30 percent of their assets locally, but of late Pension Funds have been investing an average of 40 percent of their assets locally. This confirms that Pension Funds are free to invest more locally, said Matsheka.

However the Minister said his Ministry is currently doing some work with the view to review the30/70 guideline in line with the prevailing and prospective economic and financial conditions in the country.

In the last six years Pension Funds have made decent returns averaging 7 percent annually. The offshore investments contributed the largest portion of the returns recorded by pension funds.

While Pension Funds have done relatively well to date, in terms of investment returns and total growth assets, the governance of the Pension Funds requires improvement in terms of timely submission of reports to the regulator and up-to-date members records to enable efficient and timely distribution of benefits and member statements. In this regard, NBFIRAs latest Directive on minimum standards for trustees is an effort to enhance governance and management of Pension Funds, said Dr Matsheka

According to NBFIRA March 2020 Annual report, the top five performing retirement funds had the Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) at the head with total assets of P58 520 760, 284; Investment income stood at P3 227 430 389. The total contributions at BPOPF were P2 532 297 306.00.

ARRF had total assets pegged at P1 135 830 081 with an investment income of P52 247 511 from total contributions amounting to P192 470 141.00. Debswana Pension Fund (DPF) is third in the list with total assets recorded at P7 048 070 026 and an investment income of P515 290 328 from total contributions of P289 225 656.00. Bank of Botswana Pension Fund has total assets of P812 227 442 with an investment income of P71 023 327 from total contributions of P35 036 628.00. The University of Botswana Pension Fund punctuate the top five list with total assets of P1 900 647 463 and an investment income of P69 167 034 from total contributions of P99 604 236.00.

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Fighting vulture poisoning in KAZA region.

3rd February 2023
As a response to avert vulture poisoning currently going on in Botswana and KAZA region, Birdlife Botswana has collaborated with three other partners (BirdWatch Zambia, BirdLife International & Birdlife Zimbabwe) to tackle wildlife poisoning which by extension negatively affect vulture populations.

The Director of Birdlife Botswana, Motshereganyi Virat Kootshositse has revealed in an interview that the project which is funded by European Union’s main goal is to reduce poisoning related vultures’ death and consequently other wildlife species death within the KAZA region.

He highlighted that Chobe district in Botswana has been selected as a pilot site as it has experienced rampant incidents of vulture poisoning for the past few months. In August this year at least 50 endangered white backed vultures were reported dead at Chobe National Park, Botswana after feeding on a buffalo carcass laced with poison.  In November this year again 43 white backed vultures were found dead and two alive after feeding on a zebra suspected to have poisoned.  Other selected pilots’ sites are Kafue in Zambia and Hwange in Zimbabwe.

Kootshositse further explained they have established a national and regional Wildlife Poisoning Committee. He added that as for the national committee they have engaged various departments such as Crop Productions, Agro Chemicals, Department of Veterinary Services, Department of Wildlife and National Parks and other NGOs such as Raptors Botswana to come together and find a long-lasting solution to address wildlife poisoning in Botswana. ‘Let’s have a strategy or a plan together to tackle wildlife poisoning,’ he stated

He also decried that there is gap in the availability of data about vulture poisoning or wildlife in general. ‘If we have a central point for data, it will help in terms of reporting and advocacy’, he stated

He added that the regional committee comprises of law enforcement officers such as BDF and Botswana police, village leadership such as Village Development Committee and Kgosi. ‘We need to join hand together and protect the wildlife we have as this will increase our profile for conservation and this alone enhances our visitation and boost our local economy,’ he noted

Kootshositse noted that Birdlife together with DWNP also addressed series of meeting in some villages in the Chobe region recently. The purpose of kgotla meetings was to raise awareness on the conservation and protection of vultures in Chobe West communities.

‘After realizing that vulture poisoning in the Chobe areas become frequent, we realise that we need to do something about it.  ‘We did a public awareness by addressing several kgotla meetings in some villages in the Chobe west,’ he stated

He noted that next year they are going to have another round of consultations around the Chobe areas and the approach is to engage the community into planning process. ‘Residents should be part of the plan of actions and we are working with farmers committee in the areas to address vulture poisoning in the area, ‘he added

He added that they have found out that some common reasons for poisoning wildlife are farmers targeting predators such as lions in retaliation to killing of their livestock. Another common incident cross border poaching in the Chobe area as poachers will kills an elephant and poison its carcass targeting vultures because of their aerial circling alerting authorities about poaching activities.

Kootshositse noted that in the last cases it was disheartening the incidents occurred three months apart. He added that for the first time they found that some of the body parts of some vultures were missing. He added harvesting of body parts of vultures is not a common practice in Botswana, although it is used in some parts of Africa. ‘We suspect that someone took advantage of the availability of carcasses and started harvesting their body parts,’

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Giant in the making: Everton Mlalazi

3rd February 2023

The music industry is at a point where artists are jostling for space because there are so many aspirants trying to get their big break, thus creating stiff competition.

In the music business it’s about talent and positioning. You need to be at the right place at the right time with the right people around you to propel you forward.
Against all odds, Everton Mlalazi has managed to takeover the gospel scene effortlessly.
To him, it’s more than just a breakthrough to stardom, but a passion as well as mission directly appointed by the Lord.

Within a short space of 2 years after having decided to persue a solo career, Mlalazi has already made it into international music scene, with his music receiving considerable play on several gospel television and radio stations in Botswana including other regional stations like Trace Africa, One Gospel, Metro FM in South Africa, Hope FM in Kenya and literally all broadcast stations in Zimbabwe.

It doesn’t only stop there, as the musician has already been nominated 2 times and 2 awards which are Bulawayo Arts Awards (BAA) best Male artists 2022, StarFM listerners Choice Award, Best Newcomer 2021 and ZIMA Best Contemporary Gospel 2022, MLA awards Best Male artist & Best Gospel Artist 2022.

Everton’s inspiration stems from his ultimate passion and desire to lead people into Godly ways and it seems it’s only getting started.
The man is a gospel artist to put on your radar.

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African countries call on WHO to increase funding

2nd February 2023

Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti says Africa member states call on World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable resource allocation for 2024-2025. Dr Dikoloti was speaking this week at the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

He said countries agreed that there is need to address the budget and funding imbalances by increasing the programme budget share of countries and regions to 75% for the next year.

“The proposed budget for 2024-2025 marks an important milestone as it is the first in Programme Budget in which country offices will be allocated more than half of the total budget for the biennium. We highly welcome this approach which will enable the organization to deliver on its mandate while fulfilling the expectations for transparency, efficiency and accountability.”

The Botswana Health Minister commended member states on the extension of the General Programme of Work (GPD 13) and the Secretariat work to monitor the progress towards the triple billion targets, and the health-related SDGs.

“We welcome the Director’s general proposed five priorities which have crystalized into the “five Ps” that are aligned with the GPW 13 extension. Impact can only be achieved through close coordination with, and support to national health authorities. As such, the strengthening of country offices is instrumental, with particular focus on strengthening national health systems and on promoting more equitable access to health services.”

According to Dr Dikoloti, the majority of countries with UHC index that is below the global median are in the WHO Africa region. “For that, we call on the WHO to enhance capacity at the regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs both technical and financial support in order to effectively address and support country needs.”

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