When delivering the National Budget Speech on Monday (1st February 2020), Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka indicated that government has come up with reforms to cushion the economy from COVID-19 waves. He said the pandemic had Botswana, just like other countries, moving into survival mode.
The Finance Minister indicated that there is a need to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of public finance systems, further indicating that tax collection systems should be modernized. Government then decided to raise tax rates and introduced new levies.
However, government is optimistic that the outlook for the domestic economy will be positive, with a growth rate of 8.8% projected for the country this year. Achieving this, he said, will depend on the trajectory of the recovery of the global economy and the successful implementation of policies, programmes and projects as outlined in the NDP 11.
With the implementation of the economic Recovery and Transformation Plan (ERTP) and other initiatives, Matsheka says Botswana should achieve a robust recovery in 2021. “This will require a totally new approach to project implementation,” he said.
Matsheka told the nation that the policy priority of export-led growth continues to be critically important. Non-diamond exports have been growing more slowly than GDP for quite a stretch now. The COVID-19 pandemic affected the trade in goods and services significantly in Botswana and globally, therefore, the Minister says this competitive challenge needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
This, the Finance Minister says, government is working on improving the issuance of work permits for investors and skilled employees, to reflect business needs and provide firms with the certainty required to support investment, production and trade.
Government through the Finance Ministry is working on reviewing ailing parastatals and State-Owned Enterprises, with a view to addressing some of the shortcomings in their governance and performance. Matsheka says a comprehensive Rationalization Strategy covering all parastatals has been developed. Implementation of the strategy, he says, will address issues such as duplication of activities and overlapping mandates.
Meanwhile, Private Sector advocacy organization Business Botswana has appreciated a number of these economic actions, further calling on government to put them in implementation considering that most were made before and nothing much has changed.
The group says public sector reforms, State-Owned Enterprises realignment and restructuring have been discussed several times and nothing has happened to date. Business Botswana is content with the decision to use private sector expertise in implementation of various projects, however, concerned whether this will be done or it’s just to mention.
“We highly welcome the budget speech as it is of the view that private sector should be in the forefront of driving economic growth and economic transformation in Botswana. Therefore private sector should ensure that it renders top-notch service and produces quality products that can be competitive in the regional and global markets.”
When delivering the Budget Speech, Matsheka said Botswana is currently living in a different economic climate in which the dynamics of the economy tend to change drastically as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Business Botswana says the country did not fully implement four national priority areas proposed in the 2020 Budget Speech. It underlined that adequate implementation of the priority areas will ensure macro-economic stability, greater socio-economic inclusion and improved quality of public services.
In the previous Budget Speech, Matsheka mentioned that government would undertake a comprehensive review of parastatals and State-Owned Enterprises in order to address their shortcomings in governance and performance. Although Business Botswana appreciates the commitment in the matter, it says it’s still awaiting government to share comprehensive Rationalization Strategy as this will facilitate engagement and consultation.
Business Botswana pleaded with government to ensure adequate implementation of the strategy as the matter has been on table for a very long time. The group challenged government to provide the progress made to date.
In the view of the economic and monetary pressure facing the domestic recovery, Business Botswana says its supports government efforts to improve the efficiency of revenue collection through improving tax administration. This, it says, will assist to broaden the country’s tax revenue base. Further, Business Botswana is of the view that there is need for punitive measures for tax offenders.
However, Business Botswana is concerned that government did not adequately consult those who were likely to be impacted negatively by the increments. It says there is need for deeper consultations so as to deliberate on these changes before implementation. “Through consultations we will be able to come up with other more efficient revenue generating models. In addition, we require government to fully account for the usage of the plastic levy over previous years.”
Business Botswana applauded government for the continued commitment to create an enabling environment for private sector to thrive, and looks forward to collaborate with government to expand markets access for domestic commodities in regional and global markets under the auspices of the Economic Partnership Agreement between United-Kingdom-Southern African Customs Union and Mozambique.
The recent study on youth entrepreneurship in Botswana has identified difficult access to funding, land, machinery, lack of entrepreneurial mindset and proper training as serious challenges that continue to hamper youth entrepreneurship development in this country.
The study conducted by Alliance for African Partnership (AAP) in collaboration with University of Botswana has confirmed that despite the government and private sector multi-billion pula entrepreneurship development initiatives, many young people in Botswana continue to fail to grow their businesses into sustainable and successful companies that can help reduce unemployment.
University of Botswana researchers Gaofetege Ganamotse and Rudolph Boy who compiled findings in the 2022 study report for Botswana stated that as part of the study interviews were conducted with successful youth entrepreneurs to understand their critical success factors.
According to the researchers other participants were community leaders, business mentors, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Youth, Gender, Sport and Culture, financial institutions, higher education institutions, non-governmental institutions, policymakers, private organizations, and support structures such as legal and technical experts and accountants who were interviewed to understand how they facilitate successful youth entrepreneurship.
The researchers said they found that although Botswana government is perceived as the most supportive to businesses when compared to other governments in sub-Saharan Africa, youth entrepreneurs still face challenges when accessing government funding. “Several finance-related challenges were identified by youth entrepreneurs. Some respondents lamented the lack of access to start-up finance, whereas others mentioned lack of access to infrastructure.”
The researchers stated that in Botswana entrepreneurship is not yet perceived as a field or career of choice by many youth “Participants in the study emphasized that the many youth are more of necessity entrepreneurs, seeing business venturing as a “fall back. Other facilitators mentioned that some youth do not display creativity, mind-blowing innovative solutions, and business management skills. Some youth entrepreneurs like to take shortcuts like selling sweets or muffins.”
According to the researchers, some of the youth do not display perseverance when they are faced with adversity in business. “Young people lack of an entrepreneurial mindset is a common challenge among youth in business. Some have a mindset focused on free services, handouts, and rapid gains. They want overnight success. As such, they give up easily when faced with challenges. On the other hand, some participants argue that they may opt for quick wins because they do not have access to any land, machinery, offices, and vehicles.”
The researchers stated that most youth involved in business ventures do not have the necessary training or skills to maintain a business. “Poor financial management has also been cited as one of the challenges for youth entrepreneurs, such as using profit for personal reasons rather than investing in the business. Also some are not being able to separate their livelihood from their businesses.
Lastly, youth entrepreneurs reported a lack of experience as one of the challenges. For example, the experience of running a business with projections, sticking to the projections, having an accounting system, maintaining a clean and clear billing system, and sound administration system.”
According to the researchers, the participants in the study emphasized that there is fragmentation within the entrepreneurial ecosystem, whereby there is replication of business activities without any differentiation. “There is no integration of the ecosystem players. As such, they end up with duplicate programs targeting the same objectives. The financial sector recommended that there is a need for an intermediary body that will bring all the ecosystem actors together and serve as a “one-stop shop” for entrepreneurs and build mentorship programs that accommodate the business lifecycle from inception to growth.”
Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) is said to have recorded an operating surplus of P61 Million, an improvement compared to the previous year. The housing, office and other building needs giant met with stakeholders recently to share how the business has been.
The P61 million is a significant increase against the P6 million operating loss realized in the prior year. Profit before income tax also increased significantly from P2 million in the prior year to P72 million which resulted in an overall increase in surplus after tax from P1 million prior year to P64 million for the year under review.
Chief of Finance Officer, Diratsagae Kgamanyane disclosed; “This growth in surplus was driven mainly by rental revenue that increased by 15% from P209 million to P240 million and reduction in expenditure from P272 million to P214 million on the back of cost containment.” He further stated that sales of high margin investment properties also contributed significantly to the growth in surplus as well as impairment reversals on receivables amounting to P25 million.
It is said that the Corporation recorded a total revenue of P702 million, an 8% decrease when compared to the P760 million recorded in the prior year. “Sales revenue which is one of the major revenue streams returned impressive margins, contributing to the overall growth in the gross margin,” added Kgamanyane.
He further stated professional fees revenue line declined significantly by 64% to P5 million from P14 million in the prior year which attributed to suspension of planned projects by their clients due to Covid-19 pandemic. “Facilities Management revenue decreased by P 24 million from P69 million recorded in prior year to P45 million due to reduction in projects,” Kgamanyane said.
The Corporation’s strength is on its investment properties portfolio that stood at P1.4 billion at the end of the reporting period. “The Corporation continues its strategy to diversify revenue streams despite both facilities management income and professional fees being challenged by the prevailing economic conditions that have seen its major clients curtailing spending,” added the CEO.
On the one hand, the Corporation’s Strategic Performance which intended to build 12 300 houses by 2023 has so far managed to build 4 830 houses under their SHHA funding scheme, 1 240 houses for commercial or external use which includes use by government and 1 970 houses to rent to individuals.
BHC Acting CEO Pascaline Sefawe noted that; BHC’s planned projects are said to include building 336 flat units in Gaborone Block 7 at approximately P224 million, 100 units in Maun at approximately P78 million, 13 units in Phakalane at approximately P26 million, 212 units in Kazungula at approximately P160 million, 96 units at approximately P42 million in Francistown and 84 units at approximately P61 million in Letlhakane. Emphasing; “People tend to accuse us of only building houses in Gaborone, so here we are, including other areas in our planned projects.”
Researchers from some government owned regulatory institutions in the financial sector have projected that the banking sector’s profitability could increase, following Bank of Botswana Monetary Policy Committee recent decision to increase monetary policy rate.
In its bid to manage inflation, Bank of Botswana Monetary Policy Committee last month increased monetary policy rate by 0.50 percent from 1.65 percent to 2.15 percent, a development which resulted with commercial banking sector increasing interest rate in lending to household and companies. As a result of BoB adjustment of Monetary Policy Rate, from 1.65 percent to 2.15 percent commercial banks increased prime lending rate from 5.76 percent to 6.26 percent.
Researchers from Bank of Botswana, the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority, the Financial Intelligence Agency and the Botswana Stock Exchange indicated that due to prospects of high inflation during the second half of 2022, there is a possibility that the Monetary Policy Committee could further increase monetary policy rate in the next meeting in August 25 2022.
Inflation rose from 9.6 percent in April 2022 to 11.9 percent in May 2022, remaining above the Bank of Botswana medium-term objective range of 3 – 6 percent. According to the researchers inflation could increase further and remain high due to factors that include: the potential increase in international commodity prices beyond current forecasts, logistical constraints due to lags in production, the economic and price effects of the ongoing Russia- Ukraine conflict, uncertain COVID-19 profile, domestic risk factors relating to possible regular annual administered price adjustments, short-term unintended consequences of import restrictions resulting with shortages in supplies leading to price increases, as well as second-round effects of the recent increases in administered prices “Furthermore, the likelihood of further increases in domestic fuel prices in response to persistent high international oil prices could add upward pressure to inflation,” said the researchers.
The researchers indicated that Bank of Botswana could be forced to further increase monetary policy rate from the current 2.15 percent if inflation rises persistently. “Should inflation rise persistently this could necessitate an upward adjustment in the policy rate. It is against this background that the interest rate scenario assumes a 1.5 percentage points (moderate scenario) and 2.25 percentage points (severe scenario) upward adjustment in the policy rate,” said the researchers.
The researchers indicated that while any upward adjustment on BoB monetary policy rate and commercial banks prime lending rate result with increase in the cost of borrowing for household and compnies, it increase profitability for the banking sector. “Increases in the policy rate are associated with an overall increase in bank profitability, with resultant increases in the capital adequacy ratio of 0.1 percentage points and 0.2 percentage points for the moderate and severe scenarios, respectively,” said the researchers who added that upward adjustment in monetary policy rate would raise extra capital for the banking sector.
“The increase in profit generally reflects the banking industry’s positive interest rate gap, where interest earning assets exceed interest earning liabilities maturing in the next twelve months. Therefore, an increase of 1.5 percentage points in the policy rate would result in industry gains of P71.7 million (4.1 percent increase), while a 2.25 percentage points increase would lead to a gain of P173.9 million (6.1 percent increase), dominated by large banks,” said the researchers.