Bank of Botswana (BoB) has kept the country’s lending rate at 3.75 percent. The decision emerged at the Central Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting held on August 19, 2021.
The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) comprises senior Bank of Botswana staff and advisers. It is responsible for guiding monetary policy within the framework and objectives set out in the annual Monetary Policy Statement. Principally, this involves setting the policy rate (Bank Rate).
The policy is assessed in light of a systematic review of the evolving economic outlook that influences the anticipated medium-term path for inflation. Central to the Committee’s deliberations is the inflation forecast. The MPC meets approximately every two months, although, if required by circumstances, additional meetings can be convened.
Deliberating on why BoB maintained the bank rate, officials said in a virtual briefing on Thursday that inflation rose from 8.2 percent in June to 8.9 percent in July 2021, remaining above the upper bound of the Bank’s medium-term objective range of 3–6 percent. The latest increase in inflation mainly reflects the upward adjustment in domestic fuel prices in July 2021.
However, inflation is projected to revert to within the objective range in the second quarter of 2022, mainly on account of the dissipating impact of the recent upward adjustment in Value-Added Tax (VAT) and administered prices from the inflation calculation. Altogether they contributed 5.2 percentage points to the current level of inflation.
Overall, risks to the inflation outlook are assessed to be skewed to the upside. These risks include the potential for an increase in international commodity prices beyond current forecasts; persistence of supply and logistics constraints due to possible maintenance of travel restrictions and lockdowns; and domestically-based risk factors relating to second-round effects of the recent increases in administered prices and inflation expectations that could lead to generalized higher prices.
Furthermore, aggressive action by governments (for example, the Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan (ERTP)) and major central banks to bolster aggregate demand and the successful rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programs could add pressure to inflation.
However, these risks are moderated by the possibility of weak domestic and global economic activity, with a likely further dampening effect on productivity due to periodic lockdowns and other forms of restrictions in response to the emergence of new COVID-19 variants.
BoB Governor Moses Pelaelo said Botswana’s slow rollout of vaccines resulting in the continuance of weak economic activity and the possible decline in international commodity prices could also result in lower inflation, as would capacity constraints in implementing the ERTP initiatives.
Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracted by 8.6 percent in the twelve months to March 2021, compared to a growth of 2.2 percent in the corresponding period in 2020. The decline in output is attributable to the contraction in the production of both the mining and non-mining sectors, mainly resulting from the impact of the strict COVID-19 pandemic containment measures.
Mining output declined substantially by 27.8 percent in the year to March 2021 compared to a decline of 6.7 percent in 2020, as the sector, including its support service activities, underperformed. Similarly, non-mining GDP contracted by 3.1 percent in the twelve months ending March 2021, compared to a growth rate of 5 percent in the corresponding period in 2020. The decline in non-mining GDP was mainly due to lower output for accommodation and food services, manufacturing, construction, and diamond traders.
Projections by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) suggest a rebound in economic growth for Botswana in 2021. The Ministry projects a growth of 8.8 percent in 2021 before moderating to a growth of 5.5 percent in 2022. On the other hand, the IMF forecasts the domestic economy to grow by 8.3 percent in 2021; this is expected to moderate to 6.4 percent in 2022. The growth outcome will partly depend on the successful vaccine rollout.
Global output growth is forecast at 6 percent in 2021, reflecting expectations of strengthening economic activity in the latter part of the year, primarily supported by additional fiscal support and the rollout of effective COVID-19 vaccines. However, global output growth is anticipated to moderate to 4.9 percent in 2022, as some economies return to their pre-COVID levels.
Meanwhile, the South African Reserve Bank projects the South African GDP to grow by 4.2 percent in 2021 before slowing to 2.3 percent in 2022. The MPC noted that the short-term adverse developments in the domestic economy occur against a growth-enhancing environment.
This includes accommodative monetary conditions, improvements in water and electricity supply, further reforms to improve the business environment, and government interventions against COVID-19, including positive news around the vaccination rollout program.
In addition, the successful implementation of ERTP should anchor the growth of exports and preserve a sufficient buffer of foreign exchange reserves which have recently fallen to an estimate of P50.8 billion (9.4 months of import cover) in August 2021. Overall, it is projected that the economy will operate below total capacity in the short to medium term and, therefore, not creating any inflationary pressures going forward.
The projected increase in inflation in the short term is primarily due to transitory supply-side factors that, except for second-round effects and entrenched expectations (for example, through price adjustments by businesses, contractors, property owners, and wage negotiations), would not usually attract monetary policy response.
In this context, the MPC decided to continue with the accommodative monetary policy stance and maintain the Bank Rate at 3.75 percent. The Bank said it stands ready to respond appropriately as conditions dictate.
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.