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Botswana completes WHO Intra vaccine action review

After bearing heavy criticism for an ill-advised COVID-19 vaccine rollout and COVID-19 response, Botswana seems to have bounced back in the game, according to a newly released report from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

A report released on 19th August 2021 from WHO reads: “with WHO support, Botswana is one of four African countries that have completed an intra action review of their early COVID-19 vaccine rollout to help shape the next phase.”

The report quotes the Director of Health Services at Botswana’s Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr. Malebogo Kebabonye saying: “The aim was to spot challenges and best practices, so we can keep customizing our rollout. It helped us take quick corrective measures and improve our services.”

In recent days the country has been battling negative publicity following incidences that the country was undergoing an unprecedented crisis of failure to plan. According to the report, the country conducted surveys to gauge public perceptions around vaccinations and set up a national ‘ArmReady’ information campaign to prepare the public.

“Our national deployment plan was sanctioned at the level of the Cabinet Office. The surveys showed 76% acceptance of the vaccination among the public. Through the ‘ArmReady’ campaign, we also sought to pre-empt small pockets of resistance,” says Dr. Kebabonye.

“Our first phase, aiming to reach 264 000, is about protecting the health system. The second is to ensure continued economic activity. The final phase will target 18-29-year-olds,” she said. “Multi-sectoral involvement and coordination from the Presidential Task Force and the Ministry of Health were key. We appointed liaison offices at the national and sub-national levels and used community centres as vaccination sites. This helped communities to take ownership,” Dr. Kebabonye explains.

Kebabonye revealed that they piloted their rollout at several sites first and then grew them out based on their capacity. Given the supply issues, this snowballing approach has been convenient, she added.
Covering all bases

According to the report, Botswana planned for a range of scenarios and challenges before the rollout began, including uncertainty around the supply of vaccines. WHO applauded Botswana: “We’re urging African countries to plan for multiple scenarios, just like Botswana did,” says Chanda Chikwanda, who leads WHO Africa’s Vaccines Learning Agenda, which helps share lessons between African countries to strengthen the rollout of vaccines.

“We need to be flexible, depending on how the vaccine responses are going and on whether vaccines arrive on time. There are so many possible scenarios, so flexibility is imperative.”
The statement says that suitable financing, including resource mobilization and constant monitoring and evaluation tools based on sound data collection, strengthened Botswana’s early rollout.

“Countries that emphasize resource mobilization have shown themselves to be best placed to do well. Eswatini secured enough funds to vaccinate its entire population, and Rwanda, Angola, and Ghana all invested in cold chain capacities early,” says Chikwanda. “We must also get to the hard-to-reach groups, including mobile populations and people living in remote areas. Lesotho used the flying doctors to reach remote communities,” she added.

Public and Health workers’ response

On the challenges faced, Dr. Kebabonye revealed to WHO that “the squeeze on supplies of vaccines has also served to push up public distrust in Botswana’s vaccine rollout.” According to Ministry, “a level of vaccine hesitancy was also found among some younger health workers, which was compounded by the spread of misinformation on and offline.”

Like many countries, Botswana has faced challenges in ensuring enough vaccinators, nurses and health professionals, and support staff is on hand. Equipment shortages and low internet bandwidth in some areas have hampered the use of the electronic data systems that track the administration of vaccines and adverse effects.

“We’ve expanded the knowledge we share with our healthcare workers and communities around [any potential] adverse effects, including on assessing and managing side effects,” says Dr. Kebabonye. When asked for advice for other African countries, Dr. Kebabonye cites an incremental and agile approach, with a strong emphasis on consistent testing and learning.

“These reviews, like the one we ran in April with WHO, need to be continuous processes that all countries do to keep on improving,” said Dr. Kebabonye. Nine more African countries recently expressed interest in conducting similar reviews, WHO said.

“We’re learning as we go to some extent with this new virus and unprecedented vaccination drive,” said Dr. Phionah Atuhebwe, New Vaccines Introduction Officer with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Africa Regional Office. “It is crucial that we keep a close, sharp eye on progress and that we share lessons between countries. This way, we all improve our COVID-19 vaccine rollout together.”

Meanwhile, the report further said that Africa’s largest-ever vaccination drive is well underway.52 African countries are rolling out COVID-19 vaccines, and over 73 million doses have been administered on the continent.

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BTC launches the 3rd Francistown Marathon 2024 and handover proceeds to the 2nd Francistown Marathon beneficiaries

8th December 2023

Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTC) has announced that its 3rd Francistown Marathon will be held on Saturday 20th April 2024 at Obed Itani Chilume Stadium in Francistown. The BTC Francistown Marathon is officially recognised by World Athletics and a Comrades Marathon Qualifier will offer race categories ranging from 42.2km, 21.1 km, 10km, 5km fun run, 5km peace run for children and has introduced a 5km and 10km categories for wheelchairs athletics.

BTC also used this opportunity to announce beneficiaries who received donations from proceeds made from the 2nd BTC Francistown Marathon that was held on April 23rd 203.  BTC donated a play area, plastic chairs and wooden tables for pupils worth a total of thirty eight thousand, one hundred and three pula, fifty thebe each (P38, 103.50) to Monarch Primary School, Tatitown Primary School, Mahube Primary School and Gulubane Primary School. Ditladi and Boikhutso clinics each received a donation of benches, television sets and 10, 000 litre water tanks worth thirty seven thousan, eight hundred and ninety eight pula (P 37, 898.00). Additionally, BTC also donated seventy thousand pula (P70,000.00) to their marathon technical partner, Francistown Athletics Club (FAC) which will be used for daily operations as well as to purchase equipment for the club.

The BTC Francistown Marathon aligns seamlessly with BTC’s corporate social investment programme, administered through the BTC Foundation. This programme is a testament to BTC’s dedication to community development, focusing on key areas such as health promotion. The marathon, now in its third year, not only promotes a healthy lifestyle but also channels all proceeds to carefully chosen charities as part of BTC’s commitment to impactful and sustainable projects.

Speaking at the launch, the BTC Managing Director Mr Anthony Masunga stated that the marathon underscores BTC’s commitment to community upliftment and corporate social investment. He stated that “the annual event which has been in existence since 2016, having taken a break due to the covid and other logistical issues, is instrumental to the economic upliftment of the city of Francistown”. He congratulated all the beneficiaries for having been nominated to receive the donations, adding that “the donation of proceeds from the 2023 marathon aims to highlight BTC’s commitment and heart for Batswana and our continued impact in the different industries”.

He further stated that through this marathon, “we demonstrate our steadfast commitment to having a good influence on our communities, this event is a manifestation of our dedication to promoting education and a healthier, more active society”.  He concluded by stating that “BTC looks forward to another successful marathon that will leave a lasting positive influence on the greater Francistown community and the country at large” he said.

Giving welcome remarks, the Councillor for Donga, Honourable Morulaganyi Mothowabarwa stated that “he is ecstatic that BTC is collaborating with the City of Francistown on yet another installment of the Marathon”. He continued to offer his support to BTC to enable this marathon to continue over the coming years, stating that the “CSI element is a welcome development that helps empower our communities”, he said.

The 3rd BTC Francistown Marathon is officially open for registrations and athletes may use the following platforms to register and pay; through Smega by dialling *173# and choosing opton 5, then choose Option 3 for the Francistown marathon, at any BTC store or by visiting the BTC website and clicking on the BTC Francistown Marathon and choosing the relevant options.

 

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Letsholo lauds President Masisi’s digitization in fight against corruption

8th December 2023

Thapelo Letsholo, Member of Parliament for Kanye North, delivered a moving speech at the United Nations International Anti-Corruption Day commemoration, praising President Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi’s digitalization initiative in the fight against corruption. Letsholo highlighted the importance of embracing digitalization in governance as a crucial step in curbing corrupt practices.

According to Letsholo, the implementation of digital systems in government services can significantly reduce direct interactions between citizens and officials, which often serve as fertile grounds for corruption. By minimizing these opportunities for illicit activities, the efficiency and transparency of public services can be enhanced. Letsholo pointed to Estonia’s success in digital governance as an example, where public services have become more transparent, accessible, and efficient.

The MP commended President Masisi’s commitment to digitalization and E-Governance, emphasizing that it aligns with global anti-corruption standards. He called for full support and active participation from all sectors to ensure the success of this initiative.

Letsholo also stressed the importance of improving detection methods and refining whistleblower laws to effectively combat corruption. He highlighted the unseen and unspoken facets of corruption as its lifelines, emphasizing the need for robust detection mechanisms and a system that encourages and protects whistleblowers.

Addressing the societal role in fighting corruption, Letsholo focused on the crucial role of everyday citizens and civil servants who often witness corrupt practices firsthand. He acknowledged the existing reluctance to report corruption due to the perceived risks of repercussions. To change this narrative, Letsholo advocated for creating an environment where staying silent is deemed more detrimental than speaking out. He called for a cultural shift where the potential benefits of exposing corruption outweigh the risks, ensuring that whistleblowers are protected and feel secure in coming forward.

Letsholo called for collective responsibility and action in creating a system that not only detects and reports corruption but also supports those who stand against it. He expressed hope that under President Masisi’s digitalization initiatives, the future of governance in Botswana will be characterized by integrity, transparency, and accountability. Letsholo’s speech resonated with the sentiments of hope and determination that permeated the commemoration, emphasizing the need for unity in the fight against corruption.

In summary, Letsholo lauded President Masisi’s digitalization initiative in the fight against corruption, highlighting its potential to curb corrupt practices, enhance efficiency and transparency in public services, and align with global anti-corruption standards. He emphasized the importance of improving detection methods, refining whistleblower laws, and creating an environment where speaking out against corruption is encouraged and protected. Letsholo called for collective responsibility and action in creating a future characterized by integrity, transparency, and accountability in governance.

 

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FaR property assets value clock P1.47 billion

6th December 2023

FaR Property Company (FPC) Limited, a property investment company listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange, has recently announced its exceptional financial results for the year 2023. The company’s property asset value has risen to P1.47 billion, up from P1.42 billion in the previous year.

FPC has a diverse portfolio of properties, including retail, commercial, industrial, and residential properties in Botswana, South Africa, and Zambia. The company owns a total of 186 properties, generating rental revenues from various sectors. In 2023, the company recorded rental revenues of P11 million from residential properties, P62 million from industrial properties, and P89 million from commercial properties. Overall, the company’s total revenues increased by 9% to P153 million, while profit before tax increased by 22% to P136 million, and operating profit increased by 11% to P139 million.

One notable achievement for FPC is the low vacancy rate across its properties, which stands at only 6%. This is particularly impressive considering the challenging trading environment. The company attributes this success to effective lease management and the leasing of previously vacant properties in South Africa. FPC’s management expressed satisfaction with the results, highlighting the resilience of the company in the face of ongoing macroeconomic challenges.

The increase in profit before tax can be attributed to both an increase in income and effective control of operating expenses. FPC managed to achieve these results with fewer employees, demonstrating the company’s efficiency. The headline earnings per linked unit also saw an improvement, reaching 26.92 thebe, higher than the previous year.

Looking ahead, FPC remains confident in its competitiveness and growth prospects. The company possesses a substantial land bank, which it plans to develop strategically as opportunities arise. FPC aims for managed growth, focusing on consumer-driven developments and ensuring the presence of supportive tenants. By maintaining this approach, the company believes it can sustainably grow its property portfolio and remain competitive in the market.

In terms of the macroeconomic environment, FPC noted that inflation rates are decreasing towards the 3% to 6% range approved by the Bank of Botswana. This is positive news for the company, as it hopes for further decreases in interest rates. However, the fluctuating fuel prices, influenced by global events such as the war in Ukraine and oil output reductions by Russia and other Middle Eastern countries, continue to impact businesses, including some of FPC’s tenants.

FPC’s property portfolio includes notable assets such as a shopping mall in Francistown with Choppies Hyper as the anchor tenant, Borogo Mall located on the A33 main road near the Kazungula ferry crossing, and various industrial and commercial properties in Gaborone leased to Choppies, Senn Foods, and Clover Botswana. The company also owns a shopping mall in Mafikeng and Rustenburg in South Africa.

The majority of FPC’s properties, 85%, are located in Botswana, followed by 12% in South Africa and 3% in Zambia. With its strong financial performance, competitive position, and strategic land bank, FPC is well-positioned for continued growth and success in the property market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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