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Botswana’s COVID-19 spillovers

In November 2020, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi delivered to the first meeting of the Second Session of the Twelfth Parliament the 2020 State of the Nation Address (SONA). This year’s SONA differs from the previous ones in that it was premised upon an extremely challenging economic and health environment.

This is occasioned by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Its adverse impact on human lives and productive sectors of the economy including, mining, manufacturing and tourism, is enormous. The SONA’s key messages are that the Government does not only remain committed to fighting this scourge but steadfast in its promises to create jobs, particularly for the youth.

On the other hand, the Government focuses more sharply on promoting Botswana’s digitization, providing quality education and ensuring that Batswana have reliable electricity, water, roads, hospitals and schools. The SONA was prepared when the global economy showed signs of slowly crawling out from the woods. The economy plummeted during the Great Lockdowns imposed by almost all countries to control the spread of the coronavirus.

With COVID-19 cases continuing to accelerate, reaching 64.6 million cases and 1.49 million deaths, many countries have slowed the reopening of their economies while some are reinstating partial lockdowns to protect susceptible populations. In fact, with the onset of the second wave of the virus, the recovery in 2021 is now doubtful.

In just over a century, the world has seen major viral outbreaks in the 1918-19 Spanish flu, the 2003 SARS outbreak in East Asia, and the 2014-16 Ebola epidemic in West Africa.). Just like other public health crises, the coronavirus has not only had severe impacts on health but has also had adverse and damaging effects on the global economy.


COVID-19 has triggered a global crisis like no other- a global health crisis that, in addition to an enormous human toll, has led to the deepest global recession since the Second World War. While the ultimate growth outcome is still uncertain, the continued increase in new cases comes with renewed challenges. The pandemic has resulted in output contraction across many economies. In June 2020, the World Bank projected that the global economy would shrink by between 5.2% and 8% in 2020.

On the other hand, the latest estimates from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) ‘s World Economic Outlook (WEO) suggest that the global economy will shrink by 4.4%. The WEO further projects a rebound of the global economy in 2021.

Forecast from the WEO suggests that the global economy will rebound in 2021, with the global economy returning to a positive growth rate of about 5.2%, while Sub Saharan Africa is expected to reach an economic growth rate of about 3.1%. While the current estimates paint a rosy picture about the future economy, the persistent rise in coronavirus cases pose the most significant risk to global economic rebound recoveries. The world economy might have to wait another six months before a vaccine can offer substantial relief.


Botswana’s economy was not isolated from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. As of the 2nd December 2020, Botswana reported about 10 742 coronavirus cases, 7 912 recoveries and 34 deaths. Despite Botswana being amongst the countries with the lowest number of cases, the effect of coronavirus on its economy is expected to be huge and long-lasting.

Data from Statistics Botswana shows that Botswana’s economy has been badly hurt by the Government’s lockdowns and social distancing measures to curb the spread of the disease. Projections of the potential COVID-19 impacts on Botswana’s economy for 2020 vary widely.

However, there is a broad agreement that Botswana’s economy will shrink given the sudden production shutdown in critical sectors of the economy and the resulting income loss in the informal and SMME industry, combined with adverse effects on financial markets, consumption and investment confidence.

In his State of the Nation Address (SONA) 2020, the President of Botswana stated that Botswana’s economy is expected to contract by 8.9% in 2020. The slow growth in Botswana’s economy is attributed to an expected sharp contraction in significant sectors such as mining (-24.5%), trade hotels and restaurants (-27.4%), construction (-6%), manufacturing (-3.9%) and transport and communications (-2.5%). The Government of Botswana projections suggests a much larger contraction than the initial -5.4% estimates of the IMF and Moody’s forecast of -7%.

However, estimates from the World Bank and other economists paint a bleak future for the Botswana economy. The latest report by the World Bank of October 2020 projects Botswana’s economy to shrink by at least 9.1% in 2020. A New Dawn Unleashed amid COVID-19 report by Botswana Stock Exchange projects a much larger contraction of between 14.7% and 19.5%.

The report projects that the COVID-19 will have a much more significant impact on the critical sectors of the economy, more specifically, the diamond and tourism sector. It is envisaged that the mining sector will contract by at least 45% while the tourism sector will shrink by a much larger magnitude of at least 55%. External and fiscal pressures will become prominent in 2020, with the overall deficit is expected to double from 4% of GDP in 2019 to about 8% this year.

According to the latest national accounts’ data Gross Domestic Product: Second Quarter of 2020, released by Statistics Botswana in September 2020, at P18, 848.7 million, the domestic economy shrank 24% year-on-year in the second quarter of 2020, down from a positive growth rate of 2.6% in the first quarter of 2020.

The steep reduction in the economy was mainly due to contractions in the critical sectors of the economy such as mining (-60.2%), trade hotels and restaurants (-40.3%), construction (-36%) and transport and communications (-16.9%). In contrast, Government, Agriculture and Water and electricity grew sharply in the second quarter of 2020 (see Table 2).

Agricultural activity increased by 3% from 0.3% in the first quarter of 2020, mainly boosted by crops (2.1%) and horticultural farming (3.1%). Quarterly, the GDP plunged at a record 24.8%, following a downward revised 0.8% fall in the previous quarter.


The weak global demand due to heightened trade restrictions and change in consumer demand and perceptions due to COVID-19 is expected to have a massive impact on Botswana’s export earnings. Botswana’s export basket is highly characterized by mining activities, with the diamond sector accounting for an average of 80% of total goods exported between 2010 and 2018.

An immediate impact of COVID-19 on export earnings was a 65% fall in rough diamond sales in February 2020 compared to the previous month, as diamond demand slumped following the virus outbreak. Following the measures put in place worldwide to contain the spread of COVID-19, three sights have been cancelled, and it is projected that mineral revenue loss will be at least P20 billion in 2020/21.

The weak trade stance of Botswana is expected to be echoed in the country’s foreign exchange reserves. At US $5420, Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves equalled 11 months of import cover in August 2020. Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves were at lowest in March 2020. Following the virus outbreak, the reserves have been on a falling trend, contracting 15% in March compared to December 2019. The low foreign exchange reserves imply that Botswana finds itself weak to defend against the ravaging COVID-19.


ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.

Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”

Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.

On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.

He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”

President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.

“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”

When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.

“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”

He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.

“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:

He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”

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Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.

“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”

In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.

It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.

Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.

President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”

In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”

He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.

“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”

Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”

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Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV

24th March 2023

Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.

“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”

Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.

“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”

He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.

In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.

Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.

Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”

“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”

Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.

“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”

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