Protectionist policies or trade wars?
By Aubrey Lute
South Africa’s decision not to allow foreign nationals to drive a South African registered truck using a foreign professional driving permit has further put into question the commitment of SADC countries to the regional and African integration agenda. Some in the region are of the view that South Africa may indulging in some economic espionage disguised as protectionist trade policy or law.
Protectionist approaches by many African countries make many doubt statements like these: “The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) presents a major opportunity for African countries to bring 30 million people out of extreme poverty and to raise the incomes of 68 million others who live on less than $5.50 per day”. This is expressed in a recent report by the AfCFTA, of which many African countries, including Botswana and South Africa, are party to. Do these beautiful statements mean anything to African leaders, or the very institutions that sponsor such statements?
Whilst South Africa’s Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula made it clear that the foreign permits for truck drivers is the main issue that truck drivers in South Africa are actually raising and lobbying government, the decision has sparked economic and social debate.
As things stand, the law barring foreigners is before the South African Parliament for comments and should be passed before the end of November. According to media reports from South Africa, tankers fall under this category, this will affect transportation of fuel to other SADC countries such as Botswana. “Currently most of the trucks in the region are South African registered. Botswana has very few locally registered trucks and it will take time to build capacity in time. If not properly managed, the move by South Africa could cripple Botswana when it comes to fuel supply,” observed a truck owner based in Botswana.
Nevertheless, countries such as Botswana and Zimbabwe have some of the most pronounced protectionist policies meant to ring-fence certain industries for locals. Consequently, the policy direction of other SADC countries are said to be playing a significant role in the attitude adopted by South Africans. However, high unemployment rate and economic competition among SADC countries are said to be other factors that could be pushing the nationalist policies. In South Africa, some politicians blame (illegal) migration, mostly from Zimbabwe, as the source of their problem.
Botswana has a protectionist policy or law seeks to ring-fence business activities reserved for locals, and “perpetrators” can be prosecuted. A statement, dated 3 November 2021, issued by that country’s Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry highlighted some of the businesses that include wholesale retail and filling stations (petroleum). The protected list has 21 business crafts, ranging from bread and confectionery to furniture.
Furthermore, in South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Private Security Industry Regulation Amendment Act last month. Part of its provisions is that all security companies should retain 51% South African ownership. The act also gives the police minister the power to change the ownership percentage if he deems it a national security issue.
“If foreigners interested in these so-called sub-sectors of the economy reserved for locals are taxed more than the locals that could work. It means that foreigners would have to be exceptionally good at their craft to compete with locals instead of shutting them out, at the same time risking poor service delivery,” Minister Dhlamini said.
Inward looking and narrow policy decisions by some SADC countries, including Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe seriously undermine the regional integration agenda. In addition, they spit on the face of the AfCFTA. For the AfCFTA, it has been observed: “The African Continental Free Trade Area has the potential to increase employment opportunities and incomes, helping to expand opportunities for all Africans.
The AfCFTA is expected to lift around 68 million people out of moderate poverty and make African countries more competitive. But successful implementation will be key, including careful monitoring of impacts on all workers—women and men, skilled and unskilled—across all countries and sectors, ensuring the agreement’s full benefit,” said Albert Zeufack, Chief Economist, Africa. It is evident from the actions of many African countries through their protectionist policies that are not aligned to the regional and continental trade agenda that theirs is just lip service when it comes to institutions such as AfCFTA and others.
Meanwhile, in the case of South Africa’s latest decision, there is another view from countries such as Botswana. While South Africa may from the surface be doing what her SADC counterparts are doing to shield her citizens, the latest actions are viewed as a ploy to take control of the fuel supply situation in the region. Some SADC countries, including Botswana are said to be looking into the idea of improving fuel security by ramping up stock and building more storage facilities. South Africa is said to be cognisant of these developments and is aware that it could affect her trade balance.
Protectionists usually couch their claims in terms of saving particular industries from imports, the facts show, however, that tariffs and quotas seldom save jobs for long or preserve the competitiveness of the industry to be “saved.” Meanwhile, of course, the consumer suffers through higher prices.
Proponents of protection often claim that it is needed to preserve jobs in particular industries. But this is a very expensive means of saving jobs—it raises consumers’ costs for both imported goods and the domestically produced goods with which they compete. The consumer cost in 1980 per job saved for quotas on imported TV sets was estimated at $74,155; for tariffs and quotas on footwear, $77,155; and for tariffs and quotas on carbon steel, $85,272. In 1984, American consumers paid an estimated $53 billion in higher prices because of the import restrictions levied that year.3
John M. Culbertson (1990), writing in the “The Folly of Free Trade”, says “As high as they are, estimates of the costs for each job saved actually exaggerate the efficacy of protectionist measures in achieving employment objectives. Protection advocates are usually more interested in saving the jobs of those already working in a certain industry than in preserving industrywide employment generally. But quotas do not save specific jobs.
Protectionists tend to believe that by diverting demand to domestic corporations, quotas will improve their profitability and prevent plant closures. Better prospects for profitability that attract investment, however, may induce a change in plant location or the purchase of more automated machinery. To the extent that protection encourages such a response, it can exacerbate dislocation and reduce employment”.
According to the SADC website, “the main objectives of SADC are to achieve development, peace and security, and economic growth, to alleviate poverty, enhance the standard and quality of life of the peoples of Southern Africa, and support the socially disadvantaged through regional integration, built on democratic principles and equitable and sustainable development”.
The former Executive Secretary of SADC, Dr Tax, prefacing a SADC commemoratory publication noted that a total of 33 regional protocols covering various areas of cooperation have been signed since the transformation of SADC from a Coordination Conference to a Community in 1992. “Following the signing of the SADC Declaration and Treaty in 1992, the Region has shown commitment to deeper integration through strategic plans such as the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan 2010- 2020; Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation 2010-2020; SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap 2015-2063; SADC Regional Agricultural Policy 2015; and SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan 2012”. However, some argue that SADC leaders are good at presenting ideas on paper but implementation is always a challenge. The protectionist approaches to trade by SADC countries undermines the sentiments carried in a host of SADC literature.
In conclusion, proponents of protectionist policies claim the unlevel playing field argument, evidently appealing to self-interest. It is evident that if not guarded, protectionist policies, if implemented by powerful economic players could hurt smaller economies and or sabotage their efforts to even their trade balance. The world is dominated by nationalistic economic policies; the competitive, open environment assumed by international trade economists simply doesn’t exist.
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Local tennis team upbeat ahead of Billie Jean King cup
With almost two weeks until the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup, which will be staged in Kenya from June 12-17, 2023, the Botswana Tennis Association (BTA) ladies’ team coach, Ernest Seleke, is optimistic about reaching greater heights.
Billie Jean King Cup, or the BJK Cup, is a premier international team competition in women’s tennis, launched as the Federation Cup to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the International Tennis Federation (ITF). The BJK Cup is the world’s largest annual women’s international team sports competition in terms of the number of nations that compete.
The finals will feature 12 teams (Botswana, Burundi, Ghana, Kenya, Seychelles, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Tunisia, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of Congo) competing in the four round-robin groups of three. The four group winners will qualify for the semifinals, and the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup will be crowned after the completion of the knockout phase.
Closer to home, the BW Tennis team is comprised of Thato Madikwe, Leungo Monnayoo, Chelsea Chakanyuka, and Kelebogile Monnayoo. However, according to Seleke, they have not assembled the team yet as some of the players are still engaged.
“At the moment, we are depending on the players and their respective coaches in terms of training. However, I will meet up with Botswana-based players in the coming week, while the United States of America (USA) based player Madikwe will probably meet us in Kenya. Furthermore, Ekua Youri and Naledi Raguin, who are based in Spain and France respectively, will not be joining us as they will be writing their examinations,” said Seleke.
Seleke further highlighted the significance of this competition and how competitive it is. “It is a massive platform for our players to showcase their talent in tennis, and it is very competitive as countries target to get promoted to the world categories where they get to face big nations such as Spain, France, USA, and Italy. Though we are going to this tournament as underdogs because it is our second time participating, I’m confident that the girls will put in a good showing and emerge with results despite the odds,” highlighted Seleke.
Quizzed about their debut performance at the BJK Cup, he said, “I think our performance was fair considering the fact that we were newbies. We came third in our group after losing to North Macedonia and South Africa. We went on to beat Uganda, then Kenya in the playoffs. Unfortunately, we couldn’t play Burundi due to heavy rainfall and settled for the position 9/10,” he said.
For her part, team representative Leungo Monnayoo said they are working hard as they aim to do well at the tourney. “The preparations for the tourney have long begun because we practice each and every day. We want to do well, hence we need to be motivated. Furthermore, I believe in my team as we have set ourselves a big target of coming home with the trophy,” she said.
Pep Stores donates sanitary towels to Popagano JSS
The Guidance and Counseling unit at Popagano Junior Secondary School received a donation of 790 sanitary towels from Pep stores on Thursday.
When presenting the donation, Mareledi Thebeng, the Dinokaneng Area Manager, highlighted their belief in giving back to the community, as their existence depends on the communities they serve. Thebeng pointed out that research indicates one in four girls miss school every day due to the lack of basic necessities like sanitary towels. Therefore, as a company, they strive to assist in alleviating this situation. She expressed hope that this donation would help ensure uninterrupted learning for girls.
Upon receiving the donation on behalf of the students, Charity Sambire, the President of the Student Representative Council, expressed her gratitude. Sambire specifically thanked Pep Store for their generous gift, speaking on behalf of the students, especially the girl child.
She conveyed their sincere appreciation for Pep Store’s compassion and quoted the adage, “Blessed is the hand that gives.” Sambire expressed the students’ hope for Pep Storesâ€™ prosperity, enabling them to continue supporting the students. As a gesture of gratitude, the students pledged to excel academically.
During her speech, Motlalepula Madome, the Senior Teacher in Guidance and Counseling, highlighted that many students at the school come from disadvantaged backgrounds where parents struggle to provide basic necessities. Consequently, some students miss school when they experience menstruation due to this lack.
Madome emphasized the significance of the donation in preventing the girl child from missing lessons and its potential to improve the school’s overall results. She expressed the school’s gratitude and expressed a desire for continued support from Pep Stores.
Popagano Junior Secondary School, situated in the Okavango District, holds the second position academically in the North West region. Despite its location, the school has been dedicated to achieving excellence since 2017
Botswana misses out critical PAP committee meeting
The Pan African Parliament (PAP) committee on gender, family, youth and people with disability in its sitting considered, adopted and recommended to the plenary session the preliminary report on the framework for the model law on gender equality.
According to the last weekâ€™s media release from PAP which is sitting with its various committees until June 2nd,Â the committee is following up the PAP initiative to draw up a model law on gender equality to enable national governments to harmonize, modernize and standardize their legislations to address local needs is set to be discussed in Plenary.
However, what is concerning is the fact that Botswana which is a member state missed the deliberations. Kgosi Mosadi Seboko who sat in the committee representing Botswana has since been ejected by parliament and this is a huge blow for a nation that is still battling equity and gender balance.
â€śAlthough PAP has no legislative powers it makes model laws for member states to adopt. PAP also develops protocols to be ratified by countries. The input of countries at Committee state is extremely critical. It now means the voice of Botswana is missing the discussions leading up to development of protocols or model laws,â€ť said one of Botswanaâ€™s representative at PAP Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang who is attending the current session.
While Botswana is missing, the committee meeting took place on the sidelines of the Sixth PAP second ordinary Session being held under the African Union Theme of the Year for 2023, â€śThe Year of AfCFTA: Accelerating the Implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Areaâ€ť in Midrand, South Africa and will run up to 2 June 2023. Chairperson of the Committee, Hon Mariam Dao-Gabala expressed satisfaction with preliminary processes undertaken so far towards the formulation of the Model Law,â€ť a release from the PAP website reads.
“The law should be suitable to all countries whatever the predominant culture or religion is. The aim is to give an opportunity to women to participate in the economic, political and social development of the continent. Women are not well positioned and face a lot of obstacles. We are introducing the idea of equity in the Law because we cannot talk about equality without equity,” said Hon Mariam Dao-Gabala in the press statement.
The release has stated that among issues to be covered by the Model Law is the migratory movements of women. The Committee proffered that this has to be addressed at the continental level to ensure that migrant women enjoy all their rights and live with dignity in their destination country. The members of the Gender Committee undertook consultations to consolidate the contributions of the various stakeholders that will be the logical framework format for the Model Law.