Botswana touted as a gateway to Africa
Dreams of economic diversity gathered new momentum at the just-ended Global Expo Botswana, held in Gaborone from 11 – 14 October.
Now in its 17th installment, for the first time in its history the event included a European Union (EU)-Botswana Business Forum, where the country was touted as an ideal destination for investment.
Several reasons were given to back-up this claim, including: sound macroeconomic management, political stability, peace, sound legal systems and strong governance structures.
Speaking during the plenary session of Doing Business in Botswana, Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) Chief Executive Officer, Keletsositse Olebile noted BW was also perfectly positioned as a gateway to the African market.
“It has labour market stability, a strong balance sheet and has strong sovereign credit ratings in Africa. As a result, Botswana stands ready to trade with every corner of the world, with the government committed to bilateral and multilateral agreements through various regional and international bodies,” he declared.
With a population hovering around 2.3 million, Botswana has various opportunities for doing business in Mining, Agriculture, Manufacturing, especially in the value chain development stream.
“The aim is to have more emerging sectors, diversify and see these sectors contributing immensely in our economy. There are opportunities in the mining value chain and there has been interest in diamond cutting and polishing companies setting up in here. But it doesn’t end there, we want that to spread through to other sectors and localize all opportunities and have import substitution in our manufacturing sector,” said Olebile.
According to the 2022 statistics, the country’s import bill stood at $8.1 billion, with South Africa and Belgium the leading trading partners.
In terms of outgoings, there were promising signs as the country strives towards its 2036 goal of becoming an export-led economy. Total exports for the year stood at $8.3 billion, with United Arab Emirates (UAE), Belgium and India being the top buyers.
The EU accounted for $1.5 billion of this total, with diamonds to Belgium the dominant commodity. Despite the EU not charging Botswana custom duty on its world-famous beef, the country hasn’t really exploited this.
Going the other way, last year Bots’ imports from the EU stood at $635 million.
With diamonds continuing to play a lead role in the local economy with a 20 percent contribution, calls for diversity are growing louder.
Speaking at the ‘Emerging the Mine-to-Market Value Chain in Botswana’ session on the sidelines of the Expo, several speakers emphasized the need for robust action.
The session explored the potential of mineral beneficiation as a means of adding value to raw minerals. It further discussed the opportunities for investment in Botswana’s mining downstream, specifically in areas like cutting, polishing, sorting and grading, and jewelry manufacturing.
“We have the best diamonds and best diamond mines in Botswana. It is now time for us as a country to process and add value to these diamonds here. We need to cut and polish the diamonds in Botswana and make the jewelry here. In order for that to happen, the government needs to play its part, the banks need to come on board, because the challenge is capital and funding. We need the right policies, incentives such as tax cuts in order to build robust industries in the midstream and the downstream; the diamond value chain needs to remain here!” said Lucara Botswana Managing Director, Naseem Lahri.
The panel further sought to identify challenges and discuss strategies to improve the mining value chain in Botswana, including initiatives in research and development, and training and skills development.
For his part, BOTASH Product Development Manager, Othusitse Seokamo said with its new strategy, the company is looking at expanding its production in five years time.
“The current soda ash which serves the continent is from Botswana and Kenya but we want to push and take advantage of this market since the demand is at 1.8 million tonnes against supply of 700, 000 tonnes. For beneficiation there are lots of opportunities: the detergent market for soda ash, manufacturing of animal feeds with sodium carbonate. Our products are actually raw materials in a lot of industrial processes which presents massive opportunities for value chain investments and creation of thousands of jobs here in Botswana,” said Seokamo, sharing the intent to expand soda ash production to 430, 000 tonnes from 300, 000 and double salt production from 100, 000 tonnes to 200, 000.