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Mobile operators look to digital inclusion

Keikantse Lesemela

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Mascom MD Jose Couciero.

Mascom Chief Executive, Jose Couciero said they are looking into digital inclusion as the potential source of revenue growth because mobile subscription is no longer a major driver.

Botswana has one of the highest records of mobile penetration in Africa at 176 percent, Internet users’ stand at 21.4 percent while the fixed line telephony services stand at 8.2 percent. “As the Botswana mobile market evolves, we observe that mobile subscriber growth alone is no longer a major driver for revenue growth. Rather, the potential for the market is in digital inclusion through access to mobile and fixed broadband,” Couciero.

He said they have invested significantly in deploying their own transmission backbone and Metropolitan fibre rings to prepare their business to enter the residential markets with bundle offers of Internet, voice and content. “I am excited to confirm that we now offer fixed broadband services using both fibre and 4.5G wireless technology. These technologies offer high speed internet for TV live streaming and online games without interruptions,” he said.

Meanwhile, the government owned Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTCL) observed the increased usage of social media platforms which has negatively affected the traditional voice call services resulting in decreased turnover for the company. Recently, BTCL Managing Director, Anthony Masunga also highlighted that competition in the telecommunications sector continued to intensify with the entry of new internet service providers leading to a downward pressure on prices.

On the other hand, another competitor, Orange Botswana is currently constructing a data centre which will enable the company to offer telecommunication and internet services without interruptions. The Orange Data Centre will cover 81% of the population with the 2G technology, 62% of the population with 3G technology and 45% of the population with 4G technology, offering the greater levels of security, flexibility and accessibility to data and information around the world.

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‘Manufacturing holds key to economic growth’

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Barclays bank’s economist Naledi Madala has urged the country to consider manufacturing, as a key tailwind to drive the economy and reduce inequality.

She was speaking at a gathering organised by the bank which focused on economic outlook for 2019. “We should not make a mistake of leapfrogging without manufacturing,” said Madala, lamenting that the country’s diversification remains a pipeline dream, as the diamond is still the economy’s mainstay. She bemoaned that mining activities in the country could not spring forward diversification, though non-mining GDP has been steady over the years.

“Extractive industries are not good stepping stones for diversification, the sector does not prepare us for the next step,” said Madala at the Barclays’ Economic Outlook Forum Review 2019. The economist further noted that government should confront head-on challenges of productivity and competitiveness to attract the much needed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Though diversification efforts continue to hit a brick wall, Madala said the country should expect increased activities in the mining sector hinged to ramp up in coal production in the year ahead.

She also implored government to consider a welcoming attitude towards foreign investors and generous tax incentives to businesses that set up in the country. Madala is also upbeat that the use of public private partnership model could also help diversify the economy coupled with privitisation. “Privitisation will offer opportunities for growth, through the renewed optimism from government, as business confidence has improved,” said Madala.

She implored the government and the business community to access what is going to drive and hinder growth highlighting that key headwinds to growth are income inequality, diversification challenge and productivity, among others. “The pace of poverty reduction has slowed down, while income inequality goes up,” said Madala

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MINISTER BEWAILS BAD REPAYMENT BY YOUTH

Keikantse Lesemela

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Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, Tshekedi Khama has told parliament his ministry continues to face challenges on the repayment of Youth Development Fund (YDF) loans.

Recently presenting the budget to Parliament, Khama said this financial year the ministry has received a total of 2582 YDF applications and approved 983of them to the value of P98 million. He said the programme attracts a high level of interest from youth but the ministry is only limited to funding a maximum of 1200 youth projects annually due to budget limitations.

“However the greatest challenge for the Fund is the repayment of the loan component by the majority of the youth businesses. The youth have advanced number of challenges for this including high rentals for operating spaces, low market access owing to tight competition and limited production capacities,” said Tshekedi, adding that they continue to pursue beneficiaries to repay the loans.

Out of the 919 businesses funded 1058 jobs have been created. The minister highlighted that disbursements of funds will continue to be undertaken until the end of the financial year. “The YDF is currently under review in line with the pronouncement made by the President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi in the State of the Nation Address, to improve beneficiaries through training, and encourage consortia and cooperatives,” said Tshekedi.

The ministry assists YDF beneficiaries in marketing their products and services through fairs and exhibitions. The ministry also runs entrepreneurship-training seminars for youth and in the past year 3692 young people were trained. Over 600 youth businesses attended fairs and exhibitions to market their products and services. Currently the ministry is collaborating with Local Enterprise Authority (LEA), First National Bank Botswana and Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) on training in entrepreneurship development and mentorship of YDF beneficiaries.

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