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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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Poor yields affect CEDA repayments-Thamane

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Drought has hindered Citizen Entrepreneurship Development Agency’s (CEDA) intentions to increase its investment support to Mosi/Sedibeng Block farmers.

CEDA Chief Executive, Thabo Thamane, disclosed during the annual Mosisedi Harvest Day last week, regretting the Agency’s failure to support Mosi/Sedibeng Block farmers. “Our plan as CEDA was to increase this investment as we aid farmers in improving their farming techniques, however the plans have not materialised due to reduced output which resulted in failure by most farmers to honour their obligations with us,” said Thamane.

Over the years, government’s owned financial agency has invested over P61.4 million in the Mosi/Sedibeng Block for farm development, machinery acquisition and working capital. According to Thamane, during the current season -2018/19, the Agency invested P8.8m as compared to P9.6m in 2017/18 for working capital. Thamane said the phenomenon is not unique to the Mosi/Sedibeng Block, as farmers across the country are facing the same challenges. “CEDA has measures in place to assist farmers, which include, restructuring of loans for those farmers that could not pay their installments due to losses associated with adverse weather conditions,” said Thamane.

In addition, CEDA continues to engage and collaborate with other stakeholders, provide free business advisory services to farmers as well as encourage linkages across the industry value chain. It also encourages farmers to subscribe to the Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme (ACGS), which was set up by government to assist dry-land farmers with crop cover. Meanwhile, government is fast-tracking a drought management strategy and incorporating climate change interventions in agriculture in an effort to introduce drought compliant crops and livestock.

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RDC complains of challenging retail property market

Keikantse Lesemela

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RDC Properties Chairman, Guido Giachetti said they continue to experience challenging trading environment on its retail segment in Botswana and Mozambique.

Despite completing the extension of the XaiXai shopping centre in Mozambique, the company indicated that there has been a setback with Botswana based large supermarket retailer not carrying out the fitting out of their unit. The development started in 2017 on the back of binding expression of interest with this retailer but they could not make a good undertaking. “We are actively sourcing another anchor tenant and remain reasonably positive for the future,” wrote Giachetti in the company’s latest annual report.

In 2016, RDC Properties indicated that the group is undertaking retail developments in two sites in Maputo, Mozambique, which would launch Choppies as the main anchor. RDC Properties owns 33 percent shareholding in XaiXai Shopping complex. The project comprises 1,539 square meters of anchor shop and 2258 square meters of line shops. The Xaixai project is accounted to the tune of USD784 000 which is 0.4 percent of the group’s investment and property portfolio prior to revaluation to be done at stabilization.

The domestic retail property market remains challenging but the group has been able to maintain the vacancy levels at a very acceptable level of 3.5 percent. However, he said in such difficult conditions the company’s portfolio remained resilient as it has a good and well-balanced income stream. “We are able to be cautiously optimistic about the year ahead as our primary focus is hands on management of the existing asset base and growing shareholder value by identifying potential developments and acquisitions of properties in sectors and geographies with good future growth,” said Giachetti.

On his part, RDC Properties Chief Executive Officer, Jacopo Pari highlighted that the trading environment was challenging in line with the region but the group showed strong resilience in its Botswana based portfolio. Rental revenue in the country was up by one percent with the tourism and hospitality sector being the largest contributor while the commercial sector along with retail has been under pressure. The industrial and residential demand was solid throughout the period.

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