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Budget allocation to agric falls short

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A Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) Agronomist, Lambani Obuseng says the P1.34 billion allocated to Agriculture in the 2018/19 National Budget is not enough to support the sector. Speaking at the First National Bank (FNB) Budget Review Seminar, a day after Minister Kenneth Matambo’s Budget Speech, Obuseng said the P1.34 billion, which represents only three percent of the budget allocation is worrisome as it falls way short, if the sector is to grow to another level. In his view, Botswana has veered off the resolutions of the 2003 Maputo African Union Summit that urged African countries to commit at least 10 percent of national budget allocations to support the Agriculture sector.

“This is the sector that contributed 40 percent to the GDP at independence, but now only two percent. What went wrong?” Obuseng quizzed. He acknowledged that although there have been several agricultural programmes geared towards supporting the sector; there is need to first do thorough research before any policy formulation. “We might be coming up with programmes that are not what the country needs,” he said.

Among the operational challenges that hamper local output and exacerbate the dwindling performance of the sector, Obuseng cited the low adoption of technologies by farmers, stating that currently farmers use the simplest traditional methods of farming despite the vigorous changes in technology over the years. Obuseng added that effects of climate change resulting in floods; low levels of rain can no longer be ignored. Another challenge that local farmers are faced with is poor infrastructure – roads and communication, especially in production areas. If not attended to these hurdles could further hamper the sector. Obuseng also identified; poor soil fertility, labour shortages, and low productivity that lead to high per unit production costs as some of the challenges impeding agriculture. He said Botswana needs to adopt and implement better ways of supporting the agriculture sector.

Among his recommendations is the adoption of precision agriculture that goes a long way in reducing waste using satellite maps, computers to match seeds and fertilisers. He also recommends the use of drones, which could aid with planning and strategy based on real time data gathering and processing. Drones can also be used to analyse soils, crop monitoring, crop spraying, and health assessments among other things. According to Obuseng, the use of drones in other jurisdictions has proved to increase efficiency by 85 percent. In response to the budget allocation, General Manager of Clover Botswana, Mike Joyner said it is disappointing to realise that even though the SADC Integration Strategy identifies Agro processing as a potential money-spinner in the region, there has not been much effort to support the sector. “I acknowledge that the private sector has a big role to play, but the three percent would not do much,” Joyner said, adding, “how much engagement is made before the final budget allocation?”

His view is that financiers are often apprehensive to release funds in subsectors like dairy, which are high risk and daunting. “There are opportunities and the private sector is ready to work with government in ensuring that the sector performs well.” Business Development expert, Donald Maika of African Emerging Ventures said at the seminar that the biggest challenge is that farmers still shy away from pursuing agriculture as a business. He challenged the private sector to come up with supporting products that can revive and sustain the agriculture sector. “There are opportunities for the private sector to play a role in agriculture. We need to drive this sector through providing equity to agribusiness,” Maika said. He also believes that local investment companies need to do something to change the fortunes of the sector, which in turn could attract international investors.

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Matambo calls on financial sector to pick GDP

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Finance Minister, kenneth Matambo

Finance Minister Kenneth Matambo has announced that government is committed to support financial service sector to prop up the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Currently contributing over 13 percent to GDP, Matambo said the sector has potential to increase its share. “Hence government’s interest in the sector,” said Matambo addressing delegates at the inaugural Botswana Insurance Holdings Limited (BIHL), Global Financial Summit.

The country has built a strong, resilient and fast growing financial sector underpinned by a robust regulatory framework. The finance minister who is expected to step down next year, noted that government’s commitment to the financial service sector has this year been buttressed by a number of laws passed in July relating to money laundering activities.

In addition, Matambo said the continued investment in the development of information, communication and technologies (ICTs) backbone infrastructure is also to support local banks’ rising appetite for online services.

The Minister said the country remains committed to maintaining micro-economic stability to spur private sector participation in the economy. “Our vision is to become a high income country by 2036,” said Matambo, challenging the private sector to step forward and help government to develop the country, bemoaning the low levels of financial inclusion and shallow domestic capital markets.

He said the private sector should come up with more initiatives to develop further the local capital markets. The Minister’s sentiments were also shared by Martin Davies, Managing Director for Emerging Markets and Africa at Deloitte who has challenged the country to start dealing with its low manufacturing value add.

“How do we start to diversify beyond the single commodity economy,” quizzed Davies, adding that manufacturing increase is vital for low inequality across the country.

“Inequality results in bad public policy, as the state starts to believe and think they have to intervene more,” said Davies, highlighting that the country needs to move away from the absolute concept of state drive growth. Meanwhile, minister Matambo has applauded the private sector for leading economic dialogue in the country through events such as the BIHL Global Finance Summit.

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First Lady advises women entrepreneurs

Keikantse Lesemela

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First lady, Neo Masisi

First Lady, Neo Masisi has urged women entrepreneurs to bring change in the economic development of the country and the rest of Africa.

Speaking during the Lioness Lean in Africa breakfast on Friday, Masisi said women entrepreneurs are remarkable engines of economic growth and job creation. “I believe women entrepreneurs hold incredible potential and credentials on the continent because Africa has the highest percentage of women entrepreneurs in the world.

It is projected that millions of much needed jobs will be created over the next decade and these will be created predominantly through small businesses which are mostly run by women,” said Masisi.She highlighted that women entrepreneurs are also the most powerful engine for equitably distributing growth and they are also solutions for addressing inequality on the continent.

“It is a proven fact that for many generations, women understand the simple concept of barter and commerce. These are the role models of our past and our present and they will continue to inspire new generations to do more for business to grow,” she said.

The Lioness Lean In Breakfast Series brings together inspirational and successful women entrepreneurs to share, inspire and connect with the next generation of great women-led start-ups.

The platform is based on a breakfast networking and speaker presentation format, which has been organized in locations across the African continent for the past year by Lionesses of Africa, empowering over one million women entrepreneurs across the continent.

Stanbic Bank Botswana Head of Personal Markets, Omphemetse Dube said they are pleased to bring the Lionesses of Africa Lean In platform to Botswana once again to bring together women entrepreneurs in the country and help to nurture their growth further.

“Botswana is blessed with a number of thriving female entrepreneurs, and the potential for the next generation of talent is strong. Platforms such as this are therefore paramount in growing the cause and we as a bank are proud to help champion that movement further,” said Dube.

Founder and CEO of Lionesses of Africa,Melanie Hawken noted that Gaborone is a growing and exciting centre for women’s entrepreneurship in Africa. “This is a must-attend event for women entrepreneurs in the country as it gives them the opportunity to hear the inspiring entrepreneurial stories of women who are building great businesses here,” she said.

The annual Lionesses of Africa event allows entrepreneurs to benefit from the insights and advice of women entrepreneurs who have seen and experienced it all and to also provide an excellent opportunity for networking.

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