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Bots, Zim explore trade opportunities

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Top government officials from Botswana and Zimbabwe as well as captains of industry from both countries this week embarked on a journey that is expected to see the countries taking advantage of trade and investment opportunities that exist between the two. Though Zimbabwe is said to be one of Botswana’s leading trade partners in the region, there has been a decline in trade between the two countries in recent years.

Speaking at the Botswana-Zimbabwe Business Forum on Tuesday, Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Vincent Seretse said Botswana’s export to Zimbabwe declined by nine percent on a cumulative basis from P827 million to P555 million between the period 2012 to 2016. Imports from Zimbabwe into Botswana on the other hand also followed a similar pattern and fell by eight percent cumulatively from the same period with the overall balance of trade in favour of Botswana. Botswana’s recorded export basket to Zimbabwe comprises of salt, veterinary medicine, live animals, vehicles among others. Zimbabwe however, has been a consistent source of timber, sugar and cement for Botswana.

Seretse said currently, there are several companies with Zimbabwean shareholding operating in Botswana’s manufacturing industry. The majority operate in the timber and sugar packaging industries. “These companies have over the years invested around P132 million in Botswana with an estimated annual turnover of P392 million,” Seretse said, adding that these companies have employed around 436 permanent employees and an additional 436 part-time employees.

This, according to Seretse, excludes one of the largest investments with Zimbabwean shareholding in the mobile telecommunications sector. Seretse believes that the existence of a Double Taxation Avoidance Treaty between Botswana and Zimbabwe will facilitate cross border value chain linkages and Joint Venture partnerships. The Treaty was singed on June 16, 2004 and ratified by Botswana on August 3, 2004 entered into force on February 25, 2008.

He further said Botswana has since proposed to amend Article 25 of the Agreement to align it with internationally agreed standards on transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes. Both Botswana and Zimbabwe are expected to have committed to sign the amended agreement by June 30, 2018. “I requests our governments to openly engage with business community and try to amicably address any issues related to Non-Tariff measures to facilitate more trade flows,” Seretse said. Botswana and Zimbabwe have trade facilitation instruments including the Botswana/Zimbabwe Bilateral Trade Agreement, which allows for goods traded between the two countries to be exempted from payment of customs duties, provided they meet the minimum requirement of 25 percent local content.

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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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