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Fast tract tourism policies – Dr Matsheka

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Chairperson of the Executive Committee for Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB), Dr Thapelo Matsheka is appealing for the fast tracking of the revision of policies and legislative instruments that have either been overtaken by events or are now impediments to the development of the tourism industry. Dr Matsheka was speaking at the 2018 Hatab Annual Conference in Maun last week. Among the pieces of legislature that Dr Matsheka sighted are the Tourism Policy of 1991, Tourism Master-Plan of 2000, Wildlife and National Parks Act, Environment Impact Assessment Act and Regulations, as well as other related documents. “These need to be modernised as they are the necessary tools needed to enable the industry to meet customer expectations in the modern world,” he said. Matsheka is worried that failure to bring them in line with modern and new ways of doing business has contributed to the lack of diversification of products offering and in the ultimate, slowed the necessary job creation opportunities. He said Botswana continues to be behind in the provision of up to date statistics in the tourism sector and this makes it difficult for potential investors to assess current market status and future growth potential.

“Those that have already invested are also affected, as it is difficult to make expansion plans,” Dr Matsheka said, adding that it is important that concerted efforts are made to bring the above to date, and be able to empower those that have the mandate to attract investors into tourism, with the necessary tools to do so. Dr Matsheka further said government also needs to continuously assess and openly discuss new initiatives with industry players. “As HATAB, we have aired our concerns on the government unilateral increase on participation fees at Travel Market Fairs,” he said, adding that they are confident that the national basket will also benefit through industry participation at fairs through increased visits to Botswana and in the ultimate, taxation received through company collections. HATAB is concerned by the recent decision by the government to withdraw its membership from the Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa RETOSA, a subsidiary of SADC without consultation with industry partners. Dr Matsheka says surprisingly, this decision was taken at the time that Botswana was elected by RETOSA to the office of Chairperson.

The decision, according to Dr Matsheka was taken while the country is actively participating in other regional efforts to promote regional integration in the SADC region. HATAB further gave government a challenge to continue to ensure that the environment in Botswana remains healthy for private sector participation, and that all policies are aligned. “We also call upon authorities to align all issues pertaining to concessions and their renewal and or allocation. We have noted that there is increasing delay in processing such application, and when processed, industry often notes that there is inconsistency in the conditions of operation,” Dr Matsheka said. For instance, some are given automatic renewal while others are subjected to a tender process at the end of their tenure. “All this, casts uncertainties on investor confidence as well as creating a perceived preferential treatment of some over others.”

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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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