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Fengyue plant was a disappointment- Mphathi

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The liquidation of the controversial Botswana Development Corporation’s Palapye Fengyue glass project was a disappointment for the soda ash and salt producers, Botswana Ash (Botash). 

Botash, which is currently the biggest supplier to South African market with about 60 percent, had pinned its hopes to supply Botswana’s first glass manufacturers, Fengyue glass plant in Palapye. Unfortunately, the glass project did not see the light of day and faced liquidation.

Responding to Business Trends during a press briefing this past Tuesday about looking for local markets, Botash Managing Director, Montwedi Mphathi said, “the Palapye plant was a disappointment. We had concluded that we would supply about 30 000 tonnes to them per annum.” Unfortunately the project was later said to be not viable. “We pleaded with BDC to find other alternative ways but they said the market would not survive and therefore it cannot be continued,” added Mphathi.

Afterwards, BDC engaged a glass-manufacturing consortium from UK to conduct a due diligence of the project. It advised that the project was not a viable business operation. BDC boss, Bashi Gaetsaloe once confirmed to the parliamentary statutory bodies’ committee in 2015 that, glass manufacturing in Botswana was proven to be extremely risky and unprofitable.  Meanwhile, glass production is the largest application for dense soda ash.

About half of the soda ash produced worldwide is used in the manufacture of glass. In this application, soda ash is used as a fluxing agent in that it lowers the melting temperature of the raw material – pure silica – thereby reducing energy requirements for glass production.

Container glass covers a wide range of different products that include bottles, jars and other containers. About 46percent of all glass that is manufactured is used for container glass. Flat glass accounts for 42 percent of glass production and includes items such as architectural glass, car windscreens, windows, mirrors and frames.

Other glass manufacture accounts for 12 percent of glass production and includes textile, fibre optics and insulation fibre glass. It is understood that there is currently only one flat glass manufacturer in South Africa that is Botash’ s biggest consumer of soda ash; whilst the other six are importers.

With the South African market combined with the BDC glass project, it would have been a better opportunity for Botash. Moreover, Botash sells around 20 percent of soda ash to the chemical industry sector. In this sector, both dense and light soda ash is used in large number of chemical reactions to produce inorganic or organic compounds that are in turn used in a range of different applications.

It can be used to produce sodium silicates that have a wide range of uses in the production of chemicals such as silica. It also has application in pulp and paper manufacturing.

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SMEs benefit from Consumer Fair growth

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The Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) has applauded Botswana Consumer Fair’s continued efforts to improve small to medium enterprises’ linkages.

BITC Chief Executive Officer, Keletsositse Olebile, when opening the fair, said the event has provided interactive forum for both local and foreign exhibitors. He said the shopping show has enabled manufacturers, wholesalers and traders to market their products directly to consumers, an alignment to government’s endeavors.

“As part of government intention, we continually encourage local sourcing by retailers and distributors,” said Olebile who is just few months into his new post. He further celebrated the growth of Botswana Consumer Fair over the years, attributing the expansion to quality of goods displayed at the previous shows.“Improved quality and increased variety of wares increases the interest of the visitors and makes them look forward to returning the following year,” said Olebile.

This year’s exhibitors at the 13th event still running under the banner: ‘It is more than just shopping’ have been drawn from Lesotho, Zambia, Swaziland, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Egypt, Japan, India, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

Consumer Fair is a flagship event for Fairgrounds Holdings and provides a platform for small medium enterprises (SMEs) from the different sectors of the economy to showcase and promote their products and services. In addition, the SMEs are expected to establish long term business linkages and promote local manufactured goods.Fairgrounds Holdings is already optimistic that the Fair immensely contribute to the socio-economic development of the country through supporting SMEs.

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‘Involve SMMEs in standards development’-Minister

Keikantse Lesemela

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Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Bogolo Kenewendo appealed to Botswana Bureau of Standards (BOBS) to include the Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) when developing the standards to improve the sector.

She said the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry has identified three areas of focus going forward which are modeled on SMME development, investment promotion and export development apexes. “I would like to implore you to include this sector in standards development processes and assist in improving SMMEs conformity to standards and compliance to technical regulations,” said Kenewendo.

Speaking during the BOBS Technical Committee Members appreciation ceremony on Thursday, Kenewendo explained that the important roles of standards are underpinned by the aspirations and intentions espoused in both diversified export led economic growth and job creation as priority areas. “It goes without saying that the diversification of the economy requires a National Quality Infrastructure and Technical Regulatory Framework that promote competitiveness of Botswana goods and services.”

She also emphasized that an effective National Quality Infrastructure and Technical Regulatory Framework are essential as they provide crucial links to global trade, market access and export competitiveness through their contribution to consumer confidence in product safety, quality and the environment.Since inception in 1997 BOBS has published more than 1700 standards through 48 technical committees across several sectors of the economy; 109 certification licences have been issued against some of these standards. Currently 46 Botswana Standards are being implemented through the standards regulations with a view to protecting the health and safety of consumers as well as protection of the environment.

On her note, BOBS Vice Chairperson of the Standards Council, Professor Edward Dintwa said standards are powerful tools for helping organisations that implement them to realize their potential, have access and compete in the global marketplace. “In this highly competitive and complex world, issues of sustainability and productivity, viewed from economic, environmental and societal perspectives require that businesses must be more efficient in their operations, which can be achieved through the implementation of standards”.

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